A selection of canon Star Wars books that you should read

I have read the vast majority of the Star Wars books published up until 2014, which were previously called Expanded Universe (EU) and are now called Legends.  I even slogged all the way through to the end of the Fate of the Jedi series. For evidence, please see my bookshelves.

For some reason, I have not read nearly as many Star Wars books since they became canon.  Probably a couple of things are contributing: less time for reading, less patience for bad books, moving on to other series like The Expanse.  Plus I’m just not as invested in new characters as I was in EU mainstays like Mara Jade.

But I’m slowly starting to get into more and more of the canon books.  Here are some I’ve read that I thought were worthwhile.

25067046Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

This was the first new canon book that got a lot of buzz.  It was published as part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” initiative in 2015 leading up to TFA.  Technically it is classified as Young Adult (Gray is a YA author, and the characters are young) but don’t let that deter you.  (Luke is only 19 in A New Hope after all, and no one worries about that being YA.)

It tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, one belonging to the Empire and one to the Rebellion.  I liked seeing the perspective of everyday Imperial citizens, and it helps the reader understand why young people might join the Empire even though it’s evil.  The story takes place mostly during the Original Trilogy but also goes all the way up through the Battle of Jakku (so that we can find out why there is a Star Destroyer crashed on the planet in TFA).

Thrawn and Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn

31140332I remember how excited I was when they announced at Celebration 2016 that not only would Grand Admiral Thrawn, the best antagonist of the entire EU, be appearing in Star Wars Rebels, but also that Timothy Zahn, his creator and one of the best EU authors, would be writing new novels about him.  The result is two solid new canon books that will appeal to new readers and EU fans as well (and particularly those who have enjoyed The Clone Wars and Rebels).

Thrawn serves as a kind of origin story for the future Imperial officer, showing how he initially came to serve the Empire.  I was disappointed that Pellaeon does not appear; instead his role is essentially filled by a new character, Eli Vanto.  There is also an interesting side plot regarding Governor Pryce of Lothal and Colonel Yularen, and a cameo from EU character H’sishi, a Togorian.

36385830Thrawn: Alliances also has some good payoffs for EU fans, including a joke about Force-sensitive animals (but no actual ysalamiri or vornskrs).  The flashbacks where Thrawn teams up with Anakin and Padmé to take out a Separatist operation feel like a good episode of TCW. It also provides an interesting contrast to the tentative partnership of Thrawn and Vader much later as they follow the Emperor’s orders to investigate a disturbance in the Force. (Plus we get a Noghri assassin!) Both storylines take place on/around Batuu, and specifically Black Spire Outpost, which will be featured in the upcoming Disney Star Wars theme park area, Galaxy’s Edge.

My only complaint about T:A is that it was difficult to read casually.  Because the story jumps between two time periods, and also occasionally between characters, it was sometimes hard to pick up the thread of the story when I was only reading a chapter at a time.

The conclusion of Zahn’s new Thrawn trilogy will be out later this year.

Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra by Gillen, et al.

Disney launched a bunch of new lines of comics with the new canon, and these two series feature the first breakout non-movie character of this era: Doctor Aphra, a mercenary archaeologist with two homicidal droids in tow.

Aphra seems like a new take on Indiana Jones, except as a queer woman whose illustration implies a mixed race heritage.  She ends up working for Vader and forming an interesting quasi-partnership with him, which is the most interesting part of the Vader story line.  (The less interesting part involves some Force-based science experiment characters that seem like they came from the bad part of the EU.)

Plus, did I mention the homicidal droids? BT-1 (“Bee Tee”) and 0-0-0 (“Triple-Zero”) may seem like an astromech and a protocol droid, but they actually are programmed for assassination and torture.  For me, they recall HK-47 from KOTOR, which is always welcome.  Plus it’s just nice to see snarky droids, whatever their allegiance or alignment.

Aphra eventually got spun out into her own series, plus a short story in the From a Certain Point of View anthology.  I look forward to seeing where she goes from here!

