L

et’s face it: Legends is overwhelming. We’re referring, of course, to the world of Star Wars books and comics under the pre-Disney acquisition continuity. Need more information on those specifics? We’ve got a guide for that

Back to the task at hand. Not only are there an abundance of eras to explore—The Old Republic, Rise of the Sith, The Clone Wars, The Reign of the Empire, Rebellion, The New Republic, The New Jedi Order, and beyond—but each of those eras is held up by its lengthy tentpole series. And most of the time, those series have a long list of prerequisite books that can at times feel like required reading. Beyond that, even selecting a book can feel like a gamble in both quality and time investment. That’s what we at Youtini are here to help with, of course. 

However, because it’s such a momentous task, it helps to have help from the publisher, printed right onto the covers of the books themselves!

Youtini's Essential Legends Collection landing page
Image Credit: Youtini

That’s where the Essential Legends Collection comes in. Revealed in early 2021 from Del Rey, the Essential Legends Collection is a publishing initiative that reprints some of the best Legends books with low barriers to entry in the larger trade paperback size. The icing on the cake? A little something new to go with the books from a bygone era—sleek, dynamic cover art to bring these classics to life in a whole new way. 

But wait there’s more! New unabridged audiobooks from Penguin Random House Audio, featuring the illustrious Marc Thompson and a brilliant new voice, Sullivan Jones. For a repackaging of content that was published long ago, that’s a lot of new to get excited about!

Maybe you’ve heard of the wedding tradition “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The marriage of old and new with the ELC program is exactly that—old books, new artwork and audio productions. The blue is Thrawn. . . and perhaps the borrowed is supporting your local library from time to time by encouraging them to pick these up? Who knows? Maybe someone unsuspecting will stumble upon them and won’t have forty years of continuity to wade through. They can just start reading in the vast world of Star Wars Legends.

What is the Essential Legends Collection?

The Essential Legends Collection is an homage to great storytellers of a bygone era. They serve as an introduction to Legends books for new readers, a reminder of fun memories for readers who have been more immersed in recent Canon storytelling, and love letters to Legends fans of old. Bringing old stories with explosive new displays seemed like a no brainer for Del Rey, but that still left the question of…size?

Size matters not, you say? In this instance, it certainly does. The recent history of Star Wars paperback size has been a little bit of a roller coaster (you know, as much as book paperback sizing can be). For ages, Star Wars paperbacks were of a uniform size: 4 ¼ by 6 ⅞ inches. If you have some classic Star Wars stories without the Legends banner blazoned across the top, this is probably what you see on your bookshelf.

Mass Market Paperback and Trade Paperback side by side
Image Credit: Del Rey

With the rebranding of previously published Expanded Universe stories as “Legends” in 2014, Del Rey announced that forthcoming Canon paperbacks, beginning with A New Dawn, would be nearly a quarter-inch taller. Dubbed “mass market paperbacks,” 4 ¼ by 7 ½ inches, this small design adjustment would help with distinguishing Canon paperbacks from Legends. Legends were the shorter size and reprints 2014-onward displayed the golden Legends banner. This size only lasted for eight years. The third, most recent paperback size to hit the shelves is the new “trade paperback” form factor: 5 ½ inches wide and 8 ¼ inches tall. All Canon books beginning with Light of the Jedi are in the larger size, and the results have proved to not only aid readability but also longevity for all you rereaders out there. 

But Canon couldn’t have all the fun, could they? Accompanying the announcement that Canon paperback editions would henceforth be printed in trade paperback size was the reveal of the Essential Legends Collection. All Essential Legends Collection books are also in the larger trade paperback format. Upon release, Del Rey Star Wars posted a helpful size comparison to see the difference between the two as they emphasized, “We think the larger size is a better reading experience.”

When all is said and done, this project was and remains a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lucasfilm. It goes hand-in-hand with 50th anniversary Legends action figures such as Luke Skywalker from Heir to the Empire, Kir Kanos from Crimson Empire, and, of course, the infamous Lepi himself, Jaxxon from 1977 run of Marvel’s Star Wars comics. Meanwhile, Marvel has been releasing a limited run of celebratory comics covers featuring fan favorites including Durge, Asajj Ventress, even Grand Admiral Thrawn himself. 

Nonetheless, the purest Legends celebration lies within the classic material itself, which makes the ELC initiative a great addition to the historic fanfare.

