In the nineties I was a fiend for Star Wars books. The mere appearance of my face in the school library would be greeted with “no Chris there aren’t any new ones”. From Thrawn to Rogue Squadron to the Yuuzhan Vong, there was plenty going on and I loved it.
Years went by and I lost track of the increasingly convoluted tale being told. But then Disney purchased Lucasfilm, and everything that wasn’t a film (give or take) would be consigned to ‘Legends’ status. A new continuity was forming, one that didn’t trip over itself and would be more tightly governed.
There was outrage, but it made sense. Why be beholden to hundreds of mixed quality stories when you could make new films and figure everything out properly? Games, TV, books and comics now all work together towards one cohesive story. I dig it. Disney are even using the old expanded universe to their advantage, repurposing aspects of it as they flesh out this new galaxy.
But what are the new books like? Well the title might give away what I’m going to do. I’ll rank what I’ve read and add more as I finish them.
Tarkin – 2014
I didn’t feel it as I was reading it but upon finishing Tarkin it hit me that everything interesting in the book had nothing to do with Tarkin himself.
He’s an impressive chap but ultimately I didn’t need to know about his past; it doesn’t change anything. He fully believes in what he’s doing and is occasionally overconfident; nothing we didn’t already know.
The book is at its best when he’s paired with Vader, and even then I wasn’t focusing on him.
Resistance Reborn – 2019
Resistance Reborn is decently written, shows of the new trio and brings some in some older characters. It just doesn’t do much!
There isn’t any true peril, or at least not to anyone we know already, as we know they’ll be in Rise of Skywalker. Instead, this is a book of small details and additional history.
There is one thing I HAVE to mention though, and that’s the absolute thirst for Poe and Finn in this book. Oscar Isaac is a handsome man, and he has great hair. These facts are commented upon several times. That in itself is something.
Heir to the Jedi – 2015
Luke might be a Skywalker, but we don’t really find out how he feels about anything.
Well here, in first person no less, we get a look into Luke’s noggin, and it’s actually pretty good. Luke might be a hero of the Rebellion but he’s without a teacher, has no literature, and is being sent all over the place on missions he doesn’t seem all that suited to. Tough times but it’s good to know his ego got quite the boost after Yavin. Who’s wouldn’t?
Luke wondering if he gone’s mad hearing an old man’s voice in his head and an interesting cast of characters make this a muddled but enjoyable read.
Ahsoka – 2016
I haven’t watched The Clone Wars. There! I admitted it. I’ve seen plenty of clips on YouTube, and have a general awareness of the story beats. But it led to me not being as taken with Ahsoka as many other are. Still, she was cool in Rebels, so perhaps there was something to be learned here.
And there is. Despite some contradictions with the new final series of TCW (I don’t think anything horrendous or life altering), this self-titled book gives some good insight. You don’t need to know the ins and out of the character to get invested.
Plus I’ll always appreciate some talk about lightsabers and kyber crystals.
Lords of the Sith – 2015
Vader and Sidious stranded on a hostile planet, surrounded by enemies. Sounds cool doesn’t it? This book lives up to that.
In fact it does better than that. Not only does it give us a look into the Sith duo’s relationship but it gives us some well written protagonists. Actually, who are the protagonists? We want the Rebels to win but we want to see the Darth’s do cool stuff. Despite knowing how things ultimately pan out there’s still a real sense of tension. I still found myself wondering what would happen!
Lots of fighting and force usage, but also a lot of time spent on characters. A very well judged, self-contained story.
Aftermath – 2015
As the first post RotJ book I’ve read in the new canon, I eagerly anticipated finding out what happened after Endor. I may not have found out a lot regarding that, but I did find a story that I enjoyed far more than what voices online lead me to believe I would.
Wendig does flit around; we spend a lot of time with New Republic and Imperial alike, but it works out. I want to see things from both sides. I want to know how both sides deal with a Palpatine-less galaxy and how The First Order come about.
We also get several interludes; stories including well-known characters and complete strangers that may tease things to come.
Force Collector – 2019
I found it all very interesting. Star Wars: Aftermath may not be the story I was expecting it to be but it’s still a good one.Set not long before The Force Awakens, Force Collector struck me as a really good singular story. It touches multiple points of Star Wars history, whilst doing a great job of showing how even one or two generations of time can really change the truth and people’s general beliefs.
Likeable characters, some cool force usage (that isn’t based in action) and a good pace make this a decent read. It’s aimed at a younger audience, but not every story needs to tie in heavily or change the world. The more I read the more I appreciated that aspect of it.
Some kids on an adventure, and rebelling a bit in the process. Plenty to relate to and enjoy.
Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel – 2016
James Luceno redeems himself after Tarkin with his second novel in the new era. I really need to stop leaving books on the shelf to gather dust!
