Darth Plagueis is a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel by James Luceno set during the final decades of the Old Republic (beginning approximately 67 years before the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope). The plot concerns itself with the life and times of the titular character, Darth Plagueis, and his dual efforts to conquer the galaxy and achieve immortality through manipulation of the midi-chlorians that connect the Force to its users. After betraying and murdering his way to the head of the Sith Order, Plagueis's journeys lead him to discover a young noble named Palpatine. Sensing enormous potential in the youthful malcontent, Plagueis ensnares Palpatine in the Sith ways and grants him the Sith title of Darth Sidious. The remainder of the book concerns itself with the relationship between these two Sith Lords and how their pursuit of power disrupts The Force and inevitably leads their fruitful partnership to a lethal conclusion.Darth Plagueis is pivotal in that its content is heretofore unexplored. The history of the saga's Big Bad is detailed, as are new insights (as experienced through the eyes and actions of the Sith) to galactic events that lead to the Empire's rise. The novel spans decades and even encroaches well into the events of The Phantom Menace, featuring (to varying degrees) characters like Chancellor Valorum, Count Dooku, Darth Maul, Jabba the Hutt, Nute Gunray, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker.Tone-wise, Darth Plagueis is more cerebral, with more emphasis on history, mysticism, and politics than outright action, affording it a similar nature to Luceno's other prequel-era Palpatine-centric novel, Cloak of Deception. It was released January 10th, 2012.
The novel contains the following tropes:
Aborted Arc: After interrogating the Gossams, Plagueis abandons his investigation into who hired Subtext Mining to assassinate Tenebrous. Dialogue later in the book — and interviews with Luceno — implies that it was probably Kerred Santhe II.
A God Am I: Plagueis is hellbent on securing immortality, as he believes it will make him this.
Sidious/Palpatine eventually declares himself to be the Sith'ari, which is basically the Sith version of God.
Above Good and Evil: One of the reasons Plagueis is intrigued by Palpatine is that he seems to have transcended notions of morality.
All There in the Manual: While Darth Plagueis can stand on its own, several short stories were published concurrently in novel reprints and the Star Wars Insider (Matthew Stover's The Tenebrous Way and Luceno's own Restraint and Endgame). They expand on the roles and actions played by Darth Tenebrous and Darth Maul during the course of the book. It's justified given that the novel's focus is Plagueis and Sidious.
Always Chaotic Evil: The Yinchorri, as explained in their wookiepedia article, believes that anything that they can take with force is theirs. Plagueis and Sidious manipulated this into a conflict which resulted in the deaths of a fair amount of Jedi and the degradation of Valorum's reputation, setting the stage for Palpatine's ascension to Supreme Chancellor.
Ambition Is Evil: Palpatine, Gunray, Dooku, Veruna, Pestage, Doriana, Jabba, etc. Pretty much everyone with at least one line in the book.
The Antichrist: Palpatine is introduced as a young son of a nobleman who exhibits prodigious intellect and a proportionately high disregard for common morality. He is also said to be a delinquent, having a history of petty crime and being directly responsible for the deaths of two individuals as well as someone who is willing to murder his entire family without too much prompting.
In the prologue, Palpatine admires the constellations that dot Coruscant's eastern sky just before the sun rises, i.e. the ''morning stars''. If that's not Revelation-y enough for you, he refers to the Dark Side in his thoughts as the "beast" that will bring about the "end times".
Arc Welding: In addition to numerous references to other SWEU works that don't go beyond a Shout-Out, the novel ties previously standalone Episode I tie-ins into a coherent scheme of Sith machinations.
In particular, the events in novels Cloak of Deception, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter and Darth Maul: Saboteur and comics Jedi Council: Acts of War, Darth Maul and Bloodlines from Republic were all previously known to fit into the Sith Grand Plan somehow, until this novel tied them all together and explained the exact role each of those events had.
Becoming the Mask: Sort of. When he arrives on Coruscant, Sidious is essentially giving a constant performance as the good, noble Senator Palpatine. Twenty years later, he's still the same bastard at heart. But been he's playing the part for so long that it's now second nature and as effortless as breathing.
Big Bad: Plagueis, as the titular character and Master of Palpatine, appears to be this at first. At the end of the novel, however, it becomes all too clear that Darth Sidious had usurped the mantle long before his own ascent.
Book of Sith, a supplementary text on all things Sith released not long after Darth Plagueis, goes one step further by implying that Plagueis was never the Big Bad at all, being played like a violin by Sidious even prior to his apprenticeship. Of course, it's Sidious telling us all of this.
