This will be a day long remembered...it has seen the 3D re-release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and it will soon see the arrival of pre-ordered copies of Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side by Daniel Wallace. I'll be honest, this book is positively seeping with evil. It's packed with everything an aspiring villain could ever want to know about the secret sect of Force-wielding schemers and killers whose exploits have brought about war after war in the Star Wars galaxy. Wallace's excellent writing and the fantastic design work by the folks at becker&mayer! make this book -- and its menacing holocron container -- come alive with the Dark Side of the Force.
The opening mechanism for The Jedi Path was decent, but Book of Sith blows that product's packaging out of the water and then electrocutes it with Force lightning. The red lights and sound effects instantly set the tone for the holocron's ominous contents, while the slow pace of the sliding book tray certainly tests your patience. Every time I opened the holocron at college, my roommates would poke their heads in my door to watch. This is the kind of product that turns heads. (And inside is the kind of product that teaches you how to telekinetically snap them.)
Just like with The Jedi Path, the texture of the pages is great, but Book of Sith adds differently-styled sections that suggest the "book" is really more of an anthology. The style of the text, the placement and framing of images, and the use of margin notes all contribute to a well-thought-out presentation. The images themselves are extremely detailed. The schematic of the inside of the Muur Talisman looks like a genuine blueprint.
The fact that Sidious makes notes in the margins of other writers' musings adds to the image of him scouring his predecessors' texts for wisdom. His hubris shines through in notes such as "This isn't nearly as impressive a feat as the witch believed" (regarding the purging of dark side mercenary clans) and "Warriors are animals" (regarding Malgus' view that elite Sith warriors should be accorded honor), and "I have struck from the shadows while remaining in plain view. It is a superior disguise" (referring to Bane's advocacy of hidden strikes).
Oftentimes, a margin note referring to an earlier margin note brings out the conflict at the heart of the entire saga. "The Jedi have no need for such rituals," writes Mace Windu next to Sorzus Syn's description of Sith incantations. "This is the most outrageous thing I have ever read!" Sidious writes below Windu's comment. "With their Council, their trials, their ranks, and their Temple, the Jedi are nothing but ritual!"
Luke Skywalker's notes provide a new perspective on the events of the Prequels, and Wallace has a knack for getting Luke's tone just right with lines like, "Even though I'm reading Palpatine's own words, I still can't believe this truth."
Distinguishing The Dark Lords
Wallace is exceptionally talented at giving each Sith a different voice and conveying their different goals in their respective back-to-back volumes. Malgus' journal reads as an in-the-moment account of his frustrations and triumphs. Bane's instructions on Sith partnerships and the Rule of Two read like his inner thoughts from Drew Karpyshyn's novel trilogy. Mother Talzin's musings on the more spiritual, arcane aspects of Sith sorcery could have been adapted from dialog that didn't make it into her appearance on The Clone Wars. It's clear that Wallace paid attention to preexisting sources in order to develop the right tone for each of these powerful Dark Siders.
The inserts are really helpful in selling the image of Sith as schemers. A foldable piece of page with the Imperial cog symbol on one side has a map of pawns on the other side. The icons for Anakin and Amidala are connected with a line that has the word "leverage?" next to it. This is a clever way of putting us inside Sidious' head without being overly blatant.
Book of Sith excels at bringing you into the Star Wars universe with its clever design, scrupulous attention to detail, and layer upon layer of in-universe texture. Everything from font style to word choice contributes to the product's authenticity. Its margin notes guide you through different time periods of history, as figures like Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress comment on the state of galactic affairs and the Sith's role in them. At the end of the day, the things we learn about the inner workings of the Sith and their minions would make this book worth picking up even if it were printed without any designs or artwork. The real beauty of Book of Sith is that it presents this wealth of information in a compelling format, one that improves upon the design of its Jedi predecessor in wonderfully sinister ways.