Review of Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves by James S.A. Corey

18209565Title: Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves (Empire and Rebellion #2)

Author: Joe Schreiber

Publisher: LucasBooks (Random House)

Format: electronic ARC

Where I Received the Title: NetGalley

Review:

I have long been a fan of Star Wars and the expanded universe and have also been diligent and enthusiastic in reading both James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse space opera series and Daniel Abraham’s epic fantasy series, The Dagger and the Coin. So to say I have been anticipating Honor Among Thieves is an understatement.

To make things even more compelling, this novel is about Han Solo. A man’s man. An I-shot-first, fearless rogue who if given the chance, every 1980’s kid would want to be if it wasn’t for Boba Fett’s sweet mech armor. So here I am, finally with an electronic copy in hand, ready to don a set of Star Wars jammies, with a Han Solo action figure to my side, and read this novel in one sitting.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the writing was not quite typical of the Daniel Abraham/Ty Franck duo that penned the wonderful novel, Leviathan Wakes. The punchy dialog that I am used to reading in Jim Holden seems almost artificial when it is transplanted on Han Solo. The Star Wars favorite talks tough, but seems completely unsure of himself in his head, which in a way is inconsistent with the Han Solo character of the expanded universe.

From my viewing and reading, I see Han Solo as a hardened, but still intrinsically good man. A.C. Crispin fleshed out his character beautifully in a trilogy that told of a young boy who had to deal with death and losing a mother figure and then later, a lover that he would have spent the rest of his life with. This portrayal of Han Solo showed how his character struggled to deal with the feelings of loss and how it led to a life as a smuggler and nearly a life-long bachelor. Timothy Zahn also captures his essence well in Scoundrels and Choices of One, giving us some filler adventures from the same period as Honor Among Thieves. And then of course, the original film trilogy first captured Han in his many shades of gray, showing his allegiance first to himself, and then to the Rebel Alliance. It finally took a princess who could match his courage and wits to open his heart to others beyond himself.

In the first book of the thematic trilogy, Razor’s Edge, Martha Wells brought Leia further into the spotlight, showing us her undeniable courage and intelligence. Good characters often struggle to make difficult decisions and Wells put Leia in these types of situations, allowing her leadership abilities to shine. It had an exciting plot with lots of action.

In contrast, Honor Among Thieves was at times dull, with very short action scenes. The book failed to draw on the expanded universe and ultimately left me with a forgettable story that I could barely finish. I really hate to write negative reviews, but given that this book will likely be one of the highest selling science fiction books this year, I feel compelled to mention that science fiction novels can achieve so much more. As can James S.A. Corey (an author combo I still will continue to read without reservation). Maybe my expectations were too high or maybe I was too tired/distracted when I read it, but each page was a chore and much of the story is already lost on me. If you are going to read a book in this series, pick up Martha Wells’ book first. If you are new to the expanded universe and are longing to read of Han Solo, pick up A.C. Crispin’s trilogy. This book is probably good for Star Wars or James S.A. Corey completists, but you will be much more satisfied if you delve into The Expanse series that the duo is writing. In fact, I highly recommend you do — it’s one of the best space operas being written today.

Review of Maul: Lockdown (Star Wars) by Joe Schreiber

lockdownTitle: Maul: Lockdown (Star Wars)

Author: Joe Schreiber

Publisher: LucasBooks (Random House)

Format: electronic ARC

Where I Received the Title: NetGalley

Review:

Without a doubt, one of the most intriguing villains of the prequel trilogy is the devil-horned Sith, Darth Maul. The obedient apprentice to Darth Sidious wields a twin-bladed light saber and is more powerful than many of the best jedi. But in Lockdown, Maul must hide his powers of the force to destroy a space prison that houses some of the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy.

As one can expect from Schreiber, the author of the Death Trooper horror novel, Maul: Lockdown contains some gratuitous violence. The prison is part of an underground gambling ring where opponents are matched for fight-to-death cage matches — a contest in which Maul finds himself a frequent combatant. But Maul’s mission isn’t simply survival. That would be too easy. He must negotiate his way through the prison to broker a deal with a secret arms dealer to procure a nuclear device. And… all this must be done with revealing his powers in the force.

