ew events loom as large in the lore of Star Wars storytelling than the debut of the New Jedi Order. A 19-book series that began in 1999, the NJO told an expansive tale set 20 years after Return of the Jedi. The next generation of Jedi heroes battle against a vicious fleet of alien invaders. These invaders, the Yuuzhan Vong, leave voids in the Force — making them undetectable by the Jedi. Not only that, but they despise any being who uses technological innovations. These Boomers, er, Yuuzhan Vong, instead prefer biotechnology, homegrown ships made from asteroids, and wielding snake-like amphistaffs to combat the Jedi’s lightsabers.
The New Jedi Order, as a storytelling initiative, took massive risks. Major characters would not survive the series. The stakes were higher than ever before. It would take everyone on board in order to make the series successful — from veteran Star Wars authors like Michael A. Stackpole and Kathy Tyers to sci-fi/fantasy legend R. A. Salvatore and none other than James Luceno who would first get his feet wet in the galaxy far, far away with the NJO.
The series has left a gigantic crater in its wake. All future multi-book narrative events would be compared to the NJO. Too long? Not long enough? Too sci-fi? Too safe? Not enough dark-siders? All of these questions and more would follow in its footsteps. In fact, the series is now relevant in a whole new way! At Star Wars Celebration London, Lucasfilm announecd a brand-new New Jedi Order movie starring Daisy Ridley.
Now’s a great time to dive deep into the expansive world of Star Wars Legends. The ongoing story in the time after Return of the Jedi has extremely high peaks and emotionally devastating valleys — as well as the mind-blowingly wacky twists and turns that make the Legends universe great.
If you want to tackle this beast of a book series, this guide is for you. We’re here to suggest what Star Wars books you should consider reading before beginning with Vector Prime.
Number one New York Times Bestseller Heir to the Empire truly is the spark that ignited the Expanded Universe. Many storytelling threads that authors would continue to pull for decades started in Timothy Zahn’s groundbreaking novel in 1991. Zahn introduced a villain whose story is still being told to this day in Grand Admiral Thrawn. Plus, he gave us the legendary Mara Jade — a foundational character to the New Jedi Order and one who changed the course of the Legends timeline like a boulder that redirects the flow of a river. This seminal Legends trilogy marks the first appearance of Jacen and Jaina Solo. You’ll also get your first introduction to loving to hate Borsk Fey’lya. The woooorst. In the best possible way, of course. After Heir to the Empire, the trilogy continues with Dark Force Rising and culminates in The Last Command.
In addition to establishing core Legends characters, plots and locations from the Thrawn trilogy come into play in the New Jedi Order. The series’s turning point, Star by Star, revolves around a Jedi strike team mission to Myrkyr, the homeworld to the ysalamiri and the vornskrs, creatures who have adapted their physiology to hunt or hide via Force bubbles — something the Yuuzhan Vong will weaponize against the Jedi in a sadistic way.
Prolific sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson jumped into the fray of the ongoing Legends narrative with a story of Luke establishing his Jedi Academy on Yavin IV. While not every academy student from this trilogy plays a major role in the New Jedi Order, a couple do: the brash and outspoken Jedi Kyp Durron and the Mon Calamari healer Cilgal. The academy itself comes under siege in Edge of Victory: Conquest, in which Anakin Solo attempts a rescue mission to save his childhood friend, Tahiri Veila, from the Yuuzhan Vong. The trilogy consists of Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force.
There’s a bit of debate among Legends fans about whether the Jedi Academy Trilogy or Michael A. Stackpole’s I, Jedi (starring Youtini mascot Corran Horn) belong in the Must-Reads category in an NJO prep read-through. I, Jedi tells of Corran Horn training to become a Jedi and his mission to rescue his wife, Mirax, from pirates. The first half of the book is essentially a retelling of the Jedi Academy Trilogy from Corran’s perspective. It’s notable for being the only full-length adult Legends novel written in the first-person perspective — a stylistic gamble that some love and others don’t. While being familiar with Corran Horn is a plus, it’s up to you if you want to read the Jedi Academy Trilogy; I, Jedi; or both!
