One of the first things fans of the classic Star Wars Extended Universe, now called the “Legacy” series, will tell you to read is the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. These were among the first books to come out back of the EU, and directly follow the events of Return of the Jedi. In fact, some fans will tell you these are the only books in the EU worth reading. I don’t know if I agree with that assessment, but they are certainly a lot of fun. The Rebellion has won the war and begun to reorganize into the New Republic, but the Empire isn’t ready to let go of power, and without their old enemies to unite against anymore, some of the alliances they created during the war aren’t as solid as our heroes would have thought.
Check out The Last Command in the library’s OverDrive collection.
Multiple-time bestselling author Timothy Zahn not only brings back all your favorite characters, but also introduces many new ones, including Mara Jade -a former aide for Emperor Palpatine himself who is starting to question which side she should be on – and Grand Admiral Thrawn as the main antagonist. Thrawn is a Dark Jedi, a former supporter of Emperor Palpatine, attempting to reassert the Empire’s control of the galaxy after the Rebellion’s victory in Return of the Jedi. Here’s a fun fact I learned from Joe, by the way: the difference between a Sith Lord and a Dark Jedi is that a Sith Lord is part of a direct line of succession between Master and Apprentice so rigidly controlled that there can only be two of them in the universe at one time. The last two were Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, both ultimately defeated by Luke Skywalker. So, because he was not trained directly by either of the two previous Sith Lords, Thrawn is merely a Dark Jedi. Very powerful, sure, but not part of that specific class.
This series reads like fanfiction. Solid, entertaining, fast-paced fanfiction. Keep in mind I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism. This is a fully original story with a lot of new threads and worlds to dive into. What I mean is there are several call-backs to memorable moments and lines of dialogue from the movies, thrown in purely for fan nostalgia, that don’t really have any place in the ongoing plot. It’s both endearing and kind of weird at the same time. The reason it works despite the weirdness is the original plots Zahn has come up with are highly engaging.
These books are parts 1, 2 and 3 of the same story arc. You can read the first volume, Heir to the Empire, on its own and be fine leaving a few plot threads dangling, but pick it up in the middle and you will be utterly lost. This is because several new plot elements are introduced in all three books. The first are the “ysalamiri,” lizard-like creatures who create pockets of anomalies in the Force. What that means is that when any Jedi are around them, they will not be able to use their Jedi powers, and in Luke’s case this means finding a way to escape a prison cell without access to the Force for the first time since Episode IV. These creatures are used as a way to level the playing field, so to speak. Characters who aren’t Force-users can now negotiate with and threaten the few Jedi left in the universe without feeling like the other party has an unfair advantage.
Another major plot element is the discovery of a dreadnaught fleet thought to have been lost during the Clone Wars – those are the years of the Empire’s rise to power between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. The title of the second book, Dark Force Rising, refers to this fleet, known as the Dark Force. This surprised me, because I had been expecting something to do with the dark side of the Force, but nope–it’s about a fleet of dangerous, powerful warships that could turn the tide in the favor of whomever can get them into working order first. I won’t give away whether the Empire or the New Republic acquires the dreadnaughts, but there are several ships still unaccounted for, and that makes both sides very nervous.
The real threat is Thrawn’s cloning facility on a hidden base called Wayland. This is the factor that could bring about a second Clone War, which would enable the new Empire to create countless armies from scratch in a matter of weeks. This is what helped them to take over the galaxy in the first place, and it’s a threat that none of the central characters have encountered before. The last book, The Last Command, revolves around our heroes closing in on the secret base and running into some unexpected complications along the way, including Mara Jade and the titular “last command” the Emperor gave her: to kill Luke Skywalker.
I won’t give away the ending here, but by the last volume there are so many factors at play, and the tension has been ramped up for so many of them, that it’s impossible to put down. Although this isn’t the story we’ll be seeing in the new movie coming out this December, it’s still an exciting adventure worthy of the Star Wars name.
Next time, I’m going back to some of the older stories in the Legacy series:
Kenobi, by John Jackson Miller
Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, by Matthew Stover
Darth Plagueis, by James Luceno