ver since the fateful day of April 25, 2014, when the massive catalog of Star Wars books, comics, and video games known as the “Expanded Universe” was labeled as “Star Wars Legends,” with everything being published in more recent history being Canon, it was largely assumed that the old Expanded Universe had had its moment and it was time to move on.
There has certainly been plenty to celebrate since then: all new films, numerous TV shows on Disney+ (both animated and live action), and a robust publishing schedule featuring hits as wildly compelling and successful as Light of the Jedi.
Nevertheless, there was something special about the “EU.” Now, thanks to the Essential Legends Collection, EU fans have something to celebrate, collect, consume, and pass along to friends and family.
From Del Rey (now Random House Worlds), the Essential Legends Collection is a publishing program that reprints a handful of memorable and important Legends books every few months in a larger trade paperback format, featuring striking, all-new cover art.
Rounding out the collection is the release of masterfully crafted unabridged audiobooks for titles that had only received abridged treatments until now. The program facilitates the resurgence of interest among Legends fans of yesteryear while also simultaneously increasing the accessibility of this universe to new readers just taking their first steps into a larger world.
You can learn more about the Essential Legends Collection here.
For Readers New to Legends
Ultimately the ELC adds up to a small collection of the most important Legends books worth reading. Even with the sizable number of books released as part of the initiative so far, it still pales in comparison to the sheer number of books in the entire corpus of Legends.
There are a LOT of Legends books, so it’s helpful to have a carefully curated collection for accessibility purposes. It’s daunting to stare at the shelves of a local bookstore in hopes of finding the perfect Star Wars book. The ELC simplifies that process tremendously for Legends-curious readers.
One thing the ELC has done well is collect some of the most significant small series under one heading. These include the Thrawn Trilogy, the Darth Bane Trilogy, the Rogue Squadron series, and the Old Republic books.
We at Youtini recommend both the original Thrawn Trilogy and Darth Bane Trilogy as excellent starting points for new Star Wars readers. In fact, both Heir to the Empire and Path of Destruction are among our “Essential Six.”
Beyond those, the first four books of the X-Wing series are collected under a new moniker: the “Rogue Squadron Series.”
The subtle recategorization with the Rogue Squadron books is far from trivial, however. The X-Wing books consist of a total of ten adult novels, consisting of a four-book story arc following Rogue Squadron, a trilogy following Wraith Squadron, followed by another Rogue book that’s more of a standalone adventure, one more standalone X-Wing book that defies categorization (but is quite possibly one of the greatest Star Wars books ever written—Starfighters of Adumar—and one more Wraith book set decades into the future.
That’s a lot to explain to someone who simply wants to read an X-Wing book! Putting the first four books into their own numbered miniseries makes it clear what you’re getting yourself into.
The Old Republic series is a bit of a different story. Quite possibly the least “essential” books in the Essential Legends Collection, they are far from foundational to a reader wanting to tackle the vast interconnectivity of the Expanded Universe.
They are, however, entertaining. And let’s face it—we’re suckers for anything Revan-related. Chances are, we’re not alone in that. This series is a loosely connected collection of standalone adventures revolving around the Old Republic MMO video game. For example, Deceived expands upon the story in the acclaimed cinematic trailer chronicling the sacking of Coruscant.
A wide array of eras and styles
For someone curious about cracking the Legends timeline, the Essential Legends Collection offers an eclectic palette of writing styles to choose between.
Perhaps some will be drawn to the dark, edgy tone of the Darth Bane books from Drew Karpyshyn. Others will love the high-octane, romance-laden Rogue books!
That’s where this initiative really excels. There’s bound to be something for everyone.
Furthermore, the books cover several different eras as well. The Old Republic stories are set 4,000 years before the films, and the story of Darth Bane is about 1,000 years before.
There are a handful of Clone Wars books and even books like the Thrawn Trilogy and Rogue Squadron quadrilogy set after the events of Return of the Jedi. Gravitate toward what appeals to you!
For Legends Fans
While the ELC program makes the Legends timeline clear-cut for those just starting out in the universe, it is also an initiative that benefits die-hard Legends readers as well. Between the larger trade paperback format, brand-new cover art, and brand-new unabridged audiobooks, everyone has a lot to love.
New book size with new artwork
Two of the essential elements in being a modern-day Legends fan are collecting and re-reading. The Essential Legends Collection is the perfect synergistic overlap between those two interests.
Not only does this program make for a great opportunity to collect your favorite books all over again, but they’re a true joy to read. The physical books are reprinted in a larger, “trade paperback” size, as opposed to the size of the vast majority of Legends paperbacks, which are “mass market paperbacks.”
This newer, larger book size and feel makes for a wonderful reading experience—the books fit in one’s hands very nicely, the words are printed in a larger font size than the paperbacks of yore, and the pages stay open in a beautiful way (so the words don’t get sandwiched into the spine when you’re in the middle of the book).
Perhaps re-reading your favorite Legends books in this new format will make for a fresh reading experience.
Quite possibly, the best part of the Essential Legends Collection is the wealth of new cover art to behold. The publishers have commissioned brand new cover designs for these classic titles, featuring a wide variety of visual styles.
