Top Five Friday: Star Wars Novels

In honor of Star Wars Day (may the 4th be with you), I've decided to share my top five favorite novels from the Expanded Universe. For those of you unfamiliar with anything beyond the films, the Expanded Universe refers to any book, graphic novel, film, or television show that expands the story beyond the original six movies. The geeky teenager I was, I developed a slight obsession with the Star Wars series after the release of the first prequel in 1999. I collected nearly 80 of the titles between 9th grade and college, and though I sold most of them (I moved into a tiny, tiny apartment), there are a few still sitting on my bookshelf. Any who, here are the most memorable to me:

1. The Thrawn Trilogy

Set roughly 5 years after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, all written by Timothy Zahn, were the first Star Wars novels that I picked up. Still battling the remnants of the Empire, the Rebellion, now the New Republic, goes up against the forces of Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the most dangerous leaders of the Empire since Emperor Palpatine. Thrawn enlists the help of Dark Jedi Joruus C'baoth, who makes it his personal goal to seduce Luke, Leia Organa Solo and her children (Yes! Han Solo and Leia eventually marry and have children!) to the Dark Side and become his apprentices. I - along with many fans - imagined this trilogy to be the supposedly long-promised sequels to episodes IV, V and VI.

2. Rogue Planet
Published the year after Episode I: The Phantom Menace came to theaters, Rogue Planet by Greg Bear takes place three years after. Young Anakin Skywalker, now a Jedi Apprentice, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent on a mission to Zonama Sekot, where organic, living ships that are the fastest in the galaxy are grown. Racing others with more sinister reasons for wanting access to these ships, the Jedi Knight and his apprentice encounter a disturbance in the force unlike any other on the mysterious planet. For me, this book served as temporary filler for the next film installment, which wasn't released until 2002, and I appreciated the chance to learn more details about Anakin's past that wasn't shown in the movies.

3. The Courtship of Princess Leia
Like many who followed the saga, I was eager to learn as many details about the characters as possible, and this title certainly satisfied that desire. Written by Dave Wolverton, The Courtship of Princess Leia, answered many fans' questions about the circumstances which led to the marriage of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Taking place roughly four years after Return of the Jedi, the Alliance seeks the help of Hapes consortium, a group of high-tech worlds, in order to successfully survive against the remnants of the Empire. They're happy to offer their assistance; however, there's a catch: Leia must marry the Queen Mother's son, Prince Isolder. Clearly unhappy with this, Han Solo tricks Leia into accompanying him to the remote planet, Dathomir, where he tries to win her heart and convince her not to marry.

4. The New Jedi Order: Traitor
Taking place 20 to 30 years after the last movie, The New Jedi Order series introduced a brand new threat to the New Republic and the galaxy: the Yuuzhan Vong, a race of extra-galactic religious zealots who happen to exist outside of the Force. As they invade several planets, including the capital world, Coruscant, they kill millions and wreak havoc to the planetary ecosystems. Luke, Leia, and Han, their children - now grown to near adulthood - and the New Republic must form alliances with former enemies in order to repel this horrible race. In Matthew Stover's contribution to the series, Traitor, Han and Leia's son, Jacen, has been captured by the Yuuzhan Vong. In the care of the mysterious creature, Vergere, Jacen is exposed to a new way of experiencing the Force - one that could lead him to darkness or play a key role in saving the galaxy. Out of the entire NJO series, I appreciated this one the most, because of its look at good and evil and what lies in between.

5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
My favorite of the movie novelizations, R.A. Salvatore's Attack of the Clones moved me. Based on the script for the film, the novel includes a little bit more than what made it to the big screens. It's probably the only Star Wars novel that made me cry. Yes. Cry. (What could say? I was a nerdy, obsessed teenager not afraid of my more sensitive side.) Those who've seen the movie probably have an idea of what happens that would have caused this - but in the novel, it's so much more emotional. I'll refrain from giving that part of the plot away though. Ten years after he leaves his home to join the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker finally reunites with Padmé Amidala, now a senator, who's ordered under the protection of the Jedi after an assassination attempt. As the galactic senate prepares to take a potentially disastrous vote on the creation of an army and the Republic's foundations edge ever closer to ruin, Anakin must deal with forbidden feelings for his long adored Amidala.

As with probably many, the Star Wars series provided me with countless hours of entertainment and good reading when I was a teenager and young adult - and I continue to enjoy it today. Sometimes I do miss my expansive collection of the novels, but I'm fortunate to know of a place where I can get them again (without having to break my pocketbook): the library! For more details about the Expanded Universe, you should check out the awesome Star Wars wiki (from which I pulled most of my information)!