Thursday, March 16, 2017

Read. You Must: Darth Vader: Sith Lord

“Jedi? Sith? Man or Machine?”

In 2017 there are still many unanswered questions about Anakin Skywalker, but 40 years ago young minds were blown by this terrifying but engrossing new villain!

Between 1977 and 1980, with only one Star Wars movie to discuss, fans weren’t even sure if he was human! Kids and adults alike argued over whether or not Darth Vader was a droid. Even Obi-Wan in A New Hope says of Vader “He’s more machine now, than man,” fueling the hotly debated topic!
The fact that Darth Vader actually was Anakin Skywalker wasn’t solidified until 1983 but that then raised many more questions. The prequel movies of Episodes 1 -3 (1999 – 2005) focused on Anakin’s fall the Dark Side and the rise of the Empire, and finally clarified much of Vader’s story.

As time goes on and new Star Wars TV shows, comics and of course movies come out, more and more periods of Anakin/Vader’s life become revealed. Learning about all these events means a lot of reading and watching which may not always be age-appropriate for all fans. 

Star Wars Backstories Darth Vader: Sith Lord is a brand new biography from Scholastic Press of the legendary Dark Lord of the Sith. In a middle-grade paperback format, the book gathers the life story of young Anakin, from childhood slavery to his heroic days as Jedi Knight. In 128 pages it continues with Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side of the Force and life as fearsome servant of the Emperor, Darth Vader.

Considering how little is known about some characters (what was Luke’s life like before A New Hope, or between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens? Or the hundreds of years of mystery in Yoda’s past?), Anakin/Vader’s story is pretty well told through the Star Wars saga. This book brings most of it together in one place.

Chapter by chapter, author Jason Fry chronologically tells the known story of Vader. This includes not only the information given in Star Wars movies, but also covers major events from The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels and Marvel comic books. Along the way, the gory details are spared, but the book never tries to pretend Vader was anything but a villain. Anakin’s downfall and Vader’s evil deeds are here, but presented appropriately for middle-grade readers. Many wonderful black-and-white illustrations by Randy Martinez highlight the key moments, with additional artwork by Rick Burchett and cover art by Phil Noto.

Also available now
Scholastic’s Backstories series began featuring Star Wars characters for the first time with the terrific Princess Leia: Royal Rebel last year. Hopefully these books will continue as they are great for young readers who may want to know the major moments of a Star Wars character’s story but not have access to all the TV episodes or are not ready for Teen-rated comics.

Jason Fry is possibly the most prolific Star Wars author with many wonderful books to his credit: Weapon of a Jedi, Aliens of the Galaxy, Rey’s Survival Guide, the Servants of the Empire series, and many more! Once again Fry shows his love of Star Wars and his talent for telling it well. 

In Darth Vader: Sith Lord, Fry begins the book with a foreword “by Darth Vader” which solidifies Vader's belief that he was “born” when Anakin “died”, a notion that Luke never totally believed. It may have been interesting to keep the book going as if it were written by Vader himself, but it’s hard to imagine the Dark Lord sitting down to write his memoirs. It’s probably for the best that it was done the way it was.

Randy Martinez is a well-established Star Wars artist having illustrated many Topps Star Wars trading cards, Star Wars Celebration official artwork and even cover illustrations for Scholastic’s Star Wars: Rebel Force middle-grade novel series (2008-2010).

The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader
For die-hard, read-everything fans Darth Vader: Sith Lord may have few surprises but it is a well-written, well-illustrated recap of just about everything we know about one of the most tragic stories in all of Star Wars.

Publisher's Recommendation Ages 8 - 12

Also highly recommended if you can find it: The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader by Ryder Windham (Scholastic 2008)

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