Bigger Bad: Subverted. You'd think Plagueis, the master of Emperor Palpatine, would prove to be this for the film series even if he was dead beforehand. You'd be wrong.
Luceno seems intent on removing any potential doubt that Darth Sidious/Palpatine is the pinnacle of this trope for the Star Wars mythos. As an example, it turns out Palpatine was the one who engineered Padme's campaign for the throne of Naboo. While this may not seem to be a big deal in and of itself, when you consider it along with the events of the films, the impact speaks for itself.
Plagueis himself is a skilled one, to a lesser extent. He was involved in the incident at Galidraan that began Dooku's dissent with the Jedi and, more importantly, was the one who gave Sifo-Dyas the suggestion to clone an army for the Republic....
Bear in mind that the climax reveals that these things as well as a lot more had in fact been manipulated by Sidious himself.
The Chosen One: Both Palpatine and Plagueis are anxious and obsessed with meeting Anakin Skywalker.
Namely, the reason they want to meet him is because he's not only the result of a botched experiment, but also the one destined to destroy them due to the midichlorians retaliating for the unethical experiment.
Continuity Cameo: A lot. Sifo-Dyas, Qui-Gon Jinn, Wilhuff Tarkin, Finis Valorum, etc.
Continuity Nod: Tons and tons, on the verge of Continuity Porn. Luceno gets an A+ for effort: the plot intricately weaves itself in with Cloak of Deception and The Phantom Menace. To get a general idea, about 99.8% of all names in the book are from previously established sources, sometimes so obscure the larger Expanded Universe ignored them all until now.
Curbstomp Battle: Plagueis vs. Captain Lah and the crew of the Woebegone. A 17-year-old, untrained Palpatine vs. his family and their bodyguards.
The Dragon: Maul to Sidious. Sate Pestage and Kinman Doriana each serve as this in the political arena.
Even Evil Has Standards: When Tenebrous accessed Force Foresight upon possessing Plagueis, he ended up foreseeing Plagueis's murder at the hands of Darth Sidious/Palpatine, and it was strongly implied that Tenebrous was horrified not just at the apprentice's murder of Plagueis, but also at how evil said apprentice was.
Veruna flat out admits that if he had known Plagueis was a Sith from the get-go, he would never have thrown his lot in with Plagueis, no matter how desperate. In his own words, "Political power is one thing but this....."
Eureka Moment: Palpatine's discussion with Plagueis during the Gathering on Sojourn, which results in the Sith realizing that killing the Jedi isn't enough. To fully wipe them out, they need to make them into the enemies of peace and justice — in essence, turning the entire galaxy against them.
Plagueis gets another one during the summit on Serenno when Sifo-Dyas unknowingly gives him the solution to the Clone army quandary: Create it for the Jedi rather than to oppose them.
Evil Is Hammy: Daniel Davis' portrayal of Sidious in the audiobook mostly downplays his immense hamminess but retains the fey, faux-charming vocalisation Ian McDiarmid brought to the role.
Evil Mentor: Tenebrous to Plagueis, Plagueis to Palpatine, Palpatine to Maul.
Evil Plan: The Sith Grand Plan to conquer the galaxy begins in earnest here, and in surprising detail.
The Force: The Prequels mention repeatedly that the Force is imbalanced and that the dark side is ascending. The origin of the imbalance begins in this book.
Foreshadowing: An Itkotchi prophetess foresees the ensuing Clone Wars, Order 66, Galactic Empire, Death Star, and Galactic Civil War. Needless to say Plagueis moves quickly to silence her; Palpatine reminds Anakin that he will monitor his career with great interest; Master Sifo-Dyas is persuaded that the Republic needs an army; Plagueis spies on Qui-Gon Jinn speaking to Anakin before they leave Coruscant, and he sees a Force vision of a "black-helmeted cyborg rising from a table".....
Foregone Conclusion: Any fan who has seen Episode III knows what happens to Darth Plagueis at the end.
Luceno even opens with the immediate aftermath of the murder, refusing to play it as a twist or give it a sense of false suspense. What the reader doesn't realize until the climax is that how Palpatine killed Plagueis isn't important. It's where and more importantly,when.
Freudian Excuse: Unambiguously averted. Unlike his predecessor Bane, young Palpatine's feelings towards his family are a little...extreme. To elaborate, Palpatine's father does hate him, but for the simple reason that Palpatine has transparently hated him from the moment he was born (though his dad covering up his crimes did help Palpatine develop an "I can do no wrong" mentality).
