You’re standing in the aisle of your favorite book store, staring at entire shelves stocked with Star Wars novels. You break out in a cold sweat.
How are there so many? Which ones take place when? And why are some of them tagged Legends and others aren’t? I have a bad feeling about this, you think.
Relax. Use the Force. Youtini is here to help.
Navigating the vast galaxy of Star Wars books can be confusing, but we’ve done our best to make the journey easier. With this guide, you’ll not only get a handle on the various types of Star Wars novels, you’ll get to experience the thrill of a sprawling, interconnected galaxy known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
And for those of you who are already seasoned Star Wars readers, you can trust our team of experts to steer you to your next great read, then pass on what you have learned.
What is the Star Wars Expanded Universe?
Believe it or not, there was once a time where Star Wars content didn’t fill the galaxy.
No yearly movies, no long-running TV series, no extensive library of media tie-ins. Hard to imagine in our current mediascape of everything Star Wars from spin-off films to theme parks to quality live-action shows.
But back in 1977, Star Wars took the world by storm, then left an undeniable void in pop culture once the credits rolled. Fans clamored for more adventures in the galaxy far, far away, but wouldn’t get their next taste until 1978 saw the release of Alan Dean Foster’s novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
The first original book in the Star Wars universe, Foster’s novel ushered in what became known as the Expanded Universe; the collection of content comprising stories outside the Original Trilogy of movies. In the years following, Star Wars novels and comics built the EU into a living, breathing galaxy for fans to explore.
So with decades of content including hundreds of novels, comics, and children’s books, why doesn’t the new trilogy reference them? Great question. It’s because those stories are set in the Legends timeline.
What are Star Wars Legends?
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, they decided to clean up the Star Wars timeline and more clearly define what content aligned with the films.
In general, books released before April 2014 are now considered Legends, meaning they do not officially happen in the same continuity as the films. Think of these stories as sort of myths and fables and, well, legends about your favorite characters. An alternate universe of sorts.
On the other hand, everything published after 2014 is officially labeled Canon and falls into the same continuity as the films and TV shows.
For a deeper look at this split between worlds, check out our article all about The Difference Between Star Wars Canon and Legends.
While Lucasfilm may have enacted Order 66 on the pre-2014 novels, it doesn’t mean these stories are now bantha fodder. They remain fantastic reads and many now inform Canon works.
The gold Legends banner at the cover’s top marks an easy way to tell the difference between Legends and Canon. But if you’re shopping for used books that don’t have the banner, use the Youtini Timeline to tab between Legends and Canon lists and see where they belong.
What are the Best Legends Books to Read First?
It’s important to clarify that the best books may not necessarily be the best books to read first. For that information, we recommend checking out our Getting Started Guide which lists four of the best Legends books (with a little Canon book splashed in there) to get you started on the path.
The following Legends books, however, are the highest quality, most critically acclaimed, and have the most impact on the Legends timeline as a whole. Thus, they are the Best Star Wars Legends Books of All Time.
How We Review Books
A search for best Star Wars books will inundate you with lists from big-name websites that have nothing to do with Star Wars. While some of these may do their best to steer you in the right direction, you aren’t guaranteed that the writers didn’t simply scroll through a bookseller’s snapshot to compose their list of titles.
Not at Youtini.
No Jedi mind tricks or click-baity articles here. Just honest reviews from Star Wars experts who are fans just like you. Our review team is a diverse group with different interests, ideals, life experiences, ages, etc—all with a wealth of knowledge in Star Wars books, Canon and Legends combined.
Sure, reviewing any kind of fandom is a subjective experience, but this is our jam. It’s why we developed an entire Youtini Review System. Our reviewers rate books on a scale of 1-10 based on plot, characters, originality, writing, and entertainment categories.
Best Old School Star Wars Legends Novel
Heir to the Empire & Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
The EU reached new heights in 1991 with the release of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, kicking off the Thrawn trilogy and introducing beloved characters such as Mara Jade, the Solo twins, and Grand Admiral Thrawn himself.
Zahn’s run has been credited with reinvigorating the EU and ushering in the “old school” era of Star Wars stories.
To this day, many still consider the original Thrawn series a crowning achievement of Star Wars storytelling, and we will be eternally grateful for its role in formalizing the entire Expanded Universe.
Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin
Your favorite smuggler stars in his own trilogy by A.C. Crispin.
