It had not been an easy path that he had been set upon. To be a truly superior being, apart from and above the senseless herd, required absolute devotion and dedication. He had had to learn self-sufficiency, both in body and in mind, almost from the time he had learned to walk. His master would accept nothing less than the absolute best that Maul could offer. When he was younger, if he had flinched during his training when the edge of a weapon found his flesh, or when an incorrect block or defensive maneuver resulted in a cracked bone, his punishments had always been swift and inevitable.
-The early life of Darth Maul
When Star Wars Episode One was still being hyped as much as the Second Coming, fans were anticipating great things out of the main villain, Darth Maul. All things considered, though, he didn’t get all that much screen time, and was promptly sliced in half at the movie’s climax. So much for Darth Maul.
Of course, authors can never let things rest on just that, can they?
That brings us to Star Wars: Darth Maul-Shadow Hunter. Taking place prior to the Phantom Menace (and ending probably 15 minutes before the movie begins), the evil Darth Sidious is putting in motion his plans to bring the Trade Federation under his thumb. In the course of explaining his plans to the Neimoidians, he notes that there is one less attending than he’d expected. Despite the seemingly successful attempt to lie to Sidious, the villain deduces that there’s treachery afoot…so he sends Darth Maul on his trail.
In the meantime, an information broker named Lorn Pavan and his droid partner I-5YQ, blow a deal on a Sith Holocron (a recording device) on the world of Coruscant, and the two are eager to find something that will supplement their income to the point where they aren’t living in dives. Elsewhere, at the Jedi Temple, Padawan Darsha Assant is given an assignment to bring to the Jedi a former member of the Black Sun organization, for her last official duty before she becomes a Jedi Knight; unfortunately, he’s in the lower levels of Coruscant, in the Crimson Corridor, one of the roughest neighborhoods around.
These seemingly unrelated events are destined to collide head on.
To put it simply: I never really liked Darth Maul. I’ll grant that nobody used a lightsaber like he did in the Phantom Menace, but he had no personality. It could be that I kept comparing him to Darth Vader, and I guess almost any villain would come up short there (I firmly believe that in a steel cage match, Vader could take down Maul in no time). Reaves tacitly acknowledges the fact that Maul is rather one-dimensional, and instead of fleshing him out, he found reasons to explain it…reasons that fit in nicely with the general training of Jedi Knights. I still don’t think much of the character-in some ways, I think that Boba Fett could’ve replaced Maul in this plot, and it would have turned out generally the same. All things considered, though, it could’ve been worse.
Where the book shines, though, is with the supporting characters. Lorn and I-5 are an interesting pair; Lorn is a standard kind of low-life with some scruples, with an interesting back story; I-5, though, is a wonderfully versatile droid possessed of a greater sense of humor than Artoo or Threepio…probably because he knows he’s being sarcastic/humorous. Darsha gives a different point of view from a Jedi Padawan; eager instead of solemn, she throws herself at her mission with gusto-with rather surprising results.
Some reviewers have hit this book with the complaint that you know everyone except Maul’s going to end up dead or worse; after all, nobody knew about Maul or the return of the Sith until the Phantom Menace. Of course, I expect the same people don’t bother watching the Star Wars prequel movies, since they know that Obi-Wan Kenobi is going to get cut in half by Darth Vader-formerly the cute little kid Anakin Skywalker. And those people have missed the point. The book may not be the best one written, but in a book like this, it’s the process of getting to the end rather than the end itself that fascinates.