Fans of the galaxy far, far away are definitely getting their fix of Star Wars. In fact, now just might be the ideal time to be a fan of the franchise; we’ve got two more installments of the sequel trilogy on the way, at least three “anthology” films planned, a hit TV show (with possibly another on the pipeline), a new game, and a constant stream of new comics and novels for adult and adolescent readers.
Sadly, when Disney purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012 and decided to tell new stories, they also de-canonized everything except the Episodes I-VI films and the hit Clone Wars TV show. This meant that fan-favorite characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Kyle Katarn, plus most of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, were wiped away. However, Disney heard fans’ cries, and has begun to bring those characters back into canon through a few new channels, like Thrawn’s reemergence on Rebels and an upcoming young adult novel based on Ahsoka Tano.
Though the old stories are now just “Legends,” some of them are still great reads. Likewise, many of the books within the new canon add new layers of depth to beloved Star Wars characters and events. Whether they are canon or just legends, here are 15 Star Wars stories you need to read!
Set 20 years after Return of the Jedi and about ten years before The Force Awakens, Star Wars: Bloodline focuses on the politics of the New Republic as seen through the eyes of Princess Leia. As much as fans bemoaned the boring political aspects of the prequel trilogy, they were equally as annoyed when Episode VII completely skipped over the question “who were the Resistance?” Was the Empire ever really defeated, or did the Rebels continuously fight the Empire for 30 years?
Star Wars: Bloodline tries to explain the political climate in the aftermath of Episode VI. Leia, who is now a prominent Senator in the New Republic, is the prime candidate for a leadership position in the Government. However, her main opponent for this position discovers her secret family connection to Darth Vader. He reveals this knowledge to the public, causing the entire Senate to turn on the Princess. There is a lot more to this story, with twists, turns, and action throughout. It also ties in to the creation of the Resistance and talks about the relationship between Leia, Han, and Ben Solo. But we won’t spoil it for you, read it for yourself!
14. Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company
Say what you will about the newest incarnation of Star Wars: Battlefront, but don’t knock its epic tie-in novel Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company. Written by Alexander Freed, this book gives readers a look into the gritty and visceral world of the Galactic Civil War that the films didn’t really touch upon. In it we see the everyday world of the average soldier in the Rebel army as they fight against the ruthless forces of the Empire.
Twilight Company follows the 61st Infantry Company of the Rebel Alliance (dubbed “Twilight Company”) as they partake in battles on Haidoral Prime, Sullust, and the famous Battle of Hoth (seen in The Empire Strikes Back). They also become ensnared in the tense politics of the Empire as they capture and eventually protect an Imperial Governor. Along with amazingly realistic depictions of futuristic combat, Twilight Company features one of the absolute best encounters with Darth Vader that’s ever been written. We see him not as Luke’s father or Obi-Wan’s equal– instead, he is depicted as a mass-murdering machine who effortlessly cuts down anyone in his way. That alone makes this a must read for any Star Wars fan!
13. Aftermath Trilogy
Now, the Aftermath trilogy is regarded as a “middle of the road” Star Wars book. It’s not an incredible read like some of the others on this list, but it’s not terrible either. However, it makes the cut because it currently is the only canon information we have right now between Jedi and The Force Awakens. Both books in the series (so far) follow fan-favorite X-wing pilot Wedge Antilles and a slew of new characters as they aid the alliance in the final destruction of the Galactic Empire.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Star Wars story without some cameos from the main cast; Han, Chewie, and Leia all make an appearance in various capacities throughout the series. The first book deals with the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Endor, as the Rebels rebrand themselves as the New Republic and chase the Imperial Forces to the Outer Rim. The second book focuses on the liberation of the Planet Kashyyyk (aka Chewbacca’s homeworld). A third book in the series is set to come out in 2017, and will focus on the Battle of Jakku and the final stand of the Empire.
12. Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir
When The Clone Wars was abruptly cancelled, fans feared that they had seen the last of Darth Maul. The character wasn’t present in the original trilogy, and would be too old by the time The Force Awakens rolled around to make an appearance (or is he?). Luckily, Maul returned during the second season of Rebels and looks to be featured prominently in season three. However, to bridge the gap between the two TV series, Disney released the comic Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir.
Based on a handful of uncompleted Clone Wars episodes, Son of Dathomir shows the former Sith being captured by Darth Sidious in a ploy to lure out and kill his mother, the leader of the mystical Night Sisters. Maul escapes and begins to wreak havoc on the Separatists, capturing Count Dooku and General Grevious in the process. The book culminates with a lightsaber duel between Maul and his former master (and some other parties that we won’t spoil) that will leave readers with their jaws on the floor. If you love Darth Maul, Son of Dathomir is the perfect story to get your fill.
11. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
As the oldest addition to our list, Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is also one of the most unique. The novel came out in 1978, just after the original film and two whole years before The Empire Strikes Back premiered. The book was originally intended to work as a low budget sequel to Star Wars in case the first movie didn’t do well. Higher-budget characters like Han Solo and Obi Wan were nowhere to be seen, and Luke and Leia were the only main characters from the movie in the novel.
The story follows Luke and Leia on a secret mission to persuade the inhabitants of Circarpous IV to join the rebel alliance. Along the way, they are forced to crash land on a swampy planet. Of course, the two Rebels are pursued by (who else?) Darth Vader and a band of Imperials. They eventually discover that Vader is searching for a mysterious Kaiburr Crystal (not to be confused with the lightsaber-creating crystal of a similar name), and are flung into a race against the Sith Lord to uncover it before he does. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye makes this list based on its significance alone; it was the first ever book in the massive Extended Universe that would follow for years after.
10. The New Jedi Order Series
The largest single book series on our list, The New Jedi Order novels numbered a whopping nineteen in total. The story is set twenty years after the destruction of the second Death Star. A New Republic has taken the place of the Empire, with Luke Skywalker and his order of Jedi acting as its guardians. Of course, peace does not last long for this fledgling government. An extraterrestrial race known as the Yuuzhan Vong invades the galaxy and threatens to destroy everything our heroes have struggled to create.
The Vong are an aspect of the Star Wars canon that many fans were split over. They had cool designs, but their “organic only” technology and invulnerability to the Force was off-putting to some. Throughout the series, the children of Han and Leia (at least, in the old canon) underwent some major character arcs. The series also had the epic-yet-controversial death of one of the most beloved Star Wars characters of all time… You’ll have to read to find out who! The New Jedi Order series is definitely not to be missed by any self-proclaimed Star Wars lover.
9. Darth Bane Series
Some may remember Darth Bane from season six of The Clone Wars, when Master Yoda encountered the Sith Lord in the form of a Force ghost illusion. Bane, an ancient Sith Lord, was the creator of the famous “rule of two” that is followed by the villains throughout the Star Wars saga. This trilogy of books has been applauded for shining some light on the history of the mysterious Sith and their early clashes with the Jedi.
Set over a thousand years before the events of A New Hope, the novels follow Darth Bane as he rises up the ranks to become the greatest Sith Lord ever. The first book, Path of Destruction, deals with the fall of the Sith as an order and their final battle with their enemies. The second book follows Bane as he puts his “rule of two” into motion; he takes on an apprentice in hopes that she will succeed him in power. Meanwhile, the Jedi are obsessed with tracking down Bane and wiping out the Sith forever. The final book focuses on Bane’s attempts to track down a Sith Holocron that will teach him the secret to eternal life. If you’ve ever had an interest in the Dark Side of the Force, look no further than the Darth Bane trilogy.