From his humble beginnings on Corellia in The Paradise Snare to saving a certain beloved Wookiee from Imperial slavers in The Hutt Gambit to making his famous Kessel Run in Rebel Dawn, Crispin expertly weaves Han Solo’s narrative in this exciting series. These plot points even received a few direct nods from 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, highlighting how important these books were to Han’s backstory.
For more info about the first book in the Han Solo Trilogy, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find additional staff comments, user reviews, and affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process.
Best Modern Star Wars Legends Novel
Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi was released in 2013 right before the transition to Canon and Legends, making it a modern Legends tale. Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope during his exile on Tatooine, Obi-Wan Kenobi comes out of hiding to bring an alliance of morally-bankrupt settlers to justice. In Kenobi, Miller brings Star Wars back to its roots as a space western, mixing action, adventure, and even a hint of romance into a stellar narrative.
In fact, our staff loves Kenobi so much, we’ve made it one of our Essential Six Books.
For more info about Kenobi, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find additional user reviews and affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process. Essential Legends Collection artwork by Gregory Manchess.
Darth Plagueis by James Luceno
Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? I thought not. It’s not a story the Jedi would-- Ahem. Sorry.
Darth Plagueis tells how Palpatine’s fabled mentor seduced the future Emperor to the dark side and how their alliance led to the Sith apprentice’s ultimate betrayal of his master. For years, fans speculated about Palpatine’s backstory, and this modern Legends novel fills in details hinted at by the films and expands the mythology of the dark side tenfold.
Best Star Wars Legends Series Books
Darth Bane Trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn
Taking readers back a thousand years before the Clone Wars, Karpyshyn relates the story of Darth Bane during the time of the Old Republic. In a time where a Sith multitude vie for power, Bane rises to revolt against their Order. Ever wonder where the Sith’s Rule of Two came from? Bane establishes it within these very pages.
Readers get to see the world of the first dark side users, explore the Sith Academy on Korriban, and witness Bane’s influence on later villains in the series. With such an epic scope and rich Sith history, this line remains a standout among Star Wars Legends novels.
For more info about the first book in the Darth Bane Trilogy, visit the book profiles for Path of Destruction, Rule of Two, and Dynasty of Evil. Be sure to check out the brilliant new artworks from Simon Goinard in the recently released Essential Legends Collection!
X-Wing Series by Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston
Try to think of a Star Wars ship more iconic and awesome than the X-Wing. It’s okay, we’ll wait.
As a relatively early entry in the Expanded Universe, X-Wing was the first series to forego featuring the heroic trio of Luke, Han, and Leia. Instead, X-Wing packs its pages with original characters like Corran Horn and Tycho Celchu, and introduces readers to the Rogue and Wraith Squadrons while fleshing out the Alliance’s military exploits in the beginning of the New Republic era.
By the way...did you think of a cooler ship? Didn’t think so.
For more info about the first book in the X-Wing Series, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find user reviews affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process. It, too, is part of the Essential Legends Collection—now with unabridged audiobooks from Marc Thompson!
Best Star Wars Standalone Book
Labyrinth of Evil by James Luceno
This direct prequel to Episode III follows Anakin and Obi-Wan as they track down the ever-elusive Darth Sidious. It fills in the gaps of some key players in the Clone Wars and paves the way for the events of Revenge of the Sith. Readers get to experience Anakin’s rage and explore his ruminating thoughts foreshadowing his fall to the dark side.
Queue up the prequels! With the amount of additional backstory this novel provides, you’ll want to watch them again immediately after reading this book.
For more info about Labyrinth of Evil, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find additional staff comments, user reviews, and affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process.
Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn
At Youtini, Timothy Zahn holds a special place in our hearts, and for good reason.
Set before the Clone Wars, Outbound Flight chronicles one of Obi-Wan and Anakin’s first adventures as Master and padawan as well as Thrawn’s early encounters with the Republic. If that alone isn’t enough to interest you, the plot revolves around a major storyline hinted at in the pages of Heir to the Empire involving Jedi Master C’baoth. As always, Zahn weaves these characters’ stories together with a deft literary touch. If you’re a Thrawn fan, Clone Wars-era fan, or a fan of great Star Wars books in general, Oubound Flight is a must read.
For more info about Outbound Flight, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find additional staff comments, user reviews, and affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process.
With so many great Star Wars books in the galaxy, it would almost physically hurt us not to include the following novels on some sort of list. Line up the honorable mentions!
