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Alternate Cover Edition can be found here.

It is a time of renewal, five years after the destruction of the Death Star and the defeat of Darth Vader and the Empire.

But with the war seemingly won, strains are beginning to show in the Rebel Alliance. New challenges to galactic peace have arisen. And Luke Skywalker hears a voice from his past. A voice with a warning. Beware the dark side….

The Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and driven the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet back into barely a quarter of the territory that they once controlled. Leia and Han are married, are expecting Jedi twins, and have shouldered heavy burdens in the government of the new Republic. And Luke Skywalker is the first in a hoped-for new line of Jedi Knights.

But thousands of light years away, where a few skirmishes are still taking place, the last of the Emperor's warlords has taken command of the remains of the Imperial fleet. He has made two vital discoveries that could destroy the fragile new Republic—built with such cost to the Rebel Alliance. The tale that emerges is a towering epic of action, invention, mystery, and spectacle on a galactic scale—in short, a story that is worthy of the name Star Wars.

404 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 1, 1991

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About the author

Timothy Zahn

292 books6,973 followers
Timothy Zahn attended Michigan State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1973. He then moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and achieved an M.S. degree in physics in 1975. While he was pursuing a doctorate in physics, his adviser became ill and died. Zahn never completed the doctorate. In 1975 he had begun writing science fiction as a hobby, and he became a professional writer. He and his wife Anna live in Bandon, Oregon. They have a son, Corwin Zahn.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,863 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
769 reviews3,498 followers
April 11, 2021
One of the coolest, most badass, best written antagonists, not just in a universe far, far away, but also in the known realm of sci-fi literature.

That´s not just pure joy for every Star Wars addict, that´s even something for the enemy fandom war fraction of Trekkies, because that´s not the usual, loveless adaption authors are writing with the restriction, and less motivation, of having to match to the famous movie, game, or already established series. That´s an author loving his antagonist and developing Thrawn, better, deeper, and more fascinating than many protagonists could just wish for.

Zahn is a stereotypical sci-fi writer, studied physics, started writing and, and that´s very important, focused on Star Wars by establishing an own character brand, Thrawn, he could put all his energy into, to let him take his place in the already existing universe. By that, it´s not a loveless shell, no reproduction of protagonists produced by someone else, but a new and original character that is credible, different, and just so Chuck Norris mixed with supervillain I can´t imagine a similar combination of traits.

If publishers would allow more writers to create such expansions of known series, the whole universe would benefit from it, because by better understanding the often underrepresented villains and enemy fractions, everyone wins and enjoying any kind of fandom, movie, series, game, graphic novel, novel, or comic, gets deeper and better.

What a splendid antihero Thrawn is, maybe consider beginning this series with the new Prequel trilogy
I´ve read the first one of it and 2 parts of the original trilogy before, but I imagine it even more fascinating when first knowing the backstory and then seeing the ingenious monster at work at the peak of his power.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,517 reviews10.9k followers
October 23, 2011
A long time 20 years ago, in a galaxy publishing house far, far away looking to suck the monetary marrow out of a popular franchise and develop the next big income stream............
Episode IV Expanded Universe Novel I
It is a period of civil war declining profits and brand recognition. A revitalized Star Trek franchise Rebel spaceships, striking from a
hidden base
rival studio Paramount, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic LucasFilm Empire and its greedy lackeys at 20th Century Fox with the release of the extremely popular Star Trek: the Next Generation, together with a successful line of spin-off novels.
During the In response to this threatening franchise battle, smart, profit-minded publishing toadies Rebel spies managed to steal Paramount’s thunder by approaching popular non-hack writer Timothy Zahn with secret plans to develop the
LucasFilm Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR Star Wars Expanded Universe, an armored space station, a marketing masterstroke with enough built in profit potential power to destroy an entire planet any franchise that opposed it…except maybe Marvel Comics.
Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents of Star Trek publisher Simon & Shuster, Princess Leia races Timothy Zahn races home aboard her listening to Jefferson starship, custodian of a lucrative three book deal the stolen plans that can save her people the Star Wars franchise and restore freedom George Lucas to the Forbes Richest American list galaxy
Profile Image for Alejandro.
1,115 reviews3,547 followers
January 6, 2016
Unforgettable characters born and even a whole world too!


When you understand a species' art, you understand that species.

One of the strongest issues on this book are the creation of characters since it’s where Mara Jade was first introduced and only for that, it’s already an epic moment in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, but also you have the introduction of other characters such as Talon Karrde, Gilad Pellaeon, Borsk Fey’lya, Joruus C’Baoth, Winter Celchu, and obviously Grand Admiral Thrawn who is the main villain in the book.

The force in all these characters introduced on Heir to the Empire lies in the sense that these characters weren’t pivotal only in this very book, or even in the trilogy where the novel is part of, but these characters became quite relevant in the Star Wars Expanded Universe and they were keep appearing again and again, in critical moments of the expanded universe.


If you don't want to be noticed, you don't use a Star Destroyer.

The novel is pivotal not only in the Star Wars Expanded Universe developed in literature, but also in the totally canonical Star Wars Cinematic Universe since Timothy Zhan, the author, coined the name for the capital world of the Old Republic/Empire/New Republic, “Coruscant”, that it was widely used since then in novels and comic books, but formally introduced in Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace.

Also, you will have quite a tour on the book, since the characters, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2D2, C3PO, Lando, along with the newly introduced characters, they just keep traveling from here to there, known popular planets such as Tatooine, Kashyyyk and Dagobah, but also other several worlds. Thanks goodness for the hyperdrives to make possible all this!


You're not the last of the old Jedi, Luke, you're the first of the new.

So, you thought that when they blew up (again!) a Death Star and the Emperor fell (literally!) at the end of Star Wars: Episode Six – Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Alliance really won?


True, a lot of people celebrated at once that very night (galactic tweets must be quite efficient then) and certainly losing the second mobile battlestation and even more critical, the death of the Emperor implied that the Rebel Alliance was victorious, you cherished then, and even the Ewoks were clueless why the heck the Rebel Alliance needed 24 years to defeat the Empire, if those primitive care bears were able to beat them in just an afternoon.

However, you have to think that if you are an admiral (even better if you are a Grand Admiral (trust me, it sounds cooler)) with command over a fleet of Star Destroyers and having full local control of several worlds...

...why the heck do you have to surrender over that bunch of rebel scum?

If those rebels want our surrender, they will have to defeat first our Star Destroyers!

And you know how deadly (and insanely cool!) are those Star Destroyers!

So, the Rebel Alliance created the “New Republic” and many planets join, however what was is know as “The Remnant Empire” still have considerable regions of space.

And the Grand Admiral Thrawn is starting an ambitious strategy to get back the Empire to its previous glory.

Meanwhile, Luke is beginning to train Leia, to begin a new generation of Jedis, and since Leia is now pregnant with twins (how the heck Anakin and Padme didn’t know that?! Lightsabers and hyperdrives but not a dang ultrasound? And if Luke is able to perceive in the Force the Leia's twins, how Anakin didn't?!), it’s expected that the Jedi legacy will grow again.

This is the first book in a trilogy, and while there is a lot of travel and the introduction of various cool new characters, the action is quite moderated and the climax on this first book is hardly enough shocking to give it a higher rating, but definitely this is a relevant book in Star Wars universe which deserves to be read by fans.

