Looking at the Star Wars Canon Novels

When Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise, they hit reset on just about everything that wasn’t a movie. The old novels and comics were labeled “Legends” and a new canon was established. I’ve read all of the novels in the new canon, given my thoughts, and give my rankings at the bottom.

The placement is based off Wookiepedia’s Timeline of Canon Media; Year 0 is Episode 1 – The Phantom Menance. I’ve listed the year it takes place and where it lies between movies.

The movies are as follows:
Year 0: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menance
Year 10: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones
Year 13: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith
Year 32: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Year 32: Episode 4 – A New Hope
Year 35: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back
Year 36: Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi
Year 66: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens

AftermathAftermath – Chuck Wendig
Placement in Star Wars: Year 36 (after Jedi)
This was probably the most critically panned canon Star Wars novel, but I didn’t mind it all that much. My biggest issue was Wendig introduced quite a few characters and really didn’t develop them; while he didn’t do anything to hurt existing characters, he didn’t do anything to give us more – specifically Wedge. I did like the interludes; they were snapshots of different areas of the galaxy and how they are adjusting to the fall of the Empire and the rise of the New Republic.

The story was OK; it was about a group of people that get pulled together to help liberate the planet Akiva from the Empire. The book introduces Temmin Wexley – the X-Wing pilot Snap from The Force Awakens.

This might be the weakest of any of the books I’ve read.

Aftermath Life DebtAftermath: Life Debt – Chuck Wendig
Placement in Star Wars: Year 36 (after Aftermath)
What the first book lacked, Life Debt improved upon. The characters in the first novel come back and you get more of a feel of who they are. Wendig also does justice to Leia, Han, and Chewbacca, who are players in the book. My biggest disappointment was the lack of development of Wedge again; the Legends novels did a great job of show us who he was, but we haven’t gotten a glimpse of it yet for the canon stuff.

The ragtag team from Aftermath is now hunting high up targets from the Empire; when Han Solo goes missing, Leia Organa asks for them to help find him. The story goes all the way to Kashyyk and the hunt for a missing Chewbacca. At the same time, we get a glimpse of the Empire and their plan to take down the New Republic.

Overall, this was a definite upgrade over the first book. The story kept me engaged and I’m excited about the finale of the trilogy.

BattlefrontBattlefront: Twilight Company – Alexander Freed
Placement in Star Wars: Years 26-35
Battlefront ties into the video game and follows a group of Rebel soldiers – Twilight Company – as they engage the Empire. The story spans years of battles, including the Battle of Hoth. While I was hoping for more battle action, much of the book dealt with downtime; thankfully the end of the book delivered on the action.

Freed did well to introduce characters we’ve never heard of and give us a reason to root for them.

While the ending was great, I struggled with the rest of the book. It got slow at times and I was expecting more action.

BloodlineBloodline – Claudia Gray
Placement in Star Wars: Year 60
This has been the first Star Wars book to be marketed as a Political Thriller rather than the typical Sci Fi book. This deals with Leia’s struggles in the senate and her attempts to bring down a group of pirates. The book shows us the first glimpse of the First Order and the Resistance.

The biggest part of the book is Leia’s parentage coming out; prior to this, the belief was still that Bail Organa was her father.

The book never felt slow and it really had an impact on the overall Star Wars mythos. It had a different flavor from all of the other books so far.

Dark DiscipleDark Disciple – Christie Golden
Placement in Star Wars: Year 12
This was supposed to be a story arc in the 7th season of The Clone Wars cartoon series, but it never materialized when the show was cancelled. Season 7 was all planned out, so they took the episodes to create this novel. It focuses on Jedi Quinlan Vos and former Sith Asajj Ventress. The Jedi want to assassinate Count Dooku to end the Clone Wars; they know they are treading a steep slope in doing this, but figure the best way to do this is with Vos, who is one of their undercover Jedi Knights. They have him seek out Ventress to learn the ways of the Sith and get in close to Dooku.

The story was phenomenal. You see Ventress expand more from her days on the cartoon and get a sense of completion to her story. Vos is a truly compassionate character and a great central point for the book.

For a while, this was my favorite canon novel and still sits towards the top of the rankings.

Heir to the JediHeir to the Jedi – Kevin Hearne
Placement in Star Wars: Year 32 (before Empire)
This is currently the only book set solely during the original trilogy. The story focuses on Luke as he tries to learn the ways of the Jedi. Really, the story was pretty forgettable and it did little to advance the full narrative of Star Wars. We get some new characters, which proves to be one of the struggles of writing stories during the original trilogy; major characters in the story either aren’t real players in the overall story or they don’t make it out of the book (and you could tell what would happen to the characters in this book).

As a completist, it was worth reading; as someone just wanting a good Star Wars story, I’d pass.

Lords of the SithLords of the Sith – Paul S. Kemp
Placement in Star Wars: Year 18
While a majority of Star Wars books feature the good guys, this focuses a little more on the bad guys; the focus shifts between a rebel cell of Twi’leks, led by Cham Syndulla of The Clone Wars (and father to Hera of Rebels), and the top guys of the Empire, Darth Vader and the Emperor. The story is set during the period between the prequel trilogy and original trilogy, we see the Free Ryloth Movement attempt to take out Vader and Palpatine.

