7 Must-Read ‘Star Wars’ Books From the Old Expanded Universe

One of the most exciting parts of Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm years ago has been the release of a whole new series of novels, contextualizing the vast Star Wars universe in a whole new way. Still, it was a move that wasn’t without its downsides, most prominently the decision to remove the old Expanded Universe (EU) books from the canon. Disney took dozens and dozens of popular stories and reclassified them as Star Wars Legends, doomed to no longer exist within the Star Wars saga as we know it.

On one hand, it would have been nigh impossible to make a new trilogy set after Return of the Jedi that co-existed canonically with the old EU. On the other, the Legends saga isn’t without it’s own incredible stories. Here are the ones most worth your time, even decades after the fact.

1. Darth Plagueis

Source: 'Darth Plagueis' cover art, Torstein Nordstrand
Darth Plagueis cover art | Torstein Nordstrand

It’s a damn shame that Darth Plagueis falls under the Legends banner. It’s a novel that explains a whole lot of the pre-Phantom Menace universerunning us through the story of Sheev Palpatine and his apprenticeship to the powerful and mysterious Sith Lord, Plagueis. We first hear the name mentioned in Revenge of the Sith, when Palpatine teases at his former master’s ability to save his loved ones from death itself. In this book, we get some much-needed context for that story.

Additionally, it answers the question of Anakin’s own virgin birth, explaining it as a reaction to Plagueis and Palpatine’s attempts to tamper with the living Force. It also posits that Darth Plagueis was at large behind the scenes well into The Phantom Menace, with his own designs for ruling the galaxy as the co-Chancellor alongside Palpatine.

2. The Thrawn trilogy

Grand Admiral Thrawn - Star Wars Rebels, Season 3
Thrawn as seen on Star Wars Rebels | Disney XD

Grand Admiral Thrawn is a character so beloved by fans, that even after the old EU was ushered out of the canon, he was reintroduced by popular demand. Star Wars Rebels will feature the infamous villain in its third season, marking a momentous marriage of the Legends and primary canon universes. For the uninitiated: Thrawn was the primary villain for Luke, Leia, and Han in the years immediately following Return of the Jedi. 

Thrawn was a master strategist, a cunning opponent, and considered by many to be the greatest military mind the Empire ever had. Original author Timothy Zahn will even be returning to pen an official, canonical novel due out in 2017, simply titled Thrawn. It’s Zahn’s Legends trilogy though that remains as the masterstroke of the EU, holding up to this day as one of the greatest Star Wars stories ever told.

3. Legacy of the Force

Star Wars: Legacy of the Force Novel
Legacy of the Force | Del Rey

The idea of a Skywalker descendant falling to the dark side of the Force didn’t start with Kylo Ren. Jacen Solo holds that distinct honor. He was born along with this twin sister Jaina, at the end of the Thrawn trilogy. Jacen starts out as a trainee at Luke’s newly formed Jedi Academy. But it’s not long before he succumbs to the pull of the dark side, later becoming the fearsome Darth Caedus.

That story is kicked off by the first novel in the Legacy of the Force Series, entitled Betrayal, followed by eight more installments tracking the rise and fall of Jacen’s journey from hero to villain. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Kylo Ren’s own origins pull inspiration from this saga given the two character’s relative similarities, making this series a must-read for any fan.

4. The Jedi Academy trilogy

The Jedi Academy Trilogy - Star Wars
The Jedi Academy Trilogy | Del Rey

The biggest question on any fan’s mind following the events of Return of the Jedi concerns the future of the Jedi Order. Both the Legends and canonical Star Wars story use a similar narrative: Luke strikes out to train a new generation of Jedi, some of them fall to the dark side, and the future of the galaxy is thrown into peril as a result.

For the Jedi Academy trilogy, we see that narrative play out in full, while introducing a terrifying super weapon known as the Sun Crusher, a name that seems all too close to The Force Awakens‘s own Starkiller to be coincidental.

5. The Darth Bane trilogy

Darth Bane - Star Wars: Clone Wars
The spirit of Darth Bane on Star Wars: The Clone Wars | Lucasfilm

We’ve all heard the “Rule of Two” as it pertains to Sith Lords. As Yoda stated in the prequels, “Always two there are, no more, no less. A master, and an apprentice.” The Legends novels take us back to the origins of the ideal, telling the story of its creator, Darth Bane. The Darth Bane trilogy takes place 1,000 years before The Phantom Menace. In it, we see Bane reshape the Sith in his own image, later appearing as a vengeful spirit on the Clones Wars animated series.

Even without a cast of recognizable Star Wars characters, it’s an intriguing tale nonetheless, especially for anyone who wants some context into the early days of the Sith.

6. Kenobi

Kenobi Star Wars Novel
Kenobi | Del Rey

Obi Wan Kenobi’s years in the deserts of Tatooine are largely unaccounted for in Disney’s Star Wars canon. One Legends novel tackles that period of time in the Jedi Master’s life. We already know that Obi Wan takes on a young Luke Skywalker later on in life, but in Kenobi, we get a different kind of story, as the former Jedi deals with a conflict between local settlers and an oppressed encampment of Tusken Raiders. The end of the novel teases at Obi Wan’s eventual role as Luke’s friend and mentor, setting up the events of A New Hope nicely (albeit with a sizable gap of story still left to tell).

7. Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader Star Wars book
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader | Del Rey

Set just weeks after Revenge of the Sith, James Luceno’s Dark Lord novel was meant to be a direct sequel to the filmtracking the early days of Darth Vader and his mission to exterminate what remains of the Jedi Order. We see a version of Vader that isn’t the fully-formed villain we know from A New Hope. The newly-minted Sith Lord is still in a great deal of emotional turmoil directly following his ill-fated duel with Obi Wan Kenobi. He takes that rage and suffering out on a trio of Jedi holed up on Kashyyyk, forging him into the evil and terrifying presence we get in the original trilogy.

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