"I am Darth Vader, he repeated as he ground the dragon's corpse to dust beneath his mental heel, as he watched the dragon's dust and ashes scatter before the blast from his furnace heart, and you—You are nothing at all." — Matthew Stover, Revenge of the Sith
No other character in the Star Wars universe even comes close to being as thoroughly developed and beloved as Darth Vader. He’s the baddest, boldest, darkest, most mysterious villain in the history of pop culture. From blasting through the doors of the Tantive IV, to Force-choking Captain Antilles, to (sort-of) striking down old Ben Kenobi, to expertly eliminating numerous Rebels while piloting his Tie Advanced through the trenches of the Death Star, Darth Vader established himself as a force to be reckoned with. From there, Vader’s character continued to be developed throughout the Original Trilogy: taking out anyone who fails to meet his expectations—even his officers, cunningly trapping our heroes in Cloud City, totally dominating Luke through sheer brutality and flinging objects through the Force, to unveiling his ultimate plan to finally overthrow the Emperor with his son at his side. In Return of the Jedi, Vader’s redemption is the most powerful redemption analogy in all fiction—even if the face under the mask wasn’t quite what we were expecting.
The Prequel Trilogy marked not only a massive turning point in Star Wars storytelling, but in Vader/Anakin’s mythology as well. George Lucas started talking about the saga as the story of Anakin Skywalker in an overarching operatic way. We met a charming and gifted little boy, showing flashes of Vader in his expertise behind the wheel of the podracer and starfighter, and his fixation on family as he experiences the tremendous loss in being ripped from his mother in order to train as a Jedi. Attack of the Clones advanced Anakin’s story by a decade, placing him at the end of his training under Ob-Wan. He’s headstrong, quick-tempered, and desperate for love. He is rendered useless when faced with the power of a Sith Lord. He takes tragic steps down a dark path as he loses his mother and takes the lives of the tribe of Tusken Raiders. He crosses yet another line of the Jedi as he marries Padmé on her homeward of Naboo.
Revenge of the Sith is Vader’s origin story in a more focused sense. He is a true hero of the galaxy, having been tried and tested in the Clone Wars. But in his attempt to find love after losing his mother, Anakin has fallen under the influence of a Sith Lord. In relying on Palpatine as his father figure, the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise is the tease he needed to tempt Anakin to the Dark Side as he desperately desires to save Padmé from meeting a similar fate as his mother. As Anakin aided Palpatine against Mace Windu and subsequently stormed the Jedi Temple (RIP younglings), and took violent action against both his wife and Master on Mustafar, Vader was born in a womb of fire, rage, betrayal, and deception.
Not to mention the indisputably best all-time Vader scene, where he ravaged the Rebels in pursuit of the Death Star plans at the end of Rogue One!
In the Expanded Universe, the Dark Lord has received dedicated attention across Canon and Legends, prose and comics. Darth Vader is to Star Wars what Wolverine is to the X-Men universe; he’s everywhere all the time, having virtually every corner of his chronology fleshed out. Just when you think we couldn’t get any more Vader, yet another mind-blowing book is published. The remarkable thing is that the vast majority of Darth Vader stories are remarkably well-written. If you’ve come to love Vader through the films, you’re in for a treat in the EU.
This guide is specifically for the Vader side of Skywalker; for more on the Jedi, Anakin, we’ve got a guide in the works for him too! With Vader, you can’t go wrong with any of these recommendations. A good starting point would be either Revenge of the Sith’s novelization (one of our foundational five EU books!) for an in-depth perspective on Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side. Legendary comics creator Charles Soule recently wrapped up his masterpiece series, Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, which begins shortly after ROTS and wrestles with everything from Vader’s lingering desire to rescue Padmé from death to his complicated feelings for Palpatine to his quest to defeat the last of the Jedi and construct his iconic Sith lightsaber. Lords of the Sith was one of the first books under the umbrella of the new canon, and serves as an outstanding Vader/Palpatine team-up story as they look to squash the threat of the Ryloth rebellion. While it doesn’t explicitly feature Darth Vader himself, Bloodline is included because it explores the story Leia discovering the truth about her father’s true identity.