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover
If you’ve never read a film novelization, Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith is the perfect place to start.
But wait, why is the novelization of Revenge of the Sith an honorable mention? The thing is, it’s not strictly a Legends book.
Stover incorporates tidbits of Legends storytelling—plenty of discussion of lightsaber forms, Mace Windu’s shatterpoint ability, and plenty of callbacks to James Luceno’s Labyrinth of Evil, for example. Nevertheless, it is the intention of novelizations to exist in the gray area between Canon and something else—what happened in the films from a certain point of view. More than any other novelization, Revenge of the Sith does exactly that.
Instead of a blow-by-blow film adaptation, Stover was allowed to take certain liberties with the story with the blessing of George Lucas himself, notably changing minor plot points and dialogue.
Among these are the deletion of the Kashyyyk sequence, an alteration to Anakin’s emotions as he falls to the dark side, and a more detailed account of Mace Windu’s attempt to arrest Chancellor Palpatine.
Stover’s prose blows our minds in how it combines characterization and beautifully-written action sequences. You’ll develop a deep connection to the characters, then have your heart blasted to pieces in the final pages.
Revenge of the Sith is so good, it’s one of our Essential Six Books we recommend to every new Star Wars reader.
Legacy of the Force Series by Aaron Allston, Karen Traviss, and Troy Denning
Few characters in Legends novels are more developed than Han and Leia’s son, Jacen Solo. If you love epic, storied character arcs, this is the series for you. Jacen’s early story is chronicled in the New Jedi Order series, but that line is quite a commitment to read all the way through (19 books!), so we recommend skimming the Wookiepedia article if you want to better appreciate Jacen’s rise and fall from grace before jumping into this series.
For more info about the first book in The Legacy of the Force Series, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find additional staff comments, user reviews, and affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process.
Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
When his reward for rescuing Princess Leia is stolen, Han finds himself deeply in debt to Jabba the Hutt and accepts a dangerous job that involves robbing a crime lord on Wukkar to furnish his repayment. Assembling a crack team to pull off the heist, including the likes of Lando Calrissian, Han leads the group of con artists to thieve, cheat, and smooth-talk their way through one of his greatest gambles. Zahn pens a book decidedly different from his Thrawn-centric novels, but his grasp of the characters and a grand payoff in the third act makes this a defining Solo story.
For more info about Scoundrels, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find additional staff comments, user reviews, and affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process.
The Republic Commando Series by Karen Traviss
If you love gritty Star Wars battles and tactical military operations, the Republic Commando series has got you covered. A spinoff of the hit Republic Commando video game, this line follows Omega and Delta Squads on deadly missions through the Clone Wars all the way through Order 66.
Karen Traviss is known for her incredible development of Mandalorian culture, arguably contributing more to the lore than any other creator, and it really shines in this series. Unfortunately, the series was abruptly cancelled after the 4th book, so while readers are left with a complete story, they may forever wonder what happened to so many beloved characters.
For more info about the first book in the Republic Commando Series, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find additional publication data, user reviews, and affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process.
BONUS: Best Weird Star Wars Legends Novel
One of the best things about Legends novels is their ability to get really, really weird. While we definitely love the serious drama here at Youtini, let’s take a brief moment to acknowledge how gloriously bizarre these books can get.
The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers
A velociraptor-like alien invasion, a brainwashed Force-sensitive slave, and plots to drain human life force to power ships could make The Truce at Bakura sound like a bit of an odd bantha. But make no mistake, this Legends novel is massively important to the Expanded Universe. Here we see how the Alliance starts to rebuild in a post-Emperor galaxy, and get some notable firsts including Anakin’s Force ghost appearance to Leia.
For more info about The Truce at Bakura, visit our Official Book Profile where you can find additional staff comments, user reviews, and affiliate links to order the book directly and help Youtini out in the process.
Chewie. We’re Home.
We know there’s a lot to the ever-expanding universe of Star Wars books and Legends in particular, but we know that you’ll be just fine. Keep this guide handy as you navigate the shelves, be sure to check out our other reading guides to find your next book, and let us know what you’re reading on our Discord!
Love Legends and want to join in on the wild and wacky discourse? We have a weekly live show on YouTube, Legends Lookback, all about the Star Wars books from a more civilized age. We would be honored if you would join us.
For further Legends resources right here Youtini, be sure to check out: