Reading Star Wars: The Novelization of The Revenge of the Sith

Frannie Staszak, Contributing Writer

“No Luke, I am your father.” Whether you’ve watched every film, consider yourself a casual fan, or haven’t seen a minute, everyone is aware of the Star Wars saga: a series of movies spanning the course of three decades, telling one huge, connected story largely revolving around the Skywalker family and its members.

Conceived in the mind of George Lucas, these otherworldly movies were not released in chronological order; the first installment was Episode IV: A New Hope, released in 1977. The final episode, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, was released in 2019, concluding the Skywalker story. Over the many years, there have been spin-off shows, overlapping movies, and countless other projects that make up the Star Wars universe, including modified novels. 

One book in particular is Matthew Stover’s revision of the third (chronological) episode in the saga, Revenge of the Sith. Released in 2005, Revenge is the last of the prequel trilogy which follows the final months and events of Anakin Skywalker, his inevitable seduction to the dark side, and his transformation into the infamous Darth Vader. But how does this story translate to text?

The story opens, as the film does, with our heroes Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in pursuit of the Sith Lord, Count Dooku. The events that take place on the Separatist ship last no longer than twenty minutes in the movie, but the book takes its time laying out the story in extreme detail. Given the two- hour time constraints of most films, it’s understandable that the director had to cut parts of the script, but Stover doesn’t have to worry about this limitation. He gives names for side characters and details of lightsaber techniques, expanding the fictional galaxy with each sentence. Stover spends a lot of time describing the specifics of the battle scenes as well. Whether he details the encounters between Jedi and Sith or cruisers of the Republic firing against immense Separatist ships, each passage is a feast for the attentive reader. We read about just how well Anakin and Obi-Wan work together and learn every detail of their showdown with Dooku.

Dooku, a Fallen Jedi and apprentice of Darth Sidious, believes that he would become part of the empire when the war was over. He imagined he would “retire,” in a sense, in a new galaxy that he has helped to create: one cleansed of democracy, which he has grown to resent. However, he has been someone else’s pawn in a long game, and it shows in the last pages of his life, while the movie lingers on the notion for less than a minute. Along with the background of Dooku, we are also told more about the half-droid, half-alien Separatist leader, General Grievous. We see how ruthlessly he handles his ship, treating his crew as completely expendable.

Many movies do an excellent job of letting people into the minds of characters, but Stover makes use of occasional second-person narration to dive further into characters’ emotions. After describing how “you” (Anakin) have been through something, Stover will add remarks such as “This is what is feels like to be Anakin Skywalker.”

Momentarily, the text strays from the action and expands on the heroes of the story. There is Obi-Wan: a “devastating warrior who’d rather not fight.” Anakin, for his part, is the “most powerful Jedi of his generation.” But, there is a recurring metaphor related to Anakin and the fear that lives inside him. It is “chewing away at the fire-walls around his heart.”

In contrast to the film, the book brings up an old tale from Anakin’s home planet of Tatooine. The children tell each other that a dragon lives inside the twin suns of their desert homeland. Throughout the story, the dragon serves as a metaphor for Anakin’s fear. In one instance, Anakin thinks back to his defeat of Count Dooku and the repercussions that he would surely face had Dooku not been outside of the ship and on his way into the fire-hot atmosphere of the planet Coruscant. Anakin knows Dooku’s fate and thinks that the dragon will burn with him. He believes, in the moment, that he would be truly free.

There are only a few scenes in the movie where we see just how twisted Anakin becomes as he slowly falls. But all throughout the novel, it is an underlying theme. A different Jedi, Master Yoda, has said, “fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Ultimately, Anakin’s fear is the reason that he turns away from the light; Stover hints at it throughout the entire novel. There are multiple instances in Chapter 11 alone. 

The continual use of the dragon foreshadows and deepens the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker. His fall from grace is inevitable, at least in the eyes of the fans. Audiences went to the theater expecting to see the simple story of a man becoming evil, but that’s not the half of it. Similarly, these descriptions of the dragon that Anakin thinks that he can tame using the power of the dark side set up the events of the novel. It uses events that take place in all the prequel movies, including Anakin’s childhood as a slave on Tatooine. His fear seems to be not a small threat but a dragon from the suns, looming over him. We enter the mind of Anakin and can almost feel his emotions because we now know his mindset. 

Towards the end, Anakin Skywalker completely distance himself from everyone he loves and submits to Darth Sidious’ power because he believes it is the only way to save his wife, Padmé, and their unborn child. The final duel ironically pits Skywalker against Kenobi, apprentice versus mentor. This final interaction appears under the title of Battle of the Heroes. However, rather than being epic, high speed, and triumphant, it’s a mourning tune. It is a funeral choir for the men they will no longer be.

Stover, having the inability to add the score to his novel, uses the imagery of the dragon one last time. Switching from third person to a type of second person, the narrator points his finger at the fallen hero and says, “there is one blazing moment in which you finally understand that there was no dragon. That there was no Vader. That there was only you. Only Anakin Skywalker. That it was all you. Is you. Only you.”

The novelization of Revenge of the Sith perfectly captures every aspect of the film while also shining a new light on it. Opening the minds of every single character and allowing the reader to connect with them in ways that the film might not have time for makes it a read for the ages. This lead-up to the most well-known Star Wars character, Luke Skywalker, which happens to follow his father, mother, and future mentor, shows sides of the story that have never come up before. It will also captivate future generations of Star Wars fans.