There's always a bit of truth in legends...
From the moment the credits rolled on A New Hope in the summer of 1977, fans of Star Wars have asked one question: what’s next?
While those same fans patiently waited for George Lucas to craft the next installment of his space opera for the silver screen, they didn’t have to wait that long for more Star Wars. In 1978, Alan Dean Foster released a book entitled Splinter of the Mind’s Eye that detailed a new adventure in which Luke and Leia once again face off against the evil Darth Vader. And thus, the Expanded Universe, or “EU,” was born.
The Expanded Universe is a term that encompasses any and all Star Wars stories outside of the movies and, later, the TV shows. Of course, with such a vast, rich galaxy for a setting, it’s no wonder that the EU attracted many authors who crafted their own interpretations of what our heroes might face. Everyone wanted a chance to pen a story from a galaxy far, far away. So, from Splinter of the Mind’s Eye on, the EU burst forward with new stories, new species, new planets, and new predicaments.
Once Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, the EU was altered. It was essentially split into Legends and Canon. “Legends” referred to all stories outside of the movies and TV shows that had been written up to that point, whereas “Canon” would refer to novelizations of the films and all subsequent, new stories that were released. In other words, all of the old stories were retconned, but still marketed as what might have been rather than what absolutely was. They were more of what-ifs...alternate timelines…stories for around the campfire…myths.
This may sound as if Legends were relegated to a less important position. But in actuality, those stories are in many ways more true to the spirit of Star Wars fandom than any others. Fans had been telling their own stories, conjuring up their own adventures, and sharing their own ideas as to what our heroes were up to for years. Legends were just those dreams put into writing.
Even today, after ten feature films and several television series have created a more fleshed out idea of what “Star Wars” really entails, Legends continue to appeal to readers because, at their heart, they speak to the soul of every fan. They harken back to a time—perhaps the very first time—when all of us first saw the crawl float off into space…when we were first transported to that galaxy far, far away…when we believed that anything and everything was possible.
To help navigate such a vast amount of material, all of us here at Youtini have created what we believe to be the easiest, simplest guide for those looking to break into the Legends material. Based on whatever era most interests you, keep reading to find out the best places to start, our favorite novels, and everything in between!
“The Old Republic” refers to the time period that the Galactic Senate served as the governing body of the galaxy. The era of its rule, stretching between the years 25,000 BBY - 1000 BBY, is best known for struggles between the Jedi and Sith, both of whom were abundant during that time. Across such a vast time period, there is a plethora of material to craft intriguing stories, and the authors who operate in this era take advantage of that fact.
Many readers of the Old Republic era had their interest first sparked by the popular video games Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. For those of like mind, diving into the four book Old Republic series and tie-in novel, Red Harvest, may be the best place to start. Each book follows a different major character from the game, along with some other familiar supporting characters. Ultimately, they work as a series as well as stand-alone novels, so cherry-picking your favorite characters or reading outside of chronological order won’t hurt your experience at all!
While the Old Republic may have been full of Jedi and Sith, if non-Force users are more your speed, then Annihilation by Drew Karpyshyn is for you. The fast paced, action-packed novel follows Republic Intelligence Agent Theron Shan as he and his comrades work against the clock to battle Darth Karrid.
If you like a mix of Empire and Republic storylines—whether they’re facing each other in epic battle or being forced to work together—then both Fatal Alliance and Deceived may be for you. Fatal Alliance features Republic and Sith agents, a Republic trooper, a Mandalorian, and a Jedi Padawan who must join forces to stop a severe threat to the galaxy. Deceived follows the story of Darth Malgus as he navigates a tenuous peace treaty between the Empire and Republic.
Finally, we come to the Darth Bane trilogy (beginning with Path of Destruction). You guessed it...this series follows the life of Sith Lord Darth Bane! From simple beginnings as a farmer to formative years as a student of the Sith Academy, Bane quickly grows into a force with which to be reckoned. Bane takes on an apprentice of his own and works to unite the Dark Side, and eventually the entire galaxy, under the Rule of Two. However, in time, Master and student both fall prey to their own ambitions and must face each other in a battle that decides who is the ultimate power in the universe. If you want a tale full of twists and turns, excitement, and of course plenty of Dark Side Force powers, you will not be disappointed.
