Since Disney took over the Star Wars franchise in 2012, the sweeping Expanded Universe–mostly made up of books and video games–has been null and void, declared non-canonical with Disney’s new vision. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still worth looking into, especially for those craving more Star Wars media other than television!
Whether a fan is more interested in continuing the stories of Luke, Leia, and Han or in looking back at characters like Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn, there’s no doubt they can find something in the hundreds of books, animated series, and video games that were produced within a 20-year period. There are also a fair amount of completely new characters that add more depth and world-building to the Jedi’s universe.
The Jedi Apprentice: The Rising Force by Dave Wolverton
Aimed at middle-grade children to high schoolers, the young adult series Jedi Apprentice offers the perfect adventurous look into the pre-prequel-era Jedi Republic! It follows Obi-Wan Kenobi as he goes through his padawan training under Qui-Gon Jinn, exploring the universe of Star Wars before the Skywalkers ever entered the picture.
The Rising Force is a great entrance to a nice, fun, light-hearted series if there are any Star Wars fans in the mood for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s adventures as a preteen. While not generally rated as highly as the later books in the series, it’s a good, enjoyable place to start the journey.
Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry
Set in the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi—meaning, unfortunately, no Han—this is nevertheless a great adventure. Darth Vader comes up against an enemy with his own plans for gaining the Emperor’s favor, but in the meantime, they agree to work together to catch Luke Skywalker. Their combined intelligence and skills promise to make this easy, but, of course, Luke and the Rebellion present some complications.
If nothing else, this is a fun book, thoroughly enjoyable, with great characters to follow and tense, exciting action.
Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover
Commonly thought of as the best movie novelization of the bunch—and better than the movie it’s based on—Revenge of the Sith actually makes the reader sympathize with Anakin Skywalker. No disrespect to Hayden Christensenespecially after his great performance in Obi-Wan Kenobibut most people can agree that his performance in the prequels was brought down by awkward dialogue and too little focus on what could have been great.
The book might not fix the dialogue, but it offers a great look at what Anakin was thinking and feeling throughout a tumultuous time in his life. It really improves on the tone of the movie and gives Anakin Skywalker’s story the tragic propulsion it was going for.
Allegiance by Timothy Zahn
One of the few books to feature Stormtroopers as protagonists, Allegiance is a pivotal novel in the Star Wars universe. Taking place in the interim between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Backthis book and its sequel introduce the origins of Palpatine’s right hand, Mara Jade, an intriguing character first seen years ago in Hair to the Empiretells a compelling story of imperial Stormtroopers attempting to escape the life they’ve builtand manages to stay true to the tone of the original trilogy.
Allegiance gives a great sense of humanity to the Stormtroopers, making them individuals in a way that the sequel trilogy attempted to do but failed at.
The Old Republic: Revan by Drew Karpyshyn
Picking up where the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game left off, Revan is a great choice—if you happen to have knowledge of the video game. It’s definitely not a standalone, but it does contain a great story. Darth Revan, a former Jedi who turned to the Sith, has been reinstated as a Jedi at the price of memory loss. He remembers nothing from his former life, and he sets out on a quest to rediscover whatever it is that keeps intruding into his nightmares.
For those interested in reading the book, the MMORPG it’s based on is free-to-play and is highly regarded. This could be a great introduction to the video game world! Or, you know, just look up the plot online and go from there.
Darth Plageuis by James Luceno
Fans of the prequels will know Darth Plageius’s name, but the movies don’t say much about him other than that he was Palpatine’s master. Freed from most obligations to a predestined plotline, the author goes wild with this Sith’s story–it’s almost as tragic as Anakin Skywalker’s, following a brilliant Sith scientist obsessed with discovering immortality.
Vowing never to follow the fate of his murdered master, he looks into the art of manipulating midichlorians—the only regrettable point in this book—in order to live forever, all the while taking on Palpatine as his apprentice. Those familiar with Star Wars at all knows how it ends, but the journey and the fun is in how the end gets here.
Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
With Claudia Gray‘s typical well-written characters and lovely prose, this tale is a young adult love story across two opposing sides of the universe: two pilots who join very different sides of the fight for the galaxy.
Despite the potential pitfalls a young adult romance could fall into, Claudia Gray evades them all and forms a believable, sympathetic relationship between two believable, sympathetic protagonists. One of the most highly-respected books of Disney’s new universe, Lost Stars is definitely one to check out for fans of a classic tale set in a far-flung world. It’s also a great option for those wishing the Rey/Kylo Ren relationship in the sequels had been better set up.
Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Kenobi presents the original story of what Obi-Wan Kenobi did in that twenty-year span between Darth Vader’s emergence and Luke’s call to the rebellion. Obi-Wan has remained hidden in Tatooine, known to the locals only as Ben, regarded as a mysterious outsider—much like he’s presented in A New Hope. He’s given up his role as a Jedi to protect Luke, but when a rebellion breaks out between a local group of moisture farmers and Tuskan Raiders, Kenobi gets dragged in and must finally act.
It’s different from the show, to be sure, but it’s also fun to read and look for the hints scattered around that Disney took inspiration from this book for their own Kenobi story.
Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray
Two people as different as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi were bound to eventually come to a head, and Claudia Gray—writing what she writes best—goes full force into character study in Master and Apprentice.
Sent to resolve a tense political divide at the court of Pijal, Kenobi and Qui-Gon end up in their own dispute when their views of the Force and the ways of the Jedi conflict. Featuring a great atmosphere, great characters, and a well-written story worthy of the Star Wars brand, this book is enchanting.
Hair to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
The classic introduction to Grand Admiral Thrawn (also written by Star Wars veteran Timothy Zahn), this book is even more important in understanding the strengths of the Star Wars Extended Universe than Allegiance.
Thrawn is a fan-favorite villain, and rightly so—one of the last remnant of the Imperial forces after Emperor Palpatine was defeated, Thrawn is devoted to wiping out the rebellion, but has his own moral standards and motivations. Hair to the Empire is a great follow-up to Return of the Jedidelving into what really happened after the Rebellion supposedly won.