Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Heir to the Empire

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire
By Timothy Zahn
Published: 1991, 2011 (20th Anniversary edition)

My review:

Heir to the Empire takes place 5 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Rebel Alliance is now the New Republic. Leia and Han are married and she is pregnant with Jedi twins. Luke has been working with Leia on how to use the Force. At the start of the book, it becomes clear that the danger isn't over with internal fights among the New Republic and skirmishes with the Empire. The Emperor may have died but there is a secretive and cunning new Grand Admiral in charge. Leia and her unborn twins are the target of kidnapping attempts and there are rumors of a Jedi Master who has emerged from seclusion. New characters are introduced and old favorites return in this action packed first book in the Thrawn Trilogy.

I first read this book as a teenager who couldn't get enough of the Star Wars universe. I was curious when I saw that the book was being reissued in a 20th Anniversary edition and I decided to read it again to see if it would stand the test of time. Thankfully it did. I don't know if it was the passage of time or listening to the book on audio but I thoroughly enjoyed rereading Heir to the Empire. For fans of the original movies, Timothy Zahn does a great job in capturing the film characters in his book. It is not just a rehash of the same story five years later however. The standout part of the book was the creation of super-villain Grand Admiral Thrawn. He is shrewd and intelligent and has more depth than the average Star Wars villain. He reminded me of an evil version of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. There are also some interesting "gray area" characters like smuggler Talon Karrde and Mara Jade that add to the complexity of the story. 

I am an incredibly picky audio book listener and I was mostly pleased with this one aside from a couple of annoying voices for minor characters. The unabridged audio book is read by Marc Thompson who does a fantastic job with most of the voices. His portrayals of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker sound a lot like the film characters. The addition of sound effects and excerpts from the movie soundtracks at emotional or action driven moments added to the listening experience for me. For those looking for all the additional footnotes and information in the 20th Anniversary Edition book-they are not on the audio book but have to be purchased as a separate audio. I did take a look at the e-book and print versions (I checked them out from the library for comparison) and while I liked learning some of the facts in the footnotes, it wasn't as important for me as the actual story and I could do without it.

Overall, I thought that this was an excellent listening experience and just as much fun to read the second time around. Now they need to release unabridged audio editions of the other books in the trilogy! If you are a fan of the original Star Wars films and haven't tried any of the books, this would be the series I would suggest. I only wish it wasn't too late to make it into a movie with Timothy Zahn writing the script...


  1. I like that sound effects and musical excerpts are included but I'd want that bonus material too so I think I'll have to get the print version for my own collection. Thanks for alerting me to this release!

  2. I also really liked Grand Admiral Thrawn, he is a brilliant character. But Mara Jade is probably by favourite addition! Now I feel all inspired to reread my Star Wars novels!!! Thanks for sharing!!
    Juli @ Universe in Words


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