Profile Image for Markus.
470 reviews1,519 followers
March 7, 2016
"History is on the move, Captain. Those who cannot keep up will be left behind, to watch from a distance. And those who stand in our way will not watch at all."

Five years have passed since the destruction of the second Death Star and the fall of the Emperor. The New Republic is rising from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. The old Imperial Starfleet is in complete disarray, and the greatest of the Emperor's warlords, the Grand Admirals, are all gone. Except for one. And that lone one will give the leaders of the fledgling government more to fear than all the others combined...

Timothy Zahn is an author long revered among fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Not merely for writing some of the best Star Wars novels out there, but for creating some of the most beloved characters in the franchise. One of those is Mitth'raw'nuruodo, better known throughout the galaxy as Grand Admiral Thrawn. He's a master strategist and a military genius, and one of his greatest strengths lies in simple observation of the enemy. Obsessed with art, he is also capable of understanding a whole species of people simply by studying their artistic legacy. And after the demise of Palpatine and the fall of his government, Thrawn, an alien Chiss who rose through the ranks of the emperor's military hierarchy against all odds, suddenly finds himself as the heir to the empire.

But Thrawn is far from the only wonderfully intriguing character introduced by Zahn. Brick by brick, he's managed to build a whole new setting succeeding that of the original Star Wars movies, and while characters like Luke, Han and Leia remain as protagonists, much of the weight is being put upon a brand new bunch of people. From rogue smugglers to scheming senators to a mysterious survivor of the days of the old republic. And perhaps the most popular character of the Star Wars fanbase: Mara Jade, a woman who once served as the Emperor's Hand and has now sworn vengeance upon Luke Skywalker for the death of her master.


It's not a perfect book, and it certainly has its flaws. The writing could have been a lot better, and Zahn never quite manages to recreate the epicness and scale of the movies. But believe me when I say that he makes a damn good attempt.

Since Disney bought LucasFilm and created a story group responsible for deciding what was official Star Wars canon to be used in future instalments, all the great novels written about it, including this one, were swept under the carpet and turned into the so-called Star Wars: Legends. And despite that everything else surrounding that decision was total bullshit, the name kind of fits. This book is most definitely a legend of the Star Wars universe. And it is what the upcoming Episode VII should have been based on. It could have been so artistically done. But canon or no, the stories remain, and they're waiting for you to read them.

If you enjoyed the Star Wars movies and want to explore what else this amazing universe has to offer, Heir to the Empire is the book to read. Don't allow yourself to be confused by the hundreds of books, games and comics existing out there. While not the first Star Wars novel ever written, this is the real sequel to the original movie trilogy. This, ladies and gentlemen, is where the Expanded Universe begins. And what a universe that is...

Profile Image for Lyn.
1,852 reviews16.4k followers
December 26, 2019
“My word, Thrawn, do you mean … Skywalker??”

“Elementary, my dear Captain.”

Zahn’s Grand Admiral Thrawn channels Sherlock Holmes and steals the show in a 1991 Star Wars expanded universe novel set five years after the end of the canonical film Episode VI Return of the Jedi.

The Ewoks have finished dancing and singing, the fireworks over Coruscant have long since faded and the Darths Sidious and Vader are pushing up daisies. But all’s not yet well amongst the leaders of the New Republic. There is work to be done after the generation of the Empire.

But out in the Empire’s hinterland, a previously unknown Imperial hero has taken the reigns of what is left. Grand Admiral Thrawn is a humanoid alien who seems to know just about all and able to figure out the rest. Zahn, a recognizable talent in the literary world of the Star Wars expanded universe, does a great job in setting the stage for new adventures for established protagonists and introducing new characters and a new storyline. Readers get to visit with Han, Leia, Luke, Chewbacca, Lando, Wedge and the Wookies home planet of Kashyyyk (pronounced Kashyyyk). Aside from the aforementioned Thrawn, Zahn introduces Mara Jade, and Joruus C'baoth.

In a story that could have been Episode VII twenty-five years earlier than The Force Awakens, author Timothy Zahn keeps the force alive for fans between the films.

Profile Image for Calista.
3,803 reviews31.2k followers
December 22, 2019
I read this when it was released in the 90s. I still think George should have adapted this whole triology then when the cast was the right age. Timothy Zahn did a great job taking the story forward with General Thrawn and Mara Jade. These characters need to be on screen.

Disney should have made these movies instead even if they had to put in Luke, Leia and Han as CGI characters and de-age them. They are a fantastic story. I should re-read them someday. I wish Disney would have kept this as cannon. It was a mistake not too. It's the only Star Wars books I've read.
Profile Image for Will M..
304 reviews615 followers
January 11, 2016
"But you must never relax your guard. The Emperor is gone, but the dark side is still powerful. Never forget that."

As we all know, Episode VII came out a few weeks ago. I watched it a few days after the premiere and was amazed. I watched it for the second time a week ago, and was still amazed. I've been a Star Wars fan ever since I was a child, but my love for the series slowly degraded because no new movies came out. I'm back to loving the series now all thanks to the release of episode 7.

I read this novel because all of my friends here who read this recommended this as a starting point if I wanted to start reading Star Wars (Non-canon). I saw that the trilogy garnered good reviews so I decided to read it. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

This novel should've been episode 7, but released years ago, or maybe as another film trilogy. The plot here is great, and I honestly think that it could've been really successful.

The novel consists of your favorite Star Wars cast. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewie, R2D2, and C3PO. After re-watching the original trilogy for the nth time, I wanted more stories about these characters, and episode 7 only gave the viewers a bit of them. Not enough to satisfy, but I know that JJ Abrams wanted to introduce new characters, and he succeeded in that. This novel gave me the satisfaction of reading more about the characters, and did really well in the process.

I'm a huge Luke Skywalker fan, but honestly he is just my second favorite character in this novel. My favorite is Grand Admiral Thrawn. He portrays what a true villain is capable of, but we see him as a semi-weak figure in this novel. I believe the author did that on purpose for the sake of character building. I feel that Thrawn will further develop in the next novels, and be a real threat to Luke and his friends.

I don't really need to talk about the characters because if you liked them from Episodes 1-6, then you're going to like them even better here. No new set of characters will ever manage to surpass the greatness that the original ones ever portrayed. They can try, but they will always fail, just like the dark side.

"All men want power. And the more they have, the more they want."

That line clearly depicts the dark side. Add in the fact that Thrawn said that line to Pallaeon, the ship captain. Speaking of Pallaeon, he is also one of those characters who seem to hint that he will be important in the future. I liked Pallaeon, even though he seems like a wimp. He's a follower of Thrawn, and he clearly admires him. Just like how Kylo Ren admires Darth Vader.

The plot really entertained me, but it clearly isn't perfect. There are a bit boring moments here and there, but forgivable at best. The most important thing that the plot has is Mara Jade. I already knew who she is, and who she will be, so that sucks. She is only introduced in this novel, so steer clear from family trees on social media. I'm not going to spoil anyone, and hopefully no one gets spoiled.

4.5/5 stars. This is one of those "it almost got a 5" novels. I'm excited to read the next two novels in the trilogy, and then read more about Thrawn because I heard that there are more novels about him. Highly recommended for avid Star Wars fans, you will not be disappointed.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews766 followers
May 31, 2017
From the first paragraph of Heir To The Empire:
“It's five years after Return of the Jedi: the Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and driven the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting Jedi twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights.”

