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Read these legendary Star Wars books before you see 'The Last Jedi'

POSTED: December 6, 2017 7:29 a.m.
It’s almost time to learn about “The Last Jedi.”

The new Star Wars film, which hits theaters on Dec. 15, will continue the story of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), the three new heroes who became stars in 2015's mega-hit “The Force Awakens.”

Few details are known about “Last Jedi,” except that Rey will get her Jedi training from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the legendary Jedi who she met at the very end of the previous film.

Yet, before “The Force Awakens” hit theaters back in 2015, no one was sure what that story would bring, either.

As more and more Star Wars films come out (or are slated to come out), fans eager for plot clues have turned to the hundreds of books about the Star Wars universe. Once labeled as canon (the official Star Wars story), these books were eventually retitled as “Legends” and are not a part of the official story.

However, legend or canon, these books' influence has been felt. In “The Force Awakens,” for example, the character of Kylo Ren is loosely based on a book character named Jacen Solo, Leia and Han's son who turns to the dark side. That is just one of plenty examples where the old novels and new movies cross, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

So if you're looking for early plot details for "The Last Jedi," you should consider digging into the old novels with their wealth of characters, locations and information.

Here’s a quick look at a handful of books that may offer some hints about "The Last Jedi." If we missed one of your favorites, let us know in the comments section.

Note: All of these books contain depictions of war, mild violence, few references to sexual content, mature themes, few instances of mature language.

“Heir to the Empire” and the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn

“Heir to the Empire” is a good starting place for Legends readers. It takes readers five years after the Death Star’s destruction (i.e., the end of "Return of the Jedi"), with the New Republic setting up its government, the Empire in shambles and Luke Skywalker hoping to rebuild the Jedi order. All of that is shoved to the side when Grand Admiral Thrawn, a warlord not seen in the movies, takes hold of the Empire and threatens our main cast of heroes. Super Star Wars fans will recognize the Thrawn character from the “Star Wars Rebels” series, in which he played a big role in the third and fourth seasons. Could Thrawn show up in “Last Jedi?” Who knows!

The Jedi Academy Trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson

Want to know more about Skywalker's attempt to rebuild the Jedi? Anderson's series addresses that in spades. The trilogy follows Skywalker's beginnings as a teacher, hoping to sway young padawns into becoming Jedi. One of them, Kyp Durron, revolts, though, turning to the dark side and soon threatens everything Luke has built. The series includes a super weapon called the Sun Crusher, which is not unlike the Starkiller base seen in "The Force Awakens." This solid trilogy provides more context for those looking to better understand Skywalker's non-canon rise that may play into whatever "The Last Jedi" has in store.

The New Jedi Order series (multiple authors)

Fast-forward a few years from The Jedi Academy Trilogy and we find the New Republic in relative peace. That is until the Yuuzhan Vong, a sentient species from outside the Star Wars universe, invades the series' heroes. Suddenly, Luke Skywalker must speed track his young padawans and Jedis, hoping they will help him take down this alien threat. The lengthy series — 23 books — includes Han and Leia parenting a trio of young Jedis, Luke falling in love and plenty of Star Wars battles.

If you don't have time to read all of them, here are two you shouldn't miss.

“Vector Prime” by R.A. Salvatore

The first installment in The New Jedi Order, “Vector Prime" kicks off the series in a huge way. The book contains a major character death, something we’ve yet to see in the new Star Wars films. It’s a heartbreaking read but certainly gives the series a new depth.

“The Unifying Force” by James Luceno

Just as "Vector Prime" starts The New Jedi Order off with a bang, its final book, "The Unifying Force" similarly delivers an ending readers won't quickly forget. Yet another major character dies in this book, which sets events in motion that will forever change the lives of the Star Wars characters. The book also puts an end to the Yuuzhan Vong, a feat that once seemed impossible.

Legacy of the Force series (multiple authors)

This nine-book series will give fans of the films a few plot points that they will recognize, particularly as Han and Leia’s son, Jacen Solo, turns fully to the dark side, eventually becoming Darth Caedus. The series sees a return of two legendary characters, Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian, and introduces a new generation of heroes into the Star Wars universe. Here are two of the best — or at least most important for "The Last Jedi" — books of this series.

“Sacrifice” by Christian Taylor

Legacy of the Force series’ fifth book, “Sacrifice,” is the first time readers see Jacen Solo fall to the dark side, and includes a major character death that shifts the direction of the entire series. This is one of those thrilling, page-turning reads that make you feel right in the center of the action.

“Inferno” by Troy Denning

“Inferno” picks up right where "Sacrifice" ends, with characters reacting to the previous book's tragic ending — plus, it has an awesome light saber battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Caedus, i.e., Jacen Solo. The relationship between these two characters could serve as a primer for Skywalker's relationship with Kylo Ren in the "Last Jedi."

Fate of the Jedi series (multiple authors)

Another nine-book series came to readers after Legacy of the Force — this one, Fate of the Jedi, tells the story of Luke traveling with Ben Solo to the far reaches of space. Soon readers are treated to a Jedi and Sith light saber battle in the city-planet of Coruscant. For Star Wars fans, this is an epic series of books.

“Shadows of the Empire” by Steve Perry

“Shadows of the Empire” is a step back in time, taking readers to the action between “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” films. It features a new character named Xizor, who hopes to gain the favor of the Emperor over Darth Vader, providing great (non-canon) context to Darth Vader and the Emperor's relationship.

“Darth Plagueis” by James Luceno

In the 2005 film “Revenge of the Sith,” Star Wars fans learned about Darth Plagueis, the evil master of the also bad news Darth Sidious a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine. "Darth Plagueis" offers a glimpse into the villain's life and beginning and is deemed a Legends book, although there’s no other real back story for the Sith Lord, so it’s easy to treat this one as canon (even though it’s not).

“The Old Republic: Revan” by Drew Karpyshyn

New Star Wars fans probably don’t know who Revan is, but you might recognize him. The Sith Lord, made popular in the “Knights of the Old Republic” video game, looks eerily similar to current villain Kylo Ren. This book looks into Revan’s past, shedding light on how he became such a diabolical villain in the Star Wars universe. It’s clear Kylo Ren received some influence from Revan, so a quick read of this book could provide some context to Ren’s actions.
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