By ShootingNova 4 Comments
Since I have recently received some questions regarding where to begin reading various EU novels and comics (I will also reference a few games), I decided to create this blog. I am aware that Silver2467 has already made a blog regarding this, but his one was three years ago and comes from a different perspective.
First, I would like to address the state of affairs regarding the EU. There have been a number of misnomers regarding the EU's current state of canon. As of yet, all Disney has done is eradicate the multiple tiers of canon and reinstated a new system, where everything is either canon or not. Elements of Post-RotJ EU material may be rendered non-canon in order to make way for Disney's new films, but nothing is currently indicating that the entire EU will be cut as well.
I will now address the fact that within the EU itself, there multiple eras containing various material available, but some of are less suited to beginners to the EU, such as the New Jedi Order or the Legacy Era, which contains some material relevant to previous stories.
With that out of the way, I will now address each era separately and any material I deem as good in each one, as well as what is actually useful for beginners ot the EU.
Old Republic Era
The OR era is basically the most free realm of EU. What I mean by this is that there are really no direct relations to the films, and no characters in the films that are involved. As such, much of the material here can be read freely without prior reading of other material, except for sequels and so on.
The Tales of the Jedi comics are, in my opinion, the best comics of this era. The series have a strong impact on the EU continuity itself, but also is just a good read for the sake of story. This series involves characters such as Naga Sadow, Freedon Nadd, Ulic Qel-Droma, Exar Kun, and Nomi Sunrider.
Next is the KotOR games, which a series of RPG games most famous for being the original appearance of Revan (although Revan does not appear in the sequel, and is only mentioned). Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords are continuously recognized as among the best SW games, and in my opinion, are the best. There is also a KotOR comic series, which isn't necessarily good but can be read for some background information.
TOR comes next - which is essentially the KotOR series' spiritual successor. The Old Republic is a multimedia project - not just a vast MMO (which has earned the ire of several people for damaging continuity), but also a comic and novel series. The Old Republic: Revan is chronologically the first one, which takes place 300 years before the rest of the TOR material. It occurs about a year after KotOR II, and while it isn't a good novel by itself, it would be recommended for those who want backstory on TOR, or want the final piece of Revan's story.
The other novels (Fatal Alliance, Deceived and Annihilation) all take place surrounding the events of TOR, which is three hundred years later. Joining these are the TOR comics (Threat of Peace, Blood of the Empire and The Lost Suns). All are decent reads, but nothing especially good. Again, they are mainly recommended for backstory of TOR, but nothing else.
Red Harvest is another novel which takes place around this time but isolated from continuity in that it makes little reference of the events of TOR. I've never personally read it, but I've heard plenty of compliments - however, if you're reading for the sake of continuity, you should probably skip this.
Rise of the Empire Era
This is the era containing the best works, in my opinion. First and foremost is the Darth Bane trilogy, which is all but essential if you're interested in the history of the Sith. Even if you aren't, it's a decent series that explains the founding of the Rule of Two, something which directly relates to the events of the Prequel Trilogy, which takes place a thousand years later.
Further down the timeline, Darth Plagueis is another novel which is consistently praised, and I find as among the greatest of SW novels. In spite of this, I would not actually mark it as essential, but is an excellent read for the sake of enjoyment. It explains the story of Darth Sidious's master, Darth Plagueis, which was once virtually entirely shrouded in mystery. It also involved Sidious himself a fair bit, and takes place in the years preceding The Phantom Menace. It's not just to be read for backstory, it's actually one of the best SW releases that can keep you entertained for a fair bit. You can think of it as a top-tier filler novel.
Legacy of the Jedi and Cloak of Deception are the novels regarding the Jedi shortly before TPM, and there is of course the various novels on Darth Maul. Jedi Council: Acts of War and Prelude to Rebellion are earliest comics that can found relating to the PT era, taking place before TPM. There is also a series of comics regarding Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, as well as a series of young reader novels featuring Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. In general, all of these pre-TPM works are decent reads but none are essential.
The novels taking place in the Clone Wars (not the largely terrible show, but the event), such as Shatterpoint, The Cestus Deception, Medstar I and II, Jedi Trial, Yoda: Dark Rendezvous and Labyrinth of Evil are all good reads. In particular, Shatterpoint, Yoda: Dark Rendezvous and Labyrinth of Evil are excellent reads with events relevant to the overall continuity of the RotE era EU, and I would outright recommend all of them. Shatterpoint is just good as a read and is the source that gave Mace Windu legitimate depth as a character. Dark Rendezvous is a novel exploring Count Dooku and Yoda, which is also just another good read. Labyrinth of Evil takes place just before Revenge of the Sith, is also one of the best novels of all SW EU and initiates the Dark Lord Trilogy. The remaining novels of the Dark Lord Trilogy are Revenge of the Sith and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. The former is, in my opinion, the best SW novel. Most people would just find it's vivid descriptions, cinematically described fight scenes, emotional scenes and so on to make it material that is just much better than the film itself. It is basically compulsory. The latter is a novel describing Darth Vader's early moments after his cybernetic resurrection. The novel itself is anything but essential, on the grounds of not just good writing, but just essential material regarding the most famous and iconic character in all of Star Wars. The novel Kenobi is the Jedi counterpart to this, which features Obi-Wan's early moments in his exile on Tatooine. Unlike Dark Lord, it is not essential reading material but is good enough as a filler novel. Obviously, the entire prequel novelization series should be read (the junior novelizations are good as well), but I heavily emphasize Revenge of the Sith. The novel is absolutely fantastic (the best in all of the film novelizations) and the junior novel is not quite as good, but is still good and the sole best among the junior film novelizations. It would also be good to read the graphic novels, but they aren't mandatory or anything.
