It could be argued that the genius of George Lucas was not the stories he told but the way he told them to us. By giving us Star Wars figures and toys he invited us to play in his universe, but the thing that most of us dreamed of was to be a Sith or a Jedi, channeling the Force to conquer the galaxy or to save it, even if the only weapon available was the cardboard inner of a roll of kitchen towel to serve as a lightsaber. While Lucas may not have opened a Jedi academy, he has done the next best thing by offering training manuals for followers of either side of the Force with the release of The Jedi Path in 2010, now followed by the Book of Sith
“A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force, but beware of the Dark Side.”
Written in the form of the journals of the most powerful users, mainly Sith Lords but also Mother Talzin of the Nightsisters sect, Book of Sith unveils their secrets, their history and their motives, whereas The Jedi Path is more focused on the practical application of the Force and philosophy that guides the students of the Light Side, as described by a selection of Jedi Masters and seers. Both books also contain annotations by previous owners whose hands the books have passed through, among them Darth Sidious, Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker and Master Yoda.
Both books are beautifully presented matching hardbacks with embossed covers, the simplicity of the grey cover of The Jedi Path adorned only by the symbol of the Jedi Order in silver, whereas Book of Sith is deep red imitation leather. Both are illustrated throughout, and were originally released as deluxe packages containing additional items, the Vault editions.
“At last, we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.”
Before the release of the Star Wars prequels, what was known of the Sith, sworn enemies of the Jedi order? The only practicioners of the Dark Side we had seen were Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, mysterious and sinister, regarded by their underlings as sorcerors with a “sad devotion to that ancient religion,” but as the last surviving Sith, we could not know if they were representative of that order, or if the true Sith might have been very different, perhaps intergalactic shamans or a corrupting force in the galaxy? At last we have our answers.
Covering the history of the Sith over a period of several thousand years, and split into six chapters from the chronicles of Sorzus Syn, the story of the arrival of the Dark Jedi on Korriban and the beginning of their Empire, and concluding with the political statement of Darth Sidious on which he founded his Empire, with contributions from many others between, each chapter is written in a different voice, reflecting the various authors.
Unfortunately, this variety is not reflected in the illustrations, which, while rich and beautiful, have a style too colourful and comic-like to reflect the spartan harshness of the Sith, and while the contributing illustrators have each been assigned a different chapter spanning seven millennia of history, their styles are often too similar to give authentic antiquity to the ancient texts or convince of the passage of time that is the purpose of the piece.
With their secrets jealously guarded, the text in this, purported to be the last surviving copy, is frustratingly vague in places, a general introduction rather than an intricate analysis of the Sith philosophy, yet a phantom of commercialism hangs over the chapters by Darth Malgus and Mother Talzin, almost bidding the reader to purchase the companion works, the game The Old Republic and The Clone Wars series.
The Star Wars universe is vast and fast growing, and the Book of Sith is an enjoyable insight into one of the key sects who, despite their importance and power, are often unseen due to their preference to remain in shadow, but while the presentation of the book is exemplary, the majority of the information contained therein is largely drawn from other sources and does not justify the expense of the package.
“Always pass on what you have learned.”
Many readers will prefer to focus on the Light Side of the Force rather than the Dark. Described as a manual for students of the Force, The Jedi Path is aimed at those beginning their training at the Jedi Temple, guiding them through the levels of the Order, Initiate then Padawan, through years of intense training to Knight and the experience and wisdom of Master, with a concluding reflection on transcending death.
Although it focuses on a different aspect of the Force from Book of Sith, both were written by the same author, Daniel Wallace, and are illustrated by many of the same artists. While Wallace, a contributor to Star Wars magazines and reference guides for over fifteen years, manages to convey the voices of the many contributors effectively, the passion and confidence of the Sith and the serene detachment and dedication of the Jedi, the illustration style is constant across both volumes, but where it was incongruous in the Book of Sith it is more fitting for The Jedi Path, bright and cheerful, akin to what would be found in an introductory guidebook aimed at a young person.
Although there is much detail on the most celebrated warrior role of the Jedi, we also see them in the wider context of Old Republic, with insight into the varied non-military aspects of their duties: diplomacy, security and collaborations involving aspects of medicine, astronomy and science, often more important than lightsaber duels. Indeed, while the defeat of the Jedi is always at the forefront of the Sith’s ruminations, with their focus on peacekeeping, the Jedi are largely ignorant of the the threat of their rivals.
The comments by the previous owners of Book of Sith are more convincing than the equivalent in The Jedi Path, where they are often intrusive and inconsequential. That said, the notes from Luke, Qui-Gon, Dooku, Anakin and Ahsoka do capture their voices and phrasing correctly, so they at least feel authentic, while Yoda is less of a challenge, as all that is required is to reverse the words. Unlike the Book of Sith, a cause for concern where warnings are justified in the single copy passed through many hands, The Jedi Path is an accepted text and every padawan should have one, so it is unlikely the same copy would be reused, let alone by such famous individuals.
While The Jedi Path is an entertaining book, its focus is very technical, containing practical lessons such as lightsaber and Force abilities but also minutae like Padawan dress codes and haircuts, and while both it and Book of Sith may not be aimed at the casual reader, they serve as a useful introduction and reference for those beginning a deeper exploration of the expanded Star Wars universe, but for the many already immersed they can be considered essential purchases.
The Jedi Path and Book of Sith are both currently available