With the coming of Star Wars Episode VII, many longtime fans were shocked to learn that the Expanded Universe of books, TV shows, video games, comics, and other media would no longer be viewed as canon. Naturally, there are some parts we’d rather keep and some we’d rather forget.
I’m probably one of the few who’s been okay with this development from the start. I mean, I’ve never needed something to be “canon” in order for me to enjoy it. One of my old complaints about the EU was that Lucasfilm and other producers were forever trying to retcon everything in a single cohesive universe, which often made for some glaring plot holes, especially when they were trying to fix previous plot holes. Allowing for more than one continuity allows for true imagination to flourish in what’s supposed to be a pretty fun and adventurous setting.
With that in mind, here are my 10 favorite works and elements from the previous Star Wars canon (now dubbed “Legends“) that I consider part of my own personal Star Wars saga.
1. The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: You get to see a good continuation of the Star Wars saga. It’s got the brilliance of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the complex character of Mara Jade, a look into the world of smugglers, and Leia’s own quest with the Noghri Death Commandos. A Star Wars series that’s both smart and loads of fun.
2. Hand of Thrawn Duology by Timothy Zahn
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: These books highlight both the issues of trying to bring a decades-long galactic war to a close and the struggle of the New Republic to stay in control while hundreds of cultures are retriggering their old feuds. Zahn also brings us a nice glimpse of the Chiss and Grand Admiral Thrawn’s legacy.
3. Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: Our hero is Mace Windu if Samuel L. Jackson played him more like Jules from Pulp Fiction (but with less swearing). Take one shining Jedi Master and throw him into the deadliest jungles and guerrilla warfare, all while trying to keep himself from straying to the darkness of war itself.
4. The X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: Wedge Antilles and Rogue Squadron get to really shine in these novels, taking the fight to the Empire in new and creative ways. I also love Aaron Allston’s contribution of Wraith Squadron, a band of washouts turned into elite commandos who never got nearly enough screentime in the old EU.
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: Instead of an idealistic farmboy, we get to see the Star Wars universe through the eyes of a cynical and sarcastic mercenary (and later on, a cynical and sarcastic Jedi Knight). Add to that some clever new Imperial superweapons and soldier classes, along with Kyle Katarn’s struggle to avoid the urge for revenge and his own grab for ultimate power.
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: While the Tales of the Jedi comics were very melodramatic (and even a bit corny), the drama of two fallen Jedi is the real heart of the story. Exar Kun and Ulic Qel-Droma seem like the prototypes for the corruption that led to Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, right down to Ulic’s loss and his very poignant tale of redemption after Kun’s defeat.
7. The Jensaarai
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: It’s refreshing to get Force-using traditions outside of the Jedi-Sith paradigm. The Jensaarai are a mix of both sides, wearing awesome suits of armor and wielding lightsabers in the name of protecting their home star system. They blend aggressive fighting style with concern for the innocent, becoming a little-known band of samurai space warriors that would’ve worked well alongside Luke Skywalker’s New Jedi Order.
8. The Aing-Tii
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: Much like the Jensaarai, the Aing-Tii are monks from another mysterious sect with their own unique take on the Force. However, they’re deliberately alien, keeping to the Kathol Rift and using fantastic technologies as part of their enigmatic agenda. The only thing outsiders know for certain is their hatred of slavery, making slave traders a common target and putting them on the right side of justice.
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: Essentially, the whole concept of the Charon is what the Yuuzhan Vong from the New Jedi Order novels could’ve been. Hailing from the parallel universe called “Otherspace,” these massive sentient arachnids use organic technology to travel across the galaxy, following a twisted creed to eradicate all forms of life. They provided a genuinely alien culture, with the potential for further development.
10. The Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley
What It’s Got and Why I Love It: Brian Daley’s trilogy shows us the partnership of Han Solo and Chewbacca at their prime, long before they joined the Rebellion. They get into all kinds of adventures, from staging a prison break to hunting for an ancient treasure, all while trying to avoid local law enforcement and rivals like the gunslinger Gallandro. There’s no need for cameos from the Jedi Knights or the Rebellion here—just some old-fashioned, Western-style shootouts between rogues.
If you’ve got your own ideas for what makes your own Star Wars canon, let me know in the comments below and may the Force be with you, always.