Some titles had amazing covers to begin with, yet it’s always a treat to see what another artist can do with them. For example, Heir to the Empire’s new cover is an exciting contrast to Tom Jung’s original art.
Others have benefited tremendously from reimagining the original cover art. Darth Bane: Rule of the Two originally featured cover art done at the last minute after a change in artists. For the ELC edition, Simon Goinard brings Bane and Zannah to life in a surreal, dynamic style colored with reds and yellows.
The individual series within the ELC project have maintained consistent visual styles across their respective titles. Dominik Mayer’s use of geometrics accented with reds and blues makes for a look that draws you in, matching the endless intrigue with the Old Republic titles.
Only a small sliver of the massive catalog of Legends books ever published have received unabridged audiobook productions. The Thrawn Trilogy, for example, only received treatments from Marc Thompson in 2011 to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Now, many more wonderful Legends books join the ranks with Thrawn. Shatterpoint is performed by Sullivan Jones, the Rogue Squadron series by Marc Thompson, and none other than Sam Witwer (voice of Darth Maul in Clone Wars and Rebels) narrates Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter.
This allows the novels to be enjoyed in an entirely new way. These skilled performers elevate the stories to a Star Wars experience unto themselves, complete with iconic sound effects such as ships blasting off, lightsabers humming and clashing, and a good explosion every now and then.
Add in John Williams’s legendary scores in key moments and you’ve got Star Wars stories worth savoring every second.
Shines light on underrated books
Perhaps the most important benefit of the Essential Legends Collection is its ability to shine a light on underrated Legends books. A handful of titles in particular fit this bill extremely well: Shatterpoint, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, and Yoda: Dark Rendezvous.
These three tend to rank among the top tier of many deeply committed Legends fans. Yet for whatever reason, they have flown under the radar. Now that they are being reprinted, restocked on the shelves, and reimagined with beautiful cover art, many readers will discover them for the first time.
This generates more conversation around these beloved titles, bringing the community together. Isn’t that what Star Wars does best?
From acclaimed author Matthew Stover of Revenge of the Sith fame comes a standalone Clone Wars-era novel starring Mace Windu. This Apocalypse Now-esque jungle warfare novel sees Master Windu on a desperate mission on his home planet of Haruun Kal, where he must rescue his former Padawan, Depa Billaba.
Not only is Depa unable to be contacted, but she is also under the pull of the dark side of the Force. It turns out that she has been influenced by the brutal leader of the Korunnai with an affinity for the Force, Kar Vastor.
Mace must stand up to Vastor, redeem Billaba, and save his homeworld from the Confederacy of Independent Systems. It’s truly a uniquely entertaining and poignant novel that deserves to be brought into the limelight.
Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
The late, great Michael Reaves delivered an A+ quality prequel to The Phantom Menace in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter. On the one hand, it’s an independent romp through the Coruscant Underworld featuring everybody’s favorite twirly devil-man Darth Maul.
On the other hand, it’s the first book that introduces the characters who star in the many subsequent books Reaves would deliver in his Star Wars tenure. Maul is up against Lorne Pavan, a black market antiquities dealer with an axe to grind against the Jedi.
Lorne and his quippy droid/business partner are forced to pair up with a Jedi Padawan who’s in way over her head. The book is one gigantic out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire plot that will tug on your heartstrings and have you looking over your shoulder for Darth Maul by the time you’re done.
Sam Witwer takes the book to a whole new level in his audiobook performance as well.
Yoda: Dark Rendezvous
One more sleeper hit we’ll spotlight is Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. One of the many Legends books that never received a hardcover version available to the general public (the only way to find one is to acquire a pricey Science Fiction Book Club edition), Dark Rendezvous is one that, for many fans, has gone under the radar.
Among those who have read it, however, it tends to rank among their favorites. It is one of the very rare novels to feature the diminutive Jedi Master himself. This time, we delve deep into his relationship with the villainous Count Dooku, who had once been his student.
Juxtaposed alongside Yoda and Dooku is a Jedi Padawan named Scout, a wonderful foil for the two aged Force users. The plot revolves around Yoda journeying to Dooku’s spooky castle on the planet Vjun, where the two discuss the possibility of a treaty to bring the Clone Wars to an end.
Writer Sean Stewart delivered massively in his one and only Star Wars novel.
When it’s all said and done, the Essential Legends Collection is a delightful publishing program that benefits both Legends enthusiasts and readers new to the EU alike.
They’re fun to collect, read, re-read, enjoy via audiobook format, or hand to friends who might want to know a little more about characters such as Thrawn or Yoda.
They generate a fresh wave of discourse about some of our favorite Legends novels and some that perhaps you haven’t yet checked out. All the more reason to jump in our #legends-books channel on Discord to join in the discussion anytime, day or night!
Or perhaps you’ll want to participate in the fun over on Legends Lookback, our Legends-exclusive podcast and YouTube show, which airs Thursday nights on youtube.com/youtini.
What are you most excited about when it comes to the Essential Legends Collection? Let us know on Twitter at twitter.com/youtini_us.