Palpatine: It's ironic. He could save others from death, but not himself.
Irony: Cosinga Palpatine mentioned at one point that House Palpatine was one of the six gates that prevented Chaos from being unleashed in mythology. Now, take note that Chaos is presumably the Nabooian and Force-user equivalent of Hell. Palpatine (the eldest son)/Darth Sidious basically ends up unleashing Hell, thus undoing the Palpatine legacy.
Kick the Dog: Somehow, it's not really surprising that Palpatine comes up with the idea of not just killing the Jedi, but completely destroying their reputation and legacy — thereby turning them into enemies of the Republic.
Kill 'em All: Deconstructed as Darth Plagueis focuses on the logistical problems of the goal Darth Bane set in stone. With only two Sith at a time, each generation has batted numerous ideas back and forth, such as a plague to target Force users. How the plan evolved into what will be seen in the Prequel Trilogy forms a core part of the book.
Light Is Not Good: Darth Gravid was one of the few Sith who converted to the Light side of the Force. Unfortunately, he went cuckoo.
Make It Look Like an Accident: Possibly with Senator Vidar Kim's family. Kim comes to believe that the speeder accident which killed his family was engineered by the Naboo ruling elite. He believes their motive was to force him into retirement given he's against their policies (and they can't just relive him of the post as his senatorial appointment was a concession to the opposition). It's left ambiguous as to whether Kim was merely paranoid or if the Naboo nobles really did engineer the accident.
Played straight with Plagueis' murder of Kerred Santhe at a banquet years earlier. He kills the target with a Force Choke, but is able to make it look like the accidental ingestion of the central dish (poisonous Bloat Eel).
Ultimately, Palpatine covers up his murder of Plagueis by passing it off as a mechanical failure of his breathing apparatus.
Plagueis (thinking): Sidious had a gift for subterfuge that surpassed the talents of any of the Sith Lords who had preceded him, including Bane.
Mass "Oh, Crap!": By trying to subtly drive a wedge between Dooku and the Jedi, this is the reaction Plagueis is hoping to achieve. If a Master of Dooku's power, reputation, and skill were to sever ties with the Order, it would send the Jedi into a panic.
Money Is Not Power: Despite his status as a financial superstar, Plagueis points this out to Veruna. This is understandable, given his immersion in the Dark Side.
Mythology Gag: Plagueis is very specific in the type of immortality he's pursuing. He wants his body to live forever in good health and refuses to pursue shortcuts like transferring his essence into another being or a series of cloned bodies. His apprentice on the other hand...
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: By confiding in Senator Palpatine, Dooku unknowingly passes on key intelligence to Plagueis and Sidious regarding Jedi politics, the Prophecy of the Chosen One, and the discovery of Anakin.
Sifo-Dyas screws up big-time during the summit on Serenno (though he has no way of knowing). His debate with Plagueis is what gives the Sith Lord the idea to create a Clone army for the Jedi rather than to oppose them.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Sidious and Plagueis just had to upset the order of the midichlorians in a botched experiment of crafting a Sith Weapon. Well, it certainly bit them in the butt afterwards when the midichlorians retaliated by creating Anakin Skywalker to destroy them once and for all.
Likewise, after the attempt on his life, Plagueis actually forsook sleep since he feared that he'd be killed in his sleep. He ultimately proved to be right. Unfortunately, Palpatine ensured he fell asleep by having him get drunk on Sullustan Wine before he made his move to kill him.
The Purge: After capturing Venamis, Plagueis goes after the Bith's apprentice candidates. He does to ensure they won't be a threat to either him or the Grand Plan.
The Sociopath: The nicest thing you can say about Palpatine. He really was just born a bastard.
Spanner in the Works: Pax Teem's plan to assassinate Plaugeis is brilliantly planned and executed. However, Teem doesn't know his assassins — the Maladians — were utilized by Palpatine's aide Sate Pestage to assassinate Senator Kim. Embarrassed at how it was nearly botched, Pestage's Maladian contact tips him off about the Plagueis operation. This allows Palpatine to foil the assassination and leads to Teem's murder.
Later, Palpatine deliberately goads Veruna and his cabal in order to get them to try to kill Plagueis. However, Palpatine didn't anticipate that his Master had had dealings with Jabba the Hutt. Jabba gets wind of the attack plan through his underworld contacts and tips off the Muun. Plagueis survives and Palpatine has to wait until the night before the Election before trying again.