Star Wars Block Book

sw block book

This is the Star Wars book I currently read the most.  Every day, in fact. Sometimes multiple times.  My 1.5 yr old loves this book and can recognize Darth Maul (“Maul Maul”), the Death Star, Darth Vader, and R2-D2.  I am a proud mama!

But seriously, this book is beautiful with lovely cutouts and illustrations.  Plus it’s sturdy enough for toddler fingers.  It covers the prequels, OT, Rogue One, and TFA.

Have you guys read any of the new canon books?  What would you recommend?

Star Wars authors at Origins Game Fair

Ohio has several good yearly conventions, and the one for gamers is Origins Game Fair every summer in Columbus.  My husband B headed down for four days to meet some friends and play some games.  While he was there, I discovered that two of my favorite Star Wars authors were also in attendance!  So I gnashed my teeth that I had stayed home and sent B to go meet them. 🙂

He went first to Timothy Zahn’s booth.  Zahn is best known for kicking off the old Star Wars Expanded Universe books with the Heir to the Empire trilogy, and he recently brought one of his best-loved characters back into SW canon with Thrawn (which is on my to-read list).

B got to chat with Zahn for a little bit, and with a promise of my undying love in return, he procured me a signed copy of one of his books.  Scoundrels is a fun little heist story featuring Han Solo and Lando; I reviewed it here a few years back.  B knew I already own the Heir to the Empire trilogy, and Zahn was kind enough to suggest that he sign bookplates for my copies of those novels as well.  There was a lot of squeeing when B got home with this surprise.

I asked B if he told Zahn that Mara Jade is my favorite EU character, but sadly he had not.

Next, he found Michael Stackpole’s booth.  Stackpole is known for his excellent Star Wars X-wing series, and I have read a few of his fantasy novels as well (check out reviews here and here.)  Sadly, Stackpole had already sold out of books, but B got to chat with him for a bit as well.  He was able to inform him that I named my laptop after his X-wing pilot character Corran Horn (it’s silver, like his lightsaber).

In retrospect, I’m not at all surprised that these two authors should be at Origins, because they are both known to fans as big gaming nerds and frequently attend cons.  They’ve both written in game universes like WOW and Starcraft; Stackpole just finished a novel set in the Pathfinder universe, a tabletop RPG setting similar to D&D.  Stackpole has also been a game designer his entire career and is a board member of GAMA, who runs Origins.

So, who knows?  Maybe next year I’ll make it down to Origins to meet them both in person. 🙂


Star Wars EU Novels: Recent bright spots in the sea of mediocrity

RD.II.bStar Wars Anon reminded me that today is Star Wars Reads Day!  My local library is having an event, so I will have to stop by later to check it out.  Star Wars and reading are two of my most favoritest things, so I figured it would be appropriate to post some reviews today.

I have been doing a lot of EU reading lately.  I discovered that I did not, in fact, own copies of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy, which I corrected immediately.  They are frequently held up as the best the EU has to offer, and I’m inclined to agree.  If you want to try a few Star Wars novels, start with these!

A few months ago I read, and loved, Zahn’s latest SW novel, Scoundrels.  It gave me hope that, despite the unfulfilled potential of the recent Fate of the Jedi series, the Star Wars EU is not dead on its feet quite yet.  Here are two more stand-alone books that continue to give me hope.

Choices of One by Timothy Zahn  4.5/5 stars


Prereqs: None, but you may want to read Zahn’s Allegiance, which takes place a little before with the same characters

It’s hard to go wrong with Zahn.  This book takes place between ANH and ESB (just like Scoundrels), and features Luke, Han, and Leia as well as Mara Jade.  Few authors nail the original trio like Zahn does, and it is really beautiful to see how he has the characters grow in just this short book.  It’s always a treat to see Mara Jade in action, although I think she is slightly overpowered in these early books (for example, using the Force to throw, then switch on, her lightsaber, when she doesn’t feel able to do that later in the Thrawn trilogy).