Not a bad opening but it works much better when tilted like this:

Not easy reading a tilted book (while scrolling the text upward by hand). Still, gotta get into the spirit of things.

I have heard of this book years ago, it is often included in “Best Sci-fi Books Ever” lists (example list). However, I never really considered reading it simply because it is a Star Wars book. I like the Star Wars franchise but I am not a diehard fan and I am something of a sci-fi literature purist (snob) in that I generally prefer original sci-fi conceived from the ground up by the author. Having said that, certain books just seem to repeatedly bring themselves to my attention. I keep stumbling across articles about this Thrawn Trilogy, especially as Star Wars has just celebrated their 40 years anniversary. This Chicago Tribune article particularly caught my eye: Novelist Timothy Zahn is the man who saved 'Star Wars,' according to fans. What? This Zahn dude saved SW? When was it in danger? Etc. There are, of course, thousands of Star Wars books in print, but this trilogy has been described as “the gold standard for Star Wars Expanded Universe”. OK then, enough hype already, time to put my snobbery aside and find out if Han shot first*

Heir To The Empire introduces Grand Admiral Thrawn who has glowing red eyes and is a strategist so ingenious he makes Darth Vader look like a complete twat. The entire trilogy is about his efforts to destroy “The New Republic”, set up by the rebels who thwarted the Empire at the end of Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. It is now five years after that historic defeat (or victory, depends on your predilection). Thrawn has discovered a species of animal called ysalamiri that nullifies Jedi powers.

Admiral Thrawn with pet ysalamiri

Not only that, he has recruited an insane “dark Jedi” called Joruus C'baoth to join forces with him. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker and friends are barely tolerating the political infighting among the councilors of the New Republic, worse still, Luke is feeling antsy because there is a disturbance in the Force. Before you can say “These aren't the droids you're looking for.”, the smeg hits the fan. “RAWRGWAWGGR!” as Chewbacca would say.

Working with pre-established characters like Luke, Han Solo, Leia Organa etc. is a double-edged sword. The movies have done all the groundwork but Zahn (now that’s an alien name) has to make them true to the original characterizations. This, he does admirably, Han is suitably roguish and snarky, Leia is smart and headstrong, Luke is… well, he is a bit bland really, just like in the movies. I suspect Mark Hammill would have enjoyed a much better Hollywood career is Luke has not been such a bland character ‡. Artoo and Threepio are great comic reliefs as always, Yoda makes an appearance not in this book (alive he is not). Admiral Thrawn is Timothy Zahn’s most triumphant creation, since the publication of this trilogy he has been made canon as a major antagonist in the Star Wars Rebels TV show.

The narrative of Heir To The Empire is quite fast-paced. I suspect most SW diehards would take to it from page one. It took me a bit longer to settle in and just go along for the ride without thinking about the franchise nature of it. Zahn’s dialogue is generally good, and accurately conjures up the mental images of the well-known characters. His prose, however, is a little clunky at times, with excessive use of “wryly” and “dryly” to describe characters’ facial expression when they speak. There is also more of a “hard sci-fi” feel to the book than the “science fantasy” of the movies, as Zahn includes some real science into much of the expositions. The narrative culminates in a space battle/dogfight that bored me a little bit. In all fairness, even in the movies I always feel a bit bored by these “pew! pew! pew!” dogfights, I much prefer to read about the individual characters’ struggle against insurmountable odds and hair-raising escapes. At the end of the day, though, I had a good time reading Heir To The Empire will surely be back for the other two installments.
Rating: 4 X-Wings

* Still no idea. As Harrison Ford says “Who gives a shit?”
‡ Hammill himself is very cool and I am looking forward to his reprisal of Luke in the next SW movie.

• Obi-wan is dead but pops up for a quick natter anyway.

The 10 Best Chewbacca Quotes

How Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire Turned Star Wars into Science Fiction

• The evil Jedi, Joruus C'baoth was originally conceived as an evil clone of Obi Wan, but Lucas nixed the idea. Pity!

Despite his mood, Luke couldn't help but smile. Threepio's attempts to be simultaneously helpful, inquisitive, and polite never quite came off.

"Good day, Master Luke," the protocol droid said in a remarkably prissy voice.

“He'd refused to let them wipe the X-wing's computer every few months, as per standard procedure. The inevitable result was that the computer had effectively molded itself around Artoo's unique personality, so much so that the relationship was almost up to true droid counterpart level.”

“Artoo shrilled in dismay; but Luke had no time to comfort the droid now. His straight-line course had suddenly become an arc, a sort of pseudoorbit with the Star Destroyer playing the role of planet at its center. Unlike a true orbit, though, this one wasn't stable, and as soon as the Imperials got another beam focused on him, the circle would quickly degenerate into a tight inward spiral.”
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 4 books571 followers
October 16, 2015
Note, Oct. 16, 2015: I edited this just now to correct a misspelling.

Books that are spin-offs or sequels to movies or TV shows (or sometimes direct fictional adaptations, or "novelizations"), as the Thrawn trilogy is, often don't command much critical respect; it's taken for granted by critics that movies can be made by adapting books, and that the results can be great art, but any inspiration that's drawn in the other direction is automatically discounted and the results classified as hack garbage. Like most unthinking prejudices, this one simply shortchanges the deluded people who believe it. (Most readers aren't in that number --which is why spin-off books are so popular!) Adapting, or building on, a filmed dramatic work is not a canned, easy job that takes no literary creativity or talent; rather, it's a very demanding enterprise that requires the writer to deeply understand (and creatively interpret) the original and convey it's essence in a wholly different medium, and create a vast amount of consistent new content that the different medium demands. (It's no more "canned" and "easy" than writing a historical novel about actual persons.) True, not all efforts of this type succeed artistically (neither do all movie adaptations of books!). But the best of them are as much works of literary art as any other novel or story.

The Thrawn trilogy definitely falls into the latter category. Zahn is a serious literary craftsman, and a master of complex plotting --the way that he weaves multiple plot strands into a perfect tapestry is worthy of Dickens. He's thoroughly expert on the Star Wars universe and characters, as presented in the movies and expanded in the voluminous spin-off literature, and he adds his own contributions to the tradition deftly and seamlessly. And he makes his characters (on both sides of the Imperial vs. Rebel Alliance divide) fully three-dimensional.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,600 reviews1,669 followers
February 10, 2017
As a warning, the actual review doesn't start until halfway through this ridiculously large block of text. I felt I should warn you, I'm about to get self-indulgent up in here.

So you know how when you're sixteen, you're an idiot? Well, about some things. I like to think I was an abnormally stable teenager. I certainly gave my parents ZERO trouble, but I feel like that's a thing that happens when parents luck into having extremely geeky children who would rather stay home on a Saturday night and, for example, re-watch Star Wars for the millionth time than go to a party. (I was also extremely naïve, and like most teenagers, thought I had all the answers to a lot of things, while simultaneously being cripplingly insecure about others.)

