Book Review: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

Quick plot synopsis: Heir to the Empire is the first of the Thrawn trilogy written by Timothy Zahn in the Star Wars universe. Set five years after the events of the film, Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star and established a new government council. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins,Luke Skywalker has achieved the status of Jedi Knight. With a new government, things are looking up, but lurking at the edge of the galaxy is a new threat from the remnant forces of the Empire.

My thoughts: The Star Wars franchise is a known for having an incredibly diverse and popular literary contingent, with hundreds of books covering the tales of the expanded universe. Heir to the Empire is one of the more famous (or infamous) novels in the expanded Star Wars Universe. Zahn is responsible for giving us classic Star Wars characters such as Mara Jade, Talon Karrde and Grand Admiral Thrawn, as well as establishing many of the accepted “canon” developments, such as Han and Leia having twin Jedi children.

The book itself isn’t on the same bar as Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind linguistically or as creative as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire plot development/character wise, but I found it to be an easy, pleasurable jaunt. The quick pacing keeps you going, with a few story twists and turns along the way to keep you on your toes. The plot is fairly predictable, but still enjoyable thanks to the richness of the setting. If you’ve ever watched the original Star Wars trilogy and wondered… “now what?” this is a book series for you.

The characters are well-defined and articulated, albeit fairly static. It’s hard to change the figureheads of a franchise. I took more pleasure out of seeing Zahn depict the galaxy beyond the bounds of the original trilogy, the Wookie planet of Kashyyyk was a particular highlight. The space combat could use some work, I found myself very aware of reading words on a page instead of imagining and epic battle amongst the stars during those sequences.

I would recommend this novel as the jumping off point for any Star Wars nut interested in immersing themselves into the expanded universe. It will be interesting to see if J.J. Abrams integrates any of this content into Episode VII…

– E.B.

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