When Disney bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas way back in 2012, the end of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (AKA the EU) was inevitable.
For decades, the EU had kept such beloved characters as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett alive. But it spawned a host of new heroes and villains too, including Grand Admiral Thrawn, Lobacca, Darth Malak, Mara Jade and many more.
Today, the Expanded Universe is the Legends line — a non-canon collection of comics, books, video games and more. Though these stories all take place in an alternate timeline, there’s still plenty to enjoy, particularly in its novels.
But with so much to get through, how do you know where to start? Don’t worry — just take a look at our pick of 10 must-read Star Wars books from the old Expanded Universe.
Heir to the Empire (Timothy Zahn, 1991)
Though there had been other Star Wars spin-offs before Heir to the Empire was published, this novel was credited with kick-starting what would go on to be considered the Expanded Universe.
This story introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn, who remains one of the foremost figures of the EU and has even been integrated into the canon. He’s a highly-intelligent, ruthless character who serves as a fantastic antagonist across the three Thrawn books.
Heir to the Empire follows Luke, Han and Leia as they become involved in Thrawn’s machinations, taking well-known heroes in strange new directions. It’s still well worth a read, and was adapted into a comic-book by Dark Horse too.
Darth Bane: Path of Destruction (Drew Karpyshyn, 2006)
Darth Bane is another popular villain from the Expanded Universe, and he made his first big impact in Path of Destruction. Two further Darth Bane novels were published after this, forming a beloved trilogy.
Path of Destruction is set around one thousand years before Episode IV: A New Hope, and revolves around Dessel. This young man emerges from a life of misery and hard work to join the Sith Army, ultimately going on to study at Korriban’s Sith Academy.
Darth Bane created the Sith’s Rule of Two, and Path of Destruction shows why in grand fashion.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (Alan Dean Foster, 1978)
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is a real curiosity every Star Wars fan has to try, and is definitely deserving of its place on this list of must-read books from the old Expanded Universe.
This was rendered non-canonical as soon as The Empire Strikes Back was released, but offers a fascinating glimpse at what could have been. Here, Luke and Leia are on the trail of the Kaiburr crystal, Han Solo is absent and Luke faces off with Darth Vader for the first time.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is well worth checking out if you’ve never read it before.
Darth Plagueis (James Luceno, 2012)
Darth Plagueis is first mentioned in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, during a discussion between Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker. Plagueis is described as an incredibly powerful Sith with the ability to create life and prevent people from having to die.
James Luceo is a skilled writer with a long list of Star Wars novels to his name, and he’s on great form here. The story charts Plagueis’s major achievements, including meeting Palpatine, his role in the creation of the clone army and more.
The Old Republic: Revan (Drew Karpyshyn, 2011)
Revan is a core figure in 2003’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, one of the most successful Star Wars video games ever. This book continues his story, following on from the events of the game itself.
Revan sheds more light on Revan’s past and motivations. The Mandalorians, Sith warriors, Jedi and more all come into play before the final page, weaving a gripping tale that fans of KOTOR will love.
Shadows of the Empire (Steve Perry, 1996)
Shadows of the Empire was basically a new Star Wars movie — only without an actual movie!
Instead, the tale was told in this novel, comics and a video game, and it’s pretty good stuff overall.
The action slots between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, setting events in place for the close of the Original Trilogy. Steve Perry’s Shadows of the Empire book focuses heavily on Princess Leia’s search for Han Solo after he’s taken by Boba Fett.
Shadows of the Empire introduces another villain, Prince Xizor, as well as Lando Calrissian, Luke Skywalker, Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader.
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (James Luceno, 2005)
Darth Vader was given the lead in this novel set in the wake of Revenge of the Sith. This charts his ascent to power in the new Galactic Empire and his quest to bring down Jedi who escaped Order 66.
This is an introspective book, in which Luceno explores the conflict Vader feels as he transitions from his Anakin persona to a Sith Lord. Ultimately, The Rise of Darth Vader sets the stage for A New Hope nicely, creating a neat link from the Prequel Trilogy to the Original Trilogy.
Outbound Flight (Timothy Zahn, 2006)
Timothy Zahn is many fans’ favorite Star Wars novelist, and for good reason. Here, he delves into the universe again to explore events taking place shortly before The Phantom Menace.
The story centers on the Outbound Light Project, which had been mentioned in multiple other works (such as Heir to the Empire and Specter of the Past). This serves as a prequel to Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and sees a flight outside the known galaxy go a little haywire.
Tales from Jabba’s Palace (Various Authors, 1995)
Tales from Jabba’s Palace features nineteen different stories, primarily starring shady figures populating Jabba the Hutt’s palace (as seen in Return of the Jedi).
Twenty-one authors all created the tales for this book, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, and there’s some solid content here. These include A Boy and His Monster: The Rancor Keeper’s Tale, That’s Entertainment: The Tale of Salacious Crumb and A Time to Mourn, a Time to Dance: Oola’s Tale.
Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter (Michael Reaves, 2001)
Darth Maul is one of the most enigmatic, exciting and deadly villains in the Star Wars saga. This novel is set before The Phantom Menace and chronicles Darth Maul’s attempts to hunt an enemy of his master, Darth Sidious, and his clash with a young Jedi Padawan.
For fans of Darth Maul, Shadow Hunter is highly recommended.
These 10 must-read Star Wars books from the old Expanded Universe are just a small portion of the EU / Legends line. If you’re inspired to delve into our picks, why not cast your net a little wider and see what else there is to offer?
Have you read any of these novels, and if so, what did you think? What others would you recommend?