Fun fact about Darth Bane, he’s actually one of the only characters we’ve seen in any of these books so far who is confirmed to have existed in the new canon. Revan showed up in a deleted scene from one of the episodes of The Clone Wars, but because it didn’t make it into the final cut his canonicity is dubious.
Bane, however, shows up quite clearly in the final episode of season six of The Clone Wars, played by Mark Hamill no less! Zannah too is referenced, but doesn’t actually appear in the episode. All that to say, it’s nice to see new canon taking good bits from Legends. Today we tackle the end of the Darth Bane Trilogy with Darth Bane – Dynasty of Evil, by Drew Karpyshyn.
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.
Since writing my review of the first book in this trilogy, I’ve learned that setting up the Valley of the Jedi in Path of Destruction wasn’t actually Karpyshyn’s idea. A Dark Forces tie-in comic had already established the events that form the climax of Path of Destruction. However, I can find no evidence that it wasn’t his idea to take a random NPC antagonist named Set Harth from the Wizards of the Coast d20 Star Wars RPG rulebook, give him a detailed backstory, and make him over 1,000 years old. I love the way this guy thinks!
Anyway let’s get started on Dynasty of Evil, shall we? Another ten years have passed since the previous book, and Darth Bane is beginning to feel the effects of age. He’s still powerful, but he suffers from a tremor in his left hand and knows his body is weakening. This presents him with a dilemma: Zannah could wait until he gets old and infirm and kill him with him unable to put up a fight. Bane’s concern isn’t so much that Zannah might kill him, he fully expects her to at least try. His concern is that if she doesn’t challenge him at the zenith of his power, the Rule of Two is broken because the Sith are not meant to ascend to Masterhood by default.
He also knows, however, that he doesn’t have another 20 years to train a new Apprentice, so he can’t simply kill Zannah for her reticence and start over. Logically, he decides the only course available is to seek a means to extend his life and power so that Zannah will be forced to confront him at his best, or he can simply kill her and find a new Apprentice with time to spare. And so he sets off to find the holocron of Darth Andeddu, rumored to have lived many times his normal lifespan.
Zannah, from her perspective, is worried that Bane is faking his tremor in an attempt to make her attack him too early. She knows she needs to find an Apprentice of her own to comply with the Rule of Two, and she’s conflicted about when to make her big play. To prevent her learning of his attempt to gain an extended lifespan, Bane sends her to the mining world of Doan to investigate who killed a Jedi there.
Zannah, of course, suspects ulterior motive, but mistakes Bane’s plan as having Zannah uncover a potential replacement for herself. After all, anyone powerful enough to kill a Jedi could have the potential to be a Sith. While Bane travels into the Deep Core of the galaxy to retrieve Andeddu’s holocron, Zannah tracks the man whom she believes to be the killer down: Set Harth.
Who is Set Harth? In-universe he is a fallen Jedi obsessed with hedonistic, materialistic living and with a taste for dark artifacts and who looks like Puck from Gargoyles. Outside of Legends, Set was a minor NPC antagonist from the Star Wars RPG by Wizards of the Coast. He had no mention of being over 1,000 years old and probably spent a lot of time as a secondary antagonist to player parties worldwide.
Here, however, Zannah seeks him out and essentially backs him into a corner to get him to accept being her apprentice. He’s not all that pleased about it, but decides he’ll play along for now.
Meanwhile the Princess of Doan, who coincidentally is Caleb the Healer’s daughter, sent away after Bane’s first visit to Caleb in Path of Destruction, learns of her father’s death. Incensed, she has her bodyguard, a former member of Bane’s unit in the Sith Army back when he went by Dessel, hire an assassin for her. This assassin, The Huntress, is an Iktotchi, a species renowned for having precognative abilities in the Force. The Huntress, however, is extremely skilled and uses these powers to track targets. The Princess, called Serra, hires The Huntress to bring Darth Bane to her, alive. She wants vengeance for her father. The Huntress agrees because she senses this job is important to her destiny.
Bane, meanwhile, succeeds in locating Andeddu’s holocron and pries from it the secret to eternal life: the Ritual of Essence Transfer. Why not Vitiate’s ritual? Because The Old Republic game didn’t exist when this book was written, and honestly I think it’s better for it. Vitiate’s version of immortality was out of tone with Star Wars and very poorly defined. Andeddu’s version, however, is tied very deeply into Legends canon, as we’ll see later, and involves stealing the body of a host to stay alive forever by abandoning bodies as they fail. There are risks, however, as strong will can resist and leave the one attempting the ritual lost without a body and consigned to the void of the Dark Side.
Upon his return, he walks into a cleverly executed ambush by The Huntress and a team of mercenaries. He puts up a good fight, but weakened by his journey, drugged by The Huntress, and caught off guard, he goes down. I actually quite like this scene, because it shows that nobody is invulnerable. Even Bane is taken down by an untrained Force-user and some mercenaries because they fought smart and used good strategy against him. In chains and sedated, Bane is taken to Doan.
Zannah arrives too late with Set, frustrated because she had intended to finally challenge Bane and claim the title of Dark Lord of the Sith. Set notices a badge on one of the bodies implicating the Doan royal house, and he and Zannah give chase to find Bane.
