When Disney bought out Lucasfilm back in 2012, the company revealed that a slate of “Star Wars” movies was on the horizon. At the same time, the company announced that, other than “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels,” any “Star Wars” story told outside the official six movies was now considered non-canon. Many fans were outraged, because several non-canon stories (known as being part of “The Expanded Universe”) had become almost as popular as the main stories, if not more so. The non-canon books and comic books helped fill the gaps between the movies. Plus, several well-developed characters had been introduced in non-canon stories that became beloved.
This list of the top 15 non-canon “Star Wars” stories includes books that examine Sith mythology, Jedi training, ancient worlds and the murderous rampage of Darth Vader. In other words, in what Disney now calls “Legends,” here are the best non-canon stories we wish were still part of the continuity.
15. The X-Wing Series
One of the reasons “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” was such an exciting cartoon was because space battles made up the majority of most episodes. The “Star Wars: X-Wing” series is also exciting for the same reason. The “X-Wing” series focuses on Rogue Squadron, a team of X-Wing pilots led by Wedge Antilles, who played only a minor role in the original trilogy. Wedge rebuilds the team after “Star Wars: A New Hope” in order to to continue to defend the Rebel Alliance against Imperial forces.
This 10-book series showcases Rogue Squadron as one of the most feared Rebel groups in the galaxy. In the first four books, they are tasked with a deadly military mission. The Rogue Squadron infiltrates Coruscant, the heart of the Empire where the Imperial High Command sits. They go up against Ysanne Isard, a formidable Imperial tyrant, and one of the best villains in the “Star Wars” expanded universe. Later books see Wedge’s team morph into Wraith Squadron, an even more elite group of pilots, who are given dangerous covert missions. Anyone who loves military stories about loyalty and bravery will dig these books.
14. Knights of the Old Republic
Although “Knights of the Old Republic” is a video game, the storyline is so immersive it had to be included on this list. “Knights of the Old Republic” takes place 4,000 years before the rule of the Galactic Empire, in a time when the Jedi and the Sith number in the thousands. After extensive lightsaber training, players choose to follow the Light Side or the Dark Side. The missions and quests depend on which storyline the player chooses, with a myriad of small events happening along the way, no matter which path they take. When “Knights of the Old Republic” was released in 2003, its combination of role-playing and turn-based game play made it unique.
The ancient setting of “Knights of the Old Republic” is a big part of its charm. “Star Wars” planets Dantooine and Tatooine, for instance, are gorgeous and brutal. Seeing the Jedi and the Sith battle for power is like seeing old Ben Kenobi’s stories told to Luke in “A New Hope” come to life. And thanks to the ability to choose to be a good buy or a bad guy, the story is always fresh and interesting.
13. Darth Bane Trilogy
Before Vader, before Maul, even before Palpatine, there was Darth Bane (no relation to Cad Bane, the bounty hunter). The Darth Bane trilogy is a deep dive into the murderous and treacherous life of the Sith. The trilogy explains the evolution of the Sith, from thousands of warriors down to just two: the master and the apprentice. In “Path of Destruction,” Dessel is a miner who winds up wanted for murder and seeks refuge in the Sith army. Now known as Darth Bane, his cunning and ruthlessness are rewarded, but his devious ways are the very downfall of the brotherhood that took him in. Soon, he is the all-powerful Sith who finds an apprentice in Zannah. As the story progresses, Zannah must defeat Bane and find her own apprentice in order for the Sith to live on.
The Rule of Two requires that there is only a Sith Lord who embodies power and a Sith student who craves it. Each of the movies portrayed this Sith philosophy with no explanation, first with Palpatine and Maul, then with Palpatine and Vader, and finally both Palpatine and Vader tried to tempt Luke into replacing the other to establish a third pairing. The Darth Bane trilogy fills in the blanks as to why these Dark Side duos existed.
12. Blood Ties
“Blood Ties” is a Dark Horse comic that explores not only the lives of bounty hunters in the “Star Wars” universe, but also the close relationship between a father and his son. Sometime before the Clone Wars begin, bounty hunter Jango Fett accepts an assignment from Count Dooku and takes his son, Boba, along for training. The assassination turns out to be more complicated than Jango anticipated, but the repercussions aren’t felt for nearly 20 years, when it comes back on Boba.
The main characters of “Blood Ties” are part of the “Star Wars” universe, but here their story expands beyond their roots in cloning. Their bounty hunting provides lots of action-packed sequences, but their relationship is the core of the story. Jango seems to put Boba into danger needlessly for the sake of training. In the end, Jango’s love for his son, and his need to make him in his own image, becomes clear.
11. Jedi Academy Trilogy
“Star Wars: The Jedi Academy Trilogy” sounds like nothing more than tales of young Padawans complaining about long training hours and tasteless cafeteria food. However, the “Jedi Academy Trilogy” by Kevin J. Anderson is about much more than that. Luke Skywalker establishes an academy to train youngsters who are strong in the Force. He’s drawn into a rescue mission, though, when Han and Chewbacca are taken prisoner on Kessel. The story twists and turns, with a new super weapon that can destroy entire solar systems and the introduction of a couple of intriguing Imperial villains. This trilogy is as wide-reaching and adventurous as the original movie trilogy.