I was always a nerdy child. I read constantly. Like, I would get in trouble for going over to friends' houses and spending more time with their bookshelves than I did with them. I always liked fantasy as well, having developed an early love for the Narnia books, which I discovered in the library. Sci-fi, though, was completely alien to me (hah, pun!). My parents are super old and had absolutely no interest in any kind of story that seemed implausible to them. How two people with basically no imaginations birthed me, I have no idea. Imagination is what I do best. But the fact is, they raised me on Shirley Temple and John Wayne movies, romantic comedies and westerns, old black and white screwballs with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, and a crap-ton of musicals. My favorite movie was The Quiet Man, for fuck's sake. I had no idea there was other stuff I could be experiencing.

So when I was at home on of those geeky weekends and Star Wars came on TV one night in 2001 and I didn't have any plans, I thought why the heck not. I'd recently within the last year and a half become extremely obsessed with The X-Files, and Star Wars was something people wouldn't shut up about, and it seemed vaguely interesting and semi-related so I watched it. I came out of that movie thinking to myself, WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS AND WHY DIDN'T I KNOW I LOVED IT SOONER. And look, this was fuckin' 2001, pre-Lord of the Rings, pre-Spider-Man (which I saw on prom night instead of going to prom). I had never seen anything like it. I was immediately consumed by obsession. I went out to rent (and then eventually buy) the VHS special editions of the second two movies, and then proceeded to watch them so much the ribbon in the cassettes wore out. But that was it. Those three movies, over and over again.

So you can imagine my joy when I stumbled upon a copy of Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Apprentice in the library one afternoon. It had a giant STAR WARS label printed all over it, and Han Solo and Leia and the Millennium Falcon, and it seemed . . . official? So I read it. And I was doomed. It wasn't even that good, but it was Star Wars. It was the rest of the story. From that point on, I spent almost every single bit of my babysitting money on Star Wars extended universe novels from Barnes & Noble. I was by no means discriminating about it, either. If it had Star Wars on it, I read it.

Which--FINALLY--brings me to The Thrawn Trilogy. These were actually the second series of books I read in the EU, after Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy. I remember the clerk telling me when I bought this book, "Oh, that one is really good." But he was wrong. It was EXCELLENT. The old characters, the new characters, the villains . . . everything about it was perfect. It took what KJA was trying to do in the series I'd already read (but which was written after it) and elevated it to something that sort of surpassed what the original movies could do. Sure, the movies were great for spectacle, music and visuals and there is no substitute for a great or engaging actor, but these books had complexity. You could see inside the characters' heads, and have plots that were just a little bit too detailed and involved (and smart) for a major motion picture.

When I came to college, I still read some Star Wars novels here and there (the sequels to these books were actually the last two I read, I believe), but when I found my groove as a newly minted adult, I sort of put my old obsession behind me, like it was part of my childhood. For a while, I became embarrassed of my former reading habits, and would never admit to my friends or fellow English/Creative Writing majors that I used to read Star Wars books. (Goodreads and CBR have since helped me grow out of this shame, which is a shame very like my also-former romance novel reading shame.) I didn't pick up another Star Wars book until last year, which is a lapse of exactly ten years. And when they announced the new Star Wars movie coming in 2015, I knew I would have to revisit all these books before that happened, just to get it out of my system, and give the old EU one last hurrah.

But I was actually pretty nervous about it. Some things that you love when you're sixteen are genuinely great, and other things are . . . not. (See previous comments about how when you're sixteen, you're an idiot.) I was very glad to find out upon revisiting this series that, while they aren't the perfect vehicles of pleasure I'd made them out to be the first time around, they most definitely hold up, and I still feel pretty confident in saying that Zahn's version of this universe is definitive, so much so that it basically inspired all the other EU novels that came after it.

The first book in the trilogy--which has by far the best cover, in my opinion--starts out on a Star Destroyer in the far corner of the galaxy, where the Empire still holds some influence. The Rebel Alliance, now called the New Republic, has gradually expanded its scope after the explosion of the second Death Star, capturing leaders of the Empire and coaxing systems and planets into the new government system. But in comes the titular Thrawn, a Grand Admiral who is frighteningly intelligent, and very, very, very good at strategy, predicting his enemy's moves with eerie accuracy. He's quietly been building up the Empire's strength, preparing to re-open hostilities with the New Republic and bring back the Empire, this time with himself at the reins. And he's got a couple of cards up his sleeve that are game-changers.

Meanwhile, you've got our returning heroes. Han and Leia, now married and expecting Jedi twins, play pivotal roles in diplomatic and government relations. Han is retired from military service, and at the moment is engaged in trying to solve the New Republic's shipping problems, but Mon Mothma has Leia running all over the place, mostly because she barely trusts anyone else with her most important jobs. This leaves Leia little time for her own Jedi training, of which she has had some, thanks to Luke. As for Luke himself, he's still the only Jedi in the galaxy, as far as he's aware, and has recently begun worrying about what that means. What kind of training has he missed because he only spent such a short time with Ben and Yoda? How should a Jedi act, spend his days? This is where our heroes are at when Thrawn makes his first move, which begins with a kidnapping attempt while Han and Leia are on a diplomatic mission, and Luke stranded in deep space after an attempted apprehension by the Empire.

And of course, this is where we learn there is another Jedi master out there, an insane man named Joruus C'baoth, long thought dead. He wants Leia and Luke and her twins, and he's willing to bargain with Thrawn to get them. Along the way, they all get mixed up with Lando again, as well as the smuggler Talon Karrde, and his angry and intense second in command, Mara Jade, whose hatred for Luke Skywalker is as intense as it is surprising.

There's a lot going on.

What's great about these books is that even though a lot is going on, and there's surprises and strategizing and characters with complicated loyalties and emotions, it all makes perfect sense. Because this is only the first book in the series, it's a lot of set-up, and the main conflict is more of an opening salvo than a showstopper. It sets up the stakes: how good Thrawn is, how he's changing the game, and how all the pieces in the game (including surprise ones like Mara Jade and Thrawn's mysterious alien assassins) fit together.

My favorite thing about these books is by far the Luke/Mara Jade relationship. Mara Jade is a great character, and her fervid hatred of Luke makes for great drama, especially when she finds herself obliged to help him rather than kill him as she wishes she could do, and especially after we learn just exactly why it is she hates him so much. Zahn writes great Luke, and really understands why the Jedi are so interesting as a conceit. He dives into the more sci-fi moral conundrum stuff that sci-fi novels have time to cover and that a movie really doesn't. My only complaint about Zahn's version of all these characters is that his Han has always fallen a bit flat for me.

Heir to the Empire is a great opening novel to the series, and I'd even say that non-Star Wars fans might enjoy it as a stand-alone sci-fi novel. It's fun popcorn sci-fi space opera at its best, and it makes me feel like I'm sixteen and falling in love with this universe again for the first time.

[4.5 stars]
Profile Image for Terence.
1,107 reviews347 followers
December 14, 2015
Five years after Return of the Jedi, the leaders of the rebellion have formed the New Republic and are trying to establish it as well as they possibly can. The Empire is a shell of its former self, but not everyone considers it defeated. A Grand Admiral named Thrawn has become the leader of The Empire and he intends to crush the Rebellion for good.

