Path of Destruction - Drew Karpyshyn "One to embody the power and one to crave it"
A thousand years before The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker, Palpatine, and the Clone Wars, the Sith and the Jedi were large forces and at war with each other. On a God-forsaken world, Apatros, better known for being a source of cortosis, a mineral used in deflecting lightsabers, Dessel mined the tunnels as his abusive father before him. His life is pretty dreary until he plays cards with some Republic soldiers and wins. The soldiers seek to show him whose boss but one Republic officer is killed in the process. Dessel is on the run, seeking refuge in the only place left: the Sith. He rises to fame in the army then as Bane at the special Masters Academy on Korriban. Slowly, this Sith establishes the order that would keep the Sith alive during the peace, in wait for their unveiling in Revenge of the Sith.

What I Liked:
So much to choose from!
The first thing I loved was Bane/Dessel. Although he is a bad guy, allied to the Dark Side of the Force, Drew Karpyshyn is adroit at being able to write so that we the readers are rooting for him all the way. I enjoyed his backstory, how similar, yet different it was to Anakin Skywalker. Both came from harsh worlds, suffered harsh losses, and were given an out-of-this-world chance at freedom. However, Dessel's story is more tragic as his father was abusive while Anakin's mom was loving. Then, his growth from miner to soldier to apprentice to Sith Master was well-done. You watch as he gradually learns of his skills, begins to use them, fails, succeeds, learns of the Dark Side, and gives himself over. This is amazing as Karpyshyn is the first novelist to detail a story with the primary view from the Sith (all other novels had a Jedi emphasis).
The plot is not complicated (the demise of the Brotherhood of the Sith), however, it is done so well, kept interesting and briskly written. We all know the outcome (or if you didn't, I divulged, sorry), but it's not the destination, it's the journey that makes it enjoyable. Karpyshyn takes us where no other Star Wars novelist has done: he takes us into the heart of the Sith Order, the tension, the anger, the hatred, the barely concealed restraint the Sith Masters have to each other and the bare tendrils Kaan has to keep his brood in order. It is a visceral story, harsh and gritty, yet satisfying.
Then sidelines characters: I enjoyed Kas'im, the Sith swordsmaster. I felt he was real, he was a mentor, but not afraid to push his student. I also enjoyed General Hoth, the Jedi leading the Army of Light. I liked how he really treaded the line between the Light and Dark Side, how he fought partially for revenge.
While I was not fond of Githany, I did appreciate how Karpyshyn did keep her from being too omnipotent, by having her miss out on Bane's ultimate request. Also, I think Karpyshyn did not allow her complete sway over her male counterparts, as seen in the character, Kaan. This simple scene keeps her from being a groan worthy Mary Sue...mostly (see below).
There is more I could detail, but I think you get the picture.

What I Did Not Like:
What to say? There is so much that I enjoyed in this book, it was really challenging to find much that I did not. But there are two things that come to mind. The first is a continuity slip (which Karpyshyn has admitted). Bane says he is studying Vapaad, which is not possible as Mace Windu developed Vapaad nearly 1000 years before the events in this book. However, Karpyshyn admitted this was a mistake; Bane should have said he was studying Juyo, a form that was in existence during the era of this book.
My second dislike is probably the character of Githany. While not as frustrating and annoying as many other females I have encountered in fiction (and I found out in the graphic novel, Jedi vs. Sith, she is not quite the Mary Sue she tends to be here), I grew tired of how the author went to great extents to detail her sexuality and beauty and how her greatest skills were basically seduction. A rhetorical question, but why is it that female villains are only "villainous" in the fact that they can seduce men to do their whims? Why can men be bad ass fighters, superb Force Users, or great pilots, but the only skill women are allowed is the ability to romp in the bedroom? Time and again, women's roles are reduced to objects of gratification or duties deemed "feminine" (and I am not even a feminist!).

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Star Wars expletives are about as rough as it gets.
Githany reveals she had a lover. She also flirts frequently with her male companions and develops feelings for Bane.
Violence is the real kicker in this one. Dessel's father dies and this is shown in retrospect and in a vision/dream sequence. The first murder shown is the death of a Republic ensign. From there, the body count increases. This doesn't even include multiple injuries. A miner's finger is bitten off; Bane and another student end up so badly damaged as to spend weeks in bacta therapy. And frequently, the details are pretty graphic.

WOW! After reading a few downer Star Wars books, this revives faith in the EU franchise. If you are interested in learning more about the Sith, reading about good characters, crisp dialogue, and intense, fast-paced action, then Path of Destruction is your book! Five stars, no questions asked.