The best comics of SW are, in my opinion, located here. The main series of Republic is probably the best of all comics, followed closely by Obsession, which are basically the mandatory comic reads. There are also TCW comics and novels to read, but none are particularly outstanding. Sith Hunters is good and explains Darth Maul's story around TCW, and Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy is a good tie-in novel. The upcoming Son of Dathomir may be a good to follow as well.
Honestly, although the OT films are largely considered to be better than the PT films, the Rebellion Era EU, to me, mainly serves as just a filler. It's basically the gap between the Old Republic and the New Republic. There's a variety of novels and comics regarding the rebels, but none are particularly outstanding. There's also a bunch of comics related to Darth Vader. The OT novelizations are decent reads (the junior novelizations for the OT aren't very good, in my opinion), and the few other recommended novels that relate to continuity would be Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Shadows of the Empire and The Truce at Bakara. The Allegiance, Death Troopers and Death Star novels are good but have no real impact on the continuity at all.
New Republic Era
Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor is a good book which marks the beginning of the NR era, but regarding continuity itself, serves as more of a filler than anything else. I would say the same for The Courtship of Princess Leia, except it has more impact on continuity and is what I may mark as mandatory reading. You can also opt for the X-Wing series for good reads, but they are not compulsory. Following this, the Thrawn trilogy should be prioritized, simply for its excellent story. There are also comic versions for the Thrawn trilogy.
The Dark Empire comics doesn't have the best art, but it's story, characterization, resemblances to the OT and its development on the Force are all excellent, and would be what I class as essential reading.
There is more in all of the eras that I have mentioned, but none of that is worth actually noting, and the NJO/Legacy eras honestly aren't optimal decisions to read unless you start on the NR era first for the prerequisite of backstory. Since this is for people who are new to the EU altogether, they would not be recommended at any time soon. The Legacy comics take place so far ahead of the timeline, though, that they can be read on their own. They do offer some entertainment at varying points, but all in all are not what I would class as particularly outstanding or mandatory.
Where to Start Reading
To choose where you should start reading - the Old Republic era should be the best choice if you just want free reading, or material that has no relevance to the characters in the films. If you're fine with anything, you should go for the RotE era simply because it has the best material. If you're a huge fan of the OT era, you can go for the Rebellion era material, but like I said, I see it as more of a filler than anything else. If you want good material on the main characters of the classic trilogy, just go for the NR era. The Post-RotJ material is the material that is under the most danger from Disney's axe, but still are good reads. If you like certain things like the Death Star, there may be a corresponding novel just for you. In the case of fans of the Death Star, the Death Star novel would be perfect for them.
Regarding the order of reading, the OR era's lack of interference with other eras means you can pick up OR material at any time. If you start off in the RotE era, you should go straight into the Rebellion era and then into the NR era. If you started in the Rebellion era, you can opt to go back to the RotE era for backstory and better reads, or you can proceed to the NR era for chronological sequence. If you started in the NR era, you should probably just dive into the NJO/L eras since you basically have the backstory necessary for them, but alternatively you can go back to the Rebellion era or even the RotE era. If you do go into the NJO era, the Legacy era does not become compulsory, and since I consider it to have the worst works (and it probably does) you may elect to go back instead of going into the Legacy era. Again, if you want a break from reading in a specific era, you can just go to the OR era and grab some material there. If you chose to start in the OR era, you should probably just maintain chronological pace and read into the RotE era, then the Rebellion era, then the NR, and so forth.
If you tried the OR era and you didn't like it, then go into the RotE era. If you started the RotE era and it wasn't for your tastes, it would probably be because you simply liked the OT more than the PT, in which case you should go into the Rebellion era. If it was for some other reason, go back to the OR era. If the Rebellion era was your first choice, but it didn't suit you, go back to the RotE era, or, if you just don't want film characters at all, go to the OR era. If the NR era wasn't for you, skip back to the RotE era, or again, if you don't want to have movie characters, go to the OR era.
If you want my opinion on which era has the best works, it would be RotE era > NR era > Rebellion/OR/NJO eras > Legacy era. You shouldn't read it in that order, though.
In short - the OR era is free for all, the RotE era has a lot of worthwhile reads, the Rebellion Era is largely a filler until the NR era takes off again, and the NJO and Legacy era (except for the Legacy comics) should only be read by people who are familiar with the EU and have enough backstory to actually read it without misinterpreting or missing some connections. Select which era you want to dabble in first, and you can go from there. Obviously, since this is a comic site, there may be people less interested in reading novels and more interested in reading comics, in which case eras such as the NJO era will not be as appealing. The OR era also has numerous comics, but only TotJ is good. The KotOR and TOR comics have no outstanding traits at all and should only be read, if ever, for background on their respective games. If you're interested in reading comics, only, refer to my paragraphs in the RotE, Rebellion and NR era. Those three eras, particularly the first two, have the most comics, to my knowledge, and the three of them have the best quality comics in my opinion. For the NR era, there isn't as many comics to my knowledge, but DE and the comic versions of the Thrawn trilogy alone are outstanding enough.
Hopefully, this will help you decide where to start reading in the EU.