John Jackson Miller is a tentpole author for the Old Republic, and has fittingly penned many stories in the era.
If you are interested in Sith history, you may want to start with Miller’s Lost Tribe of the Sith collection which consists of nine short stories. These stories detail the events that followed a Sith mining ship known as Omen that crash landed on Kesh—a planet yet undiscovered by the Galactic Republic—and the surviving crew’s struggle and determination to rule.
Knight Errant, also by Miller, serves as a tie-in novel to the comic series of the same name. This novel depicts the conflict between two brothers and Sith Lords, Odion and Daiman. Set in a Sith-dominated period of the galaxy, a lone Jedi named Kerra Holt seeks to destroy the Dark Lords and bring an end to their merciless rule.
Before an empire can fall, it must rise. Therefore, some of the most significant stories in the entire Star Wars timeline come from this era. Not only do those stories outline important events seen in the movies, but they also add incredible depth. Within the pages of these books, we encounter well-known plot points like the ascendency of Palpatine to the throne and the birth of Darth Vader, but also find brand new stories about secret apprentices, the exile of a war hero, and the man responsible for teaching Darth Sidious everything he knew.
As important as Darth Plagueis is for setting up the prequels—and the Skywalker saga as a whole—it’s a book filled with history and significant exposition. It can take awhile to get through, and might turn new readers off if it’s their first step into Legends.
For that reason, both The Force Unleashed and Kenobi are ideal starting points. The former intensifies the Empire’s (and Darth Vader’s) destructive entanglement with the Dark Side. The latter features a familiar, fan-favorite character and details his adjustment to life after the Jedi Purge.
The Force Unleashed duology starts with a young Force-sensitive boy being plucked from his home world by a masked, heavily armored Sith Lord. Vader “raises” Starkiller as a Sith apprentice and assassin, only to eventually become his enemy. The second book in the series eventually bridges the gap between the Prequel and Original Trilogy eras, detailing one account of how the Rebel Alliance was established.
Kenobi begins where Revenge of the Sith ends. A stranger arrives on Tatooine carrying burdens he must keep secret as he is forced to watch over an innocent Clone Wars refugee of sorts. Readers watch Kenobi (“Ben”) struggle not to intervene in a local Tatooine village's private affairs, consistently turning to his former Master for guidance.
The Han Solo trilogy shows us where our beloved smuggler came from and what he was up to prior to the events of A New Hope. Before Solo: A Star Wars Story, we didn’t know anything about Solo’s origin or what eventually landed him on Tatooine at just the right time. This trilogy expands upon Solo’s character and makes it even easier to love who he eventually becomes in and beyond the movies.
The Republic Commando series based on the video game of the same name follows the six original clones of Jango Fett—deemed “Null-class”—as they navigate the terrors and triumphs of the Clone Wars. Saved from destruction by a Mandalorian soldier named Kal Skirata, this elite squadron shows readers the human side of fighting in the Galactic Army of the Republic.
James Luceno's Darth Plagueis is a dense story that spans decades, but establishes several key origin stories for characters that fans know well. Readers learn how Darth Maul came to exist, how Plagueis seduced Palpatine to the Dark Side, and how the Sith apprentice ultimately came to betray his master. There was a lot more going on behind-the-scenes of The Phantom Menace than we initially realized, but Luceno lays it out beautifully. This is how darkness truly began to rise.
The Rebellion era—the very first era in the Star Wars timeline that George Lucas introduced to fandom—is not only home of the Original Trilogy, but a host of many other enticing stories. It covers the time period from two years before the events of A New Hope all the way up until five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. With the fate of the galaxy in turmoil amidst the struggle between the Empire and the Rebellion, It’s a natural breeding ground for some of the most engaging material in all of Legends.
There’s not much debate here. Why start with any other book than the very first Star Wars novel to have ever been released? Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye—written as a potential sequel to A New Hope—is a fascinating look at the direction the Star Wars saga may have gone.
Set in 2 ABY, Splinter follows the story of Luke and Leia after they have a forced landing on the jungle planet of Mimban. Shortly thereafter, they discover a secret Imperial presence on Mimban that threatens to make their escape from the planet and return to the Rebellion much more difficult than anticipated.