It’s unfair to say that Catalyst sets up Rogue One. It’s much more a companion piece. I made a point of watching the film immediately after finishing the book, and it’s impressive how well they line up. Obviously I already had the characters in my head before starting, but it was never jarring. Krennic and Galen were exactly as expected.
I really like the film, and Catalyst has only improved it in my eyes.
Thrawn – 2017
I read the original Thrawn Trilogy at Secondary School, having already come across the character in TIE Fighter.
Fortunately Disney brought him back! I first saw him again in Rebels, so I finally had a voice to put to the face.
But for whatever reason I didn’t fancy reading the new books he starred in, Mistake!
Thrawn takes us back to his entry into the Empire, as he pulls Ensign Vanto along with him. Having that voice to draw on helps me immensely, but it wouldn’t get far without Timothy Zahn, Thrawn’s creator, bringing his A-game.
It’s a page-turner, and I’ve immediately ordered the second book.
A New Dawn – 2014
‘AND’ is said to be the first narrative product of Lucasfilm Ltd.’s Story Group collaborative process (thanks Wookiepedia).
John Jackson Miller takes the chance to get to know more about two members of the Ghost’s crew from Star Wars Rebels. A New Dawn introduces us to Kanan and his first encounters with Hera. There’s conspiracy, multiple interesting characters, and a truly detestable bad guy. Count Vidian is in some ways a mix of Vader and Palpatine; large parts of him are no longer natural and he’s a right vicious bastard. I really hated him. They say a story can only be as good as its villain. There you go.
Aftermath: Empire’s End – 2017
I finished the Aftermath trilogy with a heavy heart and great sadness. I was sad because I doubt I’ll get to read another story with Norra, Snap, Mister Bones, Sinjir, Jas and Jom together. They’re a fantastic set of characters that I’ve watched change and grow. I want to spend more time with them.
Aftermath flitted about, whilst Life Debt was a great balance of past and present. Empire’s End turns out to be pretty lopsided, so whilst it does indeed live up to it’s title and gives us plenty to chew on, it doesn’t beat it’s predecessor.
I’m looking forward to watching The Force Awakens with these books, and Empire’s End in particular, in mind.
Alphabet Squadron – 2019
The hook for me with this book is something that both people in real life and characters in the book seem to want to mock. Five different starfighters, with extremely different abilities, forced together. But that was exactly what excited me!
Turns out the book does a great job of describing the ships and their strength/weaknesses, which I absolutely appreciate as a detail geek. The best thing though, and what makes the book as good as it is, is the pilots. What a disparate bunch! With wildly different pasts, they’re all trying to figure out what they’re up to in a post Empire galaxy.
Not to say I have no imagination, but I admit I like seeing artwork of the characters, as it settles the images in my head. All it needs me to do is figure their voices, which fortunately comes quite easily with Alexander Freed’s dialogue. There’s a lot more to find out here, and I can’t wait! Far from perfect characters, in a period we know little about… and a Y-wing. Yes please.
Aftermath: Life Debt – 2016
“I need the next book!” was the first thing I said to my wife when I finished Life Debt. Aftermath set a lot of pieces in motion but this sequel really gets into the meat of things. There’s a lot to digest but it never gave me indigestion; Wendig has a got strong handle on it all as we return to a a great set of characters, plus some more famous ones.
I adore this this cast. Imperial, New Republic, or other, they’re all trying to figure out their place in a new galaxy. They’re not sure if what they’re doing it best and you follow they’re ideas shifting. These guys aren’t static and it’s very interesting to see them grow.
Rae Sloane is one of the best Imperial characters there is, full stop. She truly believes in the Empire, but has a specific idea for what it should be. Having first met her in A New Dawn I really enjoy seeing her progress further.
Han, Leia, and Chewie all have roles to play. They’re never the main characters but they feel right.
A brilliant story well told, Life Debt is a cracking sequel and a great Star Wars story.
Lost Stars – 2015
For more than three years this book sat on my shelf. For more than three years I pushed it away as a ‘YA romance book’. Not my thing you see.
But once I opened it? I finished it in three days.
Hindsight is a powerful thing, and with it I’m happy to admit I was a fool to put this off. Lost Stars is the best Star Wars book I’ve read, completely worthy of being #1 on this list. But that’s not enough. It’s one of the best books I’ve read period.
Following two people through the years, their paths converging and diverging against the backdrop of a war, proved to be a wondrous ride to go on. I understood them both, was infuriated by them both, but came to love being with them.
Who knew that my favourite Star Wars book wouldn’t contain a lightsaber?
I didn’t notice until after, but I read the final pages very slowly, in the hope that I’d turn the page and there would be more if I gave it a chance.
I’ve never been so sad to finish a book. But it’s a happy sadness.
There we go! We’ve had nearly six years of Star Wars books in the new continuity now. How do you think Disney are doing?