One of the strangest things about reading Legends in chronological order is that it definitely wasn’t written that way and it shows. Much of the ancient history of the legends canon was told through comics in the 90s, with names like Naga Sadow and Marka Ragnos or Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun taking the spotlight. Later works will reference events in these comics but there was never an actual novelization of them which can confuse readers who wonder if they missed something. They did, but it’s in a comic series not included on the official timeline of books printed inside the cover.
Welcome to Legends of the Hydian Way, the chronicle of my attempt to read through and review all the novels that make up mainline Legends canon in chronological order. May the Force be with me.
Today’s offering, The Lost Tribe of the Sith, is a collection of short stories written by Star Wars alum John Jackson Miller. Set against the backdrop of a comic series, but not directly interacting with that series’ story at all, Lost Tribe is a bit of an odd, if intriguing little book. The story starts about 5,000 years BBY, but not all of the stories are set that far back, and in fact the last one is set a scant 2,975 years BBY. I’ve decided not to split these up to preserve chronological order (there are other books set between some of these short stories) for two reasons.
1. This book is pretty much entirely on it’s own since it deals with an isolated group of people cut off from the galaxy at large.
2. This is collected as one novel so I’m going to review it as a whole and consider the earliest short story the start of the novel for date reasons.
So, with that out of the way, what is The Lost Tribe of the Sith?
Our novel opens with the crew of the Sith vessel Omen crash landing on the middle-of-nowhere planet Kesh after an accident involving hyperspace and another ship crashing into them. Led by Captain Yaru Korsin, this crew serves the first Sith Empire. By my count, there are at least five different Sith Empires that crop up over the course of Legends canon, but this is the first one. The one actually ruled by the Sith species, and in this case ruled specifically by Dark Lord Naga Sadow, who’s sent Captain Korsin to retrieve a cargo of crystals used in the construction of lightsabers.
Obviously Korsin won’t be delivering those crystals anytime soon, as shortly after the crash he discovers the transmitter on the wreckage of his vessel is completely fried and unusable. What follows is one part Swiss Family Robinson and one part Game of Thrones as Korsin sets out to make a home for his Sith on Kesh, subjugate the local population of purple-skinned Keshiri people, and manipulate his crew of backstabbing, self-serving Sith into working together long enough to get a stable civilization started.
Korsin and his Sith are aided in their survival on Kesh by their accidental discovery by Adari Vaal, a Keshiri woman fleeing her own people who want her dead for suggesting the continent they live on was formed by volcanic activity instead of being the blood of their gods, the “Skyborn.” Learning all of this from Vaal, Korsin co-opts the Keshiri theology and before long has installed the Sith in power over the Keshiri people as the Skyborn come to live among their people.
The story then skips ahead fifteen years and switches perspective to Korsin’s wife, Seelah. Seelah had, up until the crash, been married to Korsin’s brother, whom she rightly suspects Korsin killed to prevent him from becoming a threat. She neatly plays the role of our Cersei Lannister as she plots to gather power to herself and look for weaknesses in Korsin to exploit. Unlike Cersei, Seelah is driven by a hatred of the Sith species garnered from her time as a slave to one of them, and through her scheming manipulates events so that the remaining Sith species among the crew are slaughtered in a purge. The now all-human Sith on Kesh go on for another ten years solidifying power and enslaving the still-enraptured Keshiri.
Twenty-five years after the crash landing, Seelah finally makes her move against Korsin, pitting her son (born of Korsin’s brother) against an outnumbered Korsin in an attempt to depose him. Unluckily for her, Korsin sees it coming and outplays her, leaving her son dead, Korsin mortally wounded but able to clairfy succession of power to his loyal daughter, and her crippled and imprisoned in a temple in the mountains. Whoops.
