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After years of waiting in the shadows, Darth Sidious is taking the first step in his master plan to bring the Republic to its knees. Key to his scheme are the Neimoidians of the Trade Federation. Then one of his Neimoidian contacts disappears, and Sidious does not need his Force-honed instincts to suspect betrayal. He orders his apprentice, Darth Maul, to hunt the traitor down.

But he is too late. The secret has already passed into the hands of information broker Lorn Pavan, which places him right at the top of Darth Maul’s hit list. Then, in the labyrinthine alleyways and sewers of Coruscant, capital city of the Republic, Lorn crosses paths with Darsha Assant, a Jedi Padawan on a mission to earn her Knighthood. Now the future of the Republic depends on Darsha and Lorn. But how can an untried Jedi and an ordinary man, stranger to the powerful ways of the Force, hope to triumph over one of the deadliest killers in the galaxy?

Just a brief number of days before the events of The Phantom Menace Hath Monchar, a member of the Neimoidian Trade Federation, has gone missing, a deputy viceroy who has lost his nerve and headed to Coruscant to uncover the truth behind Sidious’ plans to overthrow the Republic, starting with the blockade and invasion of Naboo. Sidious sends his apprentice Darth Maul to silence Monchar, but Maul doesn’t have it all his own way. He encounters the Jedi Master Anoon Bondara and his Padawan Darsha Assant as well as Lorn Pavan, an information broker from Corellia with a deep-seated mistrust against the Jedi. The intertwining plot takes all of them from the upper levels down into the bowels of Coruscant, and while it’s no secret that Maul makes it out of the book alive; he by no means has an easy time of it.

Fans of Darth Maul will be enthralled by this novel. He is front and centre throughout, even when not on the page his presence is keenly felt, as he reels in his prey like a fisherman. His self-confidence is also apparent, as is his faith in his sith abilities and his fear of his master.

Of the supporting characters Lorn Pavans’ droid I-Five is the standout, an acerbic and knowing droid allowed to develop far beyond his initial programming. Pavan himself is a cool customer, with a grudge against the Jedi that touches a raw, personal nerve in the former Jedi employee. Darsha Assant, the Padawan of the story, is an interesting character – a Jedi who is far from flawless, uncertain of her powers and abilities but possessed of a spirit that is truly tested to its full extent.

There are elements of gore in the novel. A scene involving the burial of a lightsaber into a Hutt is graphically told, as are a few fight scenes, and the chthons who inhabit the lowest levels of Coruscant are written ugly enough to have you checking the shadows in the corner of your room at night. Reaves certainly paints a vivid picture on the canvas he is given, and is commended for it.

As well as the deep study of the lower levels of Coruscant, Reaves also had another thing to contend with – the fact that The Phantom Menace was already out, and everyone knew the ending of the story. Despite this, he makes a fun, almost Indiana Jones-style romp from the material and as such brings a book that is highly recommended.

This article was first published on www.lightsabre.co.uk on 5th April 2005.