The best Star Wars novels take the noble Jedi, the evil Sith, and the amazing space battles, and capture them all in the written word. If you can’t get enough of lightsabers, blasters, and X-Wing dogfights, you can turn to these novels to fill in the gaps in the stories of your favorite characters from across the films and beyond.
With almost 400 novels in the original Star Wars Legends continuity, almost 50 in the Disney Canon, and new entries arriving all the time, where do you start? This is your guide to eight of the best Star Wars novels, both Legends, and Canon, covering countless of the best Star Wars characters, every part of the timeline, and offering a deeper insight into the wider timeline you get from watching the Star Wars movies in order.
The best Star Wars novels are:
- The Thrawn Trilogy – The best Star Wars Legends book
- Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter – The best Prequel Era book
- A New Dawn – The Star Wars Rebels prequel
- Tarkin – The best book about the Empire
- Lords of the Sith – The best Darth Vader book
- Lost Stars – The best book about the Galactic Civil War
- Bloodline – The best Sequel Era book
- Ahsoka – The best book about Ahsoka
1. The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
The best Star Wars Legends book.
The three books that created one of the best Star Wars villains and set the direction of the Legends continuity for years to come. Grand Admiral Thrawn has since graced our screens on Star Wars Rebels and now Ahsoka, but this trilogy tells the original story of the Galactic Empire‘s best strategist. This is cheating a little, but these three books by Timothy Zahn, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command, are so interlinked we’ve put them in a single entry.
Eight years after Return of the Jedi, the bickering warlords of the Imperial Remnant are uniting under the leadership of the last grand admiral, a rare alien in Imperial service, Thrawn. Luke, Han, Leia, and Lando must survive a campaign of assassination and sabotage that threatens to topple the fragile New Republic. Meanwhile, Thrawn’s ally, a crazed Jedi Master, has dark plans for Luke Skywalker and for Princess Leia and Han Solo‘s unborn twins. Read these if you want to discover the original Sequel Trilogy.
Read my Thrawn trilogy review for more information on these books.
2. Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter by Michael Reaves
The best Prequel Era book.
Star Wars meets The Terminator. Set just before Episode I: The Phantom Menace, this Legends novel by Michael Reaves follows Lorn Pavan, an information broker who is approached by a Trade Federation defector. The rogue Neimodian tells Lorn of Darth Sidious’s plan to blockade Naboo. Discovering the leak, the Sith Lord dispatches his apprentice to hunt Lorn down before he can tell the Jedi Council what he knows. Pursued by the relentless Darth Maul through the bowels of Coruscant, Lorn can trust only his wits and Darsha Assant, an unproven Padawan undertaking her final test to become a Jedi Knight.
3. Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
The Star Wars Rebels prequel.
Kanan Jarrus, secretly the former Jedi Padawan Caleb Dume, is drinking his life away on a mining world eight years after Order 66. When his friend is killed by Imperials, Kanan finds himself drawn towards the mysterious Hera Syndulla, a Twi’lek pilot and part of a growing rebellion against the Empire. Together, they face Denetrius Vidian, a cruel cybernetic mining magnate with a propensity for murdering subordinates for their failures.
In this book, John Jackson Miller shows how Kanan and Hera first met, the cruelty of the Empire’s rule, and the early career of Rae Sloane, an Imperial officer who plays an important role in rallying the Imperial Remnant after Return of the Jedi.
4. Tarkin by James Luceno
The best book about the Empire.
The origin story of Grand Moff Tarkin, as played by the icon of British horror cinema Peter Cushing in Episode IV: A New Hope. This book by James Luceno is set five years after Revenge of the Sith and follows Tarkin’s rise from Governor to Grand Moff, with flashbacks to his early life. The book gives some great insight into the final years of the Old Republic, the early Empire, and the beginnings of the Death Star project.
When the novel begins, Tarkin has been assigned to an isolated outpost, apparently demoted after falling out of favor with the Emperor. In fact, he is helping protect the construction of the first Death Star nearby. An attack by surviving Separatists leads Tarkin on an investigation into the criminal underworld and the nascent Rebellion in the company of Darth Vader.
5. Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp
The best Darth Vader book.
The Emperor and Darth Vader travel to the planet Ryloth to quell the growing resistance movement there but they crash land out in the wilderness. Hunted by Cham Syndulla, the Twi’lek freedom fighter seen in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, the two Sith Lords must fight Syndulla’s forces and the vicious wildlife as they battle their way to the nearest Imperial garrison.
Paul S. Kemp’s novel shows how these two fearsome force wielders worked together, the constant tension between a Sith master and apprentice, each expecting betrayal from the other, and a look inside the mind of an Anakin Skywalker who is still coming to terms with his transformation into Vader. If you’re looking for a book-length version of Darth Vader’s rampage at the end of Rogue One, this is for you.
6. Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
The best book about the Galactic Civil War.
Beginning six years before A New Hope, Thane, the son of a noble family, and Ciena, a poor girl from the country, join the Imperial Academy hoping to become fighter pilots. Raised on a diet of Imperial propaganda, the pair soon graduate and begin fighting the brutal Rebel Alliance that threatens to destroy the peace the Empire has brought. But the destruction of Alderaan will divide the pair, with one joining the Rebellion in horror at the Empire’s cruelty, and the other becoming a more and more devoted Imperial.
Through the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi until the final defeat of the Empire at the Battle of Jakku, we get to see the Galactic Civil War from both the Light Side and the Dark. This great book by Claudia Gray gives an insight into the propaganda presented to Imperial citizens and what could possibly lead someone to stay loyal to the Empire, even after all the atrocities it committed.
7. Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray
The best Sequel Era book.
Another novel by Claudia Gray, Bloodline follows Leia, now a senator in the New Republic, six years before The Force Awakens. The Republic, twenty-four years after the Battle of Endor and the apparent death of Palpatine, is in danger of slowly breaking apart. Crimelords and self-serving politicians run amok, while Imperial loyalists are always there in the shadows. On top of this, news of Leia’s true heritage is made public. How can she hold the fragile peace together when she is revealed to the galaxy as the daughter of its most notorious villain? Meanwhile, a new power is rising on the Outer Rim and seeking to restore the Empire.
Read this if you want to find out more about the origins of the Resistance, how the New Republic failed to face up to the First Order, and see Leia’s path from senator to general.
8. Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston
The best book about Ahsoka.
A year after Revenge of the Sith, Ahsoka Tano is living under a false identity on a remote farming world and working as a mechanic. But when the local Stormtroopers threaten her new friends, Ahsoka is forced to act. You might have seen a shortened version of this story in episode 6, ‘Resolve’, of the animated anthology series Tales of the Jedi, but E. K. Johnston’s novel gives a much fuller account of Ahsoka’s early days in hiding after the Siege of Mandalore.
We get to see how Ahsoka found a new role for herself, took her first steps in the Rebellion, and how she made silver Khyber Crystals for her lightsabers. This book helps bridge the gap between the end of The Clone Wars animated series and when we meet Ahsoka again in Star Wars Rebels.
Reading these Star Wars novels in order
The timeline below shows how these books fit in with the nine Skywalker Saga films. BBY = Before the Battle of Yavin (Episode IV); ABY = After the Battle of Yavin.
- 32 BBY: Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter (Legends)
- 32 BBY: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
- 22 BBY: Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- 19 BBY: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
- 18 BBY: Ahsoka
- 14 BBY: Lords of the Sith
- 14 BBY: Tarkin
- 11 BBY: A New Dawn
- 6 BBY-5 ABY: Lost Stars
- 0 BBY/0 ABY: Episode IV: A New Hope
- 3 ABY: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- 4 ABY: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- 9 ABY: The Thrawn Trilogy (Legends)
- 28 ABY: Bloodline
- 34 ABY: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
- 34 ABY: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- 35 ABY: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
Of course, we also have a guide on the new Star Wars movies so you can look ahead to the future of the franchise. And, if you want to know what we think of them, we’ve got a list with all the Star Wars movies ranked, which will give you some insight.