Kay Taylor Rea is a bi lady nerd who’s unduly obsessed with: diverse media of all sorts (with special fondness for comics, romance, SFF, and YA), orange foods, Hamilton, and hockey. When she’s not tweeting, reading submissions for Uncanny Magazine, or writing about comics for Panels, she’s blogging about her feels, favorite books, and fanfiction at read, rec, write, repeat.
The Star Wars Expanded Universe has passed into LEGEND. In its absence, the powers at DISNEY have risen from the ashes of Lucasfilm and will not rest until fans across the galaxy have joined the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
This daring reader has accepted a mission to read all of the novels in the CANON, with hopes of sharing what she’s discovered about the new tie-ins…
Book Riot contributor Andy Browers recently touched on Disney’s decision to remove the Star Wars Expanded Universe’s decades of tie-in material from the official canon. Sad as it is to see those books pass into Legends status, it means fans have a wealth of new reads in Disney/Lucasfilm’s Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens publishing initiative. As of writing, there are at least twenty novels and comic books planned and I’ve been reading as many as I can get my hands on. Here are my recommendations for which Star Wars tie-in novels you should buy/borrow/bypass:
Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath is so much fun I bought an extra hardcover to give as a gift. My fellow budgeting book lovers know that’s high praise. The story takes place shortly after Return of the Jedi and deals with the aftermath of Darth Vader’s and Emperor Palpatine’s deaths. There’s a power vacuum that needs to be filled and Wendig’s Aftermath Trilogy (the second book is expected in July 2016) will bridge the gap between RotJ and The Force Awakens. It’s written to be accessible for Star Wars fans and newbies alike. This is the clever, fast-paced, inclusive space opera you’re looking for.
Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka, Illustrations by Phil Noto
If you left The Force Awakens wanting to know everything about our new trio, Greg Rucka’s Before the Awakening is the tie-in for you. This middle grade chapter book is split into three sections, one each for Finn, Rey, and Poe, and covers events prior to the film. It’s a quick, easy read, perfect for the intended age group and for older fans. Phil Noto’s illustrations are a lovely addition to the story.
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
Lost Stars starts with the events of A New Hope and reaches past Return of the Jedi, covering iconic moments from different points of view. I tried e-book and audiobook and unfortunately neither format clicked for me. I didn’t buy into the star-crossed romance between childhood friends Cienna Ree and Thane Kyrell. Cienna works for the Empire (i.e. Evil Space Fascists) and comes up with rationalization after rationalization for acts of terror perpetrated across the galaxy by her superiors. Normally I love YA media tie-ins (Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane: Fallout comes to mind) and I’m all over books that take familiar events and twist them in new and interesting ways (Jo Baker’s Longbourn, anyone?), but Lost Stars was just not for me.
Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry, Illustrations by Phil Noto
As much as I love Leia, the best parts of Moving Target were the prologue and epilogue that tease events of The Force Awakens. The main plot’s weak and not particularly interesting and Leia’s portrayed as a bit of a damsel in distress. It’s another middle grade chapter book and Phil Noto’s illustrations were the only things saving this from BYPASS status.
Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure by Greg Rucka, Illustrations by Phil Noto
Greg Rucka’s addition to the Phil Noto-illustrated chapter books about the original trio is far and away the most charming of the three. Smuggler’s Run uses the short form and fast pace to brilliant effect. The depiction of Han and Chewie’s relationship, complete with one-liners and brilliant banter, is pitch perfect.
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure by Jason Fry, Illustrations by Phil Noto
Another middle grade chapter book with great illustrations from Phil Noto, The Weapon of a Jedi takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Jason Fry does an excellent job with his characterization of Luke, portraying him as slightly awkward and uncomfortable with the attention and accolades he’s garnered after the Battle of Yavin. Unfortunately, the story never really gets off the ground, spending a lot of time in Luke’s head without much in the way of action or forward moving plot.
If you’re interested in another Rioter’s take, Panels Managing Editor Swapna Krishna put together a reading order guide to the new comics and books.