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Heir to the Empire
By Timothy Zahn
6.5 years after ANH

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This book, the first in a trilogy by Timothy Zahn, introduces us to a host of important Expanded Universe characters,and establishes many of the post-Endor political hurdles the New Republic will face for years to come.


Heir to the Empire is set 5 years after the destruction of the second Death Star. The New Republic is struggling on the one hand with internal jockeying for power, and on the other with remnants of the still extant Empire. And into this uneasy balance comes a cunning and ruthless Imperial leader….The last of the Emperor's Supreme Commanders, the alien Grand Admiral Thrawn. Returned from exile, the brilliant Thrawn begins to gather together the pieces of a puzzle that will return the galaxy to Imperial rule: the mad Jedi clone, Joruus C'boath, the Emperor's mysterious mountain storehouse on Wayland, and the services of a growing fleet, as well as the services of newly re-subjugated planets.

Meanwhile, back on Coruscant, Han and Leia , married for about a year, are expecting twins, Luke is pondering the next step in the rebirth of the Jedi Order, and a political stew-pot is all set to come to a boil.

Add to this mix, Lando, Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3P0, the wily smuggler Talon Karde, his lithe, lethal and enigmatic assistant Mara Jade, the assassin-race the Noghri, and a plethora of supporting characters, and the soup has almost too many ingredients to describe.



Author Timothy Zahn really started it all (after George Lucas, of course) with Heir to the Empire. This first book of the Thrawn trilogy was the first of the Expanded Universe novels, and its success, both financial and literary, set the pace for all that has followed. It whet the appetite of starved Star Wars fans everywhere, and truly "primed the pump" for the books, comics, and movie(s) that have come since. Even if Heir to the Empire were not as well-written as it is, just by virtue of being the first, it would be held up as the gold-standard by which later EU literature is judged. This is all the more true, because Heir is a marvelous book. 

If you are reading along in the order of the timeline…….which I do recommend for maximum resonance, by the way……picking up Heir to the Empire after reading The Courtship of Princess Leia will feel like whiplash. (See my review of TCOPL for the full scoop on that….) Timothy Zahn has created a rich, detailed, wonderfully interwoven plot, one that flows perfectly from the Star Wars lexicon, while providing a wealth of new material that fits seemlessly into the existing design. Zahn's characters………Grand Admiral Thrawn, Imperial Star Destroyer Captain Pellaeon, Talon Karrde, Mara Jade, the Noghri……..are now an intrinsic part of the Star Wars universe, so well-constructed, fascinating and integrated into that universe are their depictions. 

The core film characters are not neglected either. Han, Leia, Luke, the droids, Chewbacca, and Lando all play significant roles, and all are well-written, three-dimensional, and true to the personae we've come to know. There are even nice supporting parts for our favorite X-Wing Commander, Wedge Antilles, New Republic leader Mon Mothma, and beleagured Admiral Ackbar…….the latter the target of the manipulative machinations of Bothan Senator Borsk Fey'lya. In fact, Zahn is the writer who took a single line from Return of the Jedi………."Many Bothans died to get us this information"……..and established an entire species personality and "raison d'etre" for the Bothans, one that has provided plot complications for many of the EU authors that have come after. I could wax poetic about Heir to the Empire ad nauseum. This is an exciting, terrifically involving book. Even on multiple readings, there are nuances still to be discovered, surprises still in store. If any novel is a must-read for the Star Wars fan, this is it. Comics, other novels, and even Toys have spun off characters and situations from it. Immerse yourself and enjoy!