For a few years now, when the weather gets a bit colder here in the Bay Area and the local supermarkets are starting to put out pumpkin spice this or cranberry sauce that, it means the best time of year is upon us: the next installment to the Star Wars legacy! Yup, Episode 8, The Last Jedi, hits theaters on December 15th and after years of anticipation, we’ll finally find out who Rey is (a Kenobi, in my opinion), whether Captain Phasma will match how badass her armor is in an actually battle, and will Porgs be the savior to that feeling of staleness in our mouths that was Jar Jar Binks? All these questions (well, maybe not all of them) will hopefully be answered when Rian Johnson presents his film this holiday season.
In anticipation of Episode 8, I wanted to discuss how I, as a Star Wars fan, prepares for such a momentous occasion, especially since The Force Awakens premiered 2 years ago and we got a taste of the type of new canon films Lucasfilm is offering in Rogue One. Since I’m a commuter, I find myself spending two hours a day on the train, so naturally, reading books in my spare time is time well spent. And this post discusses a few Star Wars novels that I’ve consumed while I wait patiently (and avert my eyes at any new trailer or teaser) for The Last Jedi. Being a huge fan of the Disney XD show, Star Wars Rebels, I’ve come to really appreciate the blue skinned Chiss and tactical genius of Grand Admiral Thrawn that was introduced in season 3. He had been a non-canon fan favorite character that has now been brought into the canon fold by creator and author Timothy Zahn and was first introduced to Star Wars fandom in the Thrawn trilogy under the Star Wars Legends book series in 1991. This novel doesn’t really set us up for Episode 8 but definitely noteworthy for any Star Wars Rebels fans.
This novel’s main story focuses on the early years for Thrawn and how he became the Grand Admiral that we see him as today. What struck me about this novel was how Timothy Zahn was able to weave such an amazing story with what we already know. We see tons of characters that we’ve already met before within canon like Governor Tarkin, Emperor Palpatine (of course), and the hint of Anakin Skywalker. Zahn also introduces us to another character that is directly tied to Thrawn’s own career, Eli Vanto, who is a great character in itself but successfully is used to present this image of Thrawn that is both modern and very refreshing.
When you boil this book down to its main ingredients, you get a really sophisticated and smart story. Some may say this is another war or military story but I challenge them to understand the complexity of the character and how effortlessly Timothy Zahn brings a voice to Thrawn. If you’re a fan of Star Wars Rebels and found Thrawn an interesting character on the show, grab a copy of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn book. You won’t be disappointed!
Now we dive into some novels that will prepare you for The Last Jedi. The next two novels focus on Princess Leia and I’m going to present them out of order from when they were published. Bloodline and Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi Leia, Princess of Alderaan are both written by the amazing Claudia Gray who is known for writing the Star Wars young adult novel, Lost Stars. The reason I want to discuss them out of order is because her Princess of Alderaan book is more of an origin story for Leia and focuses on her path to the Rebel Alliance and presents the character as a 16 year old girl. Claudia’s book, Bloodline, occurs 6 years before The Force Awakens and presents the Leia that we all know and love from the Original Trilogy but expands on her character in the best possible way, introducing her nickname as “Huttslayer”.
Let’s begin with Princess of Alderaan which was released on September 1, 2017 in preparation for The Last Jedi. Like I mentioned before, we are introduced to Leia as a 16 year old girl trying to navigate her world as she becomes the Princess of Alderaan but also how she gets involved with what will become known as the Rebel Alliance. Gray presents a really awesome picture of a young Leia which we’ve never really seen before. I honestly pictured Millie Bobby Brown in my mind as I read this story since she’s voiced she would jump at that chance at portraying a young Leia on screen. #strangersthingsFTW
We learn about her being a royal and adopted daughter of the Organas but also discover what made her the strong, unwavering symbol of the Alliance through her experiences as the Alderaanian representative to the Apprentice Legislature and her trials to become Alderaan’s Princess.
Personally, I loved being able to learn about a character that I already know but discovering the actual experiences that made her the way she is. It’s enlightening to get a clearer picture of this fan favorite character as a young girl before the events of the Original Trilogy. And the cherry on top for me was learning more about Alderaan and the rich culture they possessed. Claudia Gray does a masterful job in giving us Leia before she was Leia.
The next Claudia Gray novel titled Bloodline occurs in-between Return of the Jedi (ROJ) and The Force Awakens. This book was released on May 3, 2016 and gives us a glimpse of the events that happened after the second Death Star was destroyed. What struck me was the fact that when we saw this happen in ROJ, due to the vast size of the galaxy, some people took it as propaganda. The New Republic struggled for a long time even without Palpatine in power because some people didn’t believe he was gone. So this gives us a peek into what Leia had to experience as Senator but ultimately, how the her path to the Resistance was paved.
Again, Gray does an exemplary job in giving us a story that shows the cracks in the foundation of the New Republic and centering it around Leia was the right choice. When I watched The Force Awakens and Poe Dameron refers to her as General, that got me thinking on why this is. She had always been called Senator or Princess but that reference intrigued me. We learn a lot more about Leia and her involvement with the Resistance but we also get a great story that helps usher in why the Resistance was important and a glimpse in the First Order as well. Definitely a little bit more context on the two groups that are the focus in the newest trilogy.
Regardless if you read any of the canon novels before or after Episode 8, I hope these three stories that we’ve discussed are added to your list. As a book nerd and someone who has read all of the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series, I can vouch that reading these Star Wars novels while I wait for the next installment of one of my favorite fandoms is icing on the cake, with a side of Bantha milk.