Heir to the Empire wasn't very interesting. I wanted to stop reading it multiple times and now that I finished I realized I should have listened to myself. The book was really slow and rather than doing any real character development it simply leaned on the work the movies did. With the vibrant characters of Star Wars I would think that would have been fine, but it really wasn't. I hoped to love this series and I expected to at least like it, so it's incredibly disappointing how uninterested I was throughout nearly the entire book.
Profile Image for Jerry.
4,631 reviews57 followers
April 8, 2022
Better than I remembered it being. A great way to kick off the month of May.
Profile Image for Gavin.
855 reviews386 followers
March 1, 2015
This was my first foray into the Star Wars expanded universe and it did not disappoint. It reads like a sequel to the original movies.

Set five years after the happenings in Return of the Jedi this followed well loved Star Wars characters like Luke, Han, and Leia as they and the rest of the Rebel Alliance fought against the remains of the Imperial Empire. Darth Vader and the Emperor might be dead, but the Empire itself is not. A new leader has emerged in the form of the intelligent and ruthless Grand Admiral Thrawn and he plans to turn the tide of the war back in favor of the Imperials!

The story was fun, but not anything special. Importantly it did succeed in feeling like a Star Wars book. The familiar characters are all much as you remember them from the movies. Han and Leia are married and expecting twins. Which proved to be problematic for them as elements in the Empire were eager to get their hands on two potential Jedi that they could influence. Luke is recognizable from the movies, but has grown a bit more confident in his abilities as a Jedi, which I liked.

Zahn's real success lay not with the familiar characters, but with his own newly created ones. Pellaeon, Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and in particular Grand Admiral Thrawn were all fantastic characters who often proved more interesting than the original characters.

If I had to dig for failings in Zahn's version of the Star Wars universe they would be the lack of humor and the slightly boring space battles. Han in particular suffered from Zahn's lack of skill in writing humor. His quick wit and wry humor from the movies was distinctly absent here and that definitely hurt his character.

All in all this was a fun read that ended with an interesting cliffhanger. I'll definitely be reading the sequel.

Rating: 3 stars.

Audio Note: The audio version of this was very well done. The sound effects were used well and helped to really give this the feel of a Star Wars tale. The narrator Marc Thompson was fantastic. He was spot on with his character voices.

Profile Image for Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen).
422 reviews1,623 followers
February 10, 2017
3.5 Stars



I must confess—I’ve never considered myself a huge Star Wars fan.

I watched all the movies multiple times as a child, (who didn't?) but usually only after prodding. But I’m young enough the prequels were already out by the time I was old enough to watch them, and I missed all that hype. I even saw The Force Awakens at a midnight premiere, due to the more zealous members of my family—but still didn’t consider myself a “fan.”

The Star Wars universe is huge. Filled with dozens of planets and characters and all sorts of names I couldn’t pronounce correctly. It was just overwhelming, and didn't seem worth delving into if the initial stories hadn't completely clicked with me.

I mean look at this:

That’s a “simplified” version of several timelines. And it doesn’t even include all of the branches of the Expanded Universe (and I believe the EU is everything outside of the 9 movies and animated shows). There’s even a comic where Han Solo is killed by Native Americans, his remains found by Indiana Jones and Chewbacca becomes big-foot. Yes, really.

So why did I read this?


Rogue One made me complete trash for the Star Wars universe.

Was it the strong main character I could relate to? The callbacks to the original films? The diverse and dynamic cast of characters? The near perfect editing? The understanding of how terrifying Darth Vader could be? The overall themes of rebellion and hope? Some combination thereof?

I still don’t know. It was far from a perfect movie (but that’s a conversation for another time) and I still absolutely loved it. After seeing it in theaters three times, I finally went home and binged the original trilogy.

And it clicked. I finally realized how fun all these characters are. How completely interesting this entire universe is. It contains so many stories and there’s so many different aspects to the stories that have already been told.

So, still overwhelmed by the Expanded Universe, I started at the most basic point--- book one of the Thrawn trilogy.

While certainly not the highest quality literature, this was pretty close to what I wanted. It was a fun trip through the Star Wars galaxy that introduced new characters and ideas. The original characters stuck close to their characterization, while still allowing for development. All in all, it stayed very true to the feel Star Wars.

(Warning, general nerding below)


Mara Jade.


I absolutely love her character and am not sure I can forgive Disney for writing her out of the films. She’s headstrong, intelligent and fits int these stories so well. Her job as the Emperor's Hand makes so much sense in the context of the original trilogy, and actually makes the Emperor a stronger villain.

LEIA ACTUALLY LEARNING THINGS ABOUT THE FORCE YES. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my childhood dream of Jedi!Leia, but this alone was super enjoyable. And something I’m also mad seems to have been cut out of the movies. (So far)

This was filled with fun callbacks to the original movies. For instance, I didn’t realize until recently that every Star Wars film to date (including Rogue One!) contains some variation of the line, "I have a bad feeling about this." And this did too! There were also references to humorous events on Endor and Tattooine, and to one of my favorite Leia lines, “I am not a committee!” For the most part, these references aren’t actual plot points, as much as fun Easter eggs-- but they really made the story more enjoyable!

C3PO impersonating Leia is hilarious. It feels highly plausible and I just loved it.

I’m such a fan of Han and Leia’s relationship it’s ridiculous. Child-me shipped them before I knew what shipping was. Their dynamic here wasn’t quite the same level as their movie counterparts—but it was still great. It was just fantastic to see Leia and Han actually talking and working through things, while still remaining in character.

This introduced a large amount of new elements to the mythology, which I loved. My favorite were the Ysalamiri. Which cancel out force powers. (Why isn't this a thing in the movies? Come on, Disney!)


This came out before the prequels, so it’s a little dated in terms of Star Wars mythology. For example “Dark Jedi” instead of “Sith.” It can't really be faulted for that, but it did impact my enjoyment of the story.

The writing is just... not great. I wouldn't say it's bad but it’s not good either.

- “The cave absolutely tingles with the darkside.”
- ”Leia shook her head in wonder as they headed for the door. ‘Do I really,’ she asked, ‘sound like that?’”
- ”Luke let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.”

Maybe it’s just me. But it seems like the first sentence could have chosen any other a different verb. The second didn’t need an awkwardly placed dialogue tag splitting up the end of the sentence, especially since it ends a chapter. The third is just painfully cliché.

Why does everything and everyone have such difficult names? Like ‘Kashyyyk’? Really? Did we need that third ‘y’??

Thrawn is an intimidating villain simply because he is so intelligent. He figures everything out within seconds to the point it is unbelievable. Other than that… he just doesn’t seem to have a real personality or presence?

Why is Han so needlessly pushy about Leia learning to use the force? It felt odd given the way they respected the other's decisions regarding other matters. But on this one he kept insisting to the point it was annoying.

In Conclusion:

Definitely a fun romp through the Star Wars 'verse. Even though it won't be winning any Pulitzers any time soon.
Profile Image for Ray.
Author 16 books282 followers
April 30, 2020
The novel that brought the Star Wars mythos back to the forefront during the 90s.

That New Republic era was interesting, if not a bit bloated continuity after a while, but it sure was fun to imagine what Luke and Leia and Han were up to after the third movie. In this the beginning of the Thrawn trilogy, much of the mythology was expanded upon well in creating a deeper sense of this world. There was Coruscant, for example!

