Heir to the Empire: The 20th Anniversary Edition
Here is a special 20th anniversary edition of the #1 New York Times bestselling novel that reignited the entire Star Wars publishing phenomenon—featuring an introduction and annotations from award-winning author Timothy Zahn, exclusive commentary from Lucasfilm and Del Rey Books, and a brand-new novella starring the ever-popular Grand Admiral Thrawn. The biggest event in the history of Star Wars books, Heir to the Empire follows the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia after they led the Rebel Alliance to victory in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi.
Five years after the Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated, the galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights.
But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords—the brilliant and deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn—has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to create.
The explosive confrontation that results is a towering epic of action, invention, mystery, and spectacle on a galactic scale—in short, a story worthy of the name Star Wars.
Like many fans, Heir to the Empire was my introduction to the Star Wars Expanded Universe. After checking it out from the library several times (it was one of the few Star Wars books our library carried at that time), I eventually bought my own copy, an already well-read used paperback. With this special 20th anniversary edition, I’m excited to have a bright, shiny copy of Timothy Zahn’s classic novel that will stand up to many, many re-readings in the future. Mind you, I was a bit disappointed at first with the bland (albeit shiny) cover, but I then discovered that underneath it is the fantastic artwork that adorned the original printing.
Given the sheer number and diversity of Star Wars novels released since 1991, it is sometimes hard to remember when the release of a Star Wars novel was a novelty and an event. Zahn’s was the one that started it all, and remains one of the best EU novels ever written. The voices of Luke, Han, and Leia all ring true to the films, and the new characters are striking and fascinating. If one can forget for a moment all the mythology added to the legendary Grand Admiral Thrawn and other original characters over the years, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the menace and mystery they held twenty years ago.
Zahn breathed literary life into the galaxy far, far away in a manner that hasn’t quite been matched since. His description of Leia clinging to Chewbacca as they flee from Noghri assassins on the underside of a Kashyyyk city is intense and vivid. Luke’s ingenious efforts to free himself from a smuggler’s prison and a wrecked X-Wing had me on the edge of my seat. Then there’s the locations that come alive off the page, such as the forests of Myrkr and the Sluis Van shipyards. Heir to the Empire is more than just essential Star Wars reading; it’s a genuinely good book.
Besides packaging the novel in a shiny dustjacket with the original artwork hidden underneath, this edition offers a number of goodies, including retrospective pieces explaining the reasoning behind Heir’s creation, and a set of annotations by Zahn and editor Betsy Mitchell. (Zahn’s notes are fascinating, but Mitchell, unfortunately, had little of interest to offer.) The annotations touch on a number of points, including characterization, continuity, and lots of interesting trivia. Who knew that the Back to the Future films had a slight influence on the Thrawn Trilogy? And I was relieved to finally get the answer to the question “What is a Froffi-style haircut”?
Of course the main item of interest in this edition is the new Thrawn novella, Crisis of Faith. It’s an interesting little tale of Thrawn’s final showdown with one of his foes in the Unknown Regions. It’s particularly noteworthy in that it’s a sequel to the events of Zahn’s recent Choices of One and also leads into Heir to the Empire. It was great to see many of Zahn’s Imperial characters—Parck, Fel, and the integrated 501st—coming together here, however briefly.
Whether this is the first or hundredth time you’ve read Heir to the Empire, the 20th anniversary edition has a lot to offer. I’ll be enjoying it for years to come.