A local Force-sensitive woman by the name of Halla finds Luke and quickly identifies him as another Force-sensitive. She shows Luke a fragment of what she calls a “Kaiburr crystal” and claims that it is a tool which can be used to focus Force energy. She promises to help Luke and Leia escape the Imperials on Mimban if they help her find the rest of the Kaiburr crystal in a local temple. Without many other options, the pair agree.
The newly formed team sets off in search of the crystal. However, before they can lay their hands on the crystal, they must first fight their way through local wild creatures, Imperial forces, and Darth Vader himself…
Not only is Splinter the bedrock for Legends content, it’s also the original source for many of the ideas that continue to propagate through Star Wars lore today. The Kaiburr crystal, for instance, slowly transformed over the years to become canon’s kyber crystals, which continue to serve a deep, albeit slightly altered, purpose in canon today. Furthermore, Splinter planted the seeds for several plot points that found their way into subsequent films including a non-Force-sensitive character wielding a lightsaber and Luke leaving Vader…less than whole following a duel.
Of course, there are many things in the novel that are vastly different from where the saga actually ended up going, like a romantic subplot between Luke and Leia, Vader shooting Force energy balls out of his hands, and the Kaiburr crystal augmenting Luke’s Force abilities (to name a few). But while Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is certainly a far cry from where Star Wars ended up, it is still a fun ride that transports you back to a time when things were just taking off. It certainly captures the meaning behind the term “Legends” in a way that few other novels manage to attain.
Though there aren’t as many series in the Rebellion Era, The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy by K.W. Jeter is a must-read for all fans of the underworld characters first introduced in the Original Trilogy.
Picking up immediately after the destruction of Jabba’s sail barge, each book in the series, including The Mandalorian Armor, Slave Ship, and Hard Merchandise, builds on the mythology surrounding the motley crew of bounty hunters assembled by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. Boba Fett, Dengar, 4-LOM, Zuckuss, Bossk, and newcomers Neelah and Kuat of Kuat make appearances that not only further develop their own stories, but also flesh out the code that they abide by as members of the Bounty Hunters Guild.
Fans of Prince Xizor will be delighted to know that he also plays a role in this series as the architect of a grand plan to turn the bounty hunters against each other, thereby disintegrating the Bounty Hunters Guild and further solidifying the power of the Empire and Black Sun crime syndicate.
While it may not be the official storyline, what Star Wars fan doesn’t want to believe that Boba Fett escaped the sarlacc?
You’d be hard pressed to find an author more important to the Star Wars Expanded Universe than Timothy Zahn. Naturally, the Rebellion Era is not without his contribution. Zahn’s Scoundrels is a classic heist story involving none other than Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian.
After Han’s reward for helping the Rebellion at the Battle of Yavin is stolen, he finds himself on the planet Wukkar, where he is approached by a local who asks for his help in exacting revenge on a local crime lord. The crime lord had stolen hundreds of millions of credits from the local’s family and was keeping them stored away in a heavily guarded, supposedly impregnable vault in Marblewood Estate.
As a desperate, penniless scoundrel, Han decides that any job worth a split of the credits is worth it. He assembles team members with the very specific, very formidable skills that will be necessary to pull off the borderline suicidal heist of a century. However, more than a few twists and turns along the way threaten to derail the entire operation and leave Han wondering which of the people standing by his side can be trusted…
The New Republic era, spanning from 5 to 25 ABY, is incredibly important to the existence of Legends as a whole. Essentially, it was this era where the films passed the torch—and the responsibility of carrying the entire Star Wars saga—to the books. At a time when it seemed the words ‘Star Wars’ might never again grace the movie theater marquee, it was these books that sustained fans worldwide. Offering familiar faces, iconic new villains, and a wealth of fresh adventure, the New Republic era picks up immediately after the Battle of Endor and the destruction of the second Death Star to propel readers on to a whole new adventure!
