The galaxy’s worst dad and most under rated badass is still trying to find his son, Luke Skywalker, and destroy the various upstarts the Emperor seeks to make his equals. For some reason, people don’t take him seriously enough.
In Vader Down, Vader, with the help of Dr. Aphra and her murderbots, has tracked Luke to a remote planet. The rebel fighter pilots are flying training exercises right where Vader comes out of hyper space. The rebels, not knowing it’s Vader, think they can practice on this lone scout tie-fighter. A lot of them die. Luke realizes it’s Vader and knocks Vader and himself out of the sky in a purposeful collision. The Rebels are excited about killing or capturing Vader. Han Solo is worried about Luke. Dr. Aphra is concerned Vader will think she led him into a trap so she gathers an ally and comes to the rescue. One of Vader’s supposed rivals shows up with some troops. Everyone is on Vrogas Vas, getting in Darth Vader’s way.
I haven’t read Dr. Aphra’s stand alone series yet, but I do enjoy Aphra and her murderbots in the Vader series. Vader needs someone to bounce off, and the murderbots, in small doses, are entertaining in a way C-3PO and R2-D2 are not.
A lot of people die. None of the main characters, but a whole lot of rebels die trying to take on Vader. You would think at some point that the military leaders of the Rebellion would figure out that they can’t go up against Vader as a large force. Is he the Emperor’s best kept secret? Has he been hiding his light under a bushel?
Vader also gets a chance to be a bad dad to Leia again. If you haven’t read Claudia Grey’s excellent Bloodline you really should. An older Leia spends some time contemplating her father. Luke may have gotten some resolution, but Leia never had a chance to work through with reformed Anakin the way that he tortured her.
The Shu-Torun War is somewhat less entertaining because it involves Vader pitting his wits against much lesser creatures who haven’t the wits to run when they see Vader coming.
On it’s own, it’s a good story. In comparison to Vader Down, it is the lesser story.
The Emperor has sent Vader to the mining kingdom of Shu-Torun to remind the king and his barons that they need to do better to meet their quotas. A bunch of people think they are smarter than Vader. You can almost see his eyes rolling as nefarious plots happen all around him.
I’m not sure enough people appreciate the character growth that Anakin Skywalker has as Darth Vader, and I’m not talking about the redemption scene in Return of the Jedi. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin freaks out, tries to murder everyone, and is horribly maimed in lava. In The Shu-Torun War, he’s mostly annoyed that the Emperor and the rebellious Barons are distracting him from his hunt for Skywalker. The difference between the grand opera everyone else is enacting, and Vader cutting through the bullshit with restrained irritation is at least half the fun.