While movies and TV episodes may get all the attention, books have always played a significant role in the “Star Wars” world. The official novelization by Alan Dean Foster, titled “Star Wars: From The Adventures of Luke Skywalker,” was the first “Star Wars” material ever issued, appearing in bookshops in November 1976, months before the film itself was shown in theatres. Two years later, in “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye,” Foster wrote the first canonical sequel.
‘Star Wars’ novels were released at a time when fans had to wait for official confirmation of a prequel trilogy. Star Wars fans were treated to a brand new adventure following the events of “Return of the Jedi” in 1991’s “Heir to the Empire” by Timothy Zahn.
Following the success of “Heir to the Empire,” two sequels were written: “Dark Force Rising” and “The Last Command,” ushering in a new age of “Star Wars” literature in which authors were given carte blanche to continue the sagas of their favourite characters.
Authors of “Star Wars” novels jumped at the chance to explore the new canon, and they’ve since laid out a timeline for the galaxy far, far away that spans more than 25,000 years thanks to the expansion of canon afforded by the prequels.
Due to Disney’s 2013 “Star Wars” chronology reset, the previously published novels are now part of the non-canon “Legends” line. Even so, the written word has played host to some of the most compelling “Star Wars” tales ever recounted. Here are the best “Star Wars” books ever written, in no particular order.
The Darth Bane trilogy
Darth Bane’s life narrative is chronicled in a trilogy that takes place a thousand years before “The Phantom Menace” and reveals how he became an important figure in the Sith Empire.
Bane was a hardened miner who, upon realising his Sith potential, enlisted in the ranks of the Brotherhood of Darkness and helped lead them in their struggle against the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Order. Bane was excited to join the group, but he worried that the other Sith lords were too focused on becoming the galactic ruler.
The Rule of Two, presented by George Lucas in “The Phantom Menace,” was created by Bane. The Sith could only have one master and one apprentice at a time, because to Bane’s decree.
Bane plans the destruction of the Jedi and the Sith and mentors Darth Zannah in the novels Path of Destruction, Rule of Two, and Dynasty of Evil. In response to Bane’s dominance, Zannah hatches a plan to kill him and replace him with an apprentice of her own.
After the events of the original trilogy, the Star Wars chronology enters a thousand years of calm during which the Jedi Order withdraws from military service in the mistaken belief that the Dark Side has been vanquished.
Master and Apprentice
The connection between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi was rocky at first, but by the time of “The Phantom Menace,” the two had become close and understood one another.
Qui-Gon, the rebel, was typically against adhering to the rigid Jedi order, and his student, a stickler for regularity, found it difficult to connect with his stern teacher. The canon novel “Master and Apprentice” by Claudia Gray describes a formative experience that bonded the two characters.
Yoda invites Qui-Gon to join the Jedi Council, and while the Master himself is not thrilled about the idea, his other Jedi do. But if Qui-Gon were to join the council, he would have to pass over Obi-training Wan’s to another Jedi master, which would break the young Jedi’s heart. Obi-Wan feels that he’s getting closer to his strict master, and now he’s afraid to let him down.
They are sent on a mission to the planet Pijal, where a young ruler is under attack by a newly formed terrorist group, while Qui-Gon mulls over his choice. As a result of this mission, Qui-Gon is reunited with Rael Averross, an unconventional Jedi who suffered the devastating loss of his own padawan. Though the YA novel “Jedi Apprentice” focused on Obi-training, Wan’s few “Star Wars” books for adult readers have focused on this time period.
One of the most memorable episodes from the Star Wars prequel trilogy centres on Darth Plagueis the Wise’s tragic downfall; yet, this is more than simply a narrative. According to canonical EU material, Palpatine was the apprentice who murdered the real-life Sith Lord Plagueis.
In his novel “Darth Plagueis,” James Luceno reveals the hidden backstory of how Plagueis killed his master, Darth Tenebrous, and became fixated on the study of midi-chlorians in an effort to create life.