I just miss the old Expanded Universe... yes I understand that Disney did what they had to, but in my heart this is still what I think happened to these characters after the credits rolled. Thanks for the times, Timothy Zahn.
Profile Image for Sarah.
237 reviews1,090 followers
February 10, 2020
It's been five years since the second Death Star exploded. With the Emperor and Darth Vader both dead, the remaining bastions of the Galactic Empire have fallen easily before the Rebels, now the soldiers of the New Galactic Republic.

Luke Skywalker is rather busy, being the last surviving Jedi, who is now instructing his sister in the ways of that ancient practice. Leia Organa Solo is a stateswoman, a Jedi apprentice, and an expectant mother of twins. Han Solo uses his smuggling background to negotiate with shady underground figures. Lando Calrissian has become even wealthier through investing in mining.

Considering that the oppressive Empire was only toppled half a decade ago, things are going pretty well for the New Republic. But it's a big galaxy, which means the war isn't quite over yet. In the far reaches, there are disturbances. And closer to home, there's a group of scary aliens stalking the Skywalker-Solo family from planet to planet...

Under the Republic's radar flies Grand Admiral Thrawn, the last Imperial leader, with a master-plan to reforge the Empire...

Lurking on a backwater planet is Joruus C'baoth, a deranged Jedi with a convoluted past and some sort of evil plan involving the Dark Side of the Force...

In the middle lies Talon Karrde, a smuggler just out for his own benefit, and his employee, a haunted young woman named Mara Jade, whose secret vendetta is gnawing away at her soul...

Content Advisory
Violence: It's implied that the Noghri kill their prey in gruesome ways, although we are given no description of their killing methods and only a vague idea what their victims look like afterwards. Luke and Mara kill a few predatory beasts. Some spaceships blow up, as you would expect. There is no gore.

Sex: It's implied that the Emperor had a harem, and Mara might have been among their number before being promoted to assassin. One shudders imagining what she might have endured. Thank God Zahn doesnt give us any details. Lando thinks he might have met her once, which is a bit suggestive, knowing Lando.

Language: Nothing, not even of the "made-up words" variety. You know all the goofy gibberish in the Disney EU that's supposed to be swearing? That's not really a thing in this book. Which I appreciated, because a character who repeats "oh, kriff" every three sentences winds up sounding like a moron.

Substance Abuse: Nothing.

Politics and Religion: Just the usual about the Force, which is so vague I can't imagine it offending anyone.

Nightmare Fuel: A character gets stuck alone in deep space, which goes on for two nail-biting chapters. Also Thrawn and the Noghri are kind of creepy-looking.

Heir to the Empire is a gem among media tie-in books. It's true to the characters and setting, smoothly adds new material, and proceeds in a logical way from where we left the story.

Obviously, a story about a happy galaxy with no evil or danger left in it would be dreadfully dull. But the Disney sequels, by simply relaunching the Empire under a new name, made Return of the Jedi seem a bit pointless in retrospect. And I really liked The Force Awakens!

Zahn's idea was the best way forward. He acknowledges that a galaxy is a big place, and it would be hard to depose every member of the old regime at once. He preserves the momentum of the characters from the films, without repeating their arcs or regressing their development. And he gives them a villain to fight who is menacing and mysterious without being anything like either Vader or the Emperor.

I am a big fan of Grand Admiral Thrawn. He's not really evil, so much as a grimly effective man in honorable service to an evil cause. He wants to take over the world but doesn't seem to desire power for its own sake, only to restore the order he feels was lost. He's always ten steps ahead of every other character - in fact, he is the only character in any Star Wars media I'm familiar with who could truly be called smart.

I loved Thrawn's theory that a culture's art tells you the strengths and weaknesses of that culture, and therefore what might be the best route to allying with or conquering them. Throughout everything that happens he stays cool as a cucumber. I really enjoyed the many scenes where he explains his reasoning to the befuddled Pellaeon. Their dynamic reminds me of both Holmes and Watson, and Captain Hook and Mr. Smee.

Joruus C'baoth is more of the standard power-mad, demented villain that I was expecting going in. I'm very glad he was not the main villain, but he's fine as both the foil and pawn of Thrawn. How a crazed Dark Jedi clone who wants to enslave the Skywalkers fits into Thrawn's master plan, I have no idea, but I can't wait to find out. That clones usually wind up losing their minds was a fascinating worldbuilding tidbit that I wish the films could have worked in somehow.

Karrde's all right - pretty much your standard amoral black marketeer who's out for his own gain. It will be interesting to see where his arc takes him, because he was having faint stirrings of integrity at the end of this book.

Mara Jade is what Celaena from Throne of Glass should have been: a gifted, troubled young woman, broken and bitter beyond her years by the abuse she's endured and the guilt from her own crimes. She is, at the moment, evil - but redeemable. She and Luke play off each other really well, and the chemistry between them is palpable. As for Luke, he turns into Gilbert Blythe with a lightsaber when Mara walks into the room. Pretty much every conversation they had went like this:

MARA: I'm going to kill you eventually. I can't wait.
LUKE: Why? I've never met you. Why do you hate me so much?
MARA: Ugh! You know why.
LUKE: Well, if you ever get bored of hating me, I'd happily be friends with you. Thanks for saving my X-wing, by the way!
MARA: Ugh, insufferable man.

Luke's adventures in this story are varied and exciting. He faces some major challenges in this story. There were even parts where I was really worried about him. Han and Leia are often in danger, too, but as expectant parents they've got a lot more plot armor. (This was written before shock value deaths became the norm). Leia, particularly, uncovers something rather fascinating about her father that I hope gets expanded upon in the rest of the trilogy.

The non-human film characters - C3PO, R2D2, and Chewbacca - are all utilized well. Just like in the original movies, they are a lot more than appliances or pets. They are actually characters rather than props.

My only gripe with this book is the pacing. Most of the chapters are long, and space battles can get rather monotonous without the visuals and music. It seemingly takes forever for Luke to fall into the hands of Karrde and Mara. The book ends with the other main characters only just finding out that a Grand Admiral Thrawn is behind their problems.

I can see why Disney decided to scrap the EU when they bought Lucasfilm. It would have been very difficult to incorporate hundreds of books, comics and games into a narrative that casual moviegoers could still follow. And adapting this specific novel and its two sequels would probably not have worked, given that the original cast were several decades older and recasting them probably wouldn't go over well (I think that that had more to do with the box-office failure of Solo than either Disney or the fans are willing to admit).

But I don't understand why they had to scrap the whole post-Return of the Jedi canon. I don't see how the existence of Thrawn or Mara Jade would mess up the plot of The Force Awakens. (Certainly no worse than the subsequent movies did!). I think most viewers could accept that other threats had arisen in the thirty years between films, and that

Unlike either the prequel trilogy films or the sequel trilogy films, Heir to the Empire is consistently true to the characterizations, worldbuilding and feel of the original three Star Wars films. It's well-written, intriguing, sometimes poignant, and just fun to read. I can't wait to see where this story goes.
Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,346 reviews811 followers
July 11, 2010
"A Jedi can't get so caught up in matters of galactic importance that it interferes with his concern for individual people"
It's had a permanent space on my top books of all time, and there is a reason. Considered by most Star Wars fans to be the best Star Wars Expanded Universe novel and the birth of Expanded Universe itself, Heir to the Empire takes off about 5 years after Return of the Jedi.
Han and Leia are married and expecting twins. Luke is a Jedi Knight. And the New Republic is in its beginning stages. But the Empire hasn't laid down to die yet. A new threat arises, in a hidden Grand Admiral, Thrawn. He has enlisted a mad Jedi Master clone, Joruus C'baoth, in his quest to destroy the Rebellion once and for all.

