Your basic Dwarf+Giant Overview is a comprehensive survey of an author or series. It is not an in-depth analysis, nor is it a summary. Think of it as a buying or reading guide, telling you what’s out there, what’s essential, what to avoid and so forth.
Editor’s intro: This is the seventh post in our Star Wars novels Overview. For brief introductory notes, please see Star Wars Overview: The Old Republic.
*** Indicates the Best.
** Indicates Good.
* Indicates not the best, but still Star Wars, so not bad either.
If you’re looking for any of the X-Wing series, they’re all in New Republic, pt. I.
After a session with Bor Gullet, a little real talk is in order:
I recommend skipping from Isard’s Revenge to I, Jedi, and from that one to Starfighters of Adumar, then skipping again to the Black Fleet Crisis. After that, the next 5 books are good. (Note that in some listings, Isard’s Revenge is after Thrawn.) So, if you are not a completist, the ones you can skip:
Jedi Academy Trilogy
Children of the Jedi
Planet of Twilight
The Crystal Star
Courtship of Princess Leia *
This is one of those books that is okay at best and really doesn’t add anything to the overall Universe. I think it actually diminishes the characters as part of the Universe. The second two thirds of the book are really enjoyable, but the setup for them in the beginning are not. The premise is thin, and the heroes we’ve come to know and love, particularly Leia, become weak minded to the point of losing one’s respect. Give this one a pass.
Tatooine Ghost **
This book was a marked improvement over its predecessor, The Courtship of Princess Leia. Again, it’s not required reading for the Star Wars Universe, but it’s a really fun story. Plenty of action of course, and the tendency for Han to bungle his way into and out of situations is here in full force (see what I did there?). It also explores the love between newlyweds Han and Leia in a very satisfying way.
The best thing about this book, however, is that Leia learns more about Anakin Skywalker by visiting his old haunts on Tatooine. This journey actually gives some serious payoff to The Phantom Menace. Which, come on, is quite a feat for the book to achieve.
Included in this book are the short stories “Corphelion Interlude,” which is cute but missable, and “A Forest Apart,” which is all about Chewbacca and his wife and son who are visiting. A lot of fun, and nice to finally get a peek inside Chewbacca’s mind.
Thrawn Trilogy: Heir to the Empire ***
First, a disclaimer: It was this trilogy, randomly read off the bookshelf in a rented house during a family vacation, that pointed me towards exploring the Star Wars Legends (or Expanded Universe, whatever). As such, these books always make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside from the first page.
Okay, that’s out of the way. This book, while taking a couple licenses that conflict with canon, is wonderfully complex and intriguing. The main antagonist, Thrawn, seems almost too clever for his own good, and his abilities to judge an enemy’s reactions seem too good to not be Force-based, especially considering his method. However, I think he is an incredibly compelling bad guy, and keeps all our favorite canon heroes running nonstop to both evade and attempt to thwart him. The action is great, and the the fact that the reader gets to see every side of the story allows the reader to see when someone guesses wrong, and how that plays out, creating an airtight plot line that doesn’t rely as heavily as some other books on lucky breaks or random chance, which I really appreciate. For as we all know, “There’s no such thing as luck.”
If you read this trilogy, and I recommend you do, read the 20th Anniversary Edition of this book, it contains a great short story, “Crisis of Faith,” that is a prequel to Thrawn’s appearance back in the galaxy.
Thrawn Trilogy: Dark Force Rising ***
This trilogy follows the pattern of A New Hope, Empire, and Jedi, so at times it feels familiar. But I will say the plot that continues to unspool in this book is so good that rarely was I able to predict anything, despite being privy to all sides of the story as the omniscient observer. To paraphrase Mark Twain, this trilogy isn’t a repeat of the original, but it does rhyme. You can tell the author was trying to build upon the story created by Lucas in the movies, but sadly because this trilogy was written in the early nineties, there are some pretty big departures from canon that are hard to ignore.
This book builds on the first book beautifully, and the overall story really is masterful and true to the tone and feel of the original Star Wars films, so I recommend you read it as a fun “alternate history.”
Thrawn Trilogy: Last Command ***
I assume if you are reading this review, then you’ve read the others. So there’s not much more to say. It’s a great book, that’s all there is to it, but the departures from canon grow with each installment, and became quite distracting to me in this one. That doesn’t diminish what a great book it is though. This is a fantastic trilogy, and I completely understand why Disney has brought Thrawn into their official canon story line. He’s a fascinating character. The book concludes beautifully, with only one possible hole that I could see, but it may be a setup for a later story, we’ll see.
