As most of you reading this already know, when Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars, all of the previously released Expanded Universe content was discarded as not being official canon. While all that material was officially licensed by Lucasfilm, George Lucas himself didn’t particularly consider it “canon” anyways. In any case, Disney’s decision to declare all of that material as not being canon had to be so in order to allow for creative freedom for the new films.
Nonetheless, it’s still a hard pill to swallow for some so we’re going to celebrate a few of the best stories from what is now Star Wars Legends…
1. The Thrawn Trilogy
Timothy Zahn effectively kicked off the EU with the Thrawn Trilogy, which is set about 5 years after the end of Return of the Jedi. These books set the stage for everything that came after it by setting up the New Republic, and that the once mighty Empire had been reduced to a remnant, though still very dangerous under the masterful direction of Grand Admiral Thrawn. In addition to Thrawn himself, Zahn introduced several other characters that would remain heavily involved in galactic events for many, many years after this trilogy such as Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and Gilad Pellaeon, as well as the memorable crazed Dark Jedi Joruus C’Baoth. The origin of name Coruscant actually is from these books and would be made canon when Lucas used the name for the capitol planet of the galaxy in the prequel trilogy. It’s safe to say that this is one of, if not the best story in Star Wars Legends.
2. Knights of the Old Republic
The Knights of the Old Republic video game tells an incredible story set almost 4000 years prior to the Battle of Yavin. Without spoiling too much of the story, you play a character named Revan and you’re quickly thrown into the middle of an adventure as the ship you are on with Jedi Knight Bastila Shan is attacked by the Darth Malak’s forces. Overall you’ll journey to find yourself as well as to stop Darth Malak from using the ancient Star Forge to create an army for himself. The storytelling in the game is so effective because it’s driven by your choices and interactions throughout. You can choose to play good or bad and your choices have consequences as certain members of your crew have various alignments themselves and may take exception with your decisions. It’s this kind of storytelling that gives the game a lot of replay value.
For the sake of this list, I’m only including the first game though Knights of the Old Republic II and the online Star Wars: The Old Republic deserve honorable mentions for continuing what Knights of the Old Republic started. In fact, the trailers for Star Wars: The Old Republic are great in and of themselves, you should watch this supercut of all the trailers, it’s epic.
3. The Darth Bane Trilogy
This trilogy of novels written by Drew Karpyshan, who was also senior writer on Knights of the Old Republic, chronicles the life of one of the most notorious Sith Lords the galaxy had ever known, Darth Bane, roughly 1000 years before the Battle of Yavin. Early on in the trilogy, the Sith army, of which Darth Bane was a part of, is at war with the Jedi order. Through his studies of ancient Sith Lords, he becomes disillusioned with the Sith order believing that their values had become corrupted. Immediately he demonstrates the true nature of the Sith by wiping them out completely and enacting the Rule of Two. Throughout the novels, Bane and his apprentice, Darth Zannah, work covertly to create a network of spies and criminals they can call upon to manipulate events from the shadows. For nearly a thousand years the Sith would adhere to Bane’s Rule of Two, eventually leading to Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine ruling the galaxy.
It should also be noted that while these books are not considered canon, the character Darth Bane does as he appears as a sort of apparition in an episode of The Clone Wars when Yoda travels to the ancient Sith planet Korriban.
4. Darth Plagueis
This novel by James Luceno tells the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise and his apprentice, Darth Sidious. The story is masterfully written by Luceno as Darth Plagueis finds young Palpatine on Naboo and eventually takes him as apprentice. Together, Plagueis and Sidious discover how to prolong life, while plotting the downfall of the Republic in an attempt to rule the galaxy together for eternity. This novel, maybe more so than any other, illustrates just how devious in nature the Sith truly are as Plagueis and Sidious constantly wonder in secret whether the other is plotting murder. The novel starts in earnest about 35 years before The Phantom Menace and then spans the next several decades and then through the events of The Phantom Menace providing a lot of insight into how they engineered the eventual demise of the Republic while also serving as Palpatine’s origin story.
Similar to Darth Bane, while the novel itself may not be canon, Darth Plagueis himself is as Palpatine mentions the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise to Anakin during the opera scene in Revenge of the Sith.