Things come to a head in the Stone Prism, an abandoned prison on Doan which princess Serra is using to hold Bane. After torturing him, but failing to get him to show any remorse for her father’s death, Serra leaves in a rage and The Huntress leaves the cell with her. Lucia, Serra’s bodyguard and Bane’s former comrade, recognizes him and since she feels she owes him her life, injects a drug to counter his sedation and give him a chance to escape.
Bane escapes as Zannah arrives and the two square off, each accusing the other of betraying the Rule of Two. Bane for seeking eternal life and Zannah for waiting until Bane was weak. Both are partly right, and partly wrong. Neither Zannah nor Bane was intentionally breaking the Rule of Two, but their mutual suspicion led them to act as though they planned to.
A duel ensues, but Serra activates the prison’s self destruct protocol and the fight is inconclusive. Zannah learns Set has fled, having taking the holocron of Darth Andeddu (unbeknownst to anyone else) and decided this whole Sith business isn’t for him. Bane meets The Huntress, who offers herself as his Apprentice and he accepts, considering Zannah to be lost. However, the two fly to Caleb’s hut on Ambria, finding Serra has fled there as well. The Huntress kills her for Bane, and the two send a message to Zannah.
Both Bane and Zannah know that prolonged war between them will only harm the Sith, so they arrange to meet at Caleb’s hut and settle things. The Huntress, now going by Darth Cognus, promises not to intervene and the two begin to fight for the title of Dark Lord in earnest.
Bane outmatches Zannah in physical strength and lightsaber combat but Zannah draws upon her mastery of Sith sorcery and turns the tide. Desperate and at the brink of losing, Bane tries to initiate the ritual of essence transfer to best his student. His body turns to ash and Cognus approaches the unconscious body of Zannah.
Zannah awakes, and declares Bane dead. There’s a moment where we’re supposed to suspect it’s not really her, because she keeps clenching the hand Bane had a tremor in, but it’s fairly obvious it’s really her from the way she’s acting. Plus, Bane’s way too vain to pretend that he was Zannah and declare he’d lost the battle of wills. And so, Darth Zannah, Dark Lord of the Sith, and her Apprentice Darth Cognus leave Ambria to begin a long line of Sith leading right down to Darth Sidious in the films.
There’s a short epilogue, revealing that Set Harth learns the Ritual of Essence Transfer and implying pretty strongly that his appearance in the RPG is the result of 1,000 years of transferring his spirit into clone bodies. It’s a cute nod to the game and gives some cool context for those who want to use him in their campaigns.
The Darth Bane Trilogy is an excellent set of books and I highly recommend them. The origins of the Sith Order as they appear in the films are fascinating and both Bane and Zannah are compelling characters.
This books in particular highlighted the strength of the two as it pits them against each other. Initially, I was worried that their confrontation would feel forced, given how much time has been devoted to seeing them work together in the previous books. However, the degeneration of their relationship reads like a twisted rom-com, with misunderstandings and a breakdown in communication leading to wildly incorrect assessments and actions taken without proper context. Except, you know, instead of being in love they want to kill each other under a convolultedly specific set of circumstances. Zannah rightfully thinks Bane wants to replace her but guesses his reasons wrong. Bane knows Zannah hasn’t challenged him but underestimates her dedication to the Rule of Two. Ultimately it can only end one way, and as with all who follow the Dark Side Bane meets his end unmourned and struggling pointlessly against the inevitable.
Another positive in Dynasty of Evil is the portrayal of Darth Cognus. In particular, her first fight with Bane shows an incredible amount of planning and intelligence. She can’t always see the future perfectly, but she uses the small snatches she gets to engineer things to go her way. For example, she stations two of her soldiers on a balcony, knowing Bane will kill them. However, she also sets up a bunch of flashbangs at the feet of her troops, so that when Bane jumps up to the balcony he’s surprised and blinded and she can strike with a moment’s advantage before he recovers. It’s devious, cunning, and perfect for the next in line to the Sith Order.
Set Harth’s inclusion is also quite nice to see, because it shows that just because someone embraces the Dark Side doesn’t mean they’re cut out to be Sith. It draws a line frequently missed by fans that the Sith are a very specific sect of Dark Siders dedicated to power above all else for it’s own sake. Set Harth doesn’t care about galactic domination, he’s just selfish and materialistic and wants to live forever being rich and good looking.
The main negative to this book is the Darth Bane really doesn’t get much to do. It makes sense, since really Zannah is the protagonist of this one and she’s the one driving the action. However, Bane spends much of this story traveling to and from the Deep Core looking for a holocron, and once he finds it he’s immediately captured and from there we launch into the climax with him squaring off against Zannah. His name is on the cover, but make no mistake, this book belongs to Darth Zannah.
Like I said, I’m a fan of this trilogy. It’s definitely worth your time and it’s honestly fascinating to see the philosophy that drives the Sith, especially when you then watch Palpatine in the movies.
Speaking of the movies, we’re about to have our last major time jump next week! We’re jumping forward 1,000 years to just before The Phantom Menace, and from here on in there will not be any more massive time jumps. See you next time as we dive into the Rise of the Empire Era!