While Palpatine was still a politician on Naboo and only beginning to develop his Force powers, he was courted by Plagueis. Under the guise of Magister Hego Damask II, Plagueis exploited Palptaine’s political ties to enter the Galactic Republic and lead the InterGalactic Banking Clan. In order to bring down Supreme Chancellor Valorum, Plagueis and Palpatine work together to sow seeds of disenchantment in the government.
In “The Phantom Menace,” Plagueis is a key player in the plot to elect Palpatine as Supreme Chancellor and the subsequent dealings with the Trade Federation that lead to conflict. But Palpatine schemes against his master by teaching the young warrior Maul to be an assassin and by luring the Jedi Master Dooku to the dark side.
Palpatine murders Plagueis in his sleep after promising to make him his co-chancellor if he won the election. To that end, Palpatine continues Plagueis’ investigation into the Force’s longevity potential in an effort to achieve immortality for himself.
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This novel set during the time of the Clone Wars featured Mace Windu, Yoda’s second in command on the Jedi Council, as he returned to his homeworld. Mace Windu grew up on Haruun Kal, a planet split apart by a struggle between indigenous and outworlders known as the Summertime War.
Windu has a hazy recollection of his history, but when his old padawan, Depa Billaba, disappears on the planet, he volunteers for the mission.
Moments after the events of “Attack of the Clones,” Windu is already filled with uncertainty. He can’t believe a galactic war sprang out so quickly, and he’s worried that Billaba has defected to the dark side, therefore revealing yet another weakness in the Jedi Order.
Despite Windu’s reputation for moderation, he fights for a cause close to his heart when the Separatist fleet threatens the planet where he spent his formative years.
In “Shatterpoint,” we get an unusual glimpse into Windu’s head, as he writes diaries and questions whether or not Anakin is the Chosen One. It’s no coincidence that George Lucas was going to helm the original version of “Apocalypse Now,” which inspired writer Matthew Stover.
Between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, one of the most significant plot points is Anakin’s trial to become a Jedi Knight. The novel Jedi Trial, set during the Clone Wars, explains what happened at this time and demonstrates Anakin’s leadership abilities.
An abandoned Republic station on the planet Praesitlyn has been assigned to Anakin as a solo mission. Anakin must assist the undermanned world in mobilising while Count Dooku’s henchman Pors Tonith organises an invasion, with only a ragtag handful of battle-hardened Republic officers to protect them.
If the Separatists are able to overwhelm Praestilyn with droids, they will acquire control of key hyperspace pathways. Although it is a Star Wars story, “Jedi Trial” focuses heavily on military tactics, which is not typically the case.
Even though the Jedi Council had their doubts about Anakin’s impulse control, they nonetheless knighted him because of his leadership in the darkest book, “Jedi Trial,” which depicts the toll that war has on ordinary soldiers.
The Dark Lord trilogy
The events of “Revenge of the Sith” and the years leading up to it are covered in this trilogy of novels about Anakin’s transformation into Vader. In the latter days of the Clone Wars, Anakin and Obi-Wan look for Count Dooku’s mysterious master in “Labyrinth of Evil,” while General Grievous schemes to abduct the Chancellor.
The novel, like the animated “Star Wars: Clone Wars” mini-series, provides a taste of the opening combat over Coruscant in “Revenge of the Sith.”
Luceno’s novelization of “Revenge of the Sith,” the middle instalment of the trilogy, goes into greater detail than any other Star Wars movie novelization. Among the scenes that weren’t included in the movie was Padme’s introduction to the Rebel Alliance.
It also describes Vader’s thoughts as he lay dying on Mustafar, including his guilt for Padme’s death and his hatred of Obi-Wan. Compared to Vader’s ridiculous lament at the end of the movie, this is a far more gratifying finale.
At the end of the Clone Wars, Anakin is gone and Captain Typho, Padme’s bodyguard, begins his quest for him in the early days of the Galactic Empire in “Dark Lord.” As the Empire invades Kashyyyk, Jedi Masters Roan Shryne and Bol Chatak and padawan Olee Starstone manage to escape Order 66 and form an alliance with Chewbacca.
