This is a book that anyone planning to see Star Wars III should read before watching the film. It ably fills in the gap between the end of Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones and The Revenge Of The Sith. Numerous loose ends are tied up, the motivations of key characters fleshed out, and the stage set, as it were, for the grand opening scenes of the new film.
The gist of the story, without giving too many of the details away, is that time has passed since the end of "The Clones". The Separatists are apparently in retreat, having been pushed back to the Galactic Rim. The war continues, and Chancellor Palpatine uses every incident as a means to garner more personal power. Anakin and Obi Wan are but a couple of the Jedi tasked with leading the forces of the Republic in grandiose battles on far-flung worlds. Anakin is torn, as always, between his unrealized strength in the force and his duty, destiny, and respect for Obi Wan & the Jedi, from whom he harbours many secrets, not least his hidden marriage with Padme.
Back on Coruscant, the Jedi Council is convinced that this is a war of the Force, more than of ships and men. Yoda, more than others, senses strongly the Dark Side ascendant, and his apparent inability to do anything to stem the rise of the Sith. The Lords of the Sith, Darth Tyranus, who we all know to be Count Dooku, and Lord Sidious, the as-yet-unexposed Palpatine, are well-detailed, perhaps Dooku more so. He is cast as a tragic hero, a stylized Brutus, perhaps, who, having made a choice to live by the sword, beyond the constraints of the Jedi, and for what he believed was the right cause for the galaxy, a fascist rule by one man, must now follow his own destiny down the path of sorrows.
The different groups in the Star Wars universe all have their own interpretations of duty and destiny, but none more tragic than the Jedi, guardians of the galaxy. Like many such groups before them, such as the Schutzstaffel("Meine Ehre heißt Treue" -"My honor is loyalty.") , and the samurai, the Jedi are blinded to the dangers of state control by their duty to the state. The culture they embody requires them to wilfully go down the path of their destiny even as they foresee the rise of the dark side of the Force. Even those of them, such as Yoda, who has seen beyond the curtain of the dark side, cannot rip it apart and face the enemy, for fear that beyond the curtain lies a mirror, reflecting secrets of their own darkened hearts.
The book has some of the best action writing I have ever read. The space battles are visually rich, and the cross-cutting between multiple threads skilfully done. The essence of Bushido, Lucas' inspiration of the code of the Jedi, is expounded at times, including challenges of a samurai, such as choices between Loyalty and Rectitude, Honor and Courage> The other key attribute of Lucas' work, misdirection as a means of revealing much, drawn from Kurosawa's style, is continued in the book, until much is revealed, and the galaxy, Coruscant, and Anakin ablaze with the fire that will bring a new hope.
If you would like a few hints as to the final scenes, and the opening scenes of "The Revenge Of The Sith", please say so as a comment, and I'll email you/update the post.
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