It’s May the Fourth, and maybe you’re planning to rewatch your favorite movies, or dive into the new Bad Batch series—but there are plenty of other adventures waiting in a galaxy far far away that are just begging to join your To-Be-Read pile. Here’s a shortlist of our favorite canonical Star Wars novels, with something for every type of fan!
If You Miss the Old Legends Canon: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
What if you were a fan who read Star Wars books in the ’90s? Do you miss those hallowed tomes, relegated now to inspiration and reference for the larger Star Wars universe? Well, you might be happy to know that Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the most beloved and terrifying villains of the Expanded Universe made his reentry into canon via the cartoon Star Wars: Rebels. And what’s more, Thrawn is back in books, direct from the author who created him—Timothy Zahn has several new books (with more to come) focusing on his brilliant Chiss commander. Thrawn focuses on how Mitth’raw’nuruodo folded himself into the ranks of the Empire, and became the Emperor’s adviser on the Unknown Regions of space. The second book, Thrawn: Alliances, focuses on a time before joining the Empire, when Thrawn met Anakin Skywalker during his time fighting in the Clone Wars, and then again when Thrawn and Darth Vader are sent out on a mission together…
The ongoing Thrawn: Ascendancy trilogy is a prequel series, revealing Thrawn’s origins with the Ascendancy, the enigmatic Chiss, and the Nine Ruling Families that lead them.
If You’re Here For Political Intrigue (and Need More Leia): Bloodline by Claudia Gray
If you want a sense of how the First Order began spreading throughout the galaxy and how the Republic proceeded (again) to do nothing, you owe it yourself to read Bloodline, a measure of Leia’s last days as a senator before becoming a full-time leader of the Resistance. Claudia Gray gives readers a superb slow-burn of political drama, with Leia having to contend with the fallout when the truth of her parentage finally comes to light on a galactic scale—after spending years keeping Darth Vader a secret between her family, the tidal wave of judgement that she has to endure, combined with the first glimmers of the resurgence of fascism, bring us into the political machinations that keep the Star Wars universe running when lightsabers and blaster fire are nowhere to be found.
If You Want the Immersive Story Experience: Dooku: Jedi Lost by Cavan Scott
If you’re feeling nostalgic for the old radio drama adaptations of the original Star Wars trilogy, then Cavan Scott’s audio original Dooku: Jedi Lost will fill that niche. The story delves into new details of Count Dooku’s early life before he was Darth Tyranus: training as a Jedi under Yoda, in turn mentoring Asajj Ventress and Qui-Gon Jinn, and the forbidden ties to his biological family that contribute to his break from the Jedi Order. It’s the kind of origin story that recasts a villain in a semi-sympathetic light without losing sight of his arc in the prequel trilogy. Jedi Lost is also available as a physical script, but we love the original audio drama, performed by a full cast spanning nearly 50 characters. And if we’re lucky, it will be just the first in many Star Wars audio dramas that tap into listeners’ imaginations to spin new stories in a galaxy far, far away.
If You Need More Scoundrels in Your Life: Last Shot by Daniel José Older
Thanks to Solo, we know how Han Solo and Lando Calrissian met, but there’s so much more of their relationship that we’ve yet to appreciate. Daniel José Older’s Last Shot sees the two friends reunite for a mission during their post-Rebellion days, when Han is trying to figure out how to be a parent and Lando is worried over the possibility of truly catching feelings for the first time in his life. The duo assemble a team to find a particularly bad transmitter that could spell trouble for the galaxy’s droid pals. If you’ve ever wanted another long glimpse into Lando’s closet, a chance to get to know his pal Elthree better, and a crew that anyone would be happy to heist with, buckle up and enjoy.
If You Hate Narrative Gaps: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath fills in a big gap in the Star Wars Universe by tackling the immediate, well, aftermath of the overthrow of the Empire. Rather than following the adventures of Luke or Han, though, we see this period through Wedge Antilles, who in a different type of movie would have become the hero. Wedge is on the Outer Rim planet Akiva when he finds a cell of Imperial agents. He’s taken hostage by their leader, Admiral Rae Slone. But he isn’t the only Rebel on Akiva—Wedge’s friend Norra Wexley has come back to the planet to try to re-forge a relationship with her teenage son, who lost her to the war effort.
Meanwhile, another Imperial Officer, Sinjir Rath Velus, is trying to create a new, alcohol-soaked life in hiding when he realizes his planet is being overrun by Imperial forces—who want him to get back in the game. The problem being…he went AWOL after witnessing atrocity on the moon of Endor, and he’d rather die than rejoin the Empire.
Aftermath reset the canon, filling in the time after The Return of the Jedi and creating a bridge to The Force Awakens, while revealing the galaxy far, far away up to be an even grittier, more diverse world that we originally thought.
If You Love the Cartoons: Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston
Clone Wars and Rebels have devoted followings for a reason, and if you’ve enjoyed those shows, chances are you enjoy the arc of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s erstwhile Padawan who becomes her own manner of Force-wielder entirely. The Clone Wars is coming back to finally finish out its story in a final season, but in the meantime, there’s more Ahsoka to be had in this novel from E.K. Johnston. This book reflects on events that are upcoming in the final season of Clone Wars, which makes it an intriguing journey that will keep you pumped for the rest of the show. It also gives fans an idea of how she ended up in the position of Fulcrum with the Rebellion before Rebels. You can never go wrong with more Ahsoka.
If You Want to Explore the Galaxy: Doctor Aphra by Kieron Gillen, Simon Spurrier, and Kev Walker
For everyone who ever played Star Wars on the playground or beyond: You can’t find a better dream job in the Star Wars universe than archaeologist—and thanks to this ongoing comic book series, you get to live vicariously through Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra’s adventures. Researching the ancient Massassi, taking questionable jobs from Darth Vader, and tangling with everyone from ex Sana Solo to Imperial captain Magna Tolvan, Aphra explores all corners of the universe while leaving her mark. How could she not? She’s acerbic, amoral, and prioritizes her own survival above all else. The Skywalkers may have their own family drama unfolding elsewhere in the galaxy, but Aphra’s escapades—not to mention her own issues with her father—are just as compelling.
If You Miss the Prequels Something Fierce: Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston and Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray
There were so many bits and pieces of the prequels that we didn’t get nearly enough of, and if you spent your childhood writing fanfic about these characters, there are books in the world that know how you feel. Padmé Amidala and her handmaidens were easily one of the most underused and brilliant aspects of the prequels, and E. K. Johnston has finally given them their due. Set after Episode I, as Padmé takes on her new role as a senator, navigating her new role proves difficult… but she’s got just the right team to back her up. If you felt as thought The Phantom Menace skipped out on an entire backstory between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master Qui-Gon Jinn (and you’d be right), Claudia Gray has finally filled in those tentative first steps between the duo as they become a team.
Originally posted in May 2019.