A lot of great Star Wars things have come out of the Disney-Lucasfilm merger: a new film trilogy, standalone movies, and a stack of books and comics. There are a plethora of things that have arrived in the Disney era of Star Wars that we’re absolutely delighted about.
But there have been losses, namely the ending of a whole Expanded Universe continuity of stories that we held dear to our hearts for years. While Luke, Han, Leia, and friends got an all-new continuation of their story on the big screen, we lost countless captivating books, comics, and characters that we loved.
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We want to celebrate these “long-lost” Star Wars stories. Even if they’re no longer canon, if they don’t affect the overarching story of the new Expanded Universe, they’re just great Star Wars tales. At Den of Geek, we’re not continuity lawyers. We’re fans.
So, without further ado, here are eight of our favorite Star Wars Legends stories ever told:
by Timothy Zahn
Let’s start with the big one. As I said above, The Thrawn Trilogy is responsible for most of the EU we enjoyed in the 90s and 00s. Beginning with Heir to the Empire, Zahn introduced us to the world after Return of the Jedi at a time when fans didn’t have much to go by except table-top RPGs and that great run of Marvel comics from the 80s. Zahn, like Lucas before him, spearheaded a journey to a galaxy far, far away that lasted all the way to the final days of an independent Lucasfilm.
As a close-knit Star Wars book trilogy, Thrawn is one of the best, full of action, political turmoil, and new characters, including Luke’s future wife, Mara Jade, who first arrives as a villain strong in the Force. There’s also the mad clone of a Jedi Master named Joruus C’baoth, who’s helping the Imperial Remnant open the Emperor’s hidden weapons vault on the planet Wayland. And just like that, there is more than one Force user in the galaxy.
The Thrawn Trilogy also introduces the Solo Twins, the New Republic, the secret history of Outbound Flight, and Grand Admiral Thrawn, a Chiss mastermind from the farthest edges of the galaxy, who seeks to restore the Empire to its former glory. All of these concepts and characters would find their way into other parts of the Star Wars EU timeline. The Thrawn Trilogy is THE vital introduction to the larger Legends timeline.
Tales of the Jedi
by Kevin J. Anderson & Tom Veitch
It’s kind of insane that there aren’t more comic books on this list, especially the Dark Horse era books, which are absolutely fantastic. But if I have to pick one series out of the many great ones (Dark Empire, Crimson Empire, Tag & Bink, Knights of the Old Republic), it has to be Kevin J. Anderson and Tom Veitch’s Tales of the Jedi series, which introduced me to the ancient histories of the Sith and Jedi as a boy, the allure of the dark side, and the many tragedies that befell those who tried to live and love during the war-torn days of the Great Sith War.
Nothing quite tugs at my heart strings as the tragedy of the Qel-Droma brothers, the fall of Exar Kun, and the accidental hyperspace jump that causes the Great Sith War in the first place. The series more like high fantasy, as Queens, Knights, and Dark Lords battle for the fate of a galaxy gone to hell. I dare say this is as close to Game of Thrones as Star Wars ever got.
These Tales of the Jedi would later inspire other great Star Wars stories, such as the Knights of the Old Republic comic book series by John Jackson Miller and the KotOR video games. So much other good stuff has come out directly due to these comics that they’re impossible to ignore.
Also, let me just point out that ALL of Anderson’s Star Wars work is worth reading. The guy is an absolute master. Check out The Jedi Academy Trilogy (scroll down), The Young Jedi Knights series, which he co-wrote with Rebecca Moesta, and the Tales short story collections he edited. Especially the latter. Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina is a gem.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
by Alan Dean Foster
Listen, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is so important to the Star Wars Expanded Universe that it was almost Episode V. That’s right: although George Lucas had an outline for the rest of his ambitious trilogy after Star Wars broke the world in 1977, he had a lower-budget backup plan in case the first film didn’t make the millions it did upon release. And Alan Dean Foster wrote that backup story. Who better? He had, after all, ghostwritten the original novelization for Star Wars.
Foster used many of the abandoned concepts from Lucas’ first film as the backbone of his novel, including the Kaiburr crystal, which was original meant to be the artifact that was originally at the center of the film. Luke and Leia must race against the Empire to find the crystal before they can use it for their evil doings. The adventure takes place on one planet, doesn’t feature Han Solo (since he wasn’t signed on for the sequels at the time of the story’s composition), and is all around a much more intimate affair that further developed the tensions between Luke and Leia. As a film, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as the Episode V we eventually received. Still, it’s a fun adventure that ultimately sees Darth Vader and Luke duel for the first time.
