‘Star Wars: Heir to the Empire’ (Book)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Thrawn, Karrde and Mara Jade with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia

How come the original Thrawn trilogy of ‘Star Wars’ books were never adapted into movies?

It’s interesting these past number of years since I started doing ‘Bradley’s Basement’ back in September 2015. I didn’t think I would be doing this many ‘Star Wars’ reviews on my blog from doing reviews on the movies. That’s mostly down to Timelord007 who has been encouraging me. 😀

‘Star Wars’ has evolved in many respects over the years. From its initial trilogy from 1977 to 1983; to the prequels trilogy from 1999 to 2005; to the sequels trilogy from 2015 to 2019! Many people have various reactions to these movies. I believe it’s fair to argue that ‘Star Wars’ fandom is really divided.

I have my own opinions about ‘Star Wars’ in general. For the most part, they’re…mixed at best. On one hand, I really have enjoyed seeing the ‘Star Wars’ movies and look forward to watching them again. But on the other, I can see the flaws in certain movies that don’t really appeal to certain fans.

Personally, I have fond memories watching the prequels films in the early 2000s which got me into watching the original trilogy. That’s not the case with certain people who rate the prequels lower than me. When it comes to the sequels, I don’t regard them highly as the prequels and original films.

Again, this isn’t because I didn’t enjoy them. I did enjoy the 2015-2019 films in certain measures. But the passion behind those films doesn’t seem to be genuine as was in the prequels and the original trilogy. Also, I don’t believe there was a clear thought-out plan as to how the sequels would develop.

The blame might be directed at Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, J. J. Abrams or Rian Johnson, I’m not sure. But one thing’s for certain. The ‘official’ sequels trilogy has divided the ‘Star Wars’ fandom to a great extent at the point of some ‘Star Wars’ fans loving the films as well as certain fans hating them.

That’s quite a contrast to watching ‘The Mandalorian’ series on Disney+, which I’ve greatly enjoyed and feel that people like Jon Favreau have an understanding on what ‘Star Wars’ is meant to be through satisfying storytelling and character development. And this is outside the film series itself. 🙂

Everybody seems to love ‘The Mandalorian’ series at present. It’s amazing and shocking that a web TV series can have more appeal than a recent sequels film trilogy in ‘Star Wars’ at the time of this review. And that’s not all. Other forms of ‘Star Wars’ media can be more appealing than the movies.

Before the prequels and sequels films were even considered, there were a number of ‘Star Wars’ books published around the early 1990s. The ‘Star Wars’ books continue the story of what happened in the original trilogy and some of them have been regarded as the best ‘Star Wars’ literature made.

In October/November 2020, I read ‘Heir to the Empire’ the first instalment of a trilogy of ‘Star Wars’ books by Timothy Zahn called ‘the Thrawn trilogy’. ‘Heir to the Empire’ can be argued as the proper ‘Episode VII’ of the ‘Star Wars’ saga, especially since it’s set five years after the events of ‘Return of the Jedi’.

I did have a go at reading a ‘Star Wars’ book the year before, which was ‘Lords of the Sith’ by Paul S. Kemp. I didn’t have a satisfying reading/audio experience from that as I was hoping for a full-on extravaganza of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine in it. This didn’t happen as I was expecting it to.

With ‘Heir to the Empire’ however, I found that a better reading experience. Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine weren’t in it sadly this time, but I enjoyed the character journeys of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 throughout. It was quite satisfying.

It has been argued that Timothy Zahn writes very good ‘Star Wars’ books, especially with his original Thrawn trilogy. That I can agree with, since he does well in terms of writing the character drama as well as writing compelling action sequences. It’s what you’d expect in an action-packed adventure. 🙂

‘Heir to the Empire’ was first published in May 1991. It has been reprinted lately in 2011 as an e-book. I purchased the e-book version of the story to read via Kindle. The story is divided into 32 chapters. It took me a month to finish the e-book, but I greatly enjoyed absorbing a chapter per day.

There have been various audiobooks over the years, including an unabridged one read by Marc Thompson. In the end, I decided not to read ‘Heir to the Empire’ with an audiobook in the background. For some reason, I cannot get the audiobooks for all three Thrawn books via Audible. 😦

They’re only available in the USA at this time. It’s a shame as I would’ve liked to have read ‘Heir to the Empire’, ‘Dark Force Rising’ and ‘The Last Command’ with readily available audiobooks to hear in the background. If I am missing something regarding the audiobooks’ whereabouts, do let me know.