But we can’t leave out Legends! James Luceno’s Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader told the story of Vader getting acclimated to the armor and to his new Sith persona, seeking to prove himself in the new Empire as he tracks down a band of renegade Jedi survivors. This theme of taking out remaining Jedi pervades this era, as is seen in the Purge comics and in The Force Unleashed.
This barely scratches the dark surface of the galaxy’s greatest cyborg, and will without a doubt be doubled before we know it. Love him or hate him—perhaps both—Vader is irresistible for his potential in storytelling. When you’ve read a few of these, you’ll never underestimate the power of the Dark Side again.
Every Star Wars movie has an accompanying novelization, but none so impressive as Revenge of the Sith. While it expertly tells the story of the film, it also manages to add to it in unexpected ways. Not only is it the best novelization, it’s a fantastic work of fiction in and of itself.
Matthew Stover outdoes himself in this novelization by painting Obi Wan, Anakin, and the rest of the Jedi as glorified super heroes in the eyes of the common man in the Star Wars universe. Somehow, this raises the stakes of one of the most intense episodes of the saga and makes Anakin’s ultimate fate even more impactful.
The most iconic Sith duo is that of Darth Sidious and Darth Vader. When it comes to the films, the immense power of their strengths combined remains to be seen. Lords of the Sith offers the display of unrivaled power that we deserve, and Paul S. Kemp delivers those brutal moments in vivid detail.
The magnitude of chaos and destruction unleashed by the Sith Lords is emphasized alongside the sheer terror and hopelessness of the rebels attempting to fight against them. Their despair is even more apparent through the eyes of Cham Syndulla, Hera Syndulla’s father and rebel leader of Ryloth, showing that even the most courageous minds are no match for the dark side.
After the fall of the Empire, the Senate is split into the Populist and Centrist parties. Both profess the goal of restoring the Republic, though they are unable to set aside their opposing views. Tired of the pointless bickering within the Senate, Leia takes on one final mission before retiring. However, the mission proves to be bigger than she originally thought, inducing chaos and unveiling corruption.
Leave it to Claudia Gray to make politics exciting with action and drama! Bloodline is also an excellent gateway into the sequel trilogy, making this an essential read for fans interested in that era.
Compared with other villainous characters in the Star Wars universe, very little is known about Grand Moff Tarkin. Yet he remains one of the most hated Imperials of all time. He’s the one who gave the command that left Alderaan in ruins. He is unsympathetic and menacing. A man of true evil.
Leave it to James Luceno to craft a Wilhuff Tarkin origin story audiences never knew they needed. Five years after the birth of the Empire, we meet a man who has yet to rise through the ranks to become the tyrant we know he will become. Tarkin’s refusal to let anyone or anything stand in his path will get him exactly where he wants to go … but not without cost.
Throughout all Star Wars stories, you’d be hard-pressed to find two villains held in higher regard than Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn. Though they operate entirely differently, both are incredibly effective tools of the Emperor. When they’re sent to the planet Batuu on the same mission, they must find a way to work together. However, sparks fly as memories of a mission long past involving a younger Thrawn and Anakin Skywalker resurface…
Timothy Zahn weaves together the prequel era with the rebellion era in this novel that manages to pull together some of the biggest names that Star Wars has to offer. While attempting to balance the prowess of Vader with the intellect of Thrawn, it manages to offer a glimpse in the characters’ futures as well as their pasts.
What if Vader had taken on a forbidden apprentice with whom he planned to overthrow the Emperor’s reign? The Force Unleashed answers this question by following the story of the nameless apprentice as he carries out several missions at Vader’s bidding. However, as he explores the galaxy and builds new relationships with those other than his merciless master, the apprentice begins to question his own role in the fate of the galaxy.
In The Force Awakens, Sean Williams composes a brand new story perfectly wedged into a well-known time period complete with a full cast of refreshing new characters. As a stand-alone or a part of the larger saga, this story is a fun read for any fan.