The Thrawn Trilogy is an inarguable cornerstone for Star Wars Legends, so every reader makes their way to it eventually (often sooner rather than later). Throughout the three-book series including Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command, author Timothy Zahn crafts a compelling story featuring an iconic new villain in Grand Admiral Thrawn. The red-eyed, blue-skinned Chiss commander is the consummate tactician whose military prowess and attention to detail make him at times seem utterly infallible. Luke and the rest of the team must to find a way to overcome this new threat whose sheer intellect is every bit as formidable as the recently fallen Emperor’s Force abilities.
The X-wing series (beginning with Rogue Squadron) is an action-packed 10-book adventure that fulfills every fan’s wildest dreams of what it was like to be a member of Rogue Squadron and, later, Wraith Squadron. Covering several large story arcs, this series basically follows the efforts of Wedge Antilles and his respective wing mates as they take the fight to what’s left of the Empire after the destruction of the second Death Star. Those readers who want to experience the thrill of climbing into the cockpit of an X-wing and firing up the thrusters should look no further!
The Jedi Academy Trilogy, comprised of Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force, was the very first story surrounding Luke’s rebuilding of the Jedi Order (yes, before what was described in The Force Awakens!). Along the way, readers get to meet a new generation of Jedi, encounter evil Imperial technology, and even confront the spirit of an ancient Sith Lord bent on thwarting Luke’s efforts. Not only are these books exciting in and of themselves, but they also lay the groundwork for many of the characters who play major roles through the rest of the Legends timeline.
In case you didn’t know, Timothy Zahn is an absolute giant in the Star Wars universe—even amongst its ever-growing list of impressive contributors. Often credited with the revitalization of Star Wars in the 1990s, Zahn has not only steadily produced engaging, high-quality material, but has also managed to do so in a rather high volume. In the New Republic era alone, we have his Thrawn trilogy, the subsequent Hand of Thrawn duology, and a stand-alone novel in Survivor’s Quest. If you’re asking for an author to start with in this time period, Zahn is the obvious answer!
Picking up 21 years after the Battle of Endor, The New Jedi Order (NJO) era is practically a universe within a universe in that it is made up of an absolutely massive amount of material. Contrary to other eras within Star Wars Legends, that material is largely part of the same series and is therefore tightly interconnected. The NJO series itself contains 19 novels, three novellas, and three short stories written by a grand total of 12 different authors that detail Luke and company’s struggle against the Yuuzhan Vong, a species of alien invaders religiously dedicated to genetic modification of organic materials in lieu of mechanical technology. The Yuuzhan Vong’s staunch hatred of technology is not benign. A full-on war ensues that promises to alter the very fate of the galaxy, including that of many of our heroes as well.
Clearly, the NJO series has a healthy dose of the “weird” that is instrumental to the best Legends material. If you’re truly looking to lose yourself in a series and don't mind working through a huge amount of material, this is a great place to start. Not to mention, all subsequent material in the Legacy era rests upon the foundation of the NJO!
Given that this era mostly consists of one series, the best place to start is also the most obvious: book one in the New Jedi Order series, Vector Prime by RA Salvatore. Released in 1999, this novel serves as the springboard for the rest of the series by introducing the Yuuzhan Vong, who arrive in force aboard their organic ships. For the majority of the novel, Luke, Mara Jade, Han, Leia, Chewie, and the Solo children spend their time learning about their new adversaries and becoming familiar with their strange technology. However, everything comes to a cataclysmic conclusion on the planet Sernpidal, which the Yuuzhan Vong attempt to destroy by bringing a moon crashing down upon it.
Not only did Vector Prime garner attention as the start of a brand new Legends series written by a celebrated science fiction/fantasy author, but also because of the untimely demise of a beloved character within its pages. To avoid spoilers, we won’t say anything other than that readers will most certainly be shocked!
For any reader looking to make the jump from the NJO era into the Legacy era, it’s important not to skip Troy Denning’s Dark Nest Trilogy. The series, made up of The Joiner King, The Unseen Queen, and The Swarm War, serves as an important bridge between the events of the NJO series and the Legacy of the Force.
On a large scale, this series details our heroes fighting yet another invasive alien species—this time in the form of the Killiks—who use a hive mind approach to attempt to take over the galaxy. However, on a smaller scale, there are several important subplots that begin to develop characters who are essential for the Legacy of the Force series. Particularly, the plight of the Solo children, which is fundamental to the overarching plot of the Legacy era, begins to unfold.