I have been able to get a visual representation of what ‘Heir to the Empire’ is like as a story from watching a CG-animated movie version of it on YouTube, which is still in progress as we speak. It’s been made by DarthAngelus and I hope he will be able to complete ‘Heir to the Empire’ very soon. 🙂

Anyway, let’s talk about the story of ‘Heir to the Empire’ for a bit. Like I said, the story takes place five years after the events of ‘Return of the Jedi’. Imagine George Lucas adapting the original Thrawn trilogy in the 1990s instead of the prequels trilogy. Fans would be a lot happier with George Lucas. 🙂

In the story, even though the Rebel Alliance have destroyed the second Death Star and defeated Darth Vader and the evil Emperor, there are still remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet left. I suppose that explains why Stormtroopers are still about during the time ‘The Mandalorian’ happens.

I wonder if all the Orcs were destroyed by the end of ‘The Return of the King’. There were still some of the White Witch’s hordes left for King Peter to find at the end of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Anyway, there are still traces of the Galactic Empire left for the New Republic to fight. 😐

In command of the remains of the Imperial fleet is the last of the Emperor’s warlords. He is Grand Admiral Thrawn, a cunning and intelligent Chiss commander. He looks a bit like Nightcrawler from X-Men, except that he has two red glowing eyes. So, Thrawn is in place of Darth Vader for this trilogy.

And you may probably know about Thrawn from hearing his name mentioned in the fifth episode of Season 2 of ‘The Mandalorian’ at the time of this review. I’m just going to say it; Thrawn is a very intriguing villain. I don’t think I know a lot about him yet, but he comes across as quite intimidating.

Thrawn has this quiet menacing approach to handling things when being the leader of the Empire’s remnants in this story. He’s definitely ones of those villains who isn’t over the top and goes berserk like certain villains do. He can also be quite calculating when it comes to handling battle strategies. 😐

I was disappointed that our hero characters like Luke, Han and Leia didn’t get to meet Thrawn in this instalment of the original Thrawn trilogy like they had encounters with Darth Vader in the original film trilogy. Maybe it’ll be made up for when we get to ‘Dark Force Rising’ and ‘The Last Command’. 🙂

In terms of the other characters, Luke has become what is hoped to be the first of a new line of Jedi Knights. Leia and Han are also married and are expecting to have children – twins even. Hmm! I wonder if any of those twins could be Kylo Ren or Rey. Surely Disney would have utilised that angle!

And yeah, I know. I know the twins that Han and Leia have don’t match to what’s in the sequels movies since…well, the continuities in the books and the movies differ from each other greatly. But I’m just saying the Disney movies could have taken advantage of the books given to the fans already.

Anyway, Luke, Han and Leia along with Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 discover something amiss with strange dark cloaked figures chasing after them. Thrawn wants the Skywalkers and he utilises a ‘Dark Jedi’ as well as his subordinates to help him. Will our heroes uncover Grand Admiral Thrawn’s plans?

Incidentally, ‘Heir to the Empire’ happens to be the first ‘Star Wars’ book to feature the galactic capital known as Coruscant. George Lucas would later use feature Coruscant in his ‘Star Wars’ prequels trilogy. I wonder if George Lucas liked what Timothy Zahn had written in his Thrawn books.

I hope he did. Maybe he tried to get the Thrawn trilogy adapted into movies but couldn’t for some reason and he ended up doing the prequels trilogy instead. My speculations could be wrong, but it is fascinating George Lucas utilised Coruscant from Timothy Zahn’s ‘Heir to the Empire’ in the prequels.

As well as Thrawn, there are two more significant characters introduced in ‘Heir to the Empire’ that feature in ‘Star Wars’ through the books and other aspects of what is called the ‘expanded universe’. This includes Talon Karrde as well as Mara Jade who becomes pretty significant for Luke Skywalker. 🙂

Talon Karrde is a smuggler and information dominating the underworld market in information within the ‘Star Wars’ universe. He seems to know a lot about Luke Skywalker when he and Mara Jade capture him from his X-Wing fighter. Karrde also meets up with Han Solo and Lando Calrissian in this.

Mara Jade used to work for the Emperor and even disguised herself as one of Jabba the Hut’s dancing girls during Luke’s rescue of Han Solo on Tatooine. She’s now working for Karrde and is out for revenge on Luke Skywalker for ruining her life. But will the two see eye to eye with each other. 😐

Other characters featured in ‘Heir to the Empire’ include Gial Ackbar, who was Admiral Ackbar in ‘Return of the Jedi’. You know, that fish-looking alien who bawled out orders during the attack on the second Death Star? There is also Mon Mothma who appeared in ‘Return of the Jedi’ too here. 😀

Incidentally, C-3PO and R2-D2 get referred to as ‘Threepio’ and ‘Artoo’ when Timothy Zahn writes them in the book. Not sure why he referred to them as that, but I would’ve preferred C-3PO and R2-D2 as opposed to ‘Threepio’ and ‘Artoo’. Maybe it was how they got named differently back then. 😐

And yes, Lando Calrissian makes a return in this ‘Star Wars’ story, helping Luke, Han, Leia, etc with their problems caused by Thrawn who’s hunting them down in space. I couldn’t help think of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ when reading Han and Lando’s scenes, especially when sabacc was being played. 😀

There’s Jorus C’baoth, a ‘Dark Jedi’ that Thrawn acquires in the story. There’s also Borsk Fey’lya, who happens to be a political opponent against Ackbar when they’re on Coruscant. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force-ghost makes a cameo appearance in the story. I was disappointed he wasn’t in this story very much.

