A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…things were a little different. The novel Star Wars first appeared in 1976, many months before the film was released and incredibly the books kept on coming, filling in the gaps between films and carrying on the saga for decades afterwards. That all changed when Disney purchased Lucasfilm and this Expanded Universe was wiped out, relegated to the status of “Legends”. But this was a beloved universe that many didn’t want to see blown away like Alderaan.
Numerous concepts from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, be it Beskar, the resurrected Emperor or Grand Admiral Thrawn, keep turning up in the new timeline and many of the books still remain in print under the Legends banner.
Here we count down 35 of the finest Star Wars Legends books.
Children of the Jedi
Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly followed on from the events of the Jedi Academy trilogy. At this stage in the Legends chronology, Luke Skywalker has defeated the clone of Emperor Palpatine and set up a school for Jedi (yes, Legends did it first). In this novel, Luke, Han and Leia have to stop a Clone Wars era super-weapon called the Eye of Palpatine with the help of the Jedi Callista. Luke and Callista fall in love which would be fantastic if only a) she wasn’t dead and b) her spirit wasn’t trapped inside a computer. The course of true love never did run smoothly for poor Luke…
The Glove of Darth Vader
Sinister Dark Side cultist plan to take over the galaxy by using Darth Vader’s glove because… well that’s not important right now. Lurking in the shadows is a mutant claiming to be Emperor Palpatine’s three-eyed son Trioclus (not to be confused with the other three-eyed character Triclops who might actually be Palpatine’s real son…) and a Hutt called Zorba. This Hutt has a beard. And braids.
Understandably, the Davids’ The Glove of Darth Vader and the other books in this series are divisive amongst Star Wars fans with some loving the quirky oddness of the books and some thinking that they stretch the narrative just a step too far. The series ends however with the grandchild of Palpatine becoming a Jedi and defeating the Dark Side so maybe someone was paying attention…
The Mystery of the Rebellious Robot
The Mystery of the Rebellious Robot by Eleanor Ehrhardt and illustrator Marc Corcoran is one of the earliest Star Wars spin off books, telling the story of what happens when you buy contaminated fuel from Jawas (all the droids go crazy, oddly enough, including R2D2). As well as being a lot of fun, it’s a story where Chewbacca saves the day meaning that, 40 years before The Rise of Skywalker, Chewie finally gets his medal!
Rogue Planet was written by one of the greats of science fiction and fantasy, Greg Bear. It’s rare to find a writer of such stature working for a franchise but Bear, winner of five Nebula Awards, two Hugos and two Endeavours brought his unique voice to this prequel-era tale that focused on the early days of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship. From a story perspective it also gives us the origins of the Death Star and links in to the epic New Jedi Order saga set many years after the original trilogy.
Lando Calrissian and the Star Cave of ThonBoka
Even though he was absent from A New Hope, Lando has always been one of the saga’s most popular characters and Star Cave of Thonboka is the final part of a Calrissian trilogy published in 1983, the year that Return of the Jedi was released. The younger, pre-Empire Lando that we see here is very similar to Donald Glover’s take on the character in Solo, even down to the fact that his co-pilot is a very opinionated droid (although here it’s Vuffi Raa rather than L3).
Glover’s Lando even mentions the Sharu, an alien race that first appears in this series of novels, in Solo. Author L. Neil Smith’s real- world references in this trilogy make it a very different series of books from the other Legends material.
Darksaber is a stand-alone novel that tells the story of what would happen if the Hutts got hold of the Death Star plans (short answer: they’d make a shoddy Death Star that blows up if you try to use it!). Darksaber is a fun romp around the Star Wars galaxy from Kevin A. Anderson, visiting all the planets of the original trilogy, from Hoth to Yavin 4. The novel also introduces the word “Darksaber” into the Star Wars universe, something that currently plays a massive part in The Mandalorian, and thestory delivers the death of a key character from Return of the Jedi.
Vision of the Future
Thrawn has returned! Despite his death at the end of The Last Command it appears that the reports of the Grand Admiral’s death were greatly exaggerated. We find out soon enough that the “resurrected” Thrawn is an actor and there is much more to his return than meets the eye. It’s interesting that Thrawn’s creator and the book’s author Timothy Zahn doesn’t bring him back for real, especially when The Rise of Skywalker showed the “deaths” of Chewbacca, C-3P0 and Rey, only for them all to return before the end of the film. Character deaths in the EU, from Thrawn to Jacen Solo and Mara Jade, are a lot more permanent than those on the silver screen.