So what are we to make of this death sport novel? I will say this — if the premise interests you, I think you will find the book pleasurable to read. The action scenes are fast and exciting and there’s enough of a plot to justify the action. With that said, this novel is very self-contained, taking almost entirely aboard the space prison. There are some appearances by Jabba and Darth Plagueis and a few other minor characters, but this isn’t a sweeping novel that expands the universe.

Chronologically, Maul: Lockdown takes place after James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis, but to compare these novels is not exactly a fair comparison. They achieve very different things. Maul: Lockdown is a popcorn book filled with battles and action and does very little to provide deep insight into the overall arc of the era. Regardless, I plowed through this book in just a few sittings.

I think this book should get fairly high reviews, mostly for the fact that Schreiber delivers what readers of this book will expect and more. A light plot, lots of fight sequences, and more insight into the character of Darth Maul.

5 Star Wars Prequel Novels Worth Reading

I know that most fans grimace when they hear the words prequel and Star Wars together. Characters like Jar Jar Binks did their best to destroy the franchise, but there is actually a lot to like about the prequels. There’s an entire Jedi Council, a clone war with hundreds of Fetts, a skilled cyborg named General Grievous, and an almost invincible demon Sith called Darth Maul. Some of the expanded universe novels take advantage of the great characters and history in this time period.

With the release of Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber coming out next week, I wanted to list the top five novels that I have read from the Rise of the Empire era in Star Wars history. Before I do this, here is the synopsis for Maul: Lockdown

lockdownIt’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object capable of obliterating the Jedi and conquering the galaxy.

Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.

And now for my list of top 5 Star Wars prequel novels worth reading:

Shatterpoint5. Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover — Matthew Stover is a veteran of the Star Wars universe and writes well. This novel is a great introduction to the clone wars and gives the reader a little more insight into the Jedi, including Mace Windu. And as can be expected in times of war, this novel is packed with action and light saber duels — something every Star Wars fan can enjoy. This novel takes place shortly after Episode II.

yoda4. Yoda: Dark Rendezvous by Sean Stewart — I remember watching Episode 2 in the theater and when Yoda removed the light saber from his belt, the entire audience cheered. It is for good reason because the wise Jedi Master is a favorite among most Star Wars geeks. In addition to Yoda, we get a lot of insight into Count Dooku, a formidable enemy of the rebels, but one often wonders if there is good left in him. This novel takes place after Shatterpoint, but prior to Episode III.

kenobi3. Kenobi: Star Wars by John Jackson Miller — Miller takes one of our beloved heroes and tells a western story that is reminiscent of the short-lived Firefly series. In fact, this novel doesn’t read like most Star Wars novels, which was a nice change of pace. We get accustomed to Tatooine life and Kenobi, who seeks to remain hidden, is seen as discreet through the eyes of the other characters. This novel takes place shortly after Episode III.

Han2. Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin — Perhaps I am being nostalgic in including A.C. Crispin’s trilogy on the list. It was sad to hear of her untimely death last year, succumbing to cancer. Her Han Solo trilogy is somewhat sentimental as we learn of Han Solo’s touching relationship with a love interest and a friendship with Chewy. We learn what gave him a hard edge around women, how he became a smuggler, and where his troubles began with Jabba the Hut. The trilogy ends with a familiar scene in Episode IV, which nicely ties the novels into the Universe.

plagueis1. Darth Plagueis by James Luceno — If you are only going to read one novel in the Rise of the Empire Era, I recommend Darth Plagueis. The novel gives the back story for Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, the most evil and conniving character in Star Wars. Maybe it’s not the most exciting story on the list, but it is both engaging and informative. I really got sucked into the mind of Palpatine in this novel and Luceno did an excellent job of developing his character. Had he omitted the word, midichlorian, from the novel it would have been even better. The other novels on my list coincidentally had a nice chronology to them, but Darth Plagueis starts at the beginning, before Episode I.

So there you have it, five novels (actually seven with the trilogy) that are certainly worth reading if you have any interest in the period before the Rebellion era. There are a few duds as well, but I think it is pretty safe to start with any of the novels I mention above. There’s really no starting place when it comes to Star Wars novels, but I would recommend starting with either Darth Plagueis and sticking with the Clone War era or the Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn and reading the novels that start after Return of the Jedi. May the force be with you in your reading.