Wave 1

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn (art by Tracie Ching)

Released June 15th, 2021

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Heir to the Empire
Image Credit: Del Rey

Kicking off the initial batch of Essential Legends Collection books is none other than perhaps the most influential Star Wars book of all time—Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. Heir to the Empire famously reignited the flame of Star Wars in an era in which the franchise lay dormant, and skyrocketed to number one on the New York Times Bestsellers List! Set five years after Return of the Jedi, Zahn’s groundbreaking novel continues the story of the Original Trilogy’s protagonists as they wage war against the art-loving Grand Admiral Thrawn. Alongside Thrawn, the book introduces a myriad of original characters who have stood the test of time—including Talon Karrde, Borsk Fey’lya, and Mara Jade. The most prolific Star Wars writer to ever lay a pen to the galaxy far, far away delivers big once again—this time with cover art by Tracie Ching to complement the book’s three previous cover renditions from Tom Jung, Rick Kelley, and Scott Biel.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn (art by Simon Goinard)

Released June 15th, 2021

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Path of Destruction
Image Credit: Del Rey

Only a handful of books can claim to be as groundbreaking as Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. Within its pages, Drew Karpyshyn carved out a new subgenre in Star Wars storytelling—the villain origin story. Bane’s success not only led to the production of two sequels, but also to other villainous beginnings like 2011’s Darth Plagueis. Path of Destruction is a dark descent of a story as cortosis miner Des discovers his porchent for the dark side of the Force, serves in the Sith army’s Gloom Walkers unit, trains in the Sith academy on Korriban, and finally squares off against the Jedi’s Army of Light in the climactic Battle of Ruusan. Karphyshyn, of 2003’s Game of the Year, Knights of the Old Republic fame, brings his game-writing talents to the novel format with such video-game-esque moments like Bane’s duel on the temple rooftop against his lightsaber dueling instructor, Bane’s fascination and admiration for Darth Revan, and, not to be overlooked, Darth Bane riding a rancor. You’ll be begging for more of Darth Bane’s dastardly adventures and you’re in luck—books two and three of the trilogy also find themselves within the Essential Legends family.

Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover (art by Jeff Manning)

Released June 15th, 2021

Audiobook read by Sullivan Jones

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Shatterpoint
Image Credit: Del Rey

A somewhat surprising third member of the initial trilogy of ELC releases is Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover. Stover is without a doubt one of the most eloquent, imaginative, and captivating writers to write Star Wars books, penning the acclaimed Revenge of the Sith novelization, for example (which holds a Youtini score of 9.9)! Shatterpoint is his 2003 Clone Wars era standalone novel starring none other than the master of Vapaad himself, Mace Windu. In some ways more of a Vietnam War book than a Star Wars book, Shatterpoint is an action-packed foray through the jungles of Windu’s homeworld of Haruun Kal. He navigates the murky gray areas between good and evil, dark and light as Mace’s former Jedi Padawan, Depa Billaba, has seemingly lost herself in the bleak brutality of war and death. To top it all off, Mace’s distant relative and rogue Force user, Kar Vastor, rules the jungle with an untamed ferocity never before seen in the Expanded Universe. Including such a title in the Essential Legends Collection is an excellent example of exactly the sort of underrated book that can shine when given its moment in the spotlight.

The extra boost to Wave One is the brand-new, unabridged Shatterpoint audiobook read by Sullivan Jones. Jones, a talent new to Star Wars audiobooks, masterfully captures the ethos of Mace Windu and puts a comical spin on his right-hand-man, Nick Rostu. Its audio engineering is without a doubt one of the most immersive audio productions ever to grace our headphones. The audiobook makes for a perfect on-the-go counterpart to the gorgeous new, larger paperback books to round out the Essential Legends Collection.

Wave 2

Darth Bane: Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn (art by Simon Goinard)

Released September 7th, 2021

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Rule of Two
Image Credit: Del Rey

The second lineup of ELC titles advanced both the Darth Bane Trilogy and Thrawn Trilogy. For Bane, Drew Karpyshyn began the trilogy with a traditional origin story in Path of Destruction, but Rule of Two is a totally different type of tale. A third of the story follows the titular Sith Lord in his single-minded frenzy to advance his legacy as he attempts to construct his own holocron. All the while his body and mind are besieged by “orbalisks,” a living suit of parasitic dark side body armor. . . what could go wrong? The character who especially begins to shine in Rule of Two is Bane’s understudy, Darth Zannah. The book could almost be titled as such! She learns what it is to be a Sith in her own right as she spreads her wings, creates her own alliances, and comes face-to-face with her past in a massive test of her commitment to the dark side. Zannah even takes the spotlight on the new ELC cover from Simon Goinard.

Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn (art by Tracie Ching)

Released September 7th, 2021

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Dark Force Rising
Image Credit: Del Rey

The Thrawn Trilogy’s story continues as both sides of the galactic conflict race to get their hands on the long-lost Katana fleet, a conglomerate of dreadnought warships that someone inadvertently lost. Whoopsie. Grand Admiral Thrawn, Han, Lando, the Rebels, and even Talon Karrde and the Smugglers’ Alliance ferret their leads, cut deals under the radar, and solicit misinformation in an arms race with the freedom of the galaxy hanging in the balance.

The Last Command by Timothy Zahn (art by Tracie Ching)

Released September 7th, 2021

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of The Last Command
Image Credit: Del Rey

This is getting out of hand! Now there are two of them! The Trilogy reaches its climactic conclusion in the second wave with the publication of both the second and third books of the Thrawn Trilogy. The Last Command features an Endor-esque strike team infiltrating (the late, great) Emperor Palpatine’s garage store room full of superweapons, holocrons, and cloning tanks: Mount Tantiss on the planet Wayland. Luke and Mara Jade go toe-to-toe against the unhinged Dark Jedi, Joruus C’Baoth. Oh, and did we mention that Mara is obsessed with an urge to kill Luke Skywalker? It’s got one of the wildest conclusions in any Legends story ever told. Unabridged audiobooks on all three books of the trilogy were recorded by Marc Thompson in honor of Heir to the Empire’s 20th anniversary in 2011.

Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole (art by Doaly)

Released September 7th, 2021

Audiobook read by Marc Thompson

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Rogue Squadron
Image Credit: Del Rey

Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole, with cover art by Doaly accompanies Bane and Thrawn as the third major Legends series to receive ELC treatment. There’s nothing quite like the banter between the pilots in the Original Trilogy, is there? “Red Five standing by.” “I can’t shake him!” “Great shot, Janson!” The X-Wing books are that ethos on an exponential scale. In what was originally a ten-book series called the X-Wing series, Rogue Squadron is now subtitled, “Book 1 of the Rogue Squadron Series.” Books 1-4 of the X-Wing series focus on Corran Horn and Rogue Squadron, while books 5-7 shift to Garrick “Face” Loran and his ragtag band of misfits, Wraith Squadron. Seemingly this slight subtitle shift signals that the first four books through The Bacta War are forthcoming—this time for the first time ever with unabridged audiobooks from Marc Thompson!

Wave 3

Kenobi by John Jackson Miller (art by Gregory Manchess)

Released April 5th, 2022

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Kenobi
Image Credit: Del Rey

Kenobi is a character-centric examination of what it means to be a Jedi when the Jedi Order no longer exists, set immediately after Episode III. As opposed to the galaxy-hopping spacefaring adventure we are accustomed to in Star Wars, the entirety of Kenobi is set on the desert sands of Tatooine. John Jackson Miller works wonders by humanizing the sandpeople, namely, the clan leader, A’Yark (known to the locals as “Plug Eye.”) It’s a smaller story for a more civilized time, not to be underestimated in its impact. Kenobi is the kind of book that makes an impression that even the sands of the Dune Sea won’t wash away. For further enjoyment, seek out Johnathan Davis’s audiobook production, complete with plenty of Krayt Dragon calls. 

Darth Plagueis by James Luceno (art by Qistina Khalidah)

Released April 5th, 2022

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Darth Plagueis
Image Credit: Del Rey

Darth Plagueis is a dense behemoth of dark side machinations. A gargantuan Legends book, in fact, and not for the faint of heart. It’s staggering just how much territory James Luceno covers in Plagueis including the discovery of the Muun master as a child by his own predecessor, Darth Tenebrous, his escalation in galactic notoriety in bringing to fruition Darth Bane’s “grand plan” to see the domination of the Sith upon an unsuspecting galaxy, and finally his demise at the hands of his student, Palpatine. It’s got Maul, Dooku, and midichlorians galore. By the time you’re done, you’ll find yourself saying, “Have you ever heard the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?” to everyone who will listen. Because yes. Yes, you have. Especially if you check out the audiobook by Daniel Davis.