Meanwhile, Adari Vaal has grown increasingly unhappy with the willing slavery she’s accidentally brought upon her people and sets in motion a plan to neutralize the Sith communications. By stealing all of the uvaks, flying reptiles that allow riders to carry messages, she hopes to give the Keshiri a fighting chance of organizing a resistance. Korsin’s daughter, however is one step ahead and only some of the Uvak’s are stolen. Despondent, Adari and her followers fly into a thermal air current, deciding to die with the Uvaks they’ve stolen far at sea. Surprisingly, however, Adari and her followers awake on a rocky shore far away. More on that later.
The next few stories provide a series of snapshots into Sith life on Kesh over the next thousand years or so. I find it fascinating to read the story of a civilization of Sith, with all their self-destructive tendancies, finding ways to force themselves to work together to keep society functioning. For example, Korsin decrees that the consorts of the Grand Lord (the highest ranking Sith on planet) will be put to death upon the death of the Grand Lord. Brutal, amoral, and very Sith, to be sure. However, in practice this creates for the Grand Lord someone fanatically loyal to them since the death of the Grand Lord means their death as well. Lost Tribe is full of Sith using their own twisted logic and politics to keep the Tribe alive and functioning.
The last few stories in the book deal with Varner Hilts, a Sith designated the Caretaker who is essentially the archivist for the history of the Tribe. Hilts lives during a time when the order that Korsin set up has largely fallen away and more typical Sith infighting has reduced the tribe to a group of constantly warring factions. As Caretaker, it’s Hilt’s job to oversee the reading of Korsin’s final will and testament, which of course each of the Sith faction leaders interprets differently and to their own benefit. Caught in the middle, Hilts accidentally triggers a recording hidden behind the original will. This recording shows Naga Sadow giving the original orders of the Omen to Yaru Korsin.
The Sith, having never actually seen an actual member of the species their order is named for, panic, realizing they are nothing more than the descendants of escaped slaves. This throws the Tribe into a self-destructive frenzy of despair, and in the midst of it all only Varner Hilts keeps his head enough to realize that Korsin hid a message in the words of his final testament. Hilts goes to the temple built around the wrecks of the Omen, and there finds Korsin’s greatest secret: a map revealing the existence of a second, much larger continent on Kesh, which the ship’s cameras had picked up during the crash. Armed with this knowledge, Hilts unites the Tribe once again against their common enemy of whoever lives on that continent.
As it turns out, the people of that continent have been preparing for over a thousand years for the day the Sith found them thanks to Adari Vaal, who washed up on that island way back at the beginning of all of this . The Sith arrive, only to be handed defeat at the hands of the prepared Keshiri there. However, a captured Keshiri is brought back to the Sith homeland, and a new deception is prepared by Grand Lord Hilts.
Through a series of bluffs, betrayals, and doublespeak, Hilts manages to convince the Keshiri of this new land that while there were evil Sith once, he drove them out, and that in fact the first wave of attacking Sith were those evil ones, not attempting to conquer the Keshiri here, but fleeing him and running straight to their deaths on the new continent. In the name of unity on Kesh, he proposes diplomatic ties between the two continents, and over time the Sith once again rise to rulership over the duped Keshiri.
At this point the book ends with a short coda informing the reader that the story of Kesh and the Lost Tribe of the Sith will continue in the Fate of the Jedi series. That’s actually one of the series from Legends I never read, so I looked it up to see when in this project we’ll get to see these plot threads concluded.
Fate of the Jedi is the last series in the Legends timeline.
So, it looks like we’ll be waiting quite a long time to see what happens here. Oh well. Such is the nature of pre-The Phantom Menace Star Wars novels. They tend to be tie-ins to other things.
Overall I very much enjoyed Lost Tribe of the Sith. It’s well written, and takes Star Wars out of the high tech spacefaring world we’re used to and pits Sith character archetypes we’re familiar with against the trials of being castaways and forced to work together to survive. Unlike Dawn of the Jedi, however, each short story has it’s own place in the narrative and each wraps itself up well. Although it is a tie-in, it doesn’t sacrifice its own story in the process of setting up another.
Next time we’ll be jumping ahead from 5,000 BBY to 3,900 some BBY to another tie-in novel. Stay tuned for The Old Republic: Revan!