There’s also Captain Pellaeon, who is Thrawn’s second-in-command during the story. Leia also gets to meet some Wookiees when Chewie takes her to the Wookiee planet of Kashyyk. These include Wookiees like Ralrracheen (Ralrra) who can speak ‘English’ well as well as Chewie’s friend Salporin. 😀

I’m curious as to why Chewie didn’t take Leia to reunite with his family on Kashyyk, including Malla, Lumpy and Itchy. Wouldn’t it make sense since Leia knew about Chewie’s family from the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’? They celebrated Life Day one time. Princess Leia even sang a song during that time.

And yes, I know George Lucas denies the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’, but I don’t deny it! It happened whether you like it or not. You can’t ignore it ever coming into being. I wonder if Timothy Zahn chose to ignore the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ for his story or if George Lucas told him not to mention it. 😐

There is a return to the planet Dagobah where Yoda trained Luke to become a Jedi in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. I like that connection to Dagobah, especially when Luke uncovers something and sees a vision almost similar to the one he saw where he fought Darth Vader which ended up becoming him.

The story concludes with the Battle of Sluis Van taking place until Thrawn’s army is defeated and he orders for a retreat. Luke, Han and Lando are still haven’t met Thrawn yet by the story’s climax. There’s also news that Ackbar has been arrested as Luke, Han and Lando head back to Coruscant to meet Leia. 😐

The e-book has special features attached to it after you’ve finished the story. There’s an introduction to the ‘Star Wars’ expanded universe; and there’s an excerpt, which is Chapter 1, from the second book of the original Thrawn trilogy called ‘Star Wars: Dark Force Rising’ by Timothy Zahn. There’s an introduction to the Old Republic era with an excerpt, which is ‘Day One: Chapter 1’, from the book called ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic – Deceived’ by Paul S. Kemp. There’s an introduction to the Rise of the Empire era with an excerpt, which is Chapters 1 and 2, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Dark Lord – The Rise of Darth Vader’ by James Luceno. There’s an introduction to the Rebellion era with an excerpt, which is Chapter One, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Allegiance’ by Timothy Zahn. There’s an introduction to the New Republic era with an excerpt, which is Chapter 1, from the book called ‘Star Wars: X-Wing – Rogue Squadron’ by Michael A. Stackpole. There’s an introduction to the New Jedi Order era with an excerpt, which is ‘One – Fraying Fabric’, from the book called ‘Star Wars: The New Jedi Order – Vector Prime’ by R. A. Salvatore.  And there’s an introduction to the Legacy era, with an excerpt, which is ‘chapter one’, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Legacy of the Force – Betrayal’ by Aaron Allston; and an excerpt, which is Chapter One, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi – Outcast’ by Aaron Allston. There’s also a ‘Star Wars Legends’ novels timeline.

‘Star Wars: Heir to the Empire’ is a better reading experience compared to ‘Star Wars: Lords of the Sith’. I found the experience of following Luke, Han and Leia’s journeys as characters very enjoyable and it’s clear Timothy Zahn knows how to write for them with love and attention throughout the tale.

It’s also easy to understand why ‘Heir to the Empire’ would be considered a better ‘Episode VII’ compared to the actual ‘Episode VII’ which was ‘The Force Awakens’. I’m currently looking forward to ‘Dark Force Rising’ next and wonder whether Luke, Han and Leia will meet Grand Admiral Thrawn.

‘Star Wars: Heir to the Empire’ rating – 8/10

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2 thoughts on “‘Star Wars: Heir to the Empire’ (Book)

  1. Timelord 007

    Great review Tim, Mr Zahn gets what makes Star Wars tick & written some excellent novels, i had the audio cassette of this & purchased several audiobooks although some have been leaked on You Tube, i highly recommend the Thrawn trilogy especially the second novel as it set in 2 eras, one with Anakin & one with Vader.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Heir to the Empire’. I’m pleased you have very fond memories of Timothy Zahn’s ‘Star Wars’ books, especially with hearing the audiobooks on audio cassette. That’s the new Thrawn trilogy you’re talking about, isn’t it? The one featuring Thrawn with Anakin and Darth Vader is called ‘Thrawn: Alliances’, I believe. Thanks for mentioning it. I’ll put it on my reading list of ‘Star Wars’ books when I get around to reading them. 😀

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim 🙂



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