Any of you who read my first (or third) blog post is probably able to make an educated guess that I am a Star Wars fan. And, like many of my fellow Star Wars nerds, I am a fan of the Star Wars novels. Well, most of them anyways. While there have, without a doubt, been a good number of great Star Wars books, there have also been a great many misfires. The following list chronicles the best and worst Star Wars novels out there at this time, and will give those that are new to Star Wars novels a clear set of recommendations, as well as a clear list of those that should be avoided.
Star Wars: The Black Fleet Crisis
The Black Fleet Crisis is nothing short of amazing. Like X-Wing, it has a lot to do with politics. And those politics are handled extremely well. Characters are strong, and how characters interact with each other makes a lot of sense, and this is because of the excellent and logical motives that guide each characters actions. The action sequences themselves are also exceptional, but that is true of almost all Star Wars books. So, in short, this book flawlessly combines the politics of the Star Wars universe with excellent storytelling and great action sequences. A masterpiece.
Star Wars Republic Commando (Hard Contact, Triple Zero, True Colors, Order 66)
Hard Contact is easily one of the best Star Wars novels out there. It is related to the Republic Commando video game, but deals with an entirely different squad of Commandos. This series does have overlap with the game, as all of Delta squad are recurring characters, but it follows the adventures of Omega Squad. The entire series explores how the clone troopers were actually treated. It also focuses in on the fact that clone troopers are people too. And in the end, it turns out that they may actually be more human than those who surround them, as their feelings and emotions begin to surface.
The Thrawn Trilogy
I’m not sure if this trilogy is actually called by any specific name. I’ve heard it called the Heir to the Empire trilogy, but I refer to it as simply “The Thrawn Trilogy”, after the main antagonist, Admiral Thrawn. Anyways, this series contains three books (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command). All three are extremely interesting, and deal with how power truly can twist an individual, and what a Jedi really is. Through his extensive use of imagery, Zahn creates an amazing world that truly feels like something right out of the Star Wars universe. The fact that they are officially recognized as canon should be enough to spark the interest of anyone with even a passing like of Star Wars.
Star Wars The New Jedi Order: Traitor & Dark Journey
While the NJO series certainly had it’s high points, they were almost all towards the beginning. Traitor and Dark Journey were the last two bright lights in the darkness before the series descended into simply being “alright”. But they were brilliant. They explored the time after the twins Jaina and Jacen were separated, and each of their journeys that led them further and further away from the light. What these two novels do extremely well is exploring what the difference between a Jedi and a Sith truly is. It explores, through the lens of twins that are similar in many ways, but yet so different in others, how fear, pain, and an overall sense of loneliness really can lead down an increasingly dark path.
Star Wars: X-Wing
The X-Wing series is a personal favorite, as it focuses in on the fighter pilots of the New Republic, and this allows for some truly amazing action sequences. And while that is great, and adds a lot to this series, it is not as simple as that. It explores the politics behind the formation behind the formation of the New Republic, and how the Empire really was dismantled, which added a lot to the plot, especially since it is handled so very, very well. Furthermore, the chemistry between characters in this series is awesome, as it shows how the characters change in both mentally and emotionally over the course of the series.
The Old Republic Novels (Fatal Alliance & Deceived)
Both of these go deep into the minds of their lead characters, and are nothing short of exceptional. They offer great character development, excellent stories, and insight into what it means to be a Jedi/Sith. I liked Deceived better, to be honest, as it goes into the whole theme of how power corrupts, which always makes for great reads in the Star Wars universe, especially when Sith are the subject matter. They also offer insight into an era that has never been explored before, which is extremely awesome.
Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi
It had it’s high points towards the beginning, and really had the potential to be a great series. And maybe that’s why it’s in the bad section of this post. It hit the ground running, and then began to descend into being simply mediocre. Exploring how the Force really works should have been awesome. But having a team of four (I think) authors working on the series gave me a feel of the books being sort of disconnected, as different writing styles, unlike in the New Jedi Order, or even Legacy of the Force, detracted from the series. Also, the mystery of the Force should have been left intact, as it is one of those mysteries that drives the Star Wars universe. Also, the main plot was detracted from by all the other side plots that could have been their own series, and were connected to the main plot in weird ways. And Ben and Vestara’s relationship always felt a bit forced and a bit too Romeo and Juliet like at times.
Young Jedi Knights
A few of these were good.But it didn’t really do much for the overall plot of the Star Wars universe. Sure, it’s interesting looking back at what characters were before the events of Legacy of the Force, but they’re really not that great. Many of them feel like the writers had simply run out of ideas, and the plots are simple. There is a little character development, at least among the later books, but the majority were weak, filled with characters that seemed to only have been created so that Jaina and Jacen weren’t alone in their training. Later, these characters make a name for themselves, but they are all extremely weak in this series.
The Courtship of Princess Leia
This book, no matter how essential it is to the series, is really, really bad. It’s extremely poorly written, and the plot really doesn’t make much sense. It introduces characters, that much like Young Jedi Knights, later make a name for themselves, but seem pointless. The events of this book were unneeded. Han and Leia’s marriage could have merely been a side plot in another novel, and that would have made much more sense than having a WHOLE BOOK about how exactly it happened.
The Corellian Trilogy
These books were filler. Their only use was to set the stage for later novels, as they unveiled what Centerpoint Station could really do. And it all felt a bit empty. The plot was mediocre at best, and character development was virtually non existent. There’s really not much more to say about this series. It’s lackluster. It’s weak. And they’re worth the time.
Star Wars Adventures
These 8 books are like the Batman & Robin of Star Wars novels. They’re the children’s books that were meant for older people, but fell flat on their faces with lackluster characters, plots that make absolutely no sense, and characters whose motives are never really clear. In short, this series is a mess.
And… Those That Fall Somewhere in the Middle
Legacy of the Force
Legacy of the Force is good. It explores the complex relationship of the Skywalker family very, very well. But other than that, this series doesn’t do anything new with the Star Wars universe. It’s good, but not necessarily amazing.
The Jedi Academy Trilogy
This gives us a good look at how Luke Skywalker began the New Jedi Order. It has some great new characters that are developed over the course of the trilogy, and is a must read for anyone getting into the Star Was novels, but don’t expect to be wowed.
To finish this, I’m going to say this: There are a lot of Star Wars books out there. The majority, as can be seen, are great series. However, there are some series that had great potential, but never unlocked it, while others were simply terrible form the beginning. So, for anyone into Star Wars, check these novels out, and please, read them. They’re great.