Guest Review: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

September 8, 2012

Today I’m starting a new feature called “Thoughts from the Rancor Pit” in which Andrew and David from the fabulous blog “Rancors Love to Read” will review books taking place in the Star Wars universe. I have been in touch with Andrew for a few weeks about this new feature which I think will enhance Man of la Book by giving it another dimension (pun intended).

While I certainly appreciate the Star Wars universe, science fiction books aren’t really up my alley at this point in my life. I was glad to find Rancors Love to Read and ecstatic when we hashed out an informal agreement for me to republish their reviews. Take a look at their reviews and let me know ho you like this new feature.

Book Review Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

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Originally published at

5/5 Rancors- The cornerstone of the modern Star Wars Expanded Universe, Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire was published in 1991 in an environment where Star Wars was considered a dusty relic of the 70s and 80s, except to some die-hard enthusiasts. At least, that was the perception going around. The reality was there was enough latent interest in the franchise to send this book soaring up the New York Times bestseller lists. I remember at the time believing there would never be any more Star Wars films and that this trilogy would act as a surrogate Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. Well, here we are eighteen years later and we’ve gotten three (soon to be four with the animated Clone Wars) more films, but still no sign of the infamous sequel trilogy. So, for the time being, perhaps the Thrawn Trilogy can be considered the closest thing we’ve got.

In light of that, the great news is this is one of the best books of the Expanded Universe and also one of its most cinematic. Zahn moved the timeline forward to five years after Return of the Jedi, and in doing so permitted the main characters to develop beyond what we saw in the films. Han and Leia are married with twin children on the way, and Luke is laying the groundwork for the future course of the Jedi. All the usual sidekicks are back and true to their film selves.

he key, though, is the new villain Zahn introduces, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn is a character of chilling intelligence, methodically plotting and executing a return to power for the scattered remnants of the Empire. He is ably assisted by Captain Pellaeon and a well-trained Imperial force of warships and troopers. Thrawn’s earliest chronological appearance in the Expanded Universe was in the excellent novel Outbound Flight, set decades earlier. Heir to the Empiredoes not reveal much of the intervening decades in his life but readers of the other book will immediately recognize the portrayal and development of Thrawn here.

Another significant addition to the Star Wars galaxy in this book is Mara Jade, former Emperor’s Hand and Force user turned smuggler. Mara is a strong character who tends to dominate any scene she’s in, but she makes a great foil to Luke Skywalker. They are connected by surprising events from the past, casting a new light on the battle at the Pit of Carkoon in Return of the Jedi. Mara’s adversarial relationship to Luke creates many opportunities for growth in both her and Luke and Zahn handles this well.

The best thing about Thrawn is he brings a true sense of danger that was lacking in the Empire’s leaders since the Battle of Endor. Ysanne Isard was smart and malicious but lacked a sweeping vision. Warlord Zsinj was somewhat clever but also a bit silly and trite. The New Republic has faced many other opponents but not any with the potential for complete ruin that Thrawn brings. The addition of the rogue Jedi Joruus C’baoth to Thrawn’s forces completes building the most credible threat the fledging government has faced in the Expanded Universe.

The storyline itself works well both as a largely standalone episode, not dissimilar to A New Hope, but also in planting the seeds for the two sequels. The storyline itself is well-crafted and marries perfectly with Zahn’s strong characterizations. This book is essential reading for any fan wanting to enter the Star Wars Expanded Universe but also continues to be a rewarding read for fans saturated in the tales of that galaxy far, far away.

Buy this Star Wars Book in paper or electronic copy

Originally published at

5/5 Rancors
Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn is the first book in a series that has come to be referred to as the Thrawn Trilogy. That is as it should be because Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the best villains in the entire Expanded Universe and this is one of the best books.

Our timeline is approximately five years after Return of the Jedi, so our favorite characters are still around, just five years down the road. Han and Leia have twins on the way. Luke is trying to establish a direction for the Jedi movement. Other favorites also have roles to play, but Thrawn steals the show. You can’t help but be impressed by him even though he is one of the bad guys. His intelligence is overwhelming. He always seems to be at least one step ahead of everybody else. Captain Pellaeon, the commander of Thrawn’s flagship, is constantly trying to understand the rationale behind the orders he receives. Thrawn is the last of the Emperor’s warlords, and he has taken command of the remains of the Imperial fleet. His goal, in short, is to do what the Emperor failed to do, i.e., destroy the Republic. Mara Jade also is an important presence in Heir to the Empire. She is the former Emperor’s Hand and a Force user, so her skills are considerable. One other character who has sided with Thrawn is Joruus C’baoth, a strange Jedi with a prickly personality and significant powers in the Force.

This book was first published in 1991 and was like a breath of fresh air for Star Wars fans who were missing the films. They could pull for their heroes again. Heir to the Empire is an excellent read on its own, but it also does a fine job of leading into the next two books in the trilogy. This is a must read for any Star wars fan.

Buy this Star Wars Book in paper or electronic copy

BOOK BLOGGERS – Have you read Heir to the Empire? If so link up your review below:

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  • RyanSeptember 8, 2012 at 11:49 am


    I’m not reading this review because I picked up my very first Star Wars novel today and on the (very good) chance that I become enamored with these books, I don’t want to have anything spoiled.

  • SarahSeptember 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    I love Heir to the Empire and this whole trilogy. After reading them I was constantly comparing other EU novels that never stood a chance.

  • OkieSeptember 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Interestingly I received this book as a gift when it was first released. For some reason I have still never gotten around to reading it.

    Thanks for the review. I’ll have to dust off my copy and give it a read. 🙂

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