Same thing I’ve been saying all along, consider this an alternative history, but read it, it’s really enjoyable.
Jedi Academy Trilogy – Jedi Search *
Give this one a miss. The whole feel is more “The Adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie in Space.” There’s no real thru-line until almost the end of the book, and unless something changes in the next two books, the story is now far enough from canon and the movies that it’s distracting. The quality of the writing is okay, but not good enough to even justify an “alternative universe” reading. Just keep on moving right past this one on the bookshelf.
Jedi Academy Trilogy – Dark Apprentice *
This book is a continuation of the first not only in story but in tone. The main story line, as per the titles, is Luke’s beginning of the Jedi Academy. All the other stories seem glued-on in an effort to create more material. On top of that, each of the main characters goes through some serious ordeals, but you know they’ll make it out, and in the end it felt like the characters were on a hamster wheel – doing a lot, but not going anywhere.
I will say that the characters were written well, and no obnoxious license taken, so that was appreciated. But my impression of the first book seems to be be holding true – give this trilogy a miss.
Jedi Academy Trilogy – Champions of the Force *
I muscled through this one, just to finish the trilogy. Wasn’t real happy with the resolutions of either the main story or any of the comic-book-like maze of other stories. Just skip this whole trilogy.
I, Jedi **
This one is great as a stand alone: written in a noir-like style, and really quite interesting. It’s a page turner, and stars an old favorite character, Corran Horn, developing seeds that were planted for him in the X-Wing series. The only problem is this story winds through that of the Jedi Academy trilogy, so you may be lost if you haven’t read that trilogy. And it isn’t worth reading that trilogy just to have this one book make sense. Well, it MIGHT be worth trying just to be in Corran’s head as he struggles with the insidious nature of the Dark Side of the Force, which really was fun to read. Give it a shot if you want, but it’s no tragedy if you miss it.
Children of the Jedi *
This one was a slog, I’m not gonna lie. Yet another super weapon is discovered and yet another Imperial Admiral (whom we met in earlier books) is trying to use it to restore the Empire. On top of that, it felt like the author had a belief that the Force is to be used as a panacea, for whatever magical or mystical events they wanted to happen in their book. Skip this one too.
And… another super weapon is out to conquer the galaxy, this time through the Hutts. A character actually thinks to themselves in the book, “Will people ever tire of building super weapons?” Well, I sure wish the authors would get sick of writing them. Cloning and superweapons, enough already.
Yeah, I’m starting to refer to every book written after X-Wing, Isard’s Revenge, as the Dark Ages. I also now completely understand why Disney made the books part of Legends, and not canon.
In case you couldn’t guess, skip this one too.
Planet of Twilight *
The Dark Ages continue. At least there is no super weapon someone is building to take over the galaxy because… instead, it’s a super bug! Still something known from the past, that ravaged the galaxy and has no cure. So basically the same plot of all the preceding books but with a disease instead of a physical weapon.
The plot is so convoluted that it’s easy to get lost, and because there are more than a few plot holes, an annoying amount of “convenient” saves are needed to push it along. Back when Disney changed the Star Wars Expanded Universe to Legends, I was angry. Having to slog through the Dark Ages books has given me not just an understanding, but a gratitude to Disney for the decision. I shudder to think these could have been canon.
The Crystal Star *
For the first 250 pages or so, I really enjoyed this book. It even evoked some emotional reactions from me. The villain was yet another old Empirical leader trying to recreate the Empire, but I forgave that because he was creatively done and finally didn’t have a Death Star or some other super weapon or creature that was going to help him take over the galaxy. He was actually gathering followers, you know, building an actual force of people.
And then… splat. Nope, there was a Superbeing, from another dimension who somehow got into the Star Wars universe through a black hole nearby during a Sith ceremony. Even that was a little reminiscent of Pre-Republic Sith, which was cool, but then….
Another giant world type object, (this time with its own sun!) that has a hyperdrive. Seriously? How much money did the Emperor have to build all these incredibly huge bases, ships, worlds, and weapons?
And then all our heroes find each other somehow in the exact same place because of course, The Force. But the place they all end up warps and distorts The Force, and Luke becomes a little insane, despite all his Jedi meditation and training. So somehow luck or The Force is helping them along even where it’s distorted so badly that a Jedi goes crazy and becomes physically ill. Makes total sense.
Wow, slim pickens in this section. Fear not, because up next: New Republic, pt. III — We’re getting really close to the new canon stories.