Monday, January 6, 2020

Review - Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

Available on Paperback and Kindle!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . 

There was a little bitty science fiction film titled Star Wars, written and directed by George Lucas. Released in 1977, the film became so popular that it spawned two sequels, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, two made-for-television Ewoks movies, two short-lived Saturday morning cartoons, and the infamous (and laughable) 1978's Star Wars Holiday Special. The entire franchise was pretty much dead until 1991 when the Bantam Books published Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Hugo Award-Winner Timothy Zahan, which is book one in a three-book cycle. Dubbed the "Thrawn Trilogy," the books introduced four new characters — Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, Gilad Pellaeon, and Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Heir to the Empire reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list during its original release. Fans were hungry for anything set in the Star Wars galaxy and many more sequel (and prequel) novels and comic books were published by a variety of science fiction authors. The "Expanded Universe" came to an end after Disney bought the Star Wars franchise in 2012. Crucible was the last published "EU" novel and it was set 45 years after A New Hope. All "EU" comics and novels were rebranded "Legends" and all future books would follow a new Disney canon. However, Disney has taken bits and pieces from the Legends, such as adding Grand Admiral Thrawn to the animated series Star Wars: Rebels. Timothy Zahn even returned to write a new series of prequel books based on this new version of Thrawn.

Final Thoughts

Like many kids of the '80s, I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS, as well as the Ewoks movies. For my tenth birthday in 1991, my mother gave me the novel Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. While tie-in titles are now considered fan-fiction to many readers, in 1991, Heir to the Empire was the "holy grail" to us Star Wars fans. I read the book one time but for the life of me, I couldn't remember a single thing about it. I made the mistake of letting a few classmates borrow the book. First the dust jacket went missing and eventually the book just disappeared. Due to my disappointment with Disney's sequel trilogy, I wanted to reread Heir to the Empire. I ended up buying the Thrawn Trilogy and the Hand of Thrawn two-book series on eBay.

Heir to the Empire is set five years after the Battle of Endor (a.k.a. - Return of the Jedi), where we learn the Empire wasn't destroyed after the deaths of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. The Emperor had appointed twelve "Grand Admirals" or the "Circle of Twelve" prior to this death, which includes Grand Admiral Thrawn, a blue skin and red-eyed human-like alien who commands the Imperial Star Destroyer "Chimaera." Alongside Captain Pellaeon and his bodyguard, Rukh, Thrawn comes up with a plan to strike back at the New Republic, which involves unleashing a cloned Dark Jedi, Jorus C'baoth, from captivity.

Luke Skywalker finds himself in a bit of trouble after being captured by a group of smugglers lead by Talon Karrde, who plans on handing him over to Thrawn. Luke must rely on Mara Jade, a former Emperor's hand turned smuggler, to escape the Imperial forces. FYI: Later on the "EU," Mara becomes Luke's wife and a Jedi Master!

Leia is also in the story! She's now married to Han Solo and they're expecting twins. Plus, she's now a Jedi. To protect her from a group of aliens known as the Noghri, Han leaves Leia and Chewbacca on Kashyyyk, home of the Wookies, while he teams up with his old friend Lando Calrissian.

Overall, I enjoyed geeking-out (Is that even a word?) and reading Star Wars: Heir to the Empire. The story flows exactly like the original trilogy and feels like a natural continuation. Timothy Zahn did a brilliant job expanding the Star Wars universe with intriguing characters and a brand-new threat, which doesn't involve another Death Star.

I don't want to Star Wars myself out so I'm taking a little break before reading Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.

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