For someone who has fully embraced the new canon of Star Wars, this year has been a great year for reading. For the past two years I’ve been slowly making my way through the now-Legends novels chronologically (though the X-wing series got pushed ahead, for obvious reasons), and I can definitely say the ratio of books I’ve enjoyed to those I’ve slogged through has been much higher with the new stuff than the old EU.
That’s not to say I don’t love what I’ve read of the old novels, but I absolutely adore some of the newer books, so much so that two of them have become two of my favourite books ever, something that none of the old EU books have managed to do so far. In fact, that list is damn hard to get onto, because I dislike almost everything I read.
Protip: never suggest I read your favourite book, because odds are I will hate it and will pick apart all the reasons I think it’s awful right before your very eyes. (I’m so sorry, friends who like The Name of the Wind.)
I haven’t read every new Star Wars book released this year—I’ve still yet to read Tarkin despite really, really wanting to—but I’ve read a majority of the adult novels, and a few of the others. So here’s a list of what I have read, from least enjoyed (though I still liked them) to most enjoyed (and anyone who follows me on Twitter will surely know which will take this spot). There was not a single book that left me feeling disappointed and frustrated. In fact, I’d recommend each and every one.
Update: upon watching The Force Awakens twice since writing this, I have changed my rankings slightly. Ever changing my mind!
Honourable mention: The Perfect Weapon // Delilah S. Dawson
Honourable mention because it’s a short story rather than a novel, The Perfect Weapon came out the day of my eye surgery, so I ended up listening to the audiobook while I recovered.
Starring Bazine Netal, the jester-chic gal seen in Maz’s castle, this story feels a little too much like it’s trying too hard to make a Strong Female Character at times, and I kind of liked it. With her black lips and black fingertips, Bazine burns her way through obstacles without fear.
My favourite thing? The audiobook makes Bazine’s Pantoran companion, Orri Tenro, sound like a total dudebro.
10. Lords of the Sith // Paul S. Kemp
Lords of the Sith was a novel I initially wasn’t sure about. Not being a huge fan of Palpatine or Vader, I wasn’t entirely thrilled by the idea of a novel largely based around them. Still, I wanted to see the first canon LGBT Star Wars character, Moff Mors. I’ll read anything for queer ladies in space.
All up, it was a fast-paced read with a good dose of lore and links to other parts of the universe, including both The Clone Wars and Rebels in Cham Syndulla, the leader of the Ryloth freedom fighters.
I had issues with Kemp’s handling of characters, however. Conflating fatness with negative traits and the female lead, Isval, being a former slave Twi’lek (really, can we be more creative with our Twi’lek ladies, guys? Surely not every gal has been a slave or a dancer) were the two biggest issues I had with the novel, though there were others. I personally didn’t think Isval was well handled a lot of the time, and I’m not entirely fond of how hedonistic Moff Mors was, because I worry her being a lesbian had a hand in deciding that trait. C’mon Kemp, get your ladies together.
Of course, I could just be paranoid! Imperial officers of all sexualities can be whatever they please, I just wish we’d had a better first for the GFFA. That said, I enjoyed her character arc and I’m really hopeful she’ll return again in another novel.
Conclusion: A good book with somewhat questionable starts for female characters, it’s a good look into why the Rebellion forms and what it’s fighting for. Vader gets to be badass, and Sidious is just as evil as ever.
9. The Force Awakens // Alan Dean Foster
Alan Dean Foster’s prose is packed with both beauty and function in the novelization of the film, and I love it. He adds to the background with little details that can’t easily be shown in films without cluttering, and writes stunning characterization with just a line or two. Seriously, Foster, show me your ways.
Obviously there’s not much a novelization can add, but as someone who can’t get enough of The Force Awakens, I like Foster’s take—as long as there’s nobody talking. Foster doesn’t quite understand the idea of characters saying a lot without saying much at all, and the humour is awkward and stilted at times.
Conclusion: Good for those who love the film and want to see even a little more, or are just straight up awful at remembering character names. May describe Rey as “slender”, but also captures her spirit flawlessly, so I can forgive it.
8. The Weapon of a Jedi // Jason Fry
Jason Fry is a cool dude, and this is a cool book. Released as one of the three younger reader novels as part of the Force Friday JTTFA wave of books, The Weapon of a Jedi follows Luke Skywalker as he finds an old, abandoned Jedi temple and learns more about the ways of the Force.
Though I liked all three Noto novels—so nicknamed by me for this post for their Phil Noto illustrations—Weapon unfortunately was a little too slow for me at times. Still, Fry’s Luke was very well-written, and there were some cool ladies, which I’m always here for.
Conclusion: Great writing, though sometimes slow. Lovely Luke story to give us more of an idea as to where he is with the Jedi in the time between the OT and the new trilogy.
7. Smuggler’s Run // Greg Rucka
I’m sorry Rucka, for bumping you twice so far down my list. I really do love your writing!
Smugglers Run is yet another of the three younger reader novels, which means it was, unfortunately, read in a haze of sleep deprivation and a million other books (okay, like five other books).
I don’t remember a lot of the story, except that I loved the new characters: the ice-cold ISB agent, Alecia Beck; the clone sergeant that serves under her, Torrent; the owner of the Miss Fortune, a roaming starship bar, Delia Leighton; and the rebel that Han and Chewie are sent to rescue, Caluan Ematt, the guy who aged up to be the President Snow lookalike in The Force Awakens.