Review of Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells

17345202Title: Razor’s Edge (Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion #1)

Author: Martha Wells

Publisher: LucasBooks/Del Rey-Spectra

Format: e-ARC

Where I Received the Title: NetGalley

Review:

I have read several novels in the Star Wars universe, but the time period surrounding the original trilogy holds a special place in my heart. And it seems appropriate to note that my favorite is the Han Solo trilogy by A.C. Crispin, who sadly succumbed to cancer earlier this month. Not only did she brilliantly capture the character of Han Solo, but she showed how a back-story and plot can be tied-in to an already existing narrative (something Lucas even struggled with in the prequel trilogy).

Martha Well’s novel, Razor’s Edge, is also part of a trilogy. The other two volumes are Honor Among Thieves by James S.A. Corey (!) and an untitled Luke Skywalker novel by Kevin Hearne. I mention this because knowledge of the trilogy sets a theme for each title. In the case of Razor’s Edge, it’s a book about Leia.

Leia has always been a strong character in the Star Wars universe. For much of it, she is unaware of her jedi heritage; however, she consistently demonstrates strong leadership skills and a keen sensibility. If the original trilogy can be faulted, it is that it teeters on the edge of falling into misogynist tropes. In episode IV, Leia is a damsel in distress, but when she is “rescued,” we see her taking the initiative to save Luke and Han from death. In episode VI, she is a bikini-clad slave to the overbearing Jabba before she chokes him to death. These paint Leia as an unlikely hero, simply because she is a woman or princess. In Razor’s Edge, Wells doesn’t waste time flirting with these played-out plot devices and starts us right in the action with Leia as a leader.

The story takes place shortly after Episode IV when the rebel alliance is scattered and thinned out. The Empire, despite losing their secret weapon, is deep and strong. To reconcile their situation, Leia leads a ship of rebels to procure materials for their secret base on Hoth. They steer clear of the Empire, but unfortunately the galaxy is still a dangerous place and they find themselves captured by space pirates. To Leia’s surprise, they are from her home planet of Alderaan. She must find out the motives behind their capture and her crew must outsmart and outfight their way to freedom.

The challenge in writing a novel in this time period is that it is constrained by a tight and well-known Star Wars history, but Wells’ story arc is satisfying. Razor’s Edge is filled with action scene after action scene, which allows us to see Leia demonstrate her leadership and show that she is willing to make the hard decisions that others apparently aren’t able to make. The scenes are good, but the continuous fast pace left my mind numb toward the novel’s conclusion.

I found that Razor’s Edge was a nice addition to the Star Wars universe, highlighted by Wells’ strong characterization of Leia. I would rank it better than most and worth reading for those who share in the nostalgia of the original trilogy. Also for fans of James S.A. Corey and the Expanse trilogy, this book will likely tie into the Han Solo novel that will be released in March of 2014.

Disney/Star Wars Merchandising

20130902_184243We just got back from Disney World, celebrating our twin toddlers’ third birthday. It is really cool to see their fascination with Pooh and Mickey, who maintain the highest level of celebrity status. Disney is one of the few places where I actually enjoy going through the gift stores and you should not be at all surprised to learn that the Star Wars merchandise is in full effect.

Days after the news that Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise, artists began to sketch a Disney-themed Star Wars universe. Well, I can tell you that these early visions are now realized in the form of products — and LOTS of them. Here are a few photos for your perusal.

Plush figures of Mickey Kenobi and Goofy Vader and Chip and Dale Ewoks

Plush figures of Mickey Kenobi and Goofy Vader and Chip and Dale Ewoks

Sarlacc Attack features Goofy as Chewie, Donald as Han, Minnie as Leia, Mickey as Luke, and Pete as Boba Fett.

Sarlacc Attack features Goofy as Chewie, Donald as Han, Minnie as Leia, Mickey as Luke, and Pete as Boba Fett.

Mickey Mouse/Star Wars Action FIgures

Mickey Mouse/Star Wars Action FIgures

As gimmicky as these are, I must admit I was tempted to buy the whole lot. I can’t decide if the duck-billed Darth Maul was disturbing or fascinating — the Mickey Mouse clubhouse just doesn’t have a lot of villains other than that loud mouth, Pete.