The story is well written and you get a better glimpse of the dynamic between Vader and Palpatine. You also get to see a taste of Palpatine’s power, which we’ve only seen in Jedi. The Twi’lek story is interesting too, but not to the degree of the bad guys.

This book was middle of the road, but worth checking out for fans.

Lost StarsLost Stars – Claudia Gray
Placement in Star Wars: Years 21-37
I’ve covered Lost Stars before, but it’s still one of the better books in canon. The story follows 2 Imperial Cadets that grew up together and covers the original trilogy. What makes it so interesting is this is the first time you see what it’s like for someone a little lower in the ranks and why there are people loyal to the Empire.

This was also the first book that showed a little bit of what was to come in The Force Awakens, as the book ends with a Star Destroyer crashing on the planet Jakku (and will tie into the final Aftermath book).

Even though this is a young adult novel, this has been my favorite book in canon and worth checking out.

A New DawnA New Dawn – John Jackson Miller
Placement in Star Wars: Year 21
This book pretty much a prequel to the Rebels cartoon. The book follows Hera, as she scouts out some Imperial activity, and Kanan, who is just trying to keep his head down and make some money. They end up crossing paths and it sets up the cartoon series.

The story is entertaining and you get a little background on the characters. You also see a little of how the Empire is run.

This is another middle of the road book, but it’s a fun read.

The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Force Awakens – Alan Dean Foster
Placement in Star Wars: Year 66
This is the standard novelization of a movie, with a few extra tidbits of story. They aren’t critical to the overall enjoyment of Star Wars though.

It’s a must read for the Star Wars obsessed, but the casual fan can pass on it without missing anything.

TarkinTarkin – James Luceno
Placement in Star Wars: Year 18 (After Lords of the Sith)
Tarkin is what you’d expect – the background on the man who blew up Alderaan. The story takes place during the building of the Death Star and shows some of the issues faced while building the weapon. Tarkin teams up with Vader to track down a Rebel cell that is causing issues.

On top of this story, there are flash backs to show how Tarkin becomes who he is and some more of how the Empire works.

This is one of the better novels and gives a lot of depth to a character that got a short time in the movies.

And here are the upcoming novels and a little bit of what we know and could expect.
AhsokaAhsoka – E.K. Johnston
Scheduled Release: 10/11/2016
Placement in Star Wars: TBD, estimated between year 13 and 27

This book is going to show what happened to Ahsoka between her last scene in The Clone Wars and showing up in Rebels. This is technically a young adult novel, but Claudia Gray has shown that young adult novels can be a good read.

CatalystCatalyst – James Luceno
Scheduled Release: 11/15/2016
Placement in Star Wars: TBD, estimated between year 28 and 32

Catalyst is a prequel to Rogue One, so I’m looking forward to checking it out. Most of the characters in the movie are new, so this will shed a little light on them before we see them on the screen.

Rogue OneRogue One: A Star Wars Story – Alexander Freed
Scheduled Release: 12/16/2016 eBook; 01/03/2017 hardcover
Placement in Star Wars: Year 32

I’m guessing this will be a standard novelization, like The Force Awakens; we’ll get a few tidbits of new stuff, but the same story as the movie. I’ll read it, but I’m not rushing out to get it.

Aftermath Empires EndAftermath: Empire’s End – Chuck Wendig
Scheduled Release: 02/21/2017
Placement in Star Wars: Year 37 (concurrent to the end of Lost Stars)

After Life Debt, I’m excited about this book. Wendig stepped it up with his second book and set the stakes high for the finale to the trilogy. I’m ready to hear about the Battle of Jakku and see how the Empire is taken down for good.

ThrawnThrawn – Timothy Zahn
Scheduled Release: 04/11/2017
Placement in Star Wars: TBD, estimated between year 28 and 32

This book is a gift to those who read the Legends stuff; Thrawn was the character that set off the explosion of novels that started in the late ’90s. Zahn created Zahn and made a trilogy of books that had fans itching for them to be turned into movies. When the original canon was pushed to Legends status, all of those characters have been pushed to the side and fans have been asking when they will return. Thrawn is the first to come back; he’s been confirmed for season 3 of Rebels and I believe this book will set up his story. It makes me curious to see if we’ll get more Thrawn stories after Rebels ends and post original trilogy.

Rankings
1. Lost Stars
2. Bloodline
3. Aftermath: Life Debt
4. Dark Disciple
5. Tarkin
6. A New Dawn
7. Lords of the Sith
8. Battlefront: Twilight Company
9. The Force Awakens
10. Heir to the Jedi
11. Aftermath

2 Comments

  1. I’ve read all but the Battlefront book and don’t disagree much with your comments. The first person style of Wendig does get a little tiresome at times, but the stories are pretty good and I do like the interludes as well, getting a feel for the galaxy at large.

    As you probably know, Heir to the Jedi was announced pre-Death Star to the EU and it was sort of grandfathered in since it hadn’t been released yet. Wonder if that adds to why it is a little different than the others. It wasn’t too bad, from what I remember.

    There were also the young adult books and short stories released in the runup to the Force Awakens, such as The Weapon of a Jedi and a couple of others. They were pretty solid as well as having some links to TFA.

    • I haven’t read any of the other YA books yet. My daughter got the Leia one, which I haven’t read yet but want to. I’ll probably pick up TFA, Han, and Luke ones at some point.

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