Though Han has never been one of my favourite Star Wars characters, the characterization of both him and Chewie were spot-on and I enjoyed seeing old man-Han telling the story in the bookends.
Conclusion: Fast and fun in typical Han Solo fashion, with some great new character additions for the GFFA. Rucka’s words and Noto’s art are, once more, a stellar combination.
6. Aftermath // Chuck Wendig
A fandom-dividing novel, Aftermath was really everything I was expecting going in. The writing feels like a simplified Harkaway novel at times, and though I wasn’t fond of Norra Wexley for personal reasons, I adored the characters Sinjir and Jas, and the Pantoran serving as the New Republic’s PR, Olia Choko.
As for the bad guys: Rae Sloane is back as an admiral, and it is one of the best things to happen in this new canon. I want her and her assistant, Adea, to kiss in a gay way.
I wrote a review over at Making Star Wars, but the more I think about Aftermath, the more I realize how little of an impression the book made on me beyond my joy at having five—five!—LGBT characters added to the universe in one novel alone, with one of them being a hero.
Here’s looking to Life Debt, the second of the Aftermath trilogy, for expanding on characterization more, and for potentially beginning to show how “Snap” Wexley ends up in the Resistance.
Conclusion: Great for representation, great for starting arguments on Twitter. Fast-paced read with some fun action sequences and a droid you won’t forget.
5. Dark Disciple // Christie Golden
Though I initially loved Dark Disciple, the more time that passes since reading the novel, the more I realize just how much the story doing exactly what I didn’t want it to do has grated on me.
This is, of course, not Golden’s fault. The story was laid out in the unused The Clone Wars scripts, and all she could do was deliver good words.
Which she did. Spectacularly so. The entire novel feels as if you’re watching the episodes, with on point character voices and a fast-paced style. I wrote a review back when I was still in the honeymoon phase, and though I still agree with most of what I said, there are certain things that time didn’t help.
Conclusion: The Clone Wars did have certain issues with female characters that I hope Star Wars is moving away from, and they’re somewhat apparent in this novel. Regardless, this is one of the rare books I couldn’t put down. Captures The Clone Wars in written form perfectly for those of us who still miss the show.
4. Before the Awakening // Greg Rucka
One of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens books for younger readers, this is obviously quite a simplistic book. Set before the film, it’s split into three parts—Finn, Rey, and Poe—and tells some of the new trio’s stories in the lead-up to the events of The Force Awakens.
Before the Awakening is fun, builds characterization and some desired backstory, but ultimately doesn’t add much to the overall story of the film. Of course, this is a book for the younger fans, so I’m not the target audience, but Rucka is an A+ writer and it’s a good, short read if you love Rey, Finn, or Poe.
Conclusion: Fun while giving background to who the characters are when they respectively enter the film. Phil Noto illustrations are always a plus.
3. Moving Target // Cecil Castellucci
The third of the Noto novels, Moving Target follows Leia as she struggles with duty, the lives lost in her name, and love. I’m probably biased because of how much I love Leia, but I really, really like this book. There’s suspense, there’s humour, and there are definite feelings.
Moving Target is creative and fun, and also introduces a character that should have had at least one speaking line in The Force Awakens: PZ-4CO—Peazy—Leia’s memoir writer in the bookends.
The best part: Leia and her companions in space-Hawaiian shirts while trying to fit in. Why didn’t we get a Noto illustration of that, Lucasfilm?
Conclusion: Rad fun. Lots of Leia. Surprisingly emotional at times. Here’s my review.
2. Battlefront: Twilight Company // Alexander Freed
One of my favourite genres is military sci-fi, and so Twilight Company was one of the novels I was really excited for. I’m glad to say I wasn’t let down, because Alexander Freed apparently writes exactly what I want from my space wars.
Written with a style that’s simplistic but concise, Freed paints a vibrant picture with just a few strokes. The characters are unique and their relationships, shown through hints scattered throughout the pages, are very human and believable.
I cannot describe in words how much I love this novel, but I feel it in my heart. If you want to know how I like my books, read Twilight Company.
Conclusion: Beautifully handled relationships, prose that captures so much with so little. A diverse world with women who are treated no differently from the men. I may not play the game, but this is one of the two books to make it into the favourites list.
1. Lost Stars // Claudia Gray
I am so sorry for never shutting up about this book, but Lost Stars is the Star Wars novel I was the most excited for in the lead-up to The Force Awakens from the moment I first heard about it. A young adult novel that centers largely around the relationship between the young Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell, Gray delves into the reasons good people do bad things.
Adding extra emotional depth to what we witness in the films, such as the explosion of the first Death Star and the decaying Star Destroyers on Jakku, Lost Stars is an emotional rollercoaster that delivers compelling new perspectives on the OT.
YA fiction is something I will defend until my dying breath, and the overwhelmingly positive response to Lost Stars fills me with joy each day. Please, Star Wars, give us more of this.
Conclusion: One of my favourite books of all time, with all the tragedy and heart-wrenching romance of a space opera. This is the reason I now cry when I see the Death Star’s destruction. If you want more gushing, I also wrote a review.
Thanks to all the wonderful Star Wars literature from this year, I have once more rediscovered my love for reading and felt that old excitement for books to come. Now that The Force Awakens has finally arrived, I can only imagine what new stories we’ll get in 2016, and I can’t wait.
Also, thank you to the lovely people who worked to bring us these books! You all deserve the world.
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