There are a lot of new canon books, but it can be hard to know where to start or which ones are good. These are my top recommendations.
The great Disney acquisition of 2012 brought quite a few changes to the Stars Wars canon, not least of which was the loss of all of the Expanded Universe (now Legends) books. They aren’t gone forever, of course, you can still purchase, read, and love them, but they have been relegated from a status of pretty much gospel canon to glorified fan-fiction. And this is something that hasn’t sat well with parts of the fandom and when combined with the derision some of the more recent movies have earned has resulted in previously invested readers of the Star Wars books wondering if the new novels are worth the time they would invest into them.
I am here to tell you that yes, they absolutely are. If you’re willing to give the new canon a chance, these book are my top picks for the best places to start letting yourself get invested in the galaxy’s novels again.
Perhaps my favorite of the new books, Bloodline primarily follows Leia six years prior to the events of The Force Awakens. Gray mixes political intrigue and realism in with the more classic Star Wars themes, creating a story that brings a little more context to who Leia (and Han, and Kylo Ren) are in Episode VII while still being very much a story that takes place in space with aliens and space wizards. I can’t think of a more perfect story to tell about a fully grown Leia doing her absolute best to keep a fledgling democracy together.
This one should really pitch itself, it’s Ahsoka. By this point everyone either loves Ahsoka or is wrong, and her overall popularity will probably make this novel by E.K. Jonston a very accessible entry point into the new canon books. Before reappearing in Rebels Ahsoka had her own adventures trying to avoid detection, making friends, and (unintentionally) creating trouble, and this book gives you a little more insight into where she was in 18BBY.
This one is a little different from the other books, creating less of a single cohesive book but a collective retelling of Episode IV from the perspective of the background characters. Every story is by a different writer, pulling talent from some of my best novelists, comic writers, and audio story tellers, creating an anthology of short stories that all come together form an interesting retelling of the story that started it all.
Phasma is an interesting and often overlooked characters, and I completely understand why. She’s a character who had a ton of potential who was unceremoniously and overwhelmingly removed from the movies before we could see her real potential, so many readers may not think a book about her would be interesting. But her book is perhaps the thing that makes her an interesting and terrifying villain. Phasma is a sci-fi and a Star Wars book, but more than that it’s a compelling and well written horror story that will make you appreciate a character you never knew you would want to know more about.
There are four (going on six) new Thrawn books, all by Timothy Zahn, and if that doesn’t convince a reader of the old canon to dip their toe in the new canon pool, I’m not sure what will. How did Thrawn come to join the Empire? What are his goals and allegiances? What does it look like when he and Vader have to solve an Imperial problem together? All of these questions and more are answered in that exact writing style those Chiss chains of thought that you came to love the first time around.
Maybe you picked this one up because the cover is objectively awesome and thought, “This looks like a romance novel for tweens,” and put it back down. And yes, it is a romance novels for tweens, but it is also SO GOOD. Ciena and Thane are star crossed childhood friends who join the Empire and Rebellion respectively and have to chose time and time again between their political loyalty and each other. It’s sweet and fun and sometimes a little sad, but where this book really shines is in the incredible amount of world building and humanizing it brings to the galaxy. You get to see why one of them becomes disillusioned with the Empire and leaves for the Rebel Alliance while the other doubles down on their commitment, what climbing the ranks looks like in the best and worst times of the Empire, what en Imperial ball looks like, and how people can go from bright eyed and idealistic children to radicalized and traumatized adults. But it’s also a romance novel for tweens, so it’s one of the easiest, fastest reads on this list. Plus, it’s been released in manga form.
This trilogy isn’t everybody’s favorite addition to the new canon, and while some are turned off by Aftermath replacing the original Thrawn trilogy in the timeline, others don’t love Chuck Wendig’s writing style. I, however, really enjoyed this book and its characters. Aftermath follows the events of Return of the Jedi and goes into the final struggles of the Empire and the first growing pains of the New Republic while introducing an vibrant cast including an LGBT character, a truly off-the-walls droid, and utilizing one of my favorite antagonists in all of Star Wars. You’ll know pretty quick if Aftermath isn’t for you, but if you’re on the fence about whether to give it a try or not, I’d vote for at least borrowing a copy from your local library.
Have you been convinced to give at least one or two of the new books a try? Which of the new canon books is your favorite? Are there any you were resistant to pick up but ended up liking a lot? Let us know in the comments!
May The Force Be With You, Adventurers!