Although I’m part of the mad-at-Disney-for-discontinuing-the-Expanded-Universe fandom, one advantage I’ve had in recent years is that I finally have the chance to read every novel/short story collection/series in the 1978-2014 Star Wars Novel timeline. I even photocopied the timeline so that I could check off each book as I go along. It also helps that I have a copy of The Essential Reader’s Companion by Pablo Hidalgo for EU reference. So far I’ve enjoyed some titles. Others….eh….not so much. As I go through each book, I type down which ones I liked so this list is not your typical “best of EU” list. I also have to split my list at 20 per post because there are *takes deep breath* over 145 full length novels, more than 100 YA novels and over 170 short stories. *Phew!* Today we’ll look at novels that take place before the events of Heir to the Empire. If your mad that your favorite title isn’t listed – well, write your own list. Different strokes for different folks, right?
Here I go.
Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories (2012)
John Jackson Miller
Five thousand years ago. After a Jedi ambush, the Sith mining ship Omen lies wrecked on a remote, unknown planet. Its commander, Yaru Korsin, battles the bloodshed of a mutinous faction led by his own brother. Marooned and facing death, the Sith crew have no choice but to venture into their desolate surroundings. They face any number of brutal challenges—vicious predators, lethal plagues, tribal people who worship vengeful gods—and like true Sith warriors, counter them with the dark side of the Force.
The struggles are just beginning for the proud, uncompromising Sith, driven as they are to rule at all costs. They will vanquish the primitive natives, and they will find their way back to their true destiny as rulers of the galaxy. But as their legacy grows over thousands of years, the Sith ultimately find themselves tested by the most dangerous threat of all: the enemy within.
Originally an e-book series that chronicles the arrival of the so-called “Lost Tribe of the Sith” to the planet Kesh 5000 years before the Battle of Yavin (BBY) and the power struggles within the tribe. You may even find some of the sith characters – *gasp* – likeable!
Knight Errant (2011)
John Jackson Miller
A thousand years before Luke Skywalker, a generation before Darth Bane, in a galaxy far, far away . . .
The Republic is in crisis. The Sith roam unchecked, vying with one another to dominate the galaxy. But one lone Jedi, Kerra Holt, is determined to take down the Dark Lords. Her enemies are strange and many: Lord Daiman, who imagines himself the creator of the universe; Lord Odion, who intends to be its destroyer; the curious siblings Quillan and Dromika; the enigmatic Arkadia. So many warring Sith weaving a patchwork of brutality—with only Kerra Holt to defend the innocents caught underfoot.
Sensing a sinister pattern in the chaos, Kerra embarks on a journey that will take her into fierce battles against even fiercer enemies. With one against so many, her only chance of success lies with forging alliances among those who serve her enemies—including a mysterious Sith spy and a clever mercenary general. But will they be her adversaries or her salvation?
Maybe this is why I didn’t get all the adulation over Rey. You want to see a butt-kicking female lead in Star Wars? Kerra Holt did it first and did it better. A lone Jedi up against a squabbling Sith dynasty with no master and no fellow Jedi to help her. Kerra uses cunning, stealth and the Force to defend those who can’t defend themselves. Miller also reveals to us a galaxy split in half between Sith and Republic rule. That explains why the Jedi were so intent on participating in the Clone Wars.
Darth Plagueis (2012)
Darth Plagueis: Like all Sith Lords before him, he craves absolute power. But like no Sith Lord ever, he possesses the ultimate power—over life and death.
Darth Sidious: In secret he masters the power of the dark side, while publicly climbing to the highest government office.
One desires to rule supreme; the other dreams of living forever. Together, they will destroy the Jedi and rule the galaxy. Unless merciless Sith tradition becomes their undoing. . . .
A must-read novel for anyone who loves the prequel trilogy. It gives a backstory to the mysterious Darth Plagueis mentioned in ROTS. It explains why Naboo was chosen by the Trade Federation for the Blockade. It reveals how Sidious met Darth Maul. It gives us an early glimpse of Padme Amidala before she entered politics and much, much more.
Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter (2001)
After years of waiting in the shadows, Darth Sidious is taking the first step in his master plan to bring the Republic to its knees. Key to his scheme are the Neimoidians of the Trade Federation. Then one of his Neimoidian contacts disappears, and Sidious does not need his Force-honed instincts to suspect betrayal. He orders his apprentice, Darth Maul, to hunt the traitor down.
But he is too late. The secret has already passed into the hands of information broker Lorn Pavan, which places him right at the top of Darth Maul’s hit list. Then, in the labyrinthine alleyways and sewers of Coruscant, Lorn crosses paths with Darsha Assant, a Jedi Padawan on a mission to earn her Knighthood. Now the future of the Republic depends on Darsha and Lorn. But how can an untried Jedi and an ordinary man, stranger to the powerful ways of the Force, hope to triumph over one of the deadliest killers in the galaxy?
Our first glimpse into the mind of Darth Maul, how he operates and executes his assignments. We are also introduced to the uber-intelligent droid I-Five, who’ll later make an appearance in the Coruscant Nights duology.
Maul: Lockdown (2014)
It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object that will enable the Sith to conquer the galaxy.
Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.
Forget those zombie books Schreiber wrote. This is his best SW work and its every bit as dark and eerie as his previous books. Darth Maul goes to prison. Need I say more?
The Approaching Storm (2002)
Alan Dean Foster
The Republic is decaying, even under the leadership of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who was elected to save the galaxy from collapsing under the forces of discontent. On the tiny but strategic planet of Ansion, a powerful faction is on the verge of joining the growing secessionist movement. At the Chancellor’s request, the Jedi Council sends two Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luminara Unduli, along with their Padawans Anakin Skywalker and Barriss Offee, to stabilize the planet’s population. To succeed, the Jedi will have to fulfill near-impossible tasks, befriend wary strangers, and influence two great armies, stalked all the while by an enemy sworn to see the negotiations collapse and the mission fail. . . .
Foster’s 1st SW novel since Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Just at the beginning of AOTC, Mace Windu quips that Anakin and Obi-Wan had just returned from a border dispute from Ansion. This book goes into more detail about what happened on Ansion. It’s also fun to see the different personalities that bounce off each other when Obi-Wan and Anakin are joined by Luminara Unduli and her apprentice Bariss Offee. Look forward to an exciting chapter when each jedi performs a specific talent for the natives.
The Clone Wars: Wild Space (2008)
The Clone Wars have exploded across the galaxy as Republic forces and Separatists struggle to gain the upper hand. But while the Jedi generals work tirelessly to defeat Count Dooku and his rebels, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is hatching his own dark plans.
The Separatists have launched a sneak attack on Coruscant. Obi-Wan Kenobi, wounded in battle, insists that Anakin Skywalker and his rookie Padawan Ahsoka leave on a risky mission against General Grievous. But when Senator Bail Organa reveals explosive intelligence that could turn the tide of war in the Republic’s favor, the Jedi Master agrees to accompany him to an obscure planet on the Outer Rim to verify the facts. What Obi-Wan and Bail don’t realize is that they’re walking into a deadly trap concocted by Palpatine . . . and that escape may not be an option.
Senator Bail Organa’s opportunity to be a hero. Now we know where Leia gets her courage from.
The Cestus Deception (2005)
Ord Cestus, a planet mostly barren and inhospitable to life, was first colonized as a prison world—until a handful of hardy pioneers discovered its rich ore deposits and managed to build up a successful droid-manufacturing industry. But when the Clone Wars erupted, bringing a Republic ban on the production of battle droids, Ord Cestus was threatened with imminent economic collapse.
Enter the Confederacy of Independent Systems—the Separatists—with a life-saving offer to purchase a generous quantity of the planet’s most lucrative export: bio-droids. Possessed of tactical capabilities that rival the fighting abilities of even the most advanced Jedi, these sophisticated, techno-organic hybrid units would prove a most formidable weapon if ever deployed for military use. And now the Confederacy’s intention to invest in what amounts to an army of bio-droids has sent ripples of alarm through the highest echelons of the Republic government.