Wedge’s Gamble by Michael A. Stackpole (art by Doaly)

Released April 5th, 2022

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Wedge's Gamble
Image Credit: Del Rey

Wave Three continues the Rogue Squadron series with Wedge’s Gamble. Wedge’s Gamble chronicles Rogue Squadron’s mission to liberate Coruscant in roguish style. It advances the legend of Corran Horn by leaps and bounds, building upon the foundation of character work laid in the first volume. The villainous Ysanne Isard unleashes a horrifically contagious virus—yikes—that causes alien species’ faces to melt. . . it’s as wild of a Legendsy ride as you’ll ever read. Or hear! Because Marc Thompson brings the story to life in the ‘90s classic’s first-ever unabridged audio production.

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn (art by Simon Goinard)

Released April 5th, 2022

Cover art for the Essential Legends Collection version of Dynasty of Evil
Image Credit

Wave three concludes the Darth Bane Trilogy with Dynasty of Evil. This climactic chapter features a wealth of amazing action, but it all builds to a final face-off between the galaxy, the dominant Darth Bane, and the cunning and crafty master of Sith sorcery, Darth Zannah. It’s all according to plan. The student must overthrow the master when they have surpassed them in order to advance the rule of the Sith, after all. The problem is Sith aren’t all that great at letting go of power, and Bane buckles down on his desire for eternal life by concocting a deadly ritual to achieve this goal. A truly incredible end for one of the most influential trilogies in Star Wars.

What's Next?

The Essential Legends Collection is a fantastic way to honor great Legends stories of old as well as introduce various springboards for new readers. All in all, we don’t know how many waves there will be, only that more waves are forthcoming in the near future. We expect the completion of the Rogue Squadron story arc with The Krytos Trap and The Bacta War as well as more standalone Legends sleeper hits. 

Hoping for more unabridged audiobooks beyond Shatterpoint, Rogue Squadron, and Wedge’s Gamble? Unabridged audiobooks exist for many of the ELC books already, such as Kenobi and the Darth Bane Trilogy narrated by Jonathan Davis, Darth Plagueis narrated by Daniel Davis, and the Thrawn Trilogy from Marc Thompson. In fact, all of the ELCs have unabridged audiobooks through Wave Three! For more on which Star Wars books have unabridged audiobook releases, check out our ultimate guide.

Join the Community

Here’s the thing: reading Star Wars books is a lot of fun. So is collecting Star Wars books. And listening to Star Wars audiobooks. But the fact of the matter is it’s even better with friends. At Youtini, we strive to make the most positive and inclusive Star Wars books community on the internet. Our Legends-centric corner of the community is no exception. Here’s how you can get involved.

Join our Discord! We have a Legends books channel always buzzing with questions, answers, memes, collecting craze, and is home to both newbies and veterans alike. 

Did you know that we have a weekly live show and podcast all about Star Wars Legends? Legends Lookback airs every single Thursday night at 9:30 Eastern on our Youtube channel and is released in audio on every podcast platform you can think of! Jared, Freddy, Emily, and Rick would love for you to join them for all the funky Legends fun. 

What’s on the horizon for fans of the Essential Legends Collection? With the release of the new Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney + show in May, the Youtini Podcast Network is launching a massive Kenobi Crossover event with unique, immersive content every single day of the week from May 15-21st, 2022. There’s never been a better time to dive into John Jackson Miller’s Jedi Western. Come say, “Hello there” during one of our liveshows! 

What’s a book you would love to see reprinted with new cover art in a future wave of the Essential Legends Collection? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jared is a passionate Star Wars fan and book lover who has now reached the phase of passing on what he has learned to his two amazing daughters. He first saw the Original Trilogy in theaters in 1997, not realizing that they weren't exactly new movies. In case you weren't sure, he's a huge Legends nerd and you can hear all about it on Legends Lookback. Although he loves the galaxy far, far away, he's originally from Arkansas. He grew up in Oklahoma and now lives in Massachusetts, where he serves the Leominster Church of Christ as a minister. He is the self-proclaimed biggest Oklahoma City Thunder basketball fan in New England.