Review of Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

13573427Title: Star Wars: Scoundrels

Author: Timothy Zahn

Rating: 3 star

Publisher: LucasBooks

Format: Hardcover

Review:

Let’s start at the beginning — the very beginning. You can’t help but love the cover of Scoundrels. A police lineup shows Chewie, Han, and Lando wonderfully rendered, bringing back the nostalgia of the original trilogy. But a simple heist with this trio would be much too simple and turning the cover to the back shows that Han has a much bigger plan in mind.

scoundrels_cover

I will refrain from making an obvious movie connection with the premise of this novel. Yes, it is true that Han is leading the ultimate heist to steal “cash” out of a vault. And yes, his crew does consist of eleven people. And once again, yes — each of these “scoundrels” has a unique and special ability that is required by Han to pull off this elaborate plan so he can finally pay back Jabba.

When I first saw the title, Scoundrels, I expected a few things. First, I expected to see the shady side of Han — the smuggling rebel who would talk back to a princess in order to get his reward. I also expected to see some camaraderie with his faithful wookie. As for Lando, I wasn’t sure he fit correctly into the continuity as I had always assumed the stunt Han pulled against him was stealing the Millennium Falcon. This book tells us otherwise.

I won’t go into details of the plot, but let’s just say that Han comes across an opportunity to break into the Black Sun crime sindicate to steal back what amounts to a fortune of credits. He reluctantly accepts this challenge and enlists a host of smugglers to accomplish the task. Several obstacles and missteps threaten to foil Han’s plans and what seems to be a typical caper ends with a twist that I never expected.

What frustrated me from the beginning of the novel was the effort in making Han to be such a good guy. I absolutely loved A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo trilogy, which told of his hard upbringing, giving us insight into his reluctance to getting in relationships and his strong connection with Chewie. In Scoundrels, Zahn goes to extremes to make Han a benevolent hero. When a bounty hunter comes to collect, Han shoots him with his familiar gun-under-the-table, but it is immediately justified by saying that the bounty hunter shot first. As for the fortune they are stealing, once again we are given a long explanation about how this is stolen money and Han needs to help return it to its faithful owner with the promise of a hero’s portion.

I appreciate that Han has a good heart, but part of the appeal of Han is that he doesn’t fit the typical Star Wars archetype of being wholly good or wholly evil. He’s a smuggler who’s out for himself, but also has a soft side.

Zahn is a talented writer and perhaps I am being a little harsh in my review (but given the many good reviews, I give myself liberty in sharing my qualms). For the most part, the novel is light-hearted and fun, filled with dialog and twists and turns that keep the action going. There are no Jedi or Sith Lords, which I appreciated and thought would distract from the point of the novel. I would have liked for more interaction between Han and Chewie, but overall Zahn handled the interactions between the many characters well.

The plot of the novel was well thought-out and creative, but I wasn’t as inspired by the story as I had hoped. At times it got bogged down with excessive dialog between characters that were essentially just filling a role in the heist without being particularly interesting. This wasn’t due to a fault in the writing. That is far from the truth. It’s just that adding character depth to a team of eleven is difficult with the limited amount of space to work with within a novel.

For Star Wars fans, particularly those wanting to fill in some empty pieces of the original trilogy, I think you may find this read a delight. Expect some action, some humorous and sarcastic banter from Han, and a few plot twists. For me, it was a decent read that was worth my time, but it doesn’t rise to the level of A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo trilogy. Nonetheless, I appreciate Zahn’s approach and it does add a little depth to explain Han and Lando’s troubled relationship in The Empire Strikes Back.

Review of Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison

16099566Title: Star Wars: Darth Vader & the Ghost Prison

Author: Hayden Blackman

Illustrator: Agustin Alessio

Rating: 5 star

Publisher: Dark Horse

Review:

The Star Wars universe has been covered in intricate detail. There are hundreds of stories that have graced the pages of various novels, comics, and even the television screen with two installments of the Clone Wars. Many of these stories deal with the universe’s greatest villain, but Darth Vader & the Ghost Prison offers something new — a twist into the mindset of the masked Sith Lord.

screen-capture

The story begins with the graduation of several new Imperial officers. Cadet Laurita Tohm is at the head of the class and has already been recruited by Grand Moff Tarkin to work aboard the secret Death Star project. A childhood incident has left him crippled, but his mind and determination have brought favored eyes upon him. Following the graduation ceremony, Tohm is lured into a trap as an uprising within the Empire begins to take place. Tohm escapes the insurgency with Darth Vader and cybernetic lieutenant, Moff Trachta, to find a way to save the Empire from the grips of the would-be usurpers.