At the end (which takes place during Episode I), Anakin very nearly becomes this. When it's revealed that the prophecy of the one that would bring balance to the Force might be true, Palpatine and Plagueis panic.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: By making it apparent that Plagueis was the one who planted the seeds for the events of the Prequels, as opposed to Sidious, some feel that it ruins Sidious's character, preventing him from actually being the grand chessmaster that the movies made him. Then again, in his final speech to his master, Sidious claims that he was the one who planted the seeds with Plagueis acting as an Unwitting Pawn who, in Sidious' words, "thought [they] were your ideas when in fact they were mine, cleverly suggested to you so that you could feed them back to me". Ultimately, the question boils down to whether the reader is able to buy Sidious' claim.
The Starscream: Plagueis to Tenebrous, Sidious to Plagueis; averted with Maul and Sidious.
Ironically, it becomes apparent that Sidious had in fact been manipulating Plagueis ever since the latter first initiated him into the Sith.
Plagueis to Tenebrous is somewhat of a deconstruction of the trope, as not only was Tenebrous anticipating that Plagueis would betray him, he actually was glad that Plagueis finally acted on his desire to murder him, and his only regret was that Plagueis didn't act on the Starscream tendencies years earlier.
Start of Darkness: Dooku and Gunray all the way. To a lesser extent, Palpatine, who was sociopathic from the very beginning.
Arguably, one for Sate Pestage as well. Plagueis had given Palpatine Pestage in the belief that he'd be useful to the Sith Lord, and while he wouldn't be called 'innocent' he probably wouldn't have become so twisted if he hadn't been under the influence of the Sith Lords. Since he was, fast forward a few decades later and he becomes Grand Vizier of the Galactic Empire.
Sympathy for the Devil: Averted, with the possible exception for Darth Maul and Nute Gunray. Maul was raised a Sith from birth and Gunray's ambition was relentlessly exploited.
Possibly played straight with Darth Plagueis, however: Plagueis literally was destined to become a Sith before he was even born, meaning he literally had no other choice to be anything except to be a Sith, if supplementary items for the novel (such as the Tenebrous Way) are of any indication.
Training from Hell: Plagueis flat-out states Palpatine's Sith training is supposed to be hellish, so Palpatine will want to kill him as dictated by the Rule of Two.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Veruna's attack on Sojourn starts off with orbital bombardment to soften up Plagueis. He then follows this up by dropping a nuke as the coup de grace.
The cabal's strategy is justified considering the last assassination attempt against Damask didn't exactly go well.
Plagueis also has one after learning of Anakin's existence. He becomes coarse and blunt when demanding a meeting and actually shows genuine fear when it's revealed that Anakin is being considered as a candidate.
Wicked Cultured: Evil has never been so prominent in the EU as it is with Darth Plagueis, and little to none of it is thuggish.
Wham Episode: The entire book, but especially the last third where we learn Sidious didn't kill Plagueis years earlier as fans had always believed. The Muun is alive well into the climax of Episode I before the apprentice makes his move.
Wham Line: "I'm looking for a student named Palpatine." This simple query to a Naboo collegial receptionist sets the downfall of the Republic and Jedi in motion.
"Have you named him?" "Maul, he is called."
What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of 11-4D after Sidious murders Plagueis. Sidious says he will give 11-4D a new body, but there's no sign or mention of him in the post-Episode I literature. According to Luceno, he likes to think that 11-4D is one of the droids that gets the drop on Aurek Team in Labyrinth of Evil and is present when Anakin is put into his armor.
As noted earlier, the mystery of who hired Subtext Mining to assassinate Tenebrous is left unresolved, though dialogue later on implies that it was probably Kerred Santhe II.
You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: This is essentially Plagueis' reaction when Boss Cabra's son Darnada insults him. Darnada's assistant has enough sense to shut the Dug up before he does any more damage to Damask's business relationship with Cabra.
Amusingly, Darnada tries this Trope on Plagueis before his assistant shuts him up. The Sith Lord is not impressed.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Given that the central characters are Sith, this is standard operating procedure. Plagueis does this to Darths Tenebrous and Venamis, as well as all of Venamis's potential apprentices. Karma's a cold bitch, however, as King Veruna of Naboo and his cabal of toadies attempt to do this to Plagueis's alter-ego, though it fails horribly. And just when things seem to be absolutely peachy for the reigning Sith Master, Sidious makes his own move....