If for no other reason, check out Splinter of the Mind’s Eye because Foster is about to write the novelization for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Also, he’s a great sci-fi fantasy writer.
by Michael A. Stackpole & Aaron Allston
Stackpole and Allston, two of the EU’s best writers, give Rogue Squadron their time in the limelight, as they dish out adventures starring Wedge Antilles and his merrymen in X-Wings. I wrote a ton more about why these books (and the awesome Dark Horse comics, too) are so important to Star Wars lore in an earlier article. But just to recap: this series features the military side of the universe, as everyone’s favorite freedom fighters prepare to sack Coruscant from the Imperial Remnant. All of these stories play out like great WWII dogfight films and even feature their own version of the Red Baron.
These are required reading if your favorite part of the Star Wars universe is the space battles. There are consequences and loss in all of these battles, and our need for these kinds of stories in the Star Wars universe is in no small part due to the X-Wing series. Plus, who doesn’t love a really great space battle? Expect tons of them in these books.
– John Saavedra
by Michael Reaves & Steve Perry
The Clone Wars was a time of rich stories, including Karen Traviss’ Republic Commando series and stand-alones like the eerie Yoda: Dark Rendezvous by Sean Stewart. One of the most unique series with the most varied characters was the MedStar duology, focusing on a Republic medical station in the Outer Rim. It’s often described as M*A*S*H meets Star Wars.
While Barriss Offee of The Clone Wars fame is one of the main characters, the focus isn’t on the Jedi, nor on the clones that arrive bloodied from the distant front. Instead, several doctors, a journalist, an amnesiac droid, and more populate this tale. The main plot revolves around bota, a miracle herb that can boost Force sensitivity, which people naturally seek for reasons both noble and power-hungry.
Fans wanting to explore more slice-of-life stories after reading MedStar: Battle Surgeons and MedStar: Jedi Healer can check out some of the same characters in Michael Reaves’ Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter or the Coruscant Nights series.
The Jedi Academy Trilogy
by Kevin J. Anderson
For all the fans who wanted to be Jedi after they saw Star Wars, the Jedi Academy Trilogy (Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, Champions of the Force) gave them a look at what that life might be like. Luke Skywalker searches for new apprentices and establishes a school for Force users at the old Rebel base on Yavin IV, but a Sith spirit is possessing one of the ancient temples nearby.
The Jedi Academy Trilogy introduced a new cast of characters as well as giving a more widely-read role to the Solo children, who had already appeared in young reader novels. The temple on Yavin IV was thoroughly described and felt like a mappable place anyone could inhabit.
Although this Bantam-era series from 1994 sometimes seems emblematic of the EU’s obsession with superweapons, it established many of the pillars of the Expanded Universe beyond, including the personalities of the Solo children, Luke’s New Jedi Order, and Leia, Han, Mara Jade, and Lando’s roles in the New Republic.
Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
by Matthew Stover
Shadows of Mindor is a standalone book, but one that comments on the rest of the Expanded Universe while also providing a fun, campy ride with similar gripping, vicious prose as in author Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization, which is probably the best of the eight books.
It takes the form of a fictional story within the Star Wars universe, with Luke Skywalker providing commentary at the beginning and the end, calling into question whether any of it took place at all. Because of that, the book can poke fun at the rest of the Expanded Universe while still telling a fun story, with Stover’s trademark descriptions of the dark side as something more primal than evil.
The New Jedi Order
by R.A. Salvatore, Michael A. Stackpole, James Luceno, Kathy Tyers, Gregory Keyes, Troy Denning, Elaine Cunningham, Aaron Allston, Matthew Stover, Walter Jon Williams, Sean Williams, & Shane Dix
The New Jedi Order killed many of the things introduced in the Jedi Academy Trilogy. What had been a mostly upward trajectory for Luke Skywalker became a messy, grinding war told over 19 novels, with a huge cast of characters and new creatures. The series is a treat for people who like aliens and biotechnology, with the masochistic Yuuzhan Vong, mutant voxyn, and living space ships on a mysterious, verdant planet.
It was also controversial, dividing the fandom over how it handled the characters, over the design of the Yuuzhan Vong, and over the relentless darkness of the middle books. The New Jedi Order shows hopeful characters without hope, marriages dissolving and re-forming and being tested under duress, shows children killing hundreds of warriors in a planet-sized training facility built to train Jedi-killing monsters.
It’s also a tense adventure story, sometimes bloated but always immersive and detailed. Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo, while sometimes dull as they tread over repeated philosophical ground, are compelling and relatable teenage characters living more like the militarized Prequel Trilogy Jedi than their adventurous parents.
– Megan Crouse