Determined to halt the bio-droid sale—but fearing a show of force will result in a political backlash—Supreme Chancellor Palpatine dispatches a team of envoys, led by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Their mission: persuade Ord Cestus’s government to abandon its dealings with the Confederacy . . . while secretly stirring up revolution among the planet’s struggling underclass. Diplomacy is paramount. But if all else fails, the Republic will not hesitate to launch a full-scale attack—and wipe out not only the means of bio-droid production, but countless lives as well, to demonstrate the consequences of disloyalty.
For Obi-Wan, the prospect of such wholesale slaughter only serves to fuel his growing suspicions about the sinister path the Republic seems to be taking. But the brash Jedi Master Kit Fisto and the detachment of clone soldiers assigned to the mission are ready and willing to do the Supreme Chancellor’s bidding. As the leaders of Ord Cestus refuse to capitulate and Palpatine rapidly loses patience, Obi-Wan’s hopes of a peaceful resolution are dwindling. Now, facing a crisis of conscience, Obi-Wan must find the wisdom and strength to prevent a bloodbath and safeguard the Republic— while abiding by the ancient code to which he has pledged his life.
The 1st SW novel to be written by a black author. Who never tweeted accusations of racism against Lucas. He also created an insectile character who – per biology – slowly changes from male to female – without confusing the reader.
The Medstar Duology (2004)
Michael Reaves & Steve Perry
It’s M*A*S*H* meets Star Wars – but without the comedy of course. Aspiring healer Bariss Offee joins a medical unit on the planet Drongar to heal wounded soldiers during the Clone Wars. Comes in two volumes.
Yoda: Dark Rendezvous (2004)
The savage Clone Wars have forced the Republic to the edge of collapse. During the height of the battle, one Jedi Knight escapes the carnage to deliver a message to Yoda on Coruscant. It appears that Dooku wants peace and demands a rendezvous. Chances are slim that the treacherous Count is sincere but, with a million lives at stake, Yoda has no choice.
The meeting will take place on Djun, a planet steeped in evil. The challenge could not be more difficult. Can Yoda win back his once promising pupil from the dark side or will Count Dooku unleash his sinister forces against his former mentor? Either way, Yoda is sure of one thing: This battle will be one of the fiercest he’ll ever face.
Want to know more about Yoda’s life in the Jedi Temple when he’s not sitting on the Council? Want to hear a philosophical debate between Yoda and his former apprentice? Read this book.
John Jackson Miller
Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.
Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.
Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice.
One of the few SW books that chronicles day-to-day life on Tatooine. Despite Luke’s protestations about the “backwater” planet, Tatooine sure has some interesting inhabitants.
Coruscant Nights Trilogy (2008, 2009)
If you’ve read Darth Maul-Shadow Hunter, you’re already familiar with Lorn Pavan and if your familiar with Lorn Pavan, you know that his son Jax was taken to the Jedi Temple as a baby. Now Jax Pavan is all grown up – but he’s one of the few jedi to survive Order 66 and now he’s working as a private eye in the slums of Coruscant. Too bad he has to constantly stay one step ahead of Darth Vader – who’ll stop at nothing to destroy one of “the last jedi”. The GFFA’s homage to hardboiled detective fiction.
The Han Solo Trilogy (1997, 1998)
Who needs a Han Solo movie when you can save your money and buy A.C. Crispin’s tales of the early adventures of Star Wars‘ most beloved scoundrel from his days as a space pirate to his early involvement with the Rebel Alliance (before A New Hope, mind you).
The Force Unleashed (2009)
The second non-movie, multi-media project Lucasfilm released to the public to bridge ROTS & ANH (eat your heart out Rogue One): it consisted of a video game, a comic book, a novel and lots of toys. I didn’t play the game but I read (and enjoyed) the book which is what I told a flea market vendor when I purchased a Maris Brood action figure from him.
Dark Disciple (2016)
In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.
But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to pair brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku’s side still runs deep, Ventress’s hatred for her former master runs deeper. She’s more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos’s quest.
Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don’t compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior’s spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt.
OK so this one isn’t a “Legends” book. It’s “canon” according to Disney. But let’s face it: like the EU, Disney gave The Clone Wars the short end of the stick. This novel is based on some episodes that never made it to the airwaves. That’s why I’m including it here. This is the only “new canon” book that’s worth a look. Plus there’s a touching forward by Katie Lucas about the positive impact Star Wars has played in her family’s life.