8. Lords of the Sith
Remember earlier how we talked about how great and terrible Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company makes Darth Vader look? Well, apparently that’s the new standard for the villain, as Lords of the Sith establishes the sheer power of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine as Dark Side users. Set between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Rebels, the book creates an engaging standalone story whilst also tying into the new canon established in 2012.
Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and a group of Imperials are ambushed by a force of freedom fighters while visiting the Twi’lek planet of Ryloth. They spend the rest of the book trying to survive on the hostile planet long enough for reinforcements to arrive. The beauty of Lords of the Sith is how it expands upon Vader and Palpatine’s relationship; this was something that we only got a small taste of in Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi. For example, the Emperor orders Vader to slaughter an entire village of innocent Twi’leks, a task that he hesitantly executes. It also does a wonderful job of tying into The Clone Wars by including a prominent character from the TV show as a lead.
7. The X-Wing Books
Although he was absent from The Force Awakens, Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles has been a staple of Star Wars lore since his appearance in the first movie. Surprisingly few titles have been written about the much-loved hero, with most of his appearances in the Expanded Universe coming as a secondary character to the Skywalker clan and their circle of friends. This was changed in 1996, when Michael Stackpole wrote the first book in the X-Wing series. Since then, there have been ten books released following Wedge and his loyal pilots.
Six years after the Battle of Endor, the New Republic has formed. Within its military, Wedge Antilles has been chosen to lead a reformed Rogue Squadron. The first four books are about the formation of the team, and their daring attack and occupation of the Imperial capital of Coruscant. Afterwards, the series shifts gears and focuses more on the individual missions of Antilles’s crew, with only a loose connecting story of the Galactic Civil War and a few reoccurring villains to tie them together. Much like Twilight Company, these books are great if you want to follow the stories of the everyday solider in the Star Wars universe.
6. The Old Republic: Revan
What Star Wars list would be complete without mentioning Darth Revan? Fans of the series absolutely love this character, as evidenced by the fact that lots of people were hoping and speculating he would be the main villain of Episode VII. Revan was a character created for the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video games. When Lucasfilm noticed the massive positive reaction the character received, they gave him his own novel within The Old Republic book series.
Honestly, we cannot do justice to Darth Revan’s story. Seriously. If you want to know everything there is to know about him, go dust off your old Xbox and play Knights of the Old Republic. It’s hard to talk about this book without mentioning spoilers for the aforementioned game, but we will try. Basically the story follows a mind-wiped Darth Revan as he tries to rebuild his life as a good guy. Just play the games and read the book. You won’t regret it!
5. Darth Plagueis
This was the most heart-breaking de-canonization of them all. Much like Darth Revan, fans rampantly speculated that Darth Plagueis was going to be included in Episode VII. In fact, there are many who still feel that the legendary Sith is the true identity of Supreme Leader Snoke. To the casual viewer, the love for Plagueis may be seem a little strange; why does everyone care about that guy who was only mentioned by name once in Revenge of the Sith? To these people we say, look no further than Darth Plagueis.
The story of the novel essentially acts as one giant prequel to the Star Wars saga. It starts off with Palpatine, having just recently killed his master, reflecting back on the life of Darth Plagueis the Wise. This book shows readers how the Sith Lord rose to power, how he groomed Palpatine as his apprentice, the introduction of Darth Maul, the creation of Anakin Skywalker by the Force, and how the two Dark Siders planted the seeds of the Clone Wars. It is one of the greatest Star Wars books ever written, and a must read for even the most casual of fans!
Grand Moff Tarkin has the distinction of being one of the few non-Sith main villains in the Star Wars movies. The character even takes priority over Darth Vader himself, one of the most iconic characters to ever grace the silver screen, in A New Hope. That being said, not much was known about Tarkin. For the longest time, his only appearance was the original film and a few appearances in material set between Episode III and IV. As one of their first acts as owners of the franchise, Disney set out to change that.