Hand of Thrawn Duology
Timothy Zahn closed out the 90s Legends era in the same way it began – with a Thrawn story … kind of. Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future tell a massive story about the New Republic moving from a fledgling government picking up the pieces of the Empire to becoming a cohesive, respected governing body for the entire galaxy. As always, the Imperial Remnant is up to something. This time: a cloning initiative starring none other than Grand Admiral Thrawn.
The duology is also key in furthering the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade. They are forced to rely on one another on their mission to a Chiss military base. There, Mara begins to embrace her potential with her Force powers, including the ability to level up in her saber throw skill tree.
The X-Wing series is perhaps the most difficult to slot into this list. On the one hand, the books are simply excellent in their own right – you should read them for their own sake in a way that isn’t contingent on the New Jedi Order! However, if your main goal is to get into Vector Prime as soon as possible, the X-Wing series isn’t necessarily essential.
The series itself is divided up into several story arcs. The first four books feature Corran Horn and Rogue Squadron — both of which feature heavily in the NJO. Corran’s story continues after The Bacta War in I, Jedi, then in books two and three of the NJO: the Dark Tide duology. The Rogue Squadron series has been collected in the Essential Legends Collection from Del Rey, complete with brand-new unabridged audiobooks read by Marc Thompson.
From there, Wraith Squadron, Iron Fist, and Solo Command follow a new cast of characters — Wraith Squadron. Written by the late Aaron Allston, the Wraith Squadron trilogy is considered by many Legends fans to be among the best Star Wars books ever written. How important are they to the NJO? Mildly. The Enemy Lines duology picks up characters, tone, and locations from the X-Wing books – both Rogue and Wraith.
There are more great X-Wing books beyond those seven. Most notably Starfighters of Adumar ties up some romantic relationship threads from previous entries in the series (and is an absolute delight). One final word of warning: the tenth and final installment of the X-Wing series, Mercy Kill, spoils the New Jedi Order and should be read much later in the Legends timeline.
The Courtship of Princess Leia
Whereas the Thrawn trilogy opens with Han and Leia already wed, with the twins born in the trilogy’s finale, the story of how they got to that point is told in Dave Wolverton’s The Courtship of Princess Leia. The standalone novel is a rip-roaring adventure sure to leave an impression: the introduction of Dathomir, the Nightsisters, the Hapan matriarchal system of government, oh, and Han kidnapping Leia with a mind-controlling gun… Not to mention C-3PO’s song about Han Solo’s Corellian royal accolades!
Sure, the book has its goofiness, problematic plot points, and a superpowered Luke Skywalker. Still, there’s no arguing that The Courtship of Princess Leia isn’t foundational for the overall storyline of the post-Return of the Jedi Legends universe. The Hapan culture and the major characters introduced therein are prominent players throughout the New Jedi Order.
Young Reader Series
In addition to the adult novels, two young reader series are important for understanding who’s involved and what’s happening in the New Jedi Order. The series is largely about new Jedi, after all, isn’t it? Those series are the Young Jedi Knights and Junior Jedi Knights.
Young Jedi Knights
In a return to the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV, Kevin J. Anderson picks up where he left off in the Jedi Academy trilogy — this time in the form of writing in partnership with his wife, Rebecca Moesta. The duo told the tale of the next generation of Jedi trainees — Jacen and Jaina Solo, along with their friends! The titular young Jedi Knights are the Dathomiri/Hapan warrior princess Tenel Ka Djo, the dark and broody Jedi bad boy Zekk, Chewbacca’s Jedi nephew Lowbacca, and C-3PO clone/belt buckle Em Teedee.
While the Young Jedi Knights series runs for thirteen entries in total, the first six form a single cohesive story arc surrounding the Jedi Academy’s rivalry with the Shadow Academy. The Shadow Academy is, you guessed it, a school for Dark Jedi! Gasp! The series establishes the core of the relationship between these young Jedi. These relationships that will be tested to their limits in the New Jedi Order. Those six books are Heirs to the Force, The Shadow Academy, The Lost Ones, Lightsabers, Darkest Knight, and Jedi Under Siege. These books are no longer in print, but can be found used if you do some digging.
