To ensure that we will always stand together, that we will always speak with a single voice and act with a single hand, the Republic must change. We must evolve. We must grow. We have become an empire in fact; let us become an Empire in name as well! We are the first Galactic Empire!
He's the ultimate puppet master. He seized control of the entire galaxy through a con more than a decade in the making. He commands armies, deceives Jedi Masters, manipulates from the shadows, and unleashes malevolent Force lightning from his fingertips. He's Darth Sidious, Senator, Chancellor, Galactic Emperor, Dark Lord of the Sith, otherwise known as Sheev Palpatine. His endgame machinations make for good storytelling, and that’s where the imaginations of Star Wars authors run wild.
In this guide you’ll find a considerable number of Prequel-era books, mostly Legends-era, which show the both the good-natured Chancellor and the shadow-dwelling dark sider operating as separate personas living separate lives—one attends meetings with Senators; the other unleashes unfiltered wrath upon his apprentices when they fail him. Some highlights are Labyrinth of Evil and Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter. The ultimate classic on Palpatine is James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis. But it’s not for the faint of heart! It is the most in-depth look at the long-term plan of the Sith to culminate in the domination of the galaxy. Although named after his master, Darth Plagueis is as much about Sidious as his wise Muun master. Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization is in many ways the best Star Wars book, putting some of the best Palpatine scenes such as the Mon Calamari opera in the hands of a masterful author dramatizing the Shakespearian tragedy in a perfectly heartbreaking way.
For a Palpatine-centric Legends deep-dive, don’t ignore Dark Empire. It was published at ground-zero for the Expanded Universe: 1991, the same year as Heir to the Empire. (The Emperor looms large in the Thrawn trilogy, but only in the memory of Mara Jade). It’s a drastically different look at what might have happened after Return of the Jedi than either Zahn’s envisioning or the current canon version of events as seen in the Sequel Trilogy. We’ll leave it at this: Palpatine reborn!
Recent canon books have done an excellent job with the Emperor. One of the first books out of the gate after the Legends/canon rebranding was Lords of the Sith, where we find Palpatine and Vader stranded on Ryloth. Both Kieron Gillen’s and Charles Soule’s Darth Vader comics are some of the strongest Star Wars comics in existence and explore Vader’s complicated relationship with his father figure.
Of course, now’s the time to get excited about the Emperor again with The Rise of Skywalker right around the corner. Palpatine looms larger than ever.
Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? It's a sprawling tale that establishes several important origin stories for characters fans know well. Readers learn how Plagueis seduced Palpatine to the dark side and how their alliance led to the Sith apprentice’s ultimate betrayal of his master. This is how darkness truly began to rise.
The most iconic Sith duo is that of Darth Sidious and Darth Vader. When it comes to the films, the immense power of their strengths combined remains to be seen. Lords of the Sith offers the display of unrivaled power that we deserve, and Paul S. Kemp delivers those brutal moments in vivid detail.
The magnitude of chaos and destruction unleashed by the Sith Lords is emphasized alongside the sheer terror and hopelessness of the rebels attempting to fight against them. Their despair is even more apparent through the eyes of Cham Syndulla, Hera Syndulla’s father and rebel leader of Ryloth, showing that even the most courageous minds are no match for the dark side.
Darth Sidious has expertly hidden his existence from the Jedi for many years. In Labyrinth of Evil, his elusiveness shines towards the end of the Clone Wars as his identity is being chased by Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.
While Anakin and Obi Wan are occupied with their intense mission, Count Dooku and General Grievous work on setting their master's next plans into motion. Author James Luceno uses this opportunity to offer us the backstories of these two villains before foreshadowing Anakin's fall to the dark side.
Every Star Wars movie has an accompanying novelization, but none so impressive as Revenge of the Sith. While it expertly tells the story of the film, it also manages to add to it in unexpected ways. Not only is it the best novelization, it’s a fantastic work of fiction in and of itself.
Matthew Stover outdoes himself in this novelization by painting Obi Wan, Anakin, and the rest of the Jedi as glorified super heroes in the eyes of the common man in the Star Wars universe. Somehow, this raises the stakes of one of the most intense episodes of the saga and makes Anakin’s ultimate fate even more impactful.
One of the early entries into the Star Wars mythos from the notorious Dark Horse Comics, Dark Empire is a truly epic Star Wars story. Written by Tom Veitch and illustrated in a trademark a surreal and gritty watercolor style by Cam Kennedy, this is divisive material among Star Wars fans! Written synonymously with Heir to the Empire, Dark Empire goes a very different direction. Whereas Zahn focused on military strategy and space battles by introducing a clever Imperial warlord, Veitch, a former monk, wanted to explore metaphysical themes of light and darkness. It's got all the Legends goodness you can imagine and more: superweapons, unique starfighters, Dark Side Luke Skywalker, Leia wielding a lightsaber, the return of Boba Fett, ancient Jedi lore, even a resurrected Emperor Palpatine!
The story arcs of Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith tell crucial moments in Vader’s history in original and epically creative ways. The first volume tells of his quest to create his own red-bladed lightsaber, taking advantage of the new canon lore regarding taking a Jedi’s lightsaber and conforming the crystal to his will by “bleeding” the crystal. From there, we find Vader on a mission to find the remaining Jedi on his hit-list who escaped Order 66—including an incredibly compelling clash with none other than the Jedi librarian Jocasta Nu. The final arc is the continuation of Vader’s quest from Episode III to save Padmé from dying, as he looks to open a portal to Rebels’ World between Worlds to bring her back to life. It’s also the story of the origin of Vader’s Castle, introduced in Rogue One. Not to mention the introduction of another Sith, Lord Momin! This series is one you don’t want to miss.
This ongoing series by prolific Star Wars comics writer Kieron Gillen kickstarted some of the best aspects of Marvel’s stewardship with the license. Taking place immediately after the events of A New Hope, Gillen’s Vader run sees the Dark Lord on a short leash after the destruction of the Death Star. It revolves around Darth Vader’s secrets that he keeps even from the Emperor himself, all while he seeks out who exactly was piloting that X-Wing in the trenches of the battle station. All of this, plus Gillen introduces Doctor Aphra, a twisted archaeologist, accompanied by her demented droids, BT-1 and Triple Zero! This is a series you don’t want to miss.
The Sith are a thing of ancient history. Some even question their existence to begin with since not a single one had been seen for centuries. But as a long-awaited prophecy starts to come to fruition, the Jedi will soon learn that their greatest fear is emerging from the shadows.
Soon, they will reveal themselves to the Jedi.
Soon, they will have their revenge.
Ten years have passed since Obi Wan Kenobi defeated the mysterious Sith warrior on Naboo. His apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, has grown into a young man with exceptional potential in the Force. However, as tensions in galactic politics reach a boiling point, Obi Wan must allow Anakin to undertake a mission on his own to protect Padmé Amidala from those seeking to assassinate her. He can only hope his young apprentice will continue to walk the path of a Jedi while out from under his tutelage…
RA Salvatore, celebrated science fiction/fantasy author, delivers a wonderful rendition of the second film in the Prequel Trilogy. With just enough small changes to keep even veteran fans of the saga on their toes, this novelization is an absolute must-read.
Plans for the Trade Federation’s blockade of Naboo is at risk of being compromised, so Darth Sidious sends his skilled apprentice to Coruscant to take care of the problem. Completely loyal to his master, Darth Maul vows to crush any threat that is prone to delivering their secret agenda to the Jedi.
Shadow Hunter is a spectacular display of a Sith apprentice’s devotion to their master. Darth Maul had been trained by Darth Sidious since he was a child, and it shows in the way he hunts his prey and fuels on his anger to finish the job.
Revenge of the Sith reveals the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker and the creation of Darth Vader as the cloaked titan screams “Nooooo” in agony before taking his side next to Darth Sidious as he accepts his fate.
Dark Lord: Rise of Darth Vader is what happens next.
Witness Darth Vader in his prime right after the events of Order 66 on his mission to hunt down the last known remaining Jedi.
It may be lonely at the top…but it’s also dangerous. Chancellor Valorum learns that fact when a terrorist group makes an attempt against his life. However, there is no shortage of enemies for the leader of the Republic, and Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are soon assigned to the case. As arguments spark in the Senate and the jockeying for power intensifies, it seems that someone must be benefitting…but who?
James Luceno delivers a story filled with conspiracy, duplicity, and political intrigue as he fleshes out the character of Chancellor Valorum and enlightens readers to just some of the turmoil that ultimately led to the vote of no confidence in his leadership.
Darth Vader is powerful. Darth Vader is ruthless. Darth Vader is evil. These are all attributes of Vader that people know instinctively to be true. However, not all books and comics featuring Vader do a great job showing those attributes. That is not the case With Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison. With the Emperor clinging to life after an attack, Vader must uncover the secrets of the mysterious Ghost Prison in a race against time. Haden Blackman completely captures the essence of Vader in this riveting tale seen through the eyes of a young Imperial cadet.
A resurgence of a dark side Force cult seeks revenge on Darth Vader shortly after the creation of the Galactic Empire. Nine assassins attempt to take out Emperor Palpatine. Vader eliminates eight, but must investigate the origination of the plot and find the final assassin. . .
What if Vader had taken on a forbidden apprentice with whom he planned to overthrow the Emperor’s reign? The Force Unleashed answers this question by following the story of the nameless apprentice as he carries out several missions at Vader’s bidding. However, as he explores the galaxy and builds new relationships with those other than his merciless master, the apprentice begins to question his own role in the fate of the galaxy.
In The Force Awakens, Sean Williams composes a brand new story perfectly wedged into a well-known time period complete with a full cast of refreshing new characters. As a stand-alone or a part of the larger saga, this story is a fun read for any fan.