Before Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, Heir to the Empire was the original continuation from the end of the original trilogy of movies. For whatever reason, I put off reading this – part of me worried that it was going to be a pulpy cash-in, but when I finally read it, I thought it was pretty darn fantastic.
One of the biggest appeals of this novel is that it featured the debut of the iconic character, Grand Admiral Thrawn. He is fantastically written here, and it’s easy to see why fans took to him so much. He’s a cold, calculating villain who’s scheming away in the shadows, but who remains perfectly calm, even polite, throughout the whole thing. He comes across as a very threatening foe, and the insights into his mind help flesh him out in a way that Palpatine or Darth Vader never really get in the films.
The story is really all about Thrawn. A few years after the fall of the Empire, he’s flying around with the few remaining forces and making steps to regain power, but exactly how he plans to do so is unclear – but it involves collaborating with Joruus C’baoth, a mysterious dark Jedi Master. Luke, Han, Leia , and Chewbacca work in different ways to investigate this emerging threat, and end up visiting various planets in the process, including the Wookie home world.
Star Wars is typically a series that uses lots of big battles to keep things interesting. While I do enjoy the movies, I am someone who prefers more thoughtful storylines and that’s exactly what you get here. It looks at how the New Republic is struggling to solidify its power after the fall of the Empire, and how destroying the old regime was only really a small part of solving the problems of the galaxy. Of course, it also shows that one big defeat didn’t completely wipe out the imperials. These are all things which help make the setting feel a little more three dimensional.
I also appreciated the deeper level of development each of the characters had – most notably, I thought Luke was pretty interesting here, in a way that he never really was in the films. Controversially, I have always thought Luke Skywalker was too much of a generic hero without much substance (outside of The Last Jedi), but here you get a look into his mind, and how he’s feeling a bit listless with the Empire now defeated, even becoming kind of depressed and later, when he ends up working with a smuggler named Mara Jade, his positivity contrasted against her more aggressive demeanour is actually very endearing. It’s a really good story for him.
But, really, it’s a good story for all of the characters. The original ‘Episode VII’ is a really fun read and, in my mind, a much more interesting storyline than that of The Force Awakens (but each to their own). If you’re a Star Wars fan, I strongly recommend that you give this a read – it continues the story while helping to make you feel deeply immersed in its setting. I loved it.