I Liked:
Where to begin?
The Thrawn Trilogy (of which this is the first book) has been my favorite since I first read it way back when. But as you grow up, your tastes often change. I used to adore "I, Jedi" but when I reread it, there were some parts that I just couldn't enjoy as much as I did as a teen. So I wanted to reread Heir, to see if I still felt the same way, if the book was as good as I remembered, if it still deserved its first place slot in favorite books.
The answer to all three unspoken questions is the same. Yes, yes, yes!
Timothy Zahn is such an enjoyable author! I love the way he writes; in my opinion, it is perfect for a Star Wars setting. He is obviously knowledgeable about Star Wars (at this time, the only places he had to draw on were the Original movies, Splinter of the Mind's Eye and the Han Solo and Lando Adventure books) and it shows throughout. Some say he dwells a little too often on movie events, but I think it is great. The movies were such high points for the characters; no wonder they keep thinking of them as they go throughout this novel, as they experience similar (but not the same) events.
Zahn has also managed to absolutely nail Han, Luke, and Leia, what I like to teasingly call the Trinity of Star Wars Expanded Universe. Han remains the devilish scoundrel, but with more responsibility and maturity, like he was in Return of the Jedi. Luke was done perfectly, an excellent Jedi, yet not so omniscient (like too many authors have done in more recent novels) that he can't be caught by a simple trick. Leia is still stubborn, smart, and deeply in love with Han. All in all, Zahn didn't fail me one bit. As I read each one's point of view, it was easy to think I was in a Star Wars movie!
Zahn's original characters also shine. The devoted, non-power hungry Imperials, Paelleon and Thrawn, are well written. They aren't stupid Imperials out for a land grab for the sake of a land grab. They don't giggle their plots to everyone and his mother. They don't plot evil wicked plans behind closed walls while drinking purple tea (ten points for the one who guesses which villain that represents). They don't throw Star Destroyers pell-mell at the Republic with no plan. They plot. They scheme. They move logically and methodically. Therefore, since I happen to adore the Empire for some strange reason, I find they are probably the most competent Imperials in Star Wars Expanded Universe.
As for Zahn's neutral characters, Mara Jade and Talon Karrde, I was equally impressed. Mara Jade doesn't come off as a Leia clone nor does she strike me as a damsel in distress. She obviously is cold and calculating, but is far from perfect. Yeah, the red hair/green eyes combo wins her Mary Sue points, as does her angsty past, but somehow, she isn't annoying. The whole world doesn't warp to her desires, so I can live with it. As for Talon Karrde, again, we have a scoundrel, a mercenary who rises above the stupid villain caricature.
Goodness! All these words and I still haven't gotten to the meat of the book: the plot! Again, showing Zahn's grasp for the Star Wars world, Timothy Zahn has written a story that, I feel, could be made into a Star Wars movie with very little manipulation. It is that good. Heck, sometimes, I swear I can hear the music!! Our characters have motivations that make sense based on their characters (Leia being the diplomat and demanding to go to Bimmisari, Thrawn being thoughtful and calculating and ordering a three prong attack on Bpfassh to test C'baoth, Luke when dealing with being held captive by Mara Jade and Talon Karrde). People don't miraculously gain powers to suit the story's need. There are space battles, attempted kidnappings, switching ships, villains, antagonists, aliens, distant planets, seedy spaceports...all perfect elements of a Star Wars novel.

I Didn't Like:
This will get petty, I warn you.
The concept of the ysalamiri is best described in this quote from Talon Karrde (page 223): "[The ysalamiri:] seem to have the unusual ability to push back the Force--to create bubbles, so to speak, where the Force simply doesn't exist."
Well, based on the New Jedi Order (and the Yuuzhan Vong who didn't exist in the Force) and the Prequels (that say all living things have midichlorians, the building blocks of the Force), this seems rather odd. Not to mention...if the Force didn't exist around these guys, wouldn't Luke have been able to sense the void of the Force? However, I feel this "error" is more of an unclear view of the Force (Zahn wrote this in 1991 when Lucas probably had no clue what the heck the Force was) than a blatant disregard on the author's part.
Zahn also has a tendency to write dialogue in the following manner: "'Not here,' Ghent shook his head nervously..." Shaking one's head, nodding, or sighing are NOT ways to express dialogue (I want to know how to nod out a word or to sigh out an entire sentence). If Zahn had switched that comma to a period, then I would be sated and have nothing to complain about. But I would be remiss if I didn't bring it up, as it was a little distracting to me.
Lastly, I was not quite convinced with Zahn's characterization of Lando. Not to say he was bad, but just that I felt that it was a bit off from the way he was in the movies.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
I can't recall a single foul word!
Leia is pregnant? Does that count?
Well, there are space battles, an enlisted gets killed for an error, Thrawn is trying to kidnap Leia and Luke, and C'baoth is just a twinge mad...

It's been a while since I read Heir to the Empire, and, to be honest, I was afraid it wouldn't be as good as I remembered.
Well, nothing to fear! Zahn truly captivated me all over again with this winning novel! If George Lucas could take advice from him, maybe the Star Wars prequels would have turned out better!
The only unfortunate thing is that the highest rating I can give is 5. So 5 stars it is! Thank you, Timothy Zahn, for making Star Wars come alive again!
Profile Image for NoNameLoves2Read.
147 reviews57 followers
February 16, 2015
Buddy read with my fellow Star Wars fanatics over at Fantasy Buddy Reads.

You guys have no idea how excited I was to read about my favorite Star Wars characters. I hyped myself up for two weeks in preparation for reading this book.

So......it's absolutely crazy that I'm only able to give this three stars. I'm going to try my best to explain this unfortunate three star rating.

What I Liked
Obviously the characters. The new characters that I really enjoyed were Thrawn and Mara. I actually liked Mara's parts in the book over most of the others. She was very mysterious and I love mystery. Artoo and Threepio had their predictable cute banter that made me laugh a few times. Did anyone else find it weird that Threepio and Artoo weren't spelled as C3PO and R2D2?

Those guys are so cute. I think I could read an entire book just about those two.

What I Disliked
I felt like everything was a bit flat. I wasn't immersed in the story like I would have liked. I've never read fan fiction before (I'm assuming that's what this is called) and this may be a normal thing. I wanted to get inside of the characters minds more. Characters always fall flat for me when there's not much character building going on. Even though I know these characters very well, I still need more to stay interested. This may be a thing with fan fiction and for that reason it may not be for me. I really needed a bit more action as well.

Another thing I noticed is that some of the characters seemed a bit off. The best example of this is Luke. Luke didn't even seem like the same person to me. He gave off major wuss vibes. He seemed a bit whiny and made some very dumb decisions.

I think I'll give a different Star Wars author a try. I'm going to start one of the series that has all new characters so that I don't have any expectations. There's a ton of books out there, so surely there's something that I'm bound to love.

Profile Image for Paul.
303 reviews72 followers
September 30, 2016
I am not going to try to objectively review this as I am a seventies kid so star wars is an immense part of my coming into adulthood.