Darth Vader & the Ghost Prison collects a five-issue miniseries that was difficult to put down. Without hesitation, I read the entire story arc in one swoop, fully immersed in Vader’s struggle to maintain control of the Empire. Laurita Tohm was an interesting character, somewhat unique in his total devotion to the Empire without concern for his own self-advancement.

screen-capture-1The interaction between Tohm, Vader, and Trachta is interesting and natural as they discuss the options of protecting the Emperor from the traitors. Vader is somewhat submissive in these discussions with the Emperor’s presence, keeping his true desire for power at bay. Tohm fully bows down down to Vader’s command, no longer setting his eyes on his personal aspirations, but in trying to please his master. His allegiance in no way makes him a puppet and his devotion raises the attention of the Emperor who makes great plans for the young cadet.

Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison has great action, excellent artwork, interesting characters, and surprisingly a fresh look into the mindset of Darth Vader. I highly recommend it.

Review of Star Wars: The Last Command by Timothy Zahn

216422Title: Star Wars: The Last Command

Author: Timothy Zahn

Rating: 3 star

Publisher: Spectra

Format: Paperback

Review:

It’s always interesting to read a novel (or in this case, a series) for the second time. I was but a wee lad when it first came out — a middle schooler who had recently ventured into the world of adult novels, reading the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Star Wars, with a much greater sense of innocence, was still appealing with its heroism and magic of the force.

After reviewing the first novel, I was almost disappointed that I decided to reread the series. My review of the second novel was better, with Dark Force Rising displaying better character development and action. So here I am, reviewing the third and final novel in the series, The Last Command.

I’d love to write a glowing review. I’d love to say that it brought back the nostalgic fascination I once had with the series as it expanded the original Star Wars trilogy into the future. But the truth is that the trilogy’s impact on me seems to have lost some luster. In the third novel, Grand Admiral Thrawn is planning a large attack on the rebels. He has amassed a collection of ships and has a secret cloning lab where he plans to gain the manpower to rule the galaxy.

Leia gives birth to her twins and finds that they are even more difficult to protect outside of her womb. She has to trust her help in keeping them safe, but she learns that there is a leak from within the ranks of the rebel alliance.

Mara Jade still remains bipolar, desiring to assist the rebels against the overly-oppressive Empire; however, the remnant command of the Emperor still speaks to her: “Kill Luke Skywalker.”

Joruus C’Boath becomes crazier than ever, with grandiose visions of ruling the Empire with Luke, Leia, Mara, and the twins serving him. Thrawn puts up with him, claiming to need him for one purpose or another, but really C’Boath is mostly a nuisance.

Luke, Han, and Lando make frequent appearances, but by the third novel, they are ancillary characters, experiencing very little change or actions to drive the plot forward.

So all of this brings me to my review and I am trying to resist from saying such cliches as some stones are better left unturned. With the improvements of the second novel over the first, I had hopes that the third novel would continue the pace. But where the second novel improved, the third novel digressed. Luke’s internal conflicts with the dark side are now gone and he sees C’Boath for who he really is — an evil, psychopathic dark Jedi (which should have been obvious in the first place). Mara Jade’s character, who seemed so complex in my early memories, actually comes across as equally naive. Her actions and thoughts are all sympathetic to the rebels, yet she clings to this vestige command to kill Luke and is haphazard as she mentions it in conversation.

And then there’s Thrawn. A supposedly mastermind supervillain who continues to put up with C’Boath and the incompetence of his underlings with patience and fortitude. There were moments in the first and second novels where he lived up to his hype, but once again, this was lost in the third novel. I guess I was hoping for a more courageous and evil antagonist — one who would deal severe consequences for incompetence and would aggressively dole out his strength against the rebels.

As I paced my way through the novel, there were moments that I thought were clever. I really liked the manner in which Mara Jade overcame her duality of emotions toward Luke at the end. Also, the smugglers banding together against the Empire, while remaining somewhat neutral, seemed realistic to me.

Overall, the series was a decent read, but it’s magic resides back in my youth, before the expanded universe had reached its breadth. The pacing is quick and the ending, unfortunately is abrupt and anticlimactic. For Star Wars fans, this series is of course a must read. On it’s own, it just doesn’t hold up to today’s standards.