It’s interesting that in the second book, “Dark Apprentice,” Luke has a student who delves into the Dark Side, discovering an ancient master who winds up being his mentor. While that student isn’t named Kylo Ren (or Ben, as he’s known to his family), he might be the inspiration for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
If you’re the kind of “Star Wars” fan who was frustrated when the camera didn’t show more of the sick bay on Hoth or how the Rebel Alliance was able to reattach Luke’s hand with only the instruments available on a rebel transport, then the “MedStar” books are for you. The “MedStar” novels are set on the jungle planet of Drongar during the Clone Wars. On Drongar, however, the biggest battle isn’t about ruling the galaxy, but about harvesting a priceless native plant.
The “MedStar” books are a mash-up of “ER” and “Star Wars,” focusing more on the practice of medicine than on extracurricular bunk activities or balancing the Force. The characters in the “MedStar” series are unheard of in the movies, but just as interesting. There’s a wise-cracking surgeon, an empathetic nurse and a Jedi Padawan who uses her power for healing. “MedStar” explores the medical units of “Star Wars” that we don’t see much of in the movies, as well as one of the side battles that is no longer canon.
The Obi-Wan Kenobi of the “Star Wars” prequels is a much sunnier man than old Ben Kenobi in “Star Wars: A New Hope.” What made him so grumpy? “Kenobi” fills in those years with the story of how this Jedi saved Tatooine. Obi-Wan comes to Tatooine to keep an eye on the galaxy’s future hope, Luke Skywalker. While he’s there, he is reluctantly drawn into the fight between the Tusken raiders and the locals who want to protect their homes and their families. He learns to put aside the ambivalence of his Jedi training in order to defend the residents.
“Kenobi” isn’t a biography, but rather an exploration of Tatooine as a territory up for grabs. The book plays out more like an old Western than a “Star Wars” story. The local landowners beg the stranger in town to come to their aid. Meanwhile, secondary characters drift in and out of the story, showing readers what day-to-day life on Tatooine is like. “Kenobi” fleshes out an important location in the “Star Wars” universe, as well as a legendary character.
The “Star Wars: Infinities” series asks “What if?” about a lot of the turning points in the canon narrative. What if Luke’s proton torpedo had missed the Death Star’s exhaust vent? What if Luke had frozen to death on Hoth? These are the kinds of questions the “Infinities” series of comic books from Dark Horse explores. While none of these stories inform the overall narrative, obviously, they are a lot of fun to read.
For instance, if Luke had frozen to death on Hoth, Leia would have been the child of Anakin Skywalker who received training from Yoda. Seeing Leia learn to wield a lightsaber and call on the Force to move objects is very entertaining. (She’s also a lot less cranky than Luke was about training.) A successful outcome is always assumed for the Rebel Alliance, so following stories that delve into missed targets and second-choice heroes allows the writers to go off-script in a big way, culminating in a very different, and surprising, conclusion.
7. The New Jedi Order
Looking to fill your holiday break with more than repeated viewings of “Rogue One?” “The New Jedi Order” series has 19(!) books to keep you busy during your vacation, as well as during a lot of the coming year. Before you dig into the first book, “Vector Prime,” check your optimism at the door. “The New Jedi Order” is darker than the inside of Kylo Ren’s helmet.
The funnest aspect of “The New Jedi Order” is watching the Solo children (Jacen, Jaina and Anakin) go on the kind of adventures their parents usually undertake. The teenagers are relatable without becoming young adult fiction stereotypes.
“The New Jedi Order” is a treat for fans whose favorite “Star Wars” character is Emperor Palpatine because Yuuzhan Vong, the big villain, is just as soulless and cruel. Readers can also immerse themselves in a super-long war that is filled with despair, hopelessness and a truly horrific “Children of the Corn” kind of scene. “Star Wars” fans who geek out over the never-ending variety of aliens and space creatures will also find plenty to dissect and discuss.
6. Tales from Jabba’s Palace
Jabba’s palace in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” is full of aliens and humans, of all shapes and sizes. “Tales from Jabba’s Palace” is a collection of 19 short stories. Each one has a background character at the center of their own story. Die-hard “Star Wars” fans will especially like this book, because it fills in the blanks for a lot of fan-favorite characters.
One story features Salacious Crumb, the cackling little guy with bat-wing ears, who tries to serve as a mediator between Jabba and a professor. Another story stars Oola, the green slave dancer, whose tale is about as depressing as it can be. Fans also find out how Malakili became Jabba’s rancor keeper, and why monster and man have such a tender bond. One of the best stories stars Mara Jade, who is undercover on orders from the Emperor and waiting to kill Luke Skywalker when he arrives. While none of these stories are officially canon, they help flesh out the characters on Tatooine.