Fate of the Jedi: Invincible
Invincible is another book that prefigures events in the sequel trilogy. In both stories the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia turns to the Dark Side and faces their “twin” (sibling here rather than “Force Dyad”) in deadly combat. Troy Denning’s novel end in tragedy with Jaina Solo killing her brother, now the Sith lord Darth Caedus, at the moment that he turns from the Dark Side, becoming Jacen Solo again
X-Wing Rogue Squadron
X-Wing Rogue Squadron is the first book in the popular series written by Michael Stackpole. Rogue Squadron was the first of nine X-Wing novels and a spin-off comic book series, also written by Stackpole. The series tells the story of how Wedge Antilles and co plan to take back the galaxy from the Empire, one planet at a time.
Books like Rogue Squadron, Wedge’s Gamble and The Krytos Trap mix space combat, espionage and land battles in a way that clearly seemed to influence Rogue One. The series of books has also been explicitly mentioned by film-maker Patty Jenkins as the inspiration for her forthcoming Rogue Squadron movie.
1999 saw the start of two epic Star Wars sagas. In cinemas The Phantom Menace was released. In book shops Vector Prime came out, the first book in the New Jedi Order series, a tale that is spread over an incredible 19 novels. Author R. A. Salvatore starts the series with a bang, introducing a terrifying new enemy the Yuuzhan Vong, an enemy that could not be detected in the force, complicating things for Luke and his Jedi! The most shocking event in this Legends novel was the death of Chewbacca, something that’s conveniently forgotten by the time The Force Awakens comes around!
The Truce at Bakura
Kathy Tyers’ Truce at Bakura takes place directly after Return of the Jedi. In this novel the Rebels and the Empire must join forces to defeat the reptilian threat of the Ssi-ruuk. The novel sows the seeds of a New Republic to replace the Galactic Empire and also forshadows the ultimate surrender of the imperial forces explored by Timothy Zahn in later novels.
The Paradise Snare
The Paradise Snare by A, C. Crispin. was the first book on the new Han Solo trilogy. Like the original one that started with Han Solo at Stars End, this series tales the tales of Solo’s earlier days including his childhood, his meetings with Chewbacca and Lando and his first encounters with Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett. There’s much to enjoy here and several themes that resurface in the Solo movie (Han’s Corellian street urchin past, a doomed romance with a fellow Corellian, joining the Imperial Navy) although, by Lucasfilm’s insistence apparently, the references to his time at the Imperial Academy and his first meeting with Chewie are scant to say the least.
I, Jedi from X-Wing author Michael Stackpole is a rarity amongst Star Wars novel in that it is written in the first person. The narrator is rebel pilot turned Jedi Knight Corran Horn. The book also exemplifies how connected the Expanded Universe was with many appearance from characters from the Rogue Squadron comics appearing here.
Deceived takes us back in time, 3653 years before Star Wars to be precise to the days of the (very) Old Republic. Paul S. Kemp’s book tells the story of Sith Lord Darth Malgus and opens with the dramatic attack on the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Deceived is based on the popular online muti-player game Star Wars: The Old Republic. In Malgus, Kemp gives us a real monster but if the rumours are to be believed, the material that Kemp wrote that was cut from the book was even darker!
Darth Bane: Path of Destruction
Path of Destruction has just been republished as part of the Essential Legends, attesting to the high regard it’s been held in since its release in 2006. Written by Revan author Drew Karpyshyn, the novel tells the story of Darth Bane, creator of the Rule of Two that was followed by Sith for 1000 years and first mentioned in The Phantom Menace.
Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice
Karen Traviss’ novel Sacrifice, the fifth in the Legacy of the Jedi series, tells a story of tragedy and heartbreak. Han and Leia’s son Jacen has turned to the Dark Side and has become apprentice to the Dark Lady Lumiya, first introduced in the Marvel Comics series. In Sacrifice Jacen duels with fan-favourite character Mara Jade and kills her. Luke tracks Lumiya down thinking she’s killed Mara and decapitates her. He later finds out that he’s killed the wrong person.
The novel, which ends with Luke falling into despair because of a perceived failure and Han and Leia’s son becoming stronger in the Dark Side after killing a close family member introduces themes touched on again in The Force Awakens.
Another entry for Timothy Zahn, telling the story first hinted at in the original Thrawn trilogy. The story takes place at the time prior to the prequel trilogy and tells the story of unpredictable Jedi Master Joruus C’baoth plan to explore the Unknown Regions. This is particularly relevant in the world of Star Wars Legends as the Unknown Regions just happens to be the home of a Chiss warrior called Mitth’raw’nuodo, better known to readers as Thrawn.
Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines
Karen Traviss’ Bloodlines novel brings a very popular character who had been missing from the Legends novels (With the exceptions of Tales from Jabba’s Palace, Tales of the Bounty Hunters and Bounty Hunter Wars), Boba Fett. It’s only recently in post-Legends continuity thanks to The Mandalorian that we’ve discovered that Fett survived the sarlacc, reclaimed his armour and Slave 1 and took up bounty hunting again. Bloodlines goes into much more depth, exploring many aspects of Fett’s life including what happened to the wife and daughter he left behind.
Labyrinth of Evil
James Luceno’s Labyrinth of Evil is a must read for fans of Revenge of the Sith. As well as leading directly into the events of the film, featuring the Battle of Cato Neimoidia that Obi-Wan and Anakin argue over in the film, it also explores the relationship between these two Jedi, fleshes out the character of General Grievous and makes up the first part of the Dark Lord trilogy.
For lovers of both the original trilogy and the prequels, Tatooine Ghost from Trot Denning bridges both and considers how Leia feels about having children following the revelation in Return of the Jedi that Darth Vader is her father. A meeting with Anakin’s old friend Kitster and the discovery of Shmi Skywalker’s diary helps to put her mind at rest even though her mission, to recover a priceless piece of Alderaanian art fails thanks to the intervention of a certain Grand Admiral…
Before the Storm
Before the Storm by Michael P Kube-McDowell, the first past of the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy is a Legends novel that can really split fans’ opinions although I really enjoyed it. There’s certainly a lot here for defenders of The Last Jedi to enjoy. The book starts of by revealing that Luke Skywalker has become a hermit, distancing himself from his friends and family. A young woman, strong in the Force, tracks him down and tries to persuade him to come with her on an adventure across the galaxy to reunite him with his family…
Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina
Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina was the first of the Star Wars anthologies featuring stories from the likes of Kevin J. Anderson, Timothy Zahn and Dark Empire author Tom Veitch. The hit to miss ratio is far higher than the recent Certain Point of View anthologies with some of the standout stories being the bizarre love story “One Last Night in the Mos Eisely Cantina” featuring Sivrak the Wolfman and the Lamproid and the genuinely creepy “Soup’s On”, the Pipesmoker’s tale..
Revan’s story is an epic and one of the high points of the Old Republic. Revan was a Jedi who left Coruscant to battle the Mandalorians and returned a disciple of the Dark Side, bent on destroying the Republic. The Jedi Council give Revan his life back by erasing his memories leaving him with nightmares and a sense of fear and dread. Drew Karpyshyn’s novel is a great character study and one that makes the reader question the power that the Jedi have, developing themes that were raised in the prequel trilogy and that come to a head in The Last Jedi.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is the granddaddy of Legends fiction. It was the first novel to continue the story of Star Wars and was written by Alan Dean Foster, ghost writer of the original film adaptation. Splinter was based in an original treatment for the second Star Wars film. Harrison Ford had not signed a contract tying him to a sequel so there’s no Han or Chewie here but we do get Luke, Leia and the droids and a lightsabre clash with none other than Darth Vader, not to mention a painted front cover from original concept artist Ralph McQuarrie.
Jedi Search from Kevin J. Anderson is the first volume of the Jedi Academy trilogy. It sets up a lot of events that carry on into post-Legends continuity, such as Luke, now a Jedi Master, setting up a Jedi Academy and the spice mines of Kessel being located next to a mysterious astronomical anomaly called The Maw, events that are echoed in The Force Awakens and Solo. One of the most interesting facts about this series of books is that it’s the first one to explicitly reference events in the Star Wars comics as canon.
The events of Tales of the Jedi and Dark Empire are referenced here making this the first time that the idea the Emperor could be reborn through cloning and Dark Side magic is mentioned in a Star Wars novel (hello Rise of Skywalker).
Han Solo at Star’s End
Han Solo at Star’s End is one of the earliest of the Legends books, initially published in 1979 at a time when only one film had been released, and tells some of the back story to Han and Chewbacca’s early days smuggling in the Corporate Sector. Although there are no Sith or Jedi in these pages, Star’s End and the other books in the Han Solo trilogy are fast-paced and exciting, very similar in tone to the recent Solo stand-alone film. Written by Star Wars radio play author Brian Daley, Star’s End stands up better than some of the other Legends material.
The Courtship of Princess Leia
One of the sad things about the sequel trilogy is that it starts with us finding out that Han and Leia are no longer together and by the end of that film Han is dead, killed by his own son. Courtship takes us back to the start of their relationship when a rival suitor Prince Isolder proposes to Leia, offering to bring his vast star fleet over to the Rebellion if she agrees. Throw in a planet full of rancors, the return of the Hammerheads, the first appearance of the Witches of Dathomir and the origin of the Skywalker name, this stand-alone novel from Dave Wolverton is worth investigating.