Honor Among Thieves (2014)
James S.A. Corey
When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on.
But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.
But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.
The last Expanded Universe novel to be published with yet another memorable female character to add to a long list of awesome SW ladies.
Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine (2004)
Voronica Whitney-Robinson & Haden Blackman
Hidden in the Jedi ruins of Dantooine is a Holocron containing a list of high-level Rebel sympathizers. If that list were to fall into the hands of Darth Vader, the Rebel Alliance would lose its most valued support—and possibly the war itself.
As an Imperial bio-engineer who frequently visits other worlds, Dusque Mistflier is the perfect cover for a Rebel who needs to travel far and wide without arousing suspicion. And so she agrees to help Rebel spy Finn Darktrin in his quest to recover the crucial Holocron. Despite help from Han, Luke, and Leia, the mission is fraught with peril. And as their journey takes them into the fiery belly of the beast that is galactic civil war, Dusque and Finn will learn that the hardest part of all is figuring out whose side you’re on—and how far you’re willing to go to win. . . .
A SW novel with another awesome female character who knows a lot about animals. And a character named Finn… who isn’t what he seems.
Shadows of the Empire (1996)
A story set between TESB & ROTJ.
OMG, this one is FAMOUS for being the first non-movie, multi-media project Lucasfilm released to the public: it had a novel for adults, a novel for kids, a video game, a trading card collection, an toy line, a comic series and a flippin‘ soundtrack composed by Joel McNeely – which is really good by the way. It also introduced three new interesting characters: cynical pilot Dash Rendar, assassin assistant Guri and so evil he’s sexy Prince Xizor, a Falleen who wins the respect of the non-human hating Emperor and draws the ire of Vader – no easy feat.
The Courtship of Princess Leia (1995)
Seeking rich, powerful allies to bring into the Rebel Alliance and a new home planet for the refugees of her native Alderaan, Princess Leia considers a proposal that could tip the balance of power against the evil Empire. The Hapes Consortium of 63 worlds is ruled by the Queen Mother, who wants Leia to marry her son, the dashing and wealthy Prince Isolder. Han Solo has always dreamed of marrying Leia himself, and now he makes a desperate last gamble to win her back. Soon he, Isolder, Luke Skywalker and Artoo will be at the center of an adventure leading to an awesome treasure, a group of Force-trained “witches,” and a showdown with an invincible foe.
The most female-centric SW novel: besides our titular princess and the aforementioned witches, we have a planet full of Force-sensitive “Amazons”. This is the second time we meet the Nightsisters in the GFFA (the 1st time was the 1985 made-for-TV movie Ewoks: The Battle for Endor) while the Singing Mountain Clan will produce future beloved EU character Tenel Ka.
Does it make me a bad fan to secretly wish Leia had ended up with Prince Isolder instead of Han?
Tatooine Ghost (2003)
The deaths of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine by no means spelled the end of the Empire. In the aftermath, the New Republic has faced a constant struggle to survive. Now a new threat looms: a masterpiece of Alderaanian art—lost after the planet’s destruction—has resurfaced on the black market. It conceals a vital secret—the code used to communicate with New Republic agents undercover within the Empire. Discovery by Imperial forces would spell disaster. The only option is recovery—and Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO have been dispatched to Tatooine to infiltrate the auction.
When a dispute at the auction erupts into violence, the painting vanishes in the chaos. Han and Leia are thrust into a desperate race to reclaim it. As they battle against marauding TIE fighters, encroaching stormtroopers, and Tatooine’s savage Tusken Raiders, Leia’s emotional struggle over the specter of her infamous father culminates in the discovery of an extraordinary link to the past. And as long-buried secrets at last emerge, she faces a moment of reckoning that will forever alter her destiny . . . and that of the New Republic.
Shmi Skywalker and Kitster fans should love this one as it delves deeper into their lives after Anakin leaves Tatooine with Qui-Gonn, how Leia learns about her family history and how, once again, there’s never a dull moment on Tatooine.
Stay tuned for part 2.