In 2014, the novel Tarkin was released, penned by the same man who wrote Darth Plagueis. Much like the afore-mentioned book, this story focuses on the titular character and delves a little more into his personality and backstory. The book shows how Tarkin achieved his rank of Grand Moff, the mutual respect between him and Darth Vader, his rise through the ranks of the Republic, and his relationship with Emperor Palpatine. Most of all, Tarkin is extremely well-written; it grabs your attention in the first chapter and holds it all the way until the final page.
3. Marvel’s Darth Vader Series
There is a lot of Vader on this list, and for good reason. Vader is Star Wars epitomized; even George Lucas himself has stated that the overall story of the saga is the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Lots of old EU material and writings within the new canon have talked about Vader as the ruthless and vile Sith Lord, but there hasn’t been too much about the human aspect of the character. After all, like Luke and Ahsoka, the fans still realize that Anakin is in there somewhere and that the darkness hasn’t completely taken over.
Here is where Marvel’s current Darth Vader series comes in. Although it is set to end after only 25 issues, it offers huge insights to the character’s internal struggle between the light and the dark. The story is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, with the Emperor furious at Vader for failing to protect the Death Star. Because of his failure, Vader is knocked down a peg and forced to do some more of the Empire’s menial tasks.
This series is full of amazing moments, such as Jabba the Hutt asking Vader “Who knew anyone of note who came from Tatooine, eh?” or his subdued emotional response when Boba Fett informs him that the Rebel who blew up the Death Star was named “Skywalker.” These little moments build up the character of Darth Vader to something more than just an evil killing machine.
2. Shadows of the Empire
This is arguable the best single-book Star Wars tale ever, as well as one of the most successful multimedia ventures in recent history. In 1996, Lucasfilm decided to write a story between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as a way to gauge hype for the upcoming Star Wars prequels. The story took the form of a novel, multiple comic series, and a video game of the same name. All of the different versions tied in with the overarching story of Shadows of the Empire, but also stood on their own.
Luke, Leia, Chewie, and Lando are all trying to hunt down Boba Fett before he can deliver Han Solo to Jabba. Meanwhile, several of the galaxy’s other bounty hunters are trying to do the same (although for different reasons). Elsewhere in the galaxy, the Emperor orders Darth Vader to work with the crime lord Prince Xizor to safely deliver the plans for the second Death Star. Xizor discovers that Luke is Vader’s son and sees an opportunity; if he kills the Jedi and discredits the Sith Lord, Palpatine may give him a position of power in the Empire. Thus begins a power struggle between the two villains. This series introduced the immensely popular characters of Dash Rendar and Xizor while also focusing on what our favorite Star Wars characters were up to in this time period. It goes right up to Return of the Jedi, literally ending with Luke filming his message to Jabba and putting his lightsaber in R2.
1. Heir to the Empire Trilogy/Thrawn Trilogy
Here it is, folks, the golden standard for Star Wars EU material. Beginning with Heir to the Empire, the Thrawn trilogy of books follows the escapades of the Rebels five years after the Battle of Endor. It appears that the “New Republic” is finally winning the war; the last remnants of the Imperial forces are driven back to the Outer Rim. However, the tide is about to turn. Under the guidance of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Empire is set to make one last major push against our heroes.
What can we say about these books that hasn’t already been said? They introduced Thrawn, a character who has become so popular that fans were furious when they found out he was being taken out of the canon. Lucasfilm heard the outcry and responded appropriately, reintroducing him in the newest season of Rebels as a prime antagonist. This story also featured the introduction to the Dark Jedi Mara Jade, an agent of the Empire who eventually went on to become Luke’s wife in countless EU material. It also had Leia become pregnant and learn the ways of the force (she even had her own lightsaber!). We also can’t forget the series’ memorable characters, like the evil Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth, the smuggler Talon Karrde, and an evil clone of Luke Skywalker. Seriously, read this series!
So what do you think of our list? Are some of these overrated? Did we miss your favorite Star Wars story? Let us know in the comments!