Disclaimer: DO NOT read this unless you want the ending of Dynasty of Evil SPOILED!
You might think this is strange – an author “spoiling” his own work. But the truth is, I never intended this to cause so much confusion out there. I knew that no matter who won, Bane or Zannah, I would have people angry at me. But I didn’t want to take the easy way out and dodge the question. I wanted to provide a definitive answer… and I thought I did. Yet some readers are still confused, and I feel I owe it to them to provide that closure (even though I know some of them will be angry at me for killing off their personal favorite).
So, who won the final confrontation between Bane and Zannah?
I’ll be honest; I thought it was pretty clear in my writing. I wrote the scene from Cognus’s point of view to keep you guessing to the last instant, but when Zannah proclaims “Darth Bane is gone. I am Darth Zannah, Dark Lord of the Sith and your new Master,” I thought it would be pretty clear.
The whole thing with Zannah’s hand twitching was only to show that some part of Bane had passed through to her. How much – was he still “alive” in some way, or is it just a small part of his identity imprinted on her – was supposed to be the ambiguous part. But I never wanted people to assume Bane had taken over Zannah’s body successfully.
Still, some people interpreted the scene that way. I guess I can see it, but you’re making a lot of assumptions to come to that conclusion. First, Zannah is asking Cognus questions that Bane already knows the answer to. Yes, it could be part of “tricking” Cognus, but that assumes Bane would *want* to trick Cognus. And I honestly don’t know where people get that impression from. Bane WANTED a stronger successor to overthrow him; the only reason he learned the ritual was because he needed to prolong his life if Zannah proved to be weak. Yet somehow people made the jump that Bane not only took over Zannah’s body, but was then hiding the fact from Cognus in order to later take over her body… possibly in a line all the way down to Sidious himself. (That is NOT what I was trying to imply, but a lot of readers went there.)
I’m not sure where this all comes from; I don’t think Bane I ever portrayed Bane as someone who wanted to hide in the dark and steal the fresh bodies of his unsuspecting apprentices so he could live forever even if he didn’t deserve it. That would kind of go against everything I built up about him through the three novels.
The second odd assumption you have to make to think Bane destroyed Zannah is to assume that you are dealing with an unreliable narrator. Once Zannah identifies herself, I refer to her as “her” and “Zannah” throughout the scene. To believe Bane took over, you have to assume that I am intentionally misleading you throughout that scene for a cheap GOTCHA moment at the end. But I’ve never done that in any of the previous Bane novels. The narrator has always played fair with the reader, and I think it would be unfair to suddenly change that in the last few pages of a trilogy. Unfortunately, “twist” endings have become so prevalent recently that I think people assume narrators are unreliable now by default; the narrative paradigm has been flipped on its head. (I blame M. Night Shyamalan.)
I realize this is my fault, of course. My writing is usually very straight ahead; I tend to eschew ambiguity because it leads to misinterpretation. I am usually very explicit about my characters and my authorial intent. In this case I wanted to introduce just a hint of subtlety about how much of Bane survived, but in doing so I did something readers were unfamiliar with, so I can’t really be surprised it threw them for a loop.
So, there it is. Zannah won – Bane tried to possess her and failed. But he wasn’t *completely* destroyed… though how much of him remains is something I’m going to leave open for now.