The Last Command
The Last Command is the final book in the original Thrawn trilogy and is an explosive end to the saga. There’re epic final battles, the deaths of major characters, clones and romance. What more could you need! It also does something that the sequel trilogy promised but didn’t deliver on: what happened to Luke’s original lightsaber? The Last Command also sets the scene for the whole, reborn Expanded Universe and set the precident that many of the new stories would be told in trilogies.
Shadows of the Empire
Shadows of the Empire, in hindsight, was a dummy run for the prequel trilogy, a massive Star Wars event with all the requisite merchandise (comic books, action figures, a video game, even a soundtrack album), the only thing missing was the movie itself! Shadows tells the story that takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and we find out that Boba Fett’s journey to Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine was not an easy one!
Steve Perry, a veteran of movie franchises and novelisations (Ghostbusters, The Mask) writes an action-packed addition to the saga which shows us Luke building his new lightsaber, introduces Prince Xizor and the Falleen (later seen in Clone Wars) and is clearly the inspiration for the current Battle of the Bounty Hunters event.
Tales From Jabba’s Palace
Tales from Jabba’s Palace is a vastly entertaining anthology of stories involving the bounty hunters, monsters and assorted scum that we meet in Return of the Jedi. Stand-out tales include “A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett”, “Of the Day’s Annoyances: Bib Fortuna’s tale” and the terryifying “A Bad Feeling: A Tale of EV-9D9”. Judging by the end of the current season of The Mandalorian and looking who had taken over from Jabba post-Jedi, I think it’s fair to say That Dave Filoni is more than aware of this book!
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
James Lucerno’s Dark Lord is a fascinating insight into the mind of Vader directly following the events of Revenge of the Sith. The novel explores his relationship with the Emperor and his own sense of self as he struggles to destroy all remnants of Anakin Skywalker in his psyche. The suggestion from a ghostly Qui-Gon to Obi-wan that Anankin will never return to Tatooine because it would release those suppressed memories and potentially destroy Vader makes sense and answers a question (“Why raise Luke on Anakin’s home world?”) that has bugged fans for years.
If you want to prepare yourself for next year’s Disney+ Kenobi series this novel from John Jackson Miller is a great place to start. It answers the question “Just what was Old Ben doing out in the dessert for all those years?” and takes us to places we haven’t been before in Star Wars fiction. From a genre point of view, it’s essentially a Western as much as it is sci-fi but it’s a great Western.
There are some interesting guest stars including the original Jabba the Hut (with one T) from the Marvel series and the spirit of Qui-Gon who Obi-Wan is in contact with. It’s also clearly been an influence on The Mandalorian, especially the conclusion of the first Tatooine-based episode of Season 2 and seems likely to be an influence on the new Kenobi show.
George Lucas has been famously ambivalent about spin-off books and tie-in novels, not wanting Star Wars stories other have written to impact on the vision he has for the saga. It’s impressive then that the introduction to Shatterpoint is written by none other than Lucas himself. Matthew Stover’s novel is a particularly dark tale, influenced by Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, itself the inspiration for Apocalypse Now. This Mace Windu led novel shows what happens when a Jedi loses their way and is one of the most mature and thought provoking of the Legends books.
Darth Plagueis is more than just a fleshing of the story hinted at in Revenge of the Sith. It tells the story of how Palpatine first turned to the Dark Side. It starts with the murder of his parents then it’s all downhill from there. Palpatine is a wonderful villain but his backstory and motivations are, it’s fair to say, thinly sketched out in the movies.
His surname is never even mentioned in the original trilogy and first name is never mentioned in any of the films (it’s Shiv if you’re interested). Darth Plageuis presents Palpatine as an engaging, if horrifying, character and this novel from James Lucerno is one of the finest Star Wars novels.
Heir to the Empire
It’s difficult to underestimate the importance of Heir to the Empire. Until the publication of Timothy Zahn’s novel in 1991 Star Wars may have been technically alive but it was certainly in perfect hibernation. No new novels had been published since the Lando Calrissian series in 1983, the Marvel comic had been cancelled 5 years earlier and there was nothing new being developed for cinemas or television.
Heir to the Empire changed all of that, reaching number 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list and selling over 15 million copies. The novel introduced fan-favourite characters Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade as well as bringing back the heroes from the original trilogy and proved to the world that the Force was still with Star Wars!
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