What is the Expanded Universe?
While it’s hard to imagine now, there was a time when Star Wars existed only as a single film. George Lucas himself wasn’t even sure the movie would be successful before its release, so he commissioned Alan Dean Foster to pen a follow-up novel called Splinter of the Mind’s Eye as the basis for a low budget sequel in the event that the original flopped.
Of course, Star Wars released to critical and commercial success, launching arguably the single biggest pop culture franchise in history. Still, Foster’s novel ushered in what would become known as the Expanded Universe: the collection of books, comics, games, and other media comprising Star Wars stories outside the original films. Soon after, the EU exploded with content, creating a living, breathing galaxy for fans to explore.
Canon vs. Legends
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, they made the decision to clean up the Star Wars timeline and more clearly define what content aligned with the films. Thus, they established the Canon timeline, the stories that officially happen in the same continuity as the films.
In general, every story released after April 2014 is considered Canon while the huge library of titles that came before is now relegated to the Legends banner. Think of Legends as myths, rumors, or fables about your favorite characters. Even though it no longer officially takes place in the same continuity as the films, the Legends timeline is full of rich lore and makes up many of our most beloved stories.
So how do you spot the difference between Canon and Legends content? Easy. Just check the cover for the gold Legends banner at the top. But what if you’re shopping for used books published before the banner was added? No problem! Use Youtini’s Search Feature to look up your book and see where it belongs.
For a more in-depth understanding of these timelines, check out our guide to the difference between Canon and Legends.
Starting to make sense? Great! Let’s start your journey!
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
Claudia Gray sealed her place as one of the best authors in the EU with her novel Lost Stars. The story takes us on a sweeping journey from the rise of the Rebellion to the fall of the Empire, immersing us in the Original Trilogy’s most important moments, all through the eyes of two childhood friends, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree.
Bonding over their love of flying, Thane and Ciena befriend each other at an early age. When they enroll in the Imperial Academy, it seems their dreams have finally come true. But as their relationship progresses from friends to perhaps something more, they find themselves developing radically divergent political and ideological differences. While Ciena clings ever more tightly to the Imperial mission of bringing order to the galaxy, Thane becomes increasingly disillusioned as he witnesses the Empire’s horrific tactics used to conquer worlds. As their relationship reaches a breaking point, Thane and Ciena must reconcile differences that have pushed them to opposite sides of the war if they are to keep their bond from being destroyed forever.
We recommend Lost Stars as the number one best starting point for any fan looking to explore the EU. Set to the backdrop of the Original Trilogy’s most memorable battles, the era will feel immediately comfortable to newcomers while providing a beautiful story representative of the EU at large. In addition, the novel serves as an introduction to Claudia Gray’s excellent work in the Canon timeline. In short, Lost Stars is everything you could want in a Star Wars book.
For more info about Lost Stars, 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.
Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn
Every great story needs a villain. And what would the Star Wars galaxy be without a menacing Sith Lord trying to conquer it? Drew Karpysyn takes us back a thousand years before the Clone Wars to tell the story of Darth Bane during the era of the Old Republic. As a Sith multitude struggle for power, Bane rises to revolt against their Order. Ever wonder where the Sith’s Rule of Two came from? You’ll find the answer in these very pages.
Abused by an alcoholic father, Dessel lives the miserable life of a cortosis miner on Apastros and dreams of freedom. After unknowingly unleashing his Force powers, Dessel finds himself on the run. He joins the Sith army and soon distinguishes himself as a powerful Force user. Rising in prestige as the new Darth Bane, he probes the undiscovered depths of the dark side and sets out on a bloody quest to reshape the Sith Order.
The first book in the Darth Bane trilogy gives readers an excellent taste of the rich dark side history in the Legends timeline. Bane’s rise and creation of the Order’s new caste has major implications on the EU’s history, his actions creating a ripple of consequences that will ultimately lead to the Empire and Darth Vader.
