10 Best Star Wars Expanded Universe Novels

share to other networks share to twitter share to facebook

Now known as Star Wars Legends, the former Expanded Universe consists of Star Wars stories spanning from 36,000 years before the events of The Phantom Menace to more than 100 years after Return of the Jedi. However, on April 25, 2014, Lucasfilm announced that the countless novels, comics, video games, and other forms of media in the EU were no longer part of official Star Wars canon – an announcement that was understandably met with mixed reactions by longtime fans of the franchise.

Nevertheless, those bookshelves filled to capacity with EU/Legends books, canon or not, will always hold a special place in our hearts. So much so that we here at Epicstream decided to revisit them and pick out what we feel are the best of the best. Some of them are standalone novels, some are trilogies, and some are entire series, but for the sake of simplicity, the latter two will be grouped together into single entries.

Now, without further ado, here are our picks for the 10 best Star Wars Expanded Universe novels:

  1. The X-Wing Series

    Authors: Michael A. Stackpole, Aaron Allston

    Books in the Series: Rogue Squadron, Wedge’s Gamble, The Krytos Trap, The Bacta War, Wraith Squadron, Iron Fist, Solo Command, Isard’s Revenge, Starfighters of Adumar, Mercy Kill

    The premise behind the X-Wing series is essentially Star Wars meets Top Gun, and as the name implies, the books revolve around a group of X-Wing pilots, with the primary focus being on Wedge Antilles. The first four books are referred to as the Rogue Squadron series, the next three as the Wraith Squadron series, and the final three are pretty much considered to be standalones. However, they all complement each other beautifully with their respective takes on bravery, loyalty, and aerial warfare in the Star Wars Universe. 

  2. Shadows of the Empire

    Author: Steve Perry

    Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire is actually more than just a novel – it’s an entire multimedia project, which consists of a novel, a junior novelization, a six-issue comic series, a video game, trading cards, a soundtrack, a role-playing game, toys, and more. As for the novel, though, it tells the story of the events that take place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, largely centering on Luke and Leia’s attempt to rescue the carbonite-frozen Han Solo. However, it also introduces an intriguing new character named Prince Xizor, who seeks to usurp Darth Vader as the Emperor’s apprentice. What makes Shadows of the Empire great is that, until then, the time between Episodes V and VI hadn’t been explored in previous novels, so in the context of its release back in 1996, it was actually a pretty big deal. Even today, though, the story still holds up wonderfully, and for many fans, it’s a prominent piece of their own personal head-canon.

  3. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

    Author: Alan Dean Foster

    Set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye sees Luke and Leia embark on a journey to Circarpous V, only to end up in the swamps of Mimban instead. Here, the pair learns they must find the mysterious Kaiburr crystal – an ancient Force relic with immense power – before it ends up in the wrong hands. In terms of significance in the EU, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is the very first original, full-length novel to be published after the release of A New Hope, so to say it’s an influential story is nothing short of an understatement. In fact, it was even intended to be the basis for a low-budget Star Wars sequel if the first film underperformed, and the cinematic nature of the narrative definitely shines through in Foster’s writing.

  4. The Jedi Academy Trilogy

    Author: Kevin J. Anderson

    Books in the Trilogy: Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, Champions of the Force

    When watching the films in the sequel trilogy, it becomes very clear that they take a great deal of influence from 1994’s The Jedi Academy trilogy. Collectively, the three books tell the story of Luke’s attempt to create a new Jedi Order, his quest to find suitable candidates, and even one’s turn to the Dark Side due to the influence of a malevolent spirit. Although the subsequent novel I, Jedi retcons some of the trilogy’s major plot points, it still remains a favorite among fans (and apparently Lucasfilm, too).

  5. Legacy of the Force Series

    Authors: Aaron Allston, Karen Traviss, Troy Denning

    Books in the Series: Betrayal, Bloodlines, Tempest, Exile, Sacrifice, Inferno, Fury, Revelation, Invincible

    This nine-book series takes place approximately 40 years after the events of A New Hope, and it’s perhaps most notable for exploring Han and Leia’s son Jacen’s long and tumultuous fall to the Dark Side. However, the series – particularly Bloodlines – also brings Boba Fett back into the fold, expanding on not only his family but the Mandalorians. Some have criticized the Legacy of the Force series for how dark it is, but at the end of the day, the galaxy can sometimes be a very dark place. Nevertheless, in true Star Wars fashion, the story still manages to end on a hopeful note, as the Second Galactic Civil finally comes to an end and Han and Leia fondly reminisce about who their son used to be before he became Darth Caedus. 

  6. The Dark Lord Trilogy

    Authors: James Luceno, Matthew Stover

    Books in the Trilogy: Labyrinth of Evil, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (novelization), Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

    The Dark Lord trilogy is a unique entry on this list because the second book in the series is actually the novelization of the Revenge of the Sith film. Furthermore, the three books weren’t actually released as a trilogy, but because they form a singular story arc, Lucasfilm eventually decided to collect them as such. The trilogy deals with the final days of the Galactic Republic and Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the Dark Side, and although much of this explored in Episode III, the novelization expands upon it in much further detail. Plus, the final novel also recounts Vader’s rise to prominence in the aftermath of the prequel trilogy, including his identity crisis as he seeks to completely rid himself of the Anakin Skywalker persona. 

  7. Darth Plagueis

    Author: James Luceno

    In Darth Plagueis, we learn the entire backstory of the eponymous Dark Lord of the Sith, who’s only mentioned in passing in Revenge of the Sith. The book begins with Plagueis killing his Master, Darth Tenebrous, and then begins to explore his various experiments with midi-chlorians in an attempt to manipulate life. However, it also explores the full tenure of Sheev Palpatine’s apprenticeship under Plagueis, culminating with the events of The Phantom Menace. In fact, seeing moments from Episode I told from Plagueis’ perspective can actually help paint that film in a more favorable light for those put off by the prequels.

  8. The Darth Bane Trilogy

    Author: Drew Karpyshyn

    Books in the Trilogy: Path of Destruction, Rule of Two, Dynasty of Evil

    The Darth Bane trilogy recounts the titular Dark Lord’s elimination of the current Sith regime, believing their constant infighting to be their undoing. He then takes on an apprentice named Rain, who is later dubbed Darth Zannah, thereby establishing his new Order of the Sith Lords. The trilogy is most notable for introducing the concept of the Rule of Two, which dictates that there can only be two Sith at any given time – a Master and an apprentice. This, of course, was a rule that was strictly adhered to by such Dark Side users as Plagueis, Palpatine, and Vader, which makes the Darth Bane trilogy highly influential in the greater Sith mythos.

  9. The New Jedi Order Series

    Authors: R. A. Salvatore, Michael A. Stackpole, James Luceno, Kathy Tyers, Greg Keyes, Troy Denning, Elaine Cunningham, Aaron Allston, Matthew Stover, Walter Jon Williams, Sean Williams, Shae Dix

    Books in the Series: Vector Prime, Dark Tide I: Onslaught, Dark Tide II: Ruin, Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial, Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse, Balance Point, Edge of Victor I: Conquest, Edge of Victory II: Rebirth, Star by Star, Dark Journey, Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream, Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand, Traitor, Destiny’s Way, Force Heretic I: Remnant, Force Heretic II: Refugee, Force Heretic III: Reunion, The Final Prophecy, The Unifying Force

    Decidedly the longest series of novels in the EU, The New Jedi Order begins 21 years after Return of the Jedi, covering a four-year span and detailing a massive invasion by a race of religious zealots known as the Yuuzhan Vong. The series is also notable for including the controversial death of Chewbacca, the death of Anakin Solo, and the transformation of Jacen Solo into one of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy. Much like the Legacy of the Force series, some have criticized The New Jedi Order for being too dark, citing instances of torture and countless deaths. However, the series remains one of the most influential and ambitious projects to ever come out of the EU.

  10. The Thrawn Trilogy

    Author: Timothy Zahn

    Books in the Trilogy: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command

    There’s a reason fans were so elated to learn that Grand Admiral Thrawn was joining the cast of Star Wars Rebels back in Season 3, and that reason is The Thrawn Trilogy. The story follows the military exploits of Thrawn, who managed to rise to prominence in the Empire despite its strict speciesist policies. Additionally, a subplot sees the Dark Jedi Joruss C’baoth attempt to coerce Luke, Leia, and the Solo children into becoming his apprentices, even going so far as to create an evil clone of Luke. The Thrawn Trilogy doesn’t just introduce Thrawn and Luuke, though – it also introduces Mara Jade, who is perhaps the most beloved and missed character from the EU. Couple that with the most compelling Star Wars villain since Darth Vader and it’s easy to see why The Thrawn Trilogy secures the number-one spot on this list.