Series Review of Star Wars “Legends”

For those of you who haven’t heard, the Star Wars EU (Expanded Universe) has officially become AU.  For those of you who don’t know what that means, hundreds of books and games that kept Star Wars fans busy between films and had a remarkably consistent cannon (given the number of books and authors involved) have been officially declared “not canon” under Disney law, and we have been told a new official canon shall rise up in its place.

For Star Wars fans this was a bittersweet moment.  Del Rey missed the point of Star Wars, and the EU became a war story and then a soap opera.  So to some degree it’s a relief to say The New Jedi Order never happened;  ____ and _____ and _____ never died; _____ and _____ were never destroyed; and _____ never turned into such a terrible person or _____ had an out of character brush with the dark side.  However, it also means a lot of really good books are getting relabeled as Star Wars “Legends”, and we’re anxious as to what the EU reboot has in store.

So in honor of this disturbance in the Force, I’m taking a break from this blog’s normal format to highlight some of the best books that are now Star Wars Legends.

Title: Heir to Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command (The Thrawn Trilogy) Author: Timothy Zahn
Why You Should Read Them: Set 5 years after RotJ (Return of the Jedi), the Thrawn Trilogy captures the fun, adventure, quality, and depth of the original Star Wars films.  It introduced new worlds, species, and characters which felt like natural extentions of the movies.  Mara Jade helps balance out the gender lopsidedness of Han, Luke, and Leia.  Grand Admiral Thrawn was a fresh kind of villian, formidable as Vader but in an entirely different way.  The writing quality was high.  The plotting complex but not confusing.  The secondary characters engaging.  Frankly if you read no other books in the Star Wars Legends, read these.

Title: The Truce at Bakura
Author: Kathy Tyers
Why You Should Read It: Set immediately after RotJ, The Truce at Bakura is a standalone novel.  Plotwise it’s fairly simple and straightforward, but Tyers manages to touch on deeper themes of the Force and religion without being heavy handed on the subject.  If you would like to take a first step into the Legends EU, this is a good place to start.  Well written, nice characterizations.

Title: Tales from Jabba’s Palace
Author: Multiple Authors
Why You Should Read It: This short story anthology is set around Jabba’s palace shortly before and during The Return of the Jedi.  It’s a fantastic slice of the growing complexity of the Star Wars Galaxy.  There are other Tales books (and I’d recommend most of them), but this one stands out because of the delightful way in which the individual tales manage to interweave.  Also a good starter title if you’re unfamiliar with anything beyond the films.

Series Title: X-Wing Series (9 books total)
Authors:
Michael Stackpole & Aaron Allston
Why You Should Read Them: After Timothy Zahn, Aaron Allston is easily my favorite Star Wars author.  He’s incredibly funny, but the humor seems to make the tragedies of war that much more real and poignant.  The X-Wing books are a spinoff series that focus on Wedge Antilles as he leads two different X-wing Squadrons, first Rogue Squadron (elite pilots) and then Wraith Squadron (the misfits).  While X-Wing: Rogue Squadron introduces Corran Horn (easily the most annoying Gary Stew of the Star Wars EU), they also introduce a cast of other fantastic characters and are generally well written adventures that deal with non-Jedi combat pilots.  You could in theory skip over the Rogue Squadron books to read Allston’s genius in Wraith Squadron, but Rogue Squadron does help a lot to develop and introduce certain characters, and if I recall there’s some crossover towards the end, so best to read it in order and start with X-Wing: Rogue Squadron.

[Sadly, Aaron Allston passed on this year.  So please help his legend live on by checking out some of his other books.]

Series Title: Jedi Apprentice (20 books total, including 2 Special Editions)
Authors:
Dave Wolverton (#1) & Jude Watson (the rest)
Why You Should Read Them: This pre-prequels kids series about teenage Obi-Wan Kenobi and Master Qui-Gon Jinn picked up many adult fans during its run.  There’s a father/son like relationship that develops between these two over the course of the series.  Given the short format and target age, the stories are delightfully complex and don’t suffer from the repetitive campiness that afflicts many other series targeting the same age range.  They’re fun reads.

Series Title: Junior Jedi Knights(6 books total)
Authors:
Nancy Richardson & Rebecca Moesta
Why You Should Read Them: I’ve always been disappointed that they didn’t round this series out with three more books.  Junior Jedi Knights follows the adventures of Han and Leia’s youngest son at the Jedi Academy.  Very much kids books, but they were so much fun and often over looked.  So I wanted to give them a shout out on my top picks list.

There are many, many other good books in the Star Wars Legends lexicon (along with some that are best forgotten), but the above would be my top picks and books I would recommend first to the curious.

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