For more info about Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, 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.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover
From its first pages, Revenge of the Sith’s novelization throws the throttle wide open with a thrilling adaptation of the Prequel Trilogy’s final installment. Matthew Stover’s prose flows so beautifully, flourishing the film’s most iconic sequences and deeply characterizing its cast, that he completely sets a new standard for film novelizations.
George Lucas gave Stover his blessing to take certain liberties with the story, and the book benefits from these changes. An alteration to Anakin’s inner turmoil as he falls to the dark side intensely humanizes him, and fleshed-out conflicts help to more fully realize character arcs. Stover adds depth and expands scenes the way a novelization should while giving readers an idea of the possibilities inherent in these adaptations.
For more info about Revenge of the Sith, 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.
Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
The EU reached new heights in 1991 with the release of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, kicking off the original Thrawn trilogy and introducing beloved characters such as Mara Jade, the Solo twins, and Grand Admiral Thrawn himself.
The series proved so influential, Zahn has been credited with reinvigorating the EU and ushering in a new era in Star Wars novels. Heir to the Empire launched much of the extensive lore fans know and love in the Legends timeline. Here, an expecting Leia discovers dark forces already threatening her unborn twins, Thrawn enacts his grand designs to crush the New Republic, and Luke begins his storied relationship with Mara Jade.
To this day, many still consider the original Thrawn series a crowning achievement of Star Wars storytelling, and we are eternally grateful for its role in formalizing the entire Expanded Universe.
For more info about the first book in the Thrawn 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.
Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi comes out of hiding on Tatooine 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 an outstanding narrative.
Shortly after arriving in exile on Tatooine, Obi-Wan Kenobi saves the lives of moisture farmer Anilleen and her daughter who are caught up in an escalating conflict between settlers and Tusken Raiders. As Obi-Wan visits the women on their claim, Anilleen develops a fondness for him, though he soon learns that the settlers’ leader, Orin Gault, wants to marry her. Investigations into Gault bring to light the leader’s nefarious schemes, but if Obi-Wan chooses to intervene, he might expose his location to the Empire.
Kenobi was released in 2013 just before the EU transitioned to Canon and Legends timelines, effectively making it one of the last Legends novels ever. As such, Miller’s book establishes itself as an excellent example of a modern Legends novel, providing readers an exciting story while giving the era a fine sendoff.
For more info about Kenobi, 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.
Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule
The beginning of 2021 revolutionized the world of Star Wars publishing by introducing The High Republic era with Light of the Jedi. Set 200 years before the events of The Skywalker Saga, the High Republic presented a massive initiative containing all new characters that promised to tell an epic, united story across books and comics simultaneously.
Since the introduction of The High Republic, nearly every book has been featured as a New York Times Best Seller, and all of the authors have continued to craft this era of storytelling to massive critical and fan acclaim. However, if Light of the Jedi had been anything less than a Masterpiece, as well as Youtini's 2021 Book of the Year, who knows if the entire project would have found such success?
Following an unspeakable tragedy known only as The Great Disaster, Light of the Jedi introduces us to the heroic Jedi and the steadfast Republic as they attempt to discover the source of the growing threat in the galaxy known to us only as the Nihil. Aside from beginning the most impactful era of Star Wars publishing since the Disney acquisition, Light of the Jedi is an essential entrance to anyone beginning to read Star Wars books for its brilliant plot, fleshed out character relationships, and impact of the future of a galaxy far, far away.
For more info about Light of the Jedi, 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.
Congratulations! You’ve taken your first steps into a larger world.
With these foundational books under your belt, you should be armed with a better understanding of the EU. From here, you can decide where you want to travel next. No single path works for everyone. That’s why we created our ultimate guides to point you to the best Star Wars books of all time and reading collections so you can browse stories by character, theme, or genre. And don’t forget to check our release schedule to stay up to date on the newest additions to the EU.
Be sure to share your journey with us on our Discord and hang out with the friendliest Star Wars community in the galaxy.
This post was sponsored by Patreon contributor Earl Q.