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The Force Unleashed
The narrative of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice was not exclusive to those with a gaming console, but “The Force Unleashed” immediately became one of the most popular “Star Wars” video games of all time. Galen Marek, the son of a fallen Jedi Knight, is raised by the Dark Lord of the Sith and becomes known as “Starkiller” in the novelization written by Sean Williams.
Starkiller’s mission is to eliminate all remaining Jedi, including elderly recluse Kazdan Paratus and grizzled warrior Shaak Ti. Because the Emperor is concerned that Vader and Starkiller are conspiring against him, he gives orders for Starkiller to be killed. When Starkiller has nowhere else to turn, he seeks refuge with his old enemy, Jedi Master Rahm Kota, who begins teaching him as a Jedi in the hopes of turning him into a leader in the Rebellion.
The relationship between Starkiller and Juno Eclipse, an Imperial fighter who also has doubts about her allegiance to the Empire, is developed further in “The Force Unleashed,” without losing any of the game’s original intensity.
Starkiller’s shapeshifting robot PROXY offers comedic relief, and the book offered an alternative account for how the Rebel Alliance came to possess the Death Star designs before “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The sequel, “The Force Unleashed 2,” which chronicles Vader’s attempts to clone his former apprentice, was likewise novelized by Williams.
The Han Solo trilogy
The genesis of Han Solo was created in a trilogy of novels written by A.C. Crispin, and much of the events depicted in the 2018 prequel film, “Solo,” were taken directly from those novels. In the now-defunct canon novels “The Paradise Snare,” “The Hutt Gambit,” and “Rebel Dawn,” the smuggler is depicted as a Corellian outlaw who enlists to become an excellent Imperial fighter pilot.
Much as in “Solo,” Han loses faith in the Empire after saving a mistreated Chewbacca, who vows eternal gratitude by becoming his co-pilot.
Most of the events depicted in “Solo,” notably Han’s card game triumph against Lando Calrissian that earned him the Millennium Falcon, were previously depicted in literature. Things aren’t exactly the same, though;
instead of Qi’ra, young Han falls for Bria Tharen, a well-off Corellian girl who has trouble accepting Han’s illicit occupation. At one point, before he hardens his heart, a broken Han controls a spacecraft he names Bria.
Events also deviate from “Solo” and have more connections to the prequels and the original Star Wars trilogy. In “Rebel Dawn,” for instance, Jabba the Hutt gets enraged when Han and Chewie are forced to dump a precious cargo of spice because of a mission failure. This alternate origin tale for the most popular smuggler in the Star Wars universe may appeal to fans who liked “Solo” as well as those who were unimpressed.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
Author Alan Dean Foster, who previously penned the Star Wars novelization, was commissioned to do the sequel, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.” In the event that “Star Wars” was a commercial failure, George Lucas intended to have a backup scenario ready to go.
Sets from “Star Wars” may be utilised in a low-budget sequel starring some of the original cast members if the movie flopped. However, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” found new life as the first spinoff novel after the film’s record-breaking success.
Luke, Leia, and the droids embark on a mission to the mining colony of Mimban in pursuit of a kyber crystal, an item of great power in the Force. The premise that Kyber crystals provide the power for lightsabers was established in the Expanded Universe and has persisted into the Disney period.
In order to fit into a more modest picture, the plot has to make sacrifices. Only Luke and Leia appear (Harrison Ford wasn’t originally contracted to return), and most of the scenes take place in the same gloomy woodlands and on the same sets from the first film.
The book had the first lightsaber combat between Luke and Darth Vader two years before “The Empire Strikes Back,” but Lucas had Foster remove a space battle that would have been too expensive to shoot. As Foster doesn’t know that Luke and Leia are siblings, there are also romantic undertones between the two.
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Shadows of the Empire
By far the most significant addition to the Expanded Universe was released in 1996 by Lucasfilm. A top-tier creative team was entrusted with developing a multimedia event that would simulate the year-long marketing effort that usually precedes the release of a film like “The Phantom Menace” or the Star Wars Special Editions.
The creative team behind “Shadows of the Empire” wrote the novel, junior novelization, video game, comic book series, roleplaying game, merchandise, and official music to tell a unified tale.
Shadows of the Empire fills up the time between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi by following Luke, Leia, Chewie, Lando, and the droids as they seek for Boba Fett, who still has Han imprisoned in carbonite.
They hire Han’s old adversary, the smuggler Dash Rendar, to help them break into the “scum and villainy” realm. The story also delves into Luke’s broken heart as he struggles to come to terms with the fact that Vader is his father.
In order to find Luke, the Galactic Empire creates an agreement with a formidable criminal organisation called the Black Sun, which was established in “Shadows of the Empire.” After Darth Vader destroyed his homeworld of Falleen with a biological weapon, Prince Xizor became leader of the Black Sun and has sworn vengeance by killing Vader’s son. Xizor schemes to unseat Vader as Palpatine’s number two and rallies the underworld in its hunt for Skywalker.
The Thrawn trilogy
The Expanded Universe began with “Heir to the Empire,” arguably the most significant Star Wars novel ever written. Before Timothy Zahn’s novel came out in 1991, the time period after “Return of the Jedi” had only been touched on briefly in the original run of Marvel comics. The story begins five years after the second Death Star was destroyed. The remnants of the Imperial army prevent the New Republic from expanding.
Former Imperials band together under Grand Admiral Thrawn’s leadership when the alien strategist unearths Imperial secrets hidden in Palpatine’s personal storage facilities. Thrawn gathers an army and plans to retake the old Imperial city, Coruscant, by using a mad ex-Jedi as a menace.
As soon as he appeared in “Rebels,” Thrawn became a fan favourite, and he has now made the jump to the new “Star Wars” canon; reports claim he will also play a crucial part in the future programme “Ashoka.”
Han and Leia are established as married and expecting twins (named Jacen and Jaina) in “Heir to the Empire,” but they aren’t the sole romantic interest. In the story “Heir to the Empire,” Luke and Mara Jade, a former follower of the dark side, meet paths. At first, they are forced into an alliance, but they end up growing love for one other. In the sequels to Zahn’s “Dark Force Rising,” “The Last Command,” Mara Jade took on a more heroic role.
There may be danger and mystery in the galaxy far, far away, but love may find you there, too. In the canon novel “Lost Stars,” two Outer Rim kids form an early friendship as they see their homeworld of Jelucan join the new Galactic Empire. They are inseparable, and Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree’s shared desire is to leave their home planet and train at the Imperial Academy to become TIE pilots.
At first, the Imperial Empire appears like a promising escape from Jelucan’s rural poverty; the two even manage to secure a meeting with Grand Admiral Tarkin. The two ascend through the Imperial ranks and become heroes in their own right, but Thane can’t shake the knowledge of the tragic repercussions of the Empire’s growth.
Thane contemplates joining the Rebel Alliance after discovering the Death Star’s destructive potential, and a fateful encounter with Wedge Antilles ultimately convinces him to do so. This means he has to take a stand against his lifetime love interest.
The novel “Lost Stars” reinterprets the original trilogy’s events through the viewpoint of the story’s peripheral characters. It’s fascinating to observe how decent individuals like Ciena are duped into helping the Empire and killing innocent people because to propaganda that distorts the truth about the Rebel Alliance. Despite its young adult label, “Lost Stars” is a must-read for every Star Wars fan in search of an original perspective on the galaxy far, far away.
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Star Wars: Thrawn and Thrawn Ascendancy
Lucasfilm stated in 2016 that Grand Admiral Thrawn will return to the “Star Wars” canon as the newest opponent for the “Star Wars Rebels” team. Concurrently, it was announced that Timothy Zahn will write another trilogy centred on Thrawn. Zahn’s newest volumes retain Thrawn as complicated as ever, but also give him a new, perfectly justifiable defect.
While not as important to the new “Star Wars” canon as the original Thrawn trilogy, these books are nevertheless highly recommended. Beginning with his banishment from Chiss land and his friendship with the ambitious Imperial cadet Eli Vanto, the new series chronicles Thrawn’s early years of military duty. The trilogy interweaves with known canon and develops his connection with the Emperor and the “Rebels” adversary Arihnda Pryce.
The Ascendancy, a sequel saga, delves further into Thrawn’s past. As the young, adopted Thrawn provokes some of his new relatives, the complex politics of the Chiss are revealed. The Chiss sky-walkers, who are sensitive to the Force, play a supporting role, and Thrawn must overcome the secrecy of his own civilization to defeat an old enemy. An avid reader of “The Ascendancy” may utilise the series to convert his or her fellow Honor Harrington fans to the science fiction genre.
John Jackson Miller’s “Kenobi,” published around the conclusion of the previous Legends continuity, provides a wealth of detail about the Jedi master’s life in exile that still will interest to readers today, even if you know that this story won’t bear any resemblance to Obi-Disney+ Wan’s series.
Obi-Wan brings his thoughts of Duchess Satine Kryze with him to Tatooine, where he keeps vigil over the Lars farm. Even though it’s a great book, one “Star Wars” fanatic isn’t recommending it because of any ties to “Obi-Wan.” Attention all readers of “The Book of Boba Fett” who are interested in the Tuskens!
Ben’s efforts to save a frontier woman and her questionable suitor have strong Western undertones, while Obi-Wan spends some time getting to know a Tusken chief named A’Yark, adding to the story’s significant Western elements.
She is fierce yet upright, and she is unmistakably the ancestor of the warrior master from whom Boba Fett learned his skills. Miller’s subsequent expansion of her tale into the new canon solidified her place there. A’yark remembers old Ben from the short story “Rites,” which can be found in “Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View.”
Unlike Timothy Zahn with the original Thrawn trilogy, Chuck Wendig didn’t set out to establish a foundation for a new extended world. “Aftermath” is expansive, introducing a plethora of new characters, some of whom flit in and out of the events after “Return of the Jedi” with dizzying rapidity.
But Wendig devotes the vast majority of his time to investigating the humanity of the people who live on this new and exciting world, speaking with both former Imperials and former Rebels. ‘Aftermath’ is exactly what it claims to be, a look at the challenges of reestablishing a functional community after a total breakdown of authority.
Reconfigured combat droid Mister Bones, who has the heart of a HK unit but the body of a B2, is just one of the many fantastic outliers in the “Aftermath” cast. The fan-favorite character Cobb Vanth from “The Mandalorian” is also introduced in “Aftermath,” with his account of how he acquired Boba Fett’s armour explained. In the midst of the larger narrative are some terrific, moving passages;
Wendig even provides the (unfairly) maligned Jar-Jar with a sad ending, one that finally gives the Gungan the audience he always deserved: kids. The greatest and most essential introduction to the New Republic era may be found in the first book of the “Aftermath” series, even if there are two more volumes in the series.
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Shadows of the Sith
Even though it’s incredibly impolite of Star Wars to make fans read a novel in order to grasp the second trilogy, and even more impolite to release the requisite tome several years after “The Rise of Skywalker,” Adam Christopher’s “Shadows of the Sith” gently does its job. This work is the beginning of a redemption tale in the vein of Dave Filoni, with its crisp writing and skillful use of viewpoint swapping to keep the story moving.
You may recall Max von Sydow as the cool guy who was onscreen for about five minutes in “The Force Awakens.” Having read this book, he now has a mission worthy of his stature. That dumb side storyline with the Sith assassin and the dark force dagger?
After reading this, it doesn’t seem quite as bad. For example, why was Lando’s daughter’s plotline cut short yet still significant in the second trilogy? Exciting news! The problem is clearly explained by Adam Christopher.
Better still, Christopher introduces a host of new and interesting personalities. One of the finest book-only characters since Mara Jade, a Sith acolyte who was briefly introduced in Wendig’s “Aftermath” takes a greater part here. There’s a chance that Komat’s mysterious history and multifaceted character may pique viewers’ interest in “The Acolyte.” A must-read for every Star Wars fan, “Shadows of the Sith” is also a fantastic story.
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