Junior Jedi Knights
Not to be outdone, Anakin Solo is the protagonist in his own Jedi training saga. The Junior Jedi Knights series chronicles his adventures with barefoot Tatooinian Tusken Raider Jedi Tahiri Veila and their ancient rabbit-like Jedi Master, Ikrit. They sneak out of the temple, discover ancient artifacts, battle Dagobah tree spiders, galavant into Darth Vader’s castle, and discover Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber. Sound interesting? This series, no longer in print, ran for six novels by authors Nancy Richardson and Rebecca Moesta:
For the Completionists
If, after all the recommended novels listed above, you crave still more detail, you are more than welcome to read every adult Legends book set after Return of the Jedi published throughout the entirety of the 1990s, plus one more – Greg Bear’s Rogue Planet. Rogue Planet is an Anakin and Obi-Wan adventure set after Episode I, in which our heroes intersect with a living planet that comes into play late in the New Jedi Order storyline in the Force Heretic trilogy.
The most notable 90s series relevant to the NJO is the Corellian trilogy by Roger MacBride Allen. The ancient Corellian superweapon, Centerpoint Station, is a major factor in the New Jedi Order book Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse. The Truce at Bakura, with its soul-stealing dinosaurs, also receives a follow-up in the Force Heretic trilogy.
Books we’ll classify as notable Could-Reads are:
Others not particularly relevant to the NJO
Other 90s Post-RotJ novels, including the Han Solo trilogy, Callista trilogy, and Black Fleet Crisis trilogy, could also fit this category. It’s up to you! The Han Solo trilogy by A.C. Crispin earns the Youtini rating of Incredible. It establishes Han’s origins, his relationship with Chewbacca and Lando, and builds up the heroic character who goes through the emotional ringer in the New Jedi Order.
[Books Listed by Category]
That brings us to these three lists:
- Heir to the Empire
- Dark Force Rising
- The Last Command
- Jedi Search
- Dark Apprentice
- Champions of the Force
- I, Jedi
- Spectre of the Past
- Vision of the Future
- X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
- X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble
- X-Wing: The Krytos Trap
- X-Wing: The Bacta War
- X-Wing: Wraith Squadron
- X-Wing: Iron Fist
- X-Wing: Solo Command
- X-Wing: Isard’s Revenge
- X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar
- The Courtship of Princess Leia
- Young Jedi Knights: Heirs to the Force
- Young Jedi Knights: Shadow Academy
- Young Jedi Knights: The Lost Ones
- Young Jedi Knights: Lightsabers
- Young Jedi Knights: Darkest Knight
- Young Jedi Knights: Jedi Under Siege
- Junior Jedi Knights: The Golden Globe
- Junior Jedi Knights: Lyric's World
- Junior Jedi Knights: Promises
- Junior Jedi Knights: Anakin's Quest
- Junior Jedi Knights: Vader's Fortress
- Junior Jedi Knights: Kenobi's Blade
Could Reads, for the completionists:
- The Truce at Bakura
- Ambush at Corellia
- Assault at Selonia
- Showdown at Centerpoint
- Rogue Planet
- Any other 90s Post-RotJ novel, including the Han Solo Trilogy, Callista Trilogy, and Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy
Whew! That’s a lot to tackle before ever even cracking the spine of Vector Prime. That being said, we at Youtini believe in making Star Wars books fun to everyone. If you find all this prereading daunting and simply want to dive into the New Jedi Order, go right ahead! After all, Youtini CEO and founder Dr. Corey Helton famously started his Star Wars reading journey with the climactic book in the nine-book Legacy of the Force series. We have provided this guide for those who want a place to start so they do not have to experience the mind-boggling conundrum of said doctor and CEO.
[Read with us]
Looking for folks to chat with about all of your Legends reading? Check out our Discord, with Legends fans ready to talk about any given book, day or night, in any time zone. Or check out our Legends podcast, Legends Lookback! However you read, in whatever order, the New Jedi Order is daunting. Good luck – you’re gonna need it!