There are three parts to the book, covering three distinct time periods of Plagueis’ and Sidious’ lives.
Part One: Enlistment (67-65 Years Before Yavin):
Plagueis (a Munn, the species that run the Banking Clan in the prequel movies) kills his master and assumes the role of the leader of the Sith Order. He believes that the Rule of Two has come to an end and that with his guidance the galaxy will finally fall under the sway of the Dark Side, with him running the show from behind the scenes. A shrewd businessman in his alter ego Hego Damask, Plagueis manipulates several galactic events that help to pave the way for the future of the Sith and the downfall of the Republic and the Jedi Order. Wanting to ensure that no unworthy Dark Side adept interferes with his plans, he hunts down and kills (or tortures for a lengthy time) those who pose the greatest threat. Upon his journeys he encounters a young man from Naboo, Palpatine, who he sees as a potential partner for his future plans. Manipulating the young Palpatine, Plagueis takes him into his care as Sidious.
Part Two: Apprenticed to Power (54-52 Years Before Yavin):
Palpatine rises through the political infrastructure of his native Naboo to become a young ambassador and finally senator to the Galactic Senate. As crafty as Plagueis, Palpatine takes a young Zabrak as an assassin-in-training, grooming him to be the perfect weapon for the future. Meanwhile, Plagueis begins to manipulate the thinking of Jedi masters Sifo-Dyas and Dooku in regards to the Jedi’s role within the Republic, sowing seeds of dissent that ripple throughout the years; however, Plagueis is nearly assassinated by a political enemy and as a result withdraws himself from public scrutiny for nearly two decades, continuing to manipulate events from behind the scenes while Palpatine puts on a public political face.
Part Three: Mastery (34-32 Years Before Yavin):
Fully aware of the precarious balancing act he has undertaken, Palpatine continues to help Plagueis manipulate the Galactic Senate. Finally, the pair maneuvers the Trade Federation into invading Naboo and allowing Palpatine to become elected as Supreme Chancellor. Satisfied, Plagueis prepares for Palpatine to install him as co-chancellor while the erstwhile senator kills his former partner and father-figure, citing that he’s been manipulating the Munn the entire time. Secure in the thoughts that one day Anakin will be his apprentice, Palpatine moves forward toward attaining complete control of the galaxy.
Personal Observations & Reactions
While the book is titled Darth Plagueis, a good deal of the viewpoint is told from the perspective of Palpatine and his ascension to power. I don’t particularly have a problem with reading about the Sith Lord who finally did what no other before him could do—become leader of the galaxy—but I went in thinking that the novel would primarily focus on Palpatine’s predecessor to the Sith Order. Because of that, there were times throughout the book when I kept thinking to myself, “Well, this is fine and dandy, but what exactly does it have to do with Plagueis?”
With that being said, however, the book gave a lot of background into just who Palpatine was before his rise to power, and just what drove him to be not just a politician but a Sith Lord. I enjoyed learning about the character’s personal life and how connected to the Naboo royal lineage he truly was, as well as discovering just how manipulative the man could be when it came to his own future. Ever watchful for someone who could be his own apprentice at the right time, Palpatine maneuvered events to not only kill off his own “master,” but to discard superfluous Dark Side trash when he was done with them—all under the guise of attempting to bestow admiration on his would-be compatriots.
I was a bit annoyed at the character portrayal of the droid (11-4D) and how it did nothing at all when not once, but twice, its masters were killed in front of him. Droids are programmed a certain way, this is true, but in virtually every depiction of a droid thus far seen, they seem a tad bit emotional for their own good. Surely the deaths of long-time owners were of some traumatic experience for it, and yet the droid just stood there and watched as though he was undertaking a scientific observation that was detached from any personal influence.
I was also very impressed by just how much information the novel gave to several little unasked questions (at least by me) concerning the background of Palpatine’s rise to power, such as just how the Trade Federation embargo in The Phantom Menace came about. With such a vast universe to it, Star Wars sometimes overlooks the little things, but this time it locked onto it and honed in.
While it isn’t one of the best Star Wars books I’ve read (I tend to enjoy Timothy Zahn’s novels the most, though I do like James Luceno’s, Troy Denning’s, and Aaron Allston’s work as well for the most part), it also isn’t one of the worst—and trust me, there have been really bad Star Wars novels. It’s good as a stand-alone within the greater Expanded Universe, so you don’t have to worry about figuring out a whole lot of things from other sources in order to immerse yourself into the plot and characters. All in all, I’d suggest this book to a casual Star Wars fan, as well as a hardcore goer; it provides a greater look into the inner workings of Palpatine’s earlier machinations and provides some background into just how certain events in the prequel trilogy came about.