The main plotline of the book is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it manages to be interesting without being confusing.  I was concerned that the book would devolve into “How is Zahn going to keep Luke and Mara from meeting?” but it was so well done that once I got into the book I didn’t even think about it.

Overall it was a great read, better than Allegiance, and I would recommend it to fans of our fearless trio as well as my fellow Mara Jade fanatics.

X-wing: Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston  4.5/5 starsMercyKill

Prereqs: None, but you will enjoy it more if you have read Allston’s Wraith Squadron. Also makes references to the Yuuzhan Vong war and events during the Fate of the Jedi series

I was a somewhat unimpressed with his recent efforts for Fate of the Jedi, but Allston has redeemed himself with this awesome addition to the X-wing line.  The Wraiths are back in action following the events of Apocalyspe, led by some old familiar faces but also featuring a great line-up of new characters.  The group is tasked with investigating Stavin Thaal’s involvement in the Lecersen Conspiracy, but they end up getting a little more than they bargained for.

Is this as good as the original X-Wing series? Nope. The plot occasionally gets confusing, because there are several missions where we aren’t privy to the whole planning or strategy, we just see the Wraiths executing their parts, which left me feeling a little lost.  I’m still unsure about why they did some of the stuff they did around the 1/3 mark.

But the characters are witty, talented, and really grow into a team over the course of the book (although I wish the Dramatis Personae had included their call signs).  There’s a lot of humor to counterbalance the serious nature of their jobs.  And of course, we have some X-wing action thrown in for good measure.  Maybe we’ll see more books featuring the new Wraiths?  I feel like there is some real potential here.

Brief Book Reviews

A general guide for ratings:

5/5–I would buy this
4/5–I will re-read this
3/5–I might read this again
2/5–I have no interest in reading this again
1/5–I couldn’t finish this

Scoundrels (Timothy Zahn) 4/5–This book must have been fun to write–it was sure fun to read!  No Jedi here; this is a Star Wars heist novel featuring some old friends and some great new faces.  It did take a while to read, because the plot is fairly intricate, and Zahn wastes no words on extraneous details, all leading up to a great twist at the end.  My only issue is that this story retcons (again!!) Lando’s Ep V line “You’ve got a lot of guts coming here, after what you pulled.”  I guess I prefer to think of it as really well-written fan fiction…which, let’s face it, is how I should be thinking of all Star Wars novels from here on, since the new movies will make the EU story lines obsolete. 😦

Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) 3.5/5–Thought I should get around to reading this before the movie comes out…yet I was hearing Harrison Ford in my head the whole time.  Hey, I thought it worked.  Anyways, this book is a classic for a reason–well-written and thought-provoking.  But it wasn’t exactly a light read, and the ending makes it impossible for it to stand on its own.  Its use of ethnic and racial slurs, while purposeful, was distracting.

Cold Days (Jim Butcher) 5/5–The latest installment in the Dresden Files doesn’t disappoint.  Butcher never gives his characters an easy way out of their predicaments, so there’s never a dull moment.  The overarching plot line of the series gets some major development, and the characters continue to change (in realistic ways) as well.  I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

Side Jobs (Jim Butcher) 5/5–A great collection of short stories for when you need a quick Dresden Files fix.  Make sure you note where the stories fall in the timeline, or you will get spoilers for books you haven’t read.

Wednesdays in the Tower (Jessica Day George) 3.5/5–Not bad for a sequel, but this book seemed to lack the whimsy of its predecessor, Tuesdays at the Castle–I had to go back and re-read Tuesdays to make sure it was actually as good as I remembered (it is!). Wednesdays is more complicated but less fun.  The idea seems great (a pet griffin! learning the castle’s secrets!) but Pogue was dull, Lilah was AWOL, and the bad guy was obvious.  The ending does suggest that we will have more books in this series, which I am not sorry about.