Review of Star Wars: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn

SW2Title: Star Wars: Dark Force Rising

Author: Timothy Zahn

Rating: 4 star

Publisher: Spectra

Format: Paperback

Review:

The first novel of the Thrawn Trilogy, Heir to the Empire, brought back the nostalgia of the original movie trilogy. Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the rebellion now face a formidable foe in Grand Admiral Thrawn. While I appreciated the new characters of this novel, I found it to be primarily a setup for the trilogy and incomplete as a stand alone (review here).

The second novel, Dark Force Rising, comes back with full force (forgive the pun). After nearly being assassinated by the Noghiri, a race loyal to the Empire, Leia travels to their home planet to try and establish them as allies. Luke heeds the call of a self-proclaimed Jedi Master named Joruus C’Boath. Han and Lando try to unveil treachery within the Rebellion and discover that there are a fleet of ships left over from the clone wars that could turn the tide for either the Rebellion or the Empire.

I enjoyed the second novel much more than the first. Dark Jedi C’Boath toes the line between evil and insane, but covets power nonetheless. He believes that he can convert Luke and Leia to his cause and devotes all of his energy to luring them into his self-righteous plans. His character is interesting and one wonders if the very able and almost clairvoyant leader, Grand Admiral Thrawn, is really in charge or if C’Boath controls the puppet strings.

Luke’s interaction with C’Boath is a tad naive, like he is back in training with Yoda before experiencing the struggles against the Empire. Han also falls short of his suave, but rugged self, constantly concerned for Leia’s welfare while he embarks on his own journey with Lando.

While it didn’t reach the same level of magic that it did the first time I read it, Dark Force Rising is an enjoyable read. Mara Jade is one of the better characters, complex in her loyalties and in her abilities. She struggles with her desire to kill Luke and her desire to form an alliance with him. She starts to display Jedi powers, but she has only touched the surface of the power of the force.

The Thrawn Trilogy is a definitive series in the expanded universe and even as I read it twenty years later, it still holds up fairly well.

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

Title: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire

Author: Timothy Zahn

Rating: 

Publisher: Spectra

Format: Paperback

Review:

 I was at my library’s book sale a couple of weeks ago and happened upon Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy. Heir to the Empire was the first Star Wars novel I had read, some twenty years ago, and having remembered little about it, I thought it was high time I read the trilogy again.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve read quite a few books in the Star Wars expanded universe, but most of my reading has been prior to Episode IV. I’ve read the Han Solo trilogy, a few books during the era of Darth Vader’s rein, and a greater collection of books that take place before the rise of Emperor Palpatine. Heir to the Empire, on the other hand, takes place five years after the defeat of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi.

We learn early on in the novel that the Rebellion is still fighting what is left of the Empire. Leia and Han Solo have married and she has become pregnant with twins. Luke Skywalker, who remains one of the galaxy’s most eligible bachelors, is training Leia in the ways of the force. Admiral Ackbar leads the Rebel fleet and in the fringes of the galaxy lies Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Empire’s adroit and vicious leader who sets his eyes on squashing the Rebellion.

Zahn does a nice job of tying in the continued story to previous events, almost to a fault, as Luke almost incessantly reflects on past experiences. He recalls his confrontation with Vader, his near death experience at the pit of Carkoon, the Battle of Endor, nearly crashing his speeder bike, the mysterious cave in the Degobah system, … oh sorry, I got a little carried away there. Anyway, as I was saying, Zahn does tie the story well into the original trilogy, but it seems it was done much too carefully. I would have liked for the story to present something entirely new, but the novel is really just a set up for the rest of the trilogy. Grand Admiral Thrawn only begins to become aware of Skywalker’s presence and the dark Jedi that he recruits only plays a passing role in the story arc.

I certainly am eager to read the rest of the series (again), but the first novel by itself is incomplete. The Rebellion appears to be in greater power and Luke, Han, and Leia’s fates seem secure. I am hoping that their adversary grows to become a more formidable opponent and for new heroes to be born that will help keep a balance in the universe. Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy is often credited with birthing what is now known as the expanded universe, so in that regard it is to be held in high esteem. But for those who have read several other titles, the novel has a bit of a slow start as it tries to forge new ground while maintaining the connection to the previous stories.