Anyone who has read the Republic Commando series is familiar with Karen Traviss’ work. In the NJO era, she returns to bring us an untold story of Boba Fett!
That’s right...while the canon storyline leaves Boba Fett in the sarlacc pit, Legends has the freedom to not only get him out, but send him on brand new adventures!
Of course, no one in the galaxy was immune to the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, and Jedi are not the only ones who can fight for themselves. In Boba Fett: A Practical Man, Traviss details how the mighty Mandalorians handled their own encounters with the alien aggressors, including the laying of a trap that promises to pass on vital knowledge to the New Republic.
Traviss truly has a knack for bringing the reader inside the helmet of traditionally faceless characters, which she once again skillfully executes in this book. Whether you’re a fan of bounty hunters, Mandalorian culture, or just Boba Fett himself, this story is a great read!
Now comes the final installment of Star Wars legends—the era that establishes a new generation of Jedi, heroes, and villains. These books also offer a conclusion to the Original Three’s storyline (though probably not in the way you’re expecting), giving readers an official Legends conclusion to signify the literal end of an era.
Here we learn about a second Galactic Civil War between the Confederation and Galactic Federation of Free Alliances, as well as the ultimate fate of Jacen Solo after his fall from grace.
When it comes to the Legacy era novels, it’s probably best to start at the beginning of the timeline—the Legacy of the Force series—which kicks off with Betrayal by Aaron Allston. This book essentially sets the stage for the rest of the era by introducing the Second Galactic Civil War and the subsequent conflicts that emerge from it, including the deaths of several key characters.
Of note, there are several stand-alone books in this era. However, do not (we repeat, do NOT) pick up Troy Denning’s Crucible if you haven’t read the other books in this era first. Keep reading for a full explanation.
The Legacy of the Force series spans nine books and chronicles yet another full-scale galactic war between planetary powers. Along the way, they not only further expand the story of Luke, Han, and Leia, but also continue to establish the new generation of heroes who we met in previous eras. None of these characters has more of a hand in the galaxy-changing events of this series than Jacen Solo—the son of Han and Leia who finds himself falling deeper into a relationship with the Dark Side. Sound familiar? Legends did it first!
The other major series in the Legacy era is the Fate of the Jedi series, which picks up two years after the conclusion of Legacy of the Force. Luke, Han, Leia, and Jaina Solo navigate a galaxy torn apart by the familiar threat of war, but soon find themselves facing a new challenge in a universe that sees Jedi as dangerous and untrustworthy.
What we refer to as the Crosscurrent series, comprised of both Riptide and Crosscurrent, takes place during the Great Hyperspace War and follows Jaden Korr (yes, THAT Jaden Korr—of Jedi Academy fame) and his quest to defeat a dangerous Dark Side enemy. Also featured: accidental hyperspace time-travel. Old Republic characters in the New Republic era is not a bad way to tell a Star Wars story.
There is really no other way to conclude the Legends guide than with frequent Star Wars contributor Troy Denning, as he had the honor of penning Crucible, the final novel in the Legends timeline. This story pits Luke, Leia, and Han against the highest stakes we’ve ever seen and, in more ways than one, concludes their adventures once and for all. As the last of the Original Three's stories to fall into readers’ hands before Disney’s official canon reboot, it not only brought an end to a decades-long odyssey in the Star Wars universe, but also provided closure to legions of fans who had become invested along the way.
Many fans have overlooked Legends, whether because they were newer to Star Wars and unaware that these stories existed or because they were only concerned with today’s canon material. Either way, according to all of us at Youtini, that means they’re missing out!
Don’t deprive yourself of these stories! They promise to take you on a journey that is not only extraordinarily fun, but also stays true to the spirit of the original Star Wars material. Armed with this guide, we’re confident that you can successfully navigate the Legends timeline and, in doing so, be rewarded with a vast collection of new characters, planets, and classic Star Wars adventures!
From all of us at Youtini, happy reading and may the Force be with you!
For a complete list of all books in the Legends timeline, as well as bios on each one, visit the Timeline section of the website!