Adam Christopher’s Shadow of the Sith had the unenviable task of taking the shattered parts of the sequel trilogy created by The Rise of Skywalker and making them work. A desperate task. But, somehow, he does it.
Christopher takes a character created purely as a plot progressing device, Ochi of Bestoon, and turns him into an unhinged, desperate, egotistical antagonist. This is beautifully crafted by taking Ochi’s motivation to find Exegol and showing that even the idea of the Sith can corrupt. At the start of the book, Ochi’s search for a Sith wayfinder finds him on a trash planet searching through the galaxy’s refuse, a vibrant metaphor for Ochi himself. Once (possibly) great, Ochi has become obsolete and useless.
Apparently, the galaxy’s trash is the Sith’s treasure, though, as a Sith Eternal reaches out to Ochi with a message and a gift. The message: find the family. The gift: a Sith dagger. The reward? Exegol.
Nothing motivates a desperate man like a little bit of hope. This can be said of Ochi, but it can also be said of Lando Calrissian. After the loss of his daughter, Kadara, Lando has spent years searching the galaxy in hopes of finding her. While Ochi sifts through literal trash, Lando sifts through trash of a different kind, looking for any clue. For any hope. Ironically, he gets it from Ochi, who he overhears discussing his Sith-centric mission. From then on, the two continue as contrasting elements, always getting close, but never reaching their oppositional but congruent goal. They serve as thematic testaments of the important connection between desperation and hope. As Ochi’s story evolves, or rather devolves, he spins his hope into recklessness and isolation, thus making him desperate to finish his task and get to Exegol. Lando, however, pursues the family with friends and is able to put the failed mission into context thanks, finding the hope to continue searching for his daughter. Once desperate, through friendship he finds hope.
Amongst those friends is Luke Skywalker. At the start of the book, Luke is being tormented by visions of Exegol and the feeling that a darkness is rising. He visits Tython to seek answers on the seeing stone; instead, he is thrust through the Force to Exegol, where he fights a faction of Sith Eternal. When the Eternal are about to destroy the greatest threat to their reemergence, he is saved by the Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker. Luke’s father emphasizes to him that the balance of the Force is threatened and validates that Luke was right about the darkness. It is coming, and he’s the only one who can do something about it. Desperate for answers, his reunion with Lando provides hope when Lando tells Luke of Ochi’s utterings about the return of the Sith.
Luke, Lando, and Ochi’s stories all converge around that idea and the family upon which it apparently hinges. They are the problem. They are also the solution, for this is not just any family. This is Rey’s family.
Dathan Palpatine and Miramar are clearly presented as the two halves of Rey that we will see in the sequel trilogy. Miramar is smart, crafty, and has complete faith in the ones she loves. Dathan, the clone/strand-cast of Emperor, wants to do right by the people he loves and is willing to do whatever it takes, including sacrificing his own wants and needs, in order to make sure that they are safe.
Once more the relationship between hope and desperation takes center stage. Aware that he is a “descendent” of the galaxy’s greatest evil, and having been raised on Exegol, Dathan knows that his mere existence puts his family at risk. Yet he has hope because he, of all people, was able to find love. That love, personified by Rey, keeps the desperation at bay just long enough for the family to survive until a plan can be crafted to guarantee Rey’s safety.
That plan attempts to handle the confusing, seemingly oppositional, ideas about Rey’s parents presented in the sequel trilogy. The Last Jedi says that her parents sold her for drinking money, while The Rise of Skywalker says it was to protect her. It turns of the latter is truer than the former. Dathan and Miramar do leave Rey with Unkar Plutt, but they don’t sell her. They pay him. This is not out of trust in Plutt’s heart, but rather trust in his pocketbook. When things get desperate, hope can be found in the predictable. Plutt is predictable, which is good for Rey’s parents, and leaving her on Jakku is not, which is bad for Ochi.
The act was one of desperation, certainly, but desperation powered by hope. The problem is not the plan, it is the outcome. Leaving Rey on Jakku was supposed to only last until Dathan and Miramar could eliminate Ochi. However, Ochi has become fueled by the Sith dagger and his own desperation. That desperation becomes so powerful that hope becomes a distant memory, making Ochi unhinged and unpredictable. He kills his comrades and he kills Rey’s parents.
But is caring for others and doing whatever it takes to protect them only measured by the outcome? Despite its dark title, Shadow of the Sith says it isn’t. Rather, it is measured by how much hope it creates. That hope empowers the next generation to rise above the flaws of their predecessors in order to make the galaxy a better place. While Rey did not have the chance to really know her parents, they live on through her because they gave her that hope. They gave her a chance because, unlike Ochi of Bestoon, desperation did not darken their way.