5. The X-Wing Series
This is one of the longer series’ in the EU spanning 10 books that take place shortly after the formation of the New Republic. Written by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston, each contributing 5 books, the series primarily follows Wedge Antilles as he creates the new Rogue Squadron and eventually Wraith Squadron. The series brought us the exploits of some of the finest pilots in the New Republic such as veterans of the Rebel Alliance like Tycho Celchu, Wes Janson and Derek “Hobbie” Klivian, as well as new additions like Gavin Darklighter, Corran Horn and Garik “Face” Loran. Throughout the series the squadrons play instrumental roles in the New Republic, even helping to finally wrest control of Coruscant away from the Imperials. One of the real strengths of the series is the way Stackpole and Allston both are able to really make you feel as if you’re in the cockpit of a starfighter in a dogfight. If the space battles in Star Wars are your thing you definitely should give this series a read.
6. The Jedi Academy Trilogy
Taking place shortly after the events of the the Thrawn Trilogy, Luke begins a new Jedi Academy in the Massassi Ruins on Yavin IV. Following the revelation of a secret Imperial super-weapon, Kyp Durron a powerful, force-sensitive recruit comes to join Luke’s new academy after escaping slavery in the spice mines of Kessel. While at the temple, he becomes corrupted by the spirit of the long dead Dark Jedi Exar Kun. With his powers augmented by Kun’s spirit Durron manages to get a hold of the Sun Crusher, a super-weapon that causes stars to go supernova destroying entire systems, not just single planets. Needless to say, the lore and the stakes make this Trilogy a highly memorable and compelling story.
7. Dark Empire
The first of the Star Wars comic series done by Dark Horse comics stands out due to the surprising nature of it. Overall, it’s not the most compelling story on this list, but the comic featured a cloned Emperor Palpatine with Luke Skywalker succumbing to the dark side of the Force, and allying with him. In 1991 this shocked readers that fondly remembered Return of the Jedi just 8 years earlier with Luke declaring that he would never give in to the dark side, that he was a Jedi like his father before him.
One of the later entries into the EU, Kenobi was a standalone novel that takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope as Obi-Wan settles in to watch over Luke on Tatooine. The story gives us glimpses into how torn up Obi-Wan is following the events on Mustafar with Anakin. Often, there are moments when he seems lost and tries to talk with Qui-Gon, much the way Luke sought Obi-Wan’s guidance from beyond the grave. The novel itself sees Obi-Wan caught up in the events of a nearby settlement that is constantly living under the threat of the Tusken Raiders in the area. It’s one of few entries into the EU that give us any inkling as to what Obi-Wan did in all those years of solitude on Tatooine as he watched Luke grow from afar making this a worthwhile read.
9. The New Jedi Order Series
This series is one of the largest undertakings in the EU and takes place roughly 21 years after Return of the Jedi, spanning 19 books (including 2 E-Books) and 12 different authors. The series sees the Yuuzhan-Vong, an unknown alien species, emerge from the unknown regions of space with the desire to conquer the galaxy. These new invaders pose such a threat that the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant, under the control of Gilad Pellaeon, pool their resources to try and qwell the threat. The Vong pose a significant threat as their living technology is something that no one had encountered before. Additionally, the Vong were devoid of the Force making them unpredictable to Jedi, and in conjunction with their warrior culture, made them formidable hand to hand combatants. Overall the series is both amazing and infuriating. The novels are well written and the story arcs are very interesting, especially with the important roles the Solo children, Jacen, Jaina and Anakin, play in the conflict. That said, the depths of despair that characters are plunged into throughout the series are hard to push through at times, specifically due to character deaths, none of which I will mention here so as not to spoil them.
10. Star Wars Infinities
These three 3 comic book volumes from Dark Horse are essentially what if stories for the original trilogy, and as such are a lot of fun. For instance, the first book for A New Hope begins with Luke’s proton torpedoes detonating while only halfway down the exhaust port and doesn’t destroy the Death Star. The scenario spirals down an unbelievable path that eventually sees Luke dueling Leia, who had been trained as Sith after the end of the Rebellion. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the overall story as it would ruin the fun, but these are definitely worth a read.
So that’s it! 10 of the best stories from Star Wars Legends. Is your favorite on this list? Be sure to let us know in the comments section!
For more Star Wars check out our previous coverage of what IS canon now as well as some fun with the trailers for The Force Awakens. Also be sure to take a look at our ongoing Countdown to Halloween with Michael Myers and the Messy Timeline Split. If that’s not your bag, take a look at the new trailer for Marvel’s Jessica Jones.
Images: Lucasarts, Del Rey Books,
Bantam Spectra, Dark Horse Comics