Lately I have been hearing concern from fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. They say the universe is too big and bogged down in continuity for new fans to jump in.
Yes, there are A LOT of novels and many of them are a part of a LONG series, but there are many standalone novels as well. When a new fan comes to me and asks me where to start in the EU I don’t point them to the Thrawn Trilogy (gasp!) or the New Jedi Order. I instead point them to one of the many standalone novels. A single story with a defined beginning and end that is not directly connected to a series. When you are new to the EU even a three book series can be intimidating. Starting someone out with a single novel gives them a chance to test the waters of the Expanded Universe to see if it’s for them. If they come back to you after finishing the novel excited for more, then it might be time to move them onto the Thrawn Trilogy.
Here is a list of 10 standalone Star Wars novels that could be a jumping on point for someone new to the EU. If you have seen the movies you can pick up any one of these novels and enjoy it.
10. The Courtship of Princess Leia
Author: Dave Wolverton
Release Year: 1994
It’s eight years after the Battle of Yavin and Han Solo still hasn’t married Princess Leia?? Thus begins the story of The Courtship of Princess Leia. A story where Han kidnaps Leia to prevent her from marrying another man. Han is such a romantic. Original Trilogy fans will be happy to hear that this story features Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewbacca. It is also the book that introduces the Witches of Dathomir who have recently been spotlighted in The Clone Wars TV series. Released early in the EU revival, this book is still trying to find its footing with Luke’s Force powers and such, but it is a fun read and introduces many elements that are core to the future of the Expanded Universe.
9. Shadows of the Empire
Author: Steve Perry
Release Year: 1996
Ever wonder what happened in the time between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi? Then Shadows of the Empire is the book for you. This book introduces one of the great EU villains in Xizor, the Falleen leader of the Black Sun criminal organization. Rumor has it that we may even see his species in the upcoming season of The Clone Wars. With Han in carbonite at this time we are also introduced to his replacement character, Dash Rendar, who also just happens to be a Corellian smuggler with a cool ship. The rest of the usual OT cast is here as well including Vader, Luke, Leia, Chewie, and even Lando Calrrisian.
8. X-wing: Mercy Kill
Author: Aaron Allston
Release Year: 2012
Although this book is a continuation of the X-wing book series it is for the most part a standalone story. Fan-favorite author Aaron Allston brings back the Wraith Squadron for another adventure. This is a good book to read if you are interested in a story that is set in the Star Wars universe but is not about the principle characters that you are used to. In fact, with the exception of a quick cameo, I don’t think any character in this book has been in a Star Wars film. It is a fun book about a secret group which is trying to uncover a conspiracy in the Galactic Alliance military. It is kind of a mix between Mission Impossible and Ocean’s Eleven. Expect great characterization and a lot of humor.
Read my full review of X-wing: Mercy Kill here.
7. Outbound Flight
Author: Timothy Zahn
Release Year: 2006
Timothy Zahn is considered by many to be the father of the modern Star Wars Expanded Universe because he brought us the great Thrawn Trilogy which continued the story of Star Wars after Return of the Jedi. Mr. Zahn has written a number of standalone Star Wars novels as well, one of them being Outbound Flight. Don’t let the boring title fool you. This is an exciting novel featuring Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the time between Episode I and Episode II. It is a novel that shows us some of the machinations of Palpatine as well as what can happen when a powerful Jedi loses his way. It also features popular EU character Thrawn before he was part of the Empire.
6. Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2005
This book would eventually be bundled with Labyrinth of Evil (see below) and the Revenge of the Sith novelization and sold as The Dark Lord Trilogy, but it is a standalone story. It ,maybe better than any other story, captures what it was like to be Anakin Skywalker trapped inside the suit of Darth Vader. The novel is set directly after the events of Revenge of the Sith. It tells the story of a group of Jedi who escape Order 66 and their fight to survive. The Jedi Purge has begun and it’s probably best to stay out of Vader’s way.
Author: Matthew Stover
Release Year: 2003
If you thought Mace Windu was cool in the movies but you just didn’t get enough of him, read this book. Windu is sent to his home planet to rescue his former Padawan Depa Billaba. There he confronts war and turmoil all around him as well as inside of him. This is one of the more dark and gritty of the Star Wars novels which is fitting considering it is set at the height of the Clone Wars. It is a story that really highlights the differences in philosophy among the Jedi. What is more dangerous than a Jedi who has gone astray?
4. Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
Author: Michael Reaves
Release Year: 2001
Darth Maul has recently been thrust back into our Star Wars consciousness with his appearance in The Clone Wars TV series, and we are promised even more of him in the upcoming season. But can you ever really have too much Darth Maul? Back in 2001 Darth Maul was still surrounded by mystery and we just did not know that much about him. Shadow Hunter gave us the chance to see things from his perspective. This is a book set right before Episode I and is about Maul’s hunt to kill a man and his Jedi protector before the man can deliver vital information to the Jedi Counsel. You will find yourself on the edge of your seat and at times even rooting for the bad guy. And of course with Palpatine involved there will always be some unexpected twists.
3. Labyrinth of Evil
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2005
This book is really a thing of fanboy dreams. As we were patiently waiting for the release of Revenge of the Sith this book came out to give us the perfect lead-in story. It had everything you could want in a prequel era novel including clones, General Grievous, Mace Windu, Shaak Ti, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Dooku, Kit Fisto, Yoda, and Darth Sidious. The Jedi are tired of these Sith messing everything up and have decided to hunt them down. We all know that Sidious can’t be revealed, but Luceno does a great job of weaving a story that keeps you guessing even though you already know the outcome.
2. I, Jedi
Author: Michael Stackpole
Release Year: 1998
I was never really interested in reading the X-wing novels. Not enough Jedi. And then the author of the X-wing series went and wrote a book about an X-wing pilot becoming a Jedi and I was sold. This novel, told entirely from the first person perspective, tells the story of Rouge Squadron pilot Corran Horn and his attempt to find and rescue his kidnapped wife. The novel actually takes place at the same time as Kevin Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy and covers some of the same story. If you have already read that trilogy this book is a great view from a different perspective. Corran Horn and his family have become central characters in some of the latest Star Wars novels and he is one of my personal favorite characters.
1. Darth Plagueis
Author: James Luceno
Release Year: 2012
This is a book that had been in development since 2007. It was well worth the wait. Luceno brings us an intriguing tale about Palpatine and his rise to power under the tutelage of the mysterious Darth Plagueis. All we had known about this character before was a few lines from Revenge of the Sith. “Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?” This novel reveals all. It takes an interesting look into Sith philosophy and sheds light on many of the mysteries of the Prequel Era. Once you read this novel you will never see the Prequels, especially The Phantom Menace, the same again.
Read my full book review of Darth Plagueis here.
So there are ten books that you can pick up with no prior knowledge of the Expanded Universe. That should keep your reading schedule pretty busy. And if you enjoy them maybe you will enjoy more of the EU. Maybe a trilogy or a nine book series or maybe even a 19 book series… Baby steps.
– Aaron Goins