Beyond a galaxy far, far away: My favorite new canon Star Wars novels

Although I’m definitely known as “the movie gal” amongst my friends, I really love books too. And since one movie a year isn’t nearly enough Star Wars for me, ? it’s nice to have Star Wars novels to help tide me over.

A lot of the Star Wars books I’ve read in the past are now, unfortunately, non-canon; Disney retired the old Expanded Universe novels — with characters like Mara Jade, the Solo twins Jacen and Jaina, and Luke’s son, Ben Skywalker — when they decided to make more movies. While I was originally sad about this, I understand that Disney wanted to start with a clean slate. And even though the old EU had some great content, there was some pretty dicey stuff too (let’s all forget the time Luke fell in love with a sentient spaceship).

The new Star Wars canon novels have been a little hit or miss, but I think they’re getting better. Here are some of my favorites, if you’re looking to dive into the wonderful world of Star Wars companion novels. And unlike the old EU, you don’t really have to read these in order, and all that’s really needed is a knowledge of the movies and/or TV series.

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn’s previous Star Wars novels are widely regarded as some of the best in the old EU. Although they’re now non-canon, Zahn has brought back one of his most beloved characters, the cunning and sophisticated Grand Admiral Thrawn (who has also been showing up on the animated “Rebels” TV show). It’s great to see Zahn back in the Star Wars canon, and I enjoyed seeing Thrawn in a new way. This is a great introduction for those who don’t know about this mysterious alien warrior who joins the Imperial military.

Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

Confession time: When I first started “The Clones Wars” animated series, I wasn’t a huge fan of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice. However, she really grew on me as the show went on, and her character’s gut-wrenching departure turned out to be one of the show’s most emotional moments. This novel takes place shortly after “Revenge of the Sith” and follows Ahsoka as she struggles to survive in a dangerous, post-Jedi world.

Rebel Rising by Beth Revis

This isn’t the only “Rogue One” prequel — I’ve also read “Catalyst” by James Luceno, which covers the development of the Death Star. Although Luceno was one of my favorite EU authors, I didn’t end up liking this book as much. I thought “Rebel Rising” — about Jyn Erso’s life before she’s recruited by the Rebellion — was a much stronger book. Reading it is a bittersweet experience; Jyn’s life is full of difficulties and danger, and we already know she doesn’t get a happy ending. Yet she’s a fascinating character, and the book contains some interesting meditations on how far is “too far” to go to defeat the Empire.

Rogue One by Alexander Freed

Although some of the Star Wars movie tie-in novels are better than others, “Rogue One” is great. Actually, it’s one of my new favorite Star Wars novels, period. It delves more deeply into who the characters are and why they do what they do — but thankfully not too deeply, if that makes sense. Part of what made “Rogue One” so powerful is that Jyn and her band of rebels felt like ordinary people. They didn’t have a “touch of destiny” like the Skywalker clan the franchise has traditionally focused on. They’re complicated people who were confronted by a challenge and grew into heroes. This book is a gut-punch — it makes the movie’s tragic ending even sadder — but it’s a powerful read.

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

This book gave me hope for the new Star Wars canon. It introduces two new characters: young Imperial Academy recruits Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree. Without delving too far into spoiler territory, one of them becomes disillusioned with the Empire and decides to defect, driving a wedge between the two friends. Although the romance that develops between the characters is a significant plot point, I thought it was handled well within the larger context of events and didn’t seem forced.

Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

A buddy team-up adventure with Darth Vader and Palpatine! Well, not quite. ? Though everybody’s favorite Sith Lords do find themselves working together to escape as they are hunted by revolutionaries on the Twi’lek planet Ryloth. It was interesting to read a book from Darth Vader’s perspective, and I liked it because it reminded me of one of my favorite old EU novels, “Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader” (which is still worth checking out).

Happy reading!

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