My re-read of Heir to the Empire has come to a close, putting me 1/3 of the way done with my Thrawn Trilogy Retrospective. It’s been a hell of a ride. Let’s discuss further, shall we?
The last time I read Heir was in 2011, when the 20th Anniversary Edition was released, so I’m not as far removed from this book as I am the others in the trilogy. Still, it was fun to revisit the novel that sparked my love of the Expanded Universe and solidified me as a Star Wars fan, and not just someone who saw the movies once or twice and enjoyed them.
The thing that struck me most on this read-through is Zahn’s assumption this is the first real crisis Our Heroes have faced since Endor. Now this idea seems foolish, considering the myriad of EU books that take place between Return of the Jedi and Heir. But at the time of publication, Zahn’s conclusion would have been completely logical. After all, The Thrawn Trilogy was supposed to be a one-off thing; the series didn’t even have a proper name, after all, and everyone but a few select people expected the novels to bomb. Zahn had no idea that a few years down the line, Kathy Tyers would write a book that took place immediately after Jedi, or that Dave Wolverton would write about Han and Leia’s courtship, or even that Paul and Hollace Davids would write about the incredible Glove of Darth Vader. (Of course, this begs the question of what the post-Jedi era Legends landscape would look like if everything had been planned from the get-go, and how different things will be once The Force Awakens is released and authors are allowed to go back and play in earlier years of the timeline.)
The other thing that surprised me is how well Heir continues to hold up, even 23 years later and with Legends status as the proverbial elephant in the room. Continuity errors abound, but they’re easily overlooked, especially in the first book. Pellaeon remembers fighting insane clones, and there’s some weird dating issues in regards to the Clone Wars. If this was your first time reading the EU, you’d have to stop a few times to remind yourself what year this book was published (which is why I always recommend people reading the EU in publication order instead of chronological). Despite all that, the story is tight, the pacing keeps you turning the page, and the characters seem like real people. Zahn gets inside Luke, Han, and Leia’s heads, and his new creations like Mara and Karrde and Thrawn fit easily into the Star Wars galaxy. Because I read Heir so early on in my time as a fan, it’s hard for me to imagine Star Wars without those characters. Perhaps that’s why some people have taken the Legends thing so hard. I know I’ll be sorely disappointed if certain characters (I’m sure I don’t need to mention them by name here) don’t make the jump from Legends to canon status. But at the end of the day, Heir and its sequels still exist, and still make me smile from beginning to end.
I’ll be taking an extended break from the retrospective, but will be returning next month with Dark Force Rising. I can’t remember the last time I read that book, so it’ll be very interesting to see what I think now!