5. Tales of the Jedi
You know a series is going to lovingly examine the ancient evil of the “Star Wars” universe when the first book is titled “The Golden Age of the Sith.” Kevin J. Anders and Tom Veitch tell a long tale about the great Sith war, which starts with an incident that’s little more than an accident. The series also explores the fascinating pull that the Dark Side has on the Jedi, who are ambassadors of peace in these stories.
Ulic Qel-Dromoa and Nomi Sunrider are the young Jedi at the center of the long story. They must battle not only the Dark Lords of the Sith, but also the pull of the Dark Side on themselves. When one of them gives in to the feeling of power, the question becomes whether or not redemption is possible. These ancient characters, who battled long before the rise of Darth Vader, are as intriguing and heroic as the crew we know and love from the original trilogy.
4. The Han Solo Adventures
Han Solo is one of the most beloved characters in all of pop culture, not just “Star Wars,” so it makes sense that a trilogy of books about a fan-favorite space cowboy would be very entertaining. Writer Brian Daley doesn’t disappoint. Because the first book in the series was written before “Empire Strikes Back,” Daley had to imagine Han and Chewbacca’s adventures before they met Luke Skywalker. Even though the stories are non-canon, it’s easy to imagine that this series is depicting Han’s previous years.
Han is in a completely different galaxy, fighting against the Corporate Sector Authority, which has the same kind of power the Galactic Empire has in its portions of the galaxy. He is the Han Solo we love best, robbing from the rich and helping the poor (if you consider himself to be poor, that is), tossing out wisecracks along the way. Also, Chewbacca isn’t the cuddly guy living in a treehouse with his family, but a warrior Wookie of legend. There’s plenty of fisticuffs and spaceship battles to keep the pages turning quickly.
3. The Dark Lord Trilogy
Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader is somewhat confusing in the “Star Wars” prequel movies. A combination of stilted acting, boring direction and lack of story inspires a lot of questions about why Anakin was motivated to turn to the Dark Side. “The Dark Lord Trilogy” is a satisfying alternative story arc to the one in the movies. Although “Revenge of the Sith,” the second book, is a essentially just a novelization of the movie by the same name, the book also includes a lot of content that isn’t in the film.
The first book in the series, “Labyrinth of Evil,” takes place between “Episode II” and “Episode III.” It portrays one of Anakin’s and Obi-Wan’s missions to the Outer Rim that winds up dovetailing with the movie. Anakin’s frienship with Obi-Wan is explored more in-depth, showing a much deeper loyalty to each other as brothers in arm. The final book, “The Rise of Darth Vader,” follows Jedi Masters Roan Shryne and Bol Chatak and Padawan Olee Starstone, who escaped execution. Through their eyes, readers learn more about Vader’s deadly vengeance, as well as his plan to protect Luke and Leia Skywalker.
2. Darth Plagueis
Darth Plagueis is Darth Sidious’s master. This book chronicles his life, first as an apprentice, then as a master who doesn’t want to relinquish his power to his apprentice, which is the Sith tradition. In order to keep hold of his power as a Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis learns to command power over his own death. Meanwhile, Palpatine, the chosen apprentice to Darth Plagueis, is rising through the ranks of public office. He studies the ways of the Sith and the Dark Side of the Force in secret. All the while, he plots how to get rid of his master in order to become the Emperor.
“Darth Plagueis” is an engrossing story, partly because Palpatine is such a mysterious character from the movies. This is another novel that explores the doomed relationship between a Sith Lord and his apprentice. It’s doomed because the apprentice, who naturally wants more power, must kill his master to gain it. “Darth Plagueis” also details how the plan to invade Naboo in “The Phantom Menace” came to be.
1. The Thrawn Trilogy
Grand Admiral Thrawn, who appeared in “Star Wars Rebels,” gathers what’s left of the Imperial Forces in order to chase back the Rebels. He even dives into the Emperor’s vault and unearths some clones to help in his attack. Our heroes wind up running through the galaxy and marshaling defenses in yet another battle. Meanwhile, one of fandom’s favorite Expanded Universe characters takes a starring role: Mara Jade. At one time she was the Emperor’s Hand, now she’s looking to kill Luke Skywalker and avenge her master’s death.
Taking place after “Return of the Jedi,” “The Thrawn Trilogy” plays like a long denouement, imagining what happens after the fall of the Galactic Empire’s Emperor, but not its extensive armies. While familiar characters, such as Luke, Leia and Han, are involved in the story, the spotlight is on new characters (namely Thrawn, Jade and the Dark Jedi known as Joruus C’baoth) and new settings. “The Thrawn Trilogy” remains non-canon, but is so full of dangerous battles and unforgettable characters that it could wind up being introduced as the story that occurred between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.”
Do you have a favorite non-canon “Star Wars” story? Tell us in the comments!
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