Zahn has given fans a worthy successor to Vader as the big bad in thrawn.

if I was to nitpick Mars Jades hatred of Skywalker free a little annoying.

overall a great continuation of the mythology of the star wars universe I would give 3.5 stars rounded up.
Profile Image for Rob.
845 reviews532 followers
August 1, 2016
Executive Summary: Mostly lived up to the hype for me. Certainly more enjoyable than the prequels that Lucas put out, but that's not hard.

Audio book: Do this in audio. Not only is Marc Thompson a great narrator who does a great job with almost all the voices, there is music and sound effects too that makes this more like a radio play than just an audiobook.

There was no way I was going to read this after seeing Marc Thompson did this series, and I was not disappointed.

Full Review
There is a lot of hype from the Star Wars geeks, that if you're going to read EU (now Legend) books, these are the ones to read. I personally was more Star Trek than Star Wars growing up.

Sure I watched the original trilogy growing up and loved it. And like most people who grew up before the prequels, I was disappointed with those. So I was content to just consider the original trilogy the only thing I cared about and move on with my life.

One of my buddies however is a HUGE Star Wars fan. He'd periodically try to get me to read this series to no real avail. Then earlier this year one of my favorite authors (well it's 2 guys, but whatever) wrote a book about Han Solo called Honor Among Thieves. My friend told me it's a pretty good book that could be read without reading other Star Wars books and he was right.

I did the audio with Marc Thompson and that finally pushed me over the edge on giving this one a try. I know that Disney decided all the EU are no longer canon (if they ever really were), but I think they'd be stupid to discount this book completely when writing episode 7. If nothing else, Mr. Zahn adds some great characters to already beloved cast of the series.

I found Admiral Thrawn a little too smart at places almost to feel unbelievable, but not often. He certainly makes for a great villian.

Mara Jade I had heard of before, was not what I expected given what little I did know of her. I'll be curious to see how her character develops in the next two books.

Talon Karrde reminds me a lot of Han Solo. Sure he's a criminal, but he's got a code he lives by. He's honorable to a point, and you don't mess with one of his own. It's interesting to see him fill the vaccum of Jaba the Hutt and he couldn't be more different from him.

In addition to the great new characters all the big names are here, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C3PO, and R2D2. Plus others like Admiral Ackbar and Lando Calrissian.

The story was pretty good and moved at a decent pace. My only real gripe with it is that sometimes there seemed to be a lot of "coincidences" like characters showing up at the same place at the same time, or some of Admiral Thrawn's insights.

Being the first book in a trilogy I didn't expect a lot of resolution, but I thought it stopped in a good place. Of course I don't have to wait and have already jumped right into Dark Force Rising.

Overall I found it enjoyable and wish I had read it sooner. Better late than never.
Profile Image for Chris Dietzel.
Author 26 books399 followers
September 9, 2015
I was thinking again about Zahn's trilogy of books after reading that Disney and Lucasfilm have set an "official" canon for the Star Wars universe. (A truly absurd idea that some fictional stories are 'official' and some fictional stories are illegitimate). For me, these will always be the best three Star Wars books. It doesn't matter if they are 'canon' or not. If you liked the original trilogy of movies and haven't read these books, do yourself a favor and read them right now.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
694 reviews861 followers
January 1, 2018
It's been so, so long since I've read these Star Wars tie-in novels. A friend of mine had been highly recommending the audiobook production of these novels and hence, gave me the impetus to reread them in the said medium.

In summary, it was really enjoyable! With the ability to make use of the library of sound effects from the movies, the audiobook almost sounds like a Graphic Audio production. Artoo, Threepio and Chewbacca sound exactly like in the movies! I especially love the scenes with Artoo, who's probably the Star Wars universe's most effectual and adorable astromech droid.

The Heir to the Empire is a well-written tie-in sequel to the Return of the Jedi. All the main characters are true to their personalities on-screen and the experience of reading the book brought a lot of nostalgia with it. Some of the action scenes did seem a bit clinical but it's a minor issue as a Star Wars fan would be quite capable of creating action scenes in his/her mind.

Grand Admiral Thrawn, a new character to the universe, is remarkably admirable as the main antagonist. So much so that I echo the same sentiment as the captain aboard his Star Destroyer - how the Battle of Endor would have turned out with Thrawn leading the Imperial army.

Definitely recommended for fans who want more of the Star Wars universe.

Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,830 reviews358 followers
April 16, 2018
Dare I admit that I’ve never seen the Star Wars movies? And despite that gap in my experience, I still know enough of the plot lines and character details to be able to appreciate this book.

Thrawn is a great foe—alien, cool under fire, an intellect to be reckoned with, and a planning mastermind. It’s difficult to stay one step ahead of him, but somehow Luke, Han and Leia manage to do so.

My sense is that it would be best suited to a younger audience. Like the movies, things are not very nuanced, there are definite good guys & bad guys. The vocabulary and the sentence structure are uncomplicated and the plot is straight forward.

I can see the appeal to those devoted to the franchise.

Book number 280 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.
Profile Image for Emily .
714 reviews73 followers
May 2, 2017
If it wasn't for Grand Admiral Thrawn, I might not have even finished this book. I just found it all so uninteresting. Not sure if I will finish this trilogy or not. Side note: the audio version of this is fantastic. It plays sound effects and Star Wars music and narrator does really great voices.
Profile Image for Malum.
2,200 reviews131 followers
November 5, 2018
Believe the hype!

I have always been resistant when it comes to reading novels based on shows/movies. But with Trek novels like Imzadi and Wars books like Heir to the Empire, I am quickly being converted.

So you know what the plot is and you probably already know if this is something that you will like or not, so let me just talk about the amazing 20th anniversary audiobook edition. First of all, they have sound effects and music, which I normally don't like in an audiobook but, hey, we are talking Star Wars here. Half of the fun of these stories is hearing lightsabers hum and Tie Fighters screaming through space.

Next, Marc Thompson knocks it out of the park with the narration. He does all of the character voices perfectly (except Leia, who sounds like a transsexual version of Luke). Even characters who are new to the Star Wars universe are given unique and interesting voices, to the point that, at times, I forgot that only one person was reading this. You can really tell that he had a lot of fun narrating this novel.

These two elements combined make for an experience that is the closest thing we are ever going to get to Thrawn Trilogy movies.
Profile Image for Jerry.
4,631 reviews57 followers
November 4, 2019
Think of a book series that changed your life.

Now, imagine if you could hear behind-the-scenes information straight from the author and editor responsible for the series' launch.

That's what this was for me. The Star Wars Expanded Universe helped me rediscover reading; without it, I wouldn't be the ardent bibliophile I am today. While it wasn't until well after I discovered this series that I first read this book, the franchise would not be what it was today if not for Timothy Zahn and Heir to the Empire.

The book isn't perfect; some parts could have used more commentary, and the novella at the end didn't do much for me. Still, if you have a history with the Expanded Universe like I do, this is worth reading for the commentary and insider information.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,879 reviews7 followers
April 1, 2017
I LOVE THESE AUDIOS. What fun they are. The fact that the narrator can do the iconic voices is such a bonus. This book, I think, has got to be one of my favorites so far but then I always think that after reading one and end up liking it. The personalities of these well known and well loved characters rang true. So 4 stars.
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