One of the best things to happen to the Star Wars franchise is the sweeping away of the old post-original-trilogy canon and making way for something new.
I realize there are people who were invested in the old expanded universe and therefore were perhaps heartbroken by this change. But by starting from scratch, the creative minds behind the franchise were able to inject mystery into the series once again. The new films themselves would be much less dramatic if you could just read the books to find out what happens.
And with a new canon comes … new books! Disney and Penguin Random House have steadily been putting out new canon Star Wars books, which is incredibly exciting, as it means we can all start anew. There's not a forbidding backlog of books to get into -- just a few book releases a year to pick up. Comics makes the situation a little more complicated, but you can follow along in trade releases.
While the Star Wars films have room for improvement when it comes to female roles and directors, the women of Star Wars are taking a (well-deserved) front-and-center role in the new universe. It’s exciting that more and more books and comics are being written by women as well (though we need to do better, especially on the comics front). Here’s a list of new-canon books authored by the ladies that you need to check out.
Leia, Princess of Alderaan - Claudia Gray
Claudia Gray really gets Leia — there's a reason that she's written two books about her. This novel is a coming-of-age story featuring young Leia as she becomes a part of the Rebellion and is trying to understand what it means to be a princess of Alderaan. We're treated to incredible scenes between Leia and her parents, especially her mother, and there are some great connections to The Last Jedi within its pages.
Bloodline - Claudia Gray
Bloodline takes place after Leia, Princess of Alderaan (and after the original trilogy). It's the story of General Organa and the birth of the Resistance. It’s a powerful, beautifully written novel that gets Leia in a way that’s been difficult to capture previously. Taking place six years before The Force Awakens, Leia is a senator for the New Republic, but she’s finding politics just as much of a grind as she did under the Empire. The politics and infighting are threatening to do away with everything she’s worked so hard to help build. Leia is tired in this novel, but still fierce, and still fighting. It’s exciting, emotional, and compulsively readable. If you only read one Star Wars novel, this should be it.
Ahsoka - E.K. Johnston
Admittedly, if you haven’t watched the series Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels, you’ll have to do some homework before you read this book to fully understand it (or just watch this video). But trust me — it’s worth it. Ahsoka Tano, who was Anakin’s padawan during the Clone Wars, is one of the best characters in Star Wars, period. As a result, this is one of my favorite books, covering what happened to Ahsoka after Order 66. (If you want to get caught up on Ahsoka as quickly as possible, and don’t care about missing a bunch of story/character development, watch Clone Wars, Season 5 and Rebels, Season 2. Then read this book. But really, it’s worth watching both the series in their entirety—except you can skip the Jar Jar episodes of Clone Wars.)
Lost Stars - Claudia Gray
Yes, it’s another Claudia Gray book, and another excellent novel (seriously, Disney, please contract Gray to write many, many more Star Wars books). This one focuses on two kids born on the same day the Empire becomes the Republic (the bulk of the novel takes place between Episodes III and VI), Ciena and Thane. They’re born into very different circumstances on the same planet, and their lives are heavily influenced by the Empire and Rebellion. We get to see events we know about through fresh eyes, from different perspectives. It’s beautiful, emotional, and incredibly well done.
Han Solo - Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks
I’ll admit I didn’t have a ton of interest in this 5-issue comic miniseries until I saw Marjorie Liu’s name attached to the project. I wasn’t sure what to think when I picked it up, but let me tell you—this comic isn’t just good, it’s great. It takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and features Han Solo and Chewbacca on a secret mission for the Rebellion. Leia asks Han to rescue some Rebels who are undercover with the Empire. As a cover for his mission, he’s registered to participate in a space race. It’s a fun read, and it’s appealing whether you’re a Han Solo fan or not.
Dark Disciple - Christie Golden
When Disney bought Lucasfilm, they made an effort to put out the unreleased Clone Wars material in different forms; the story of Dark Disciple was originally a story arc intended for the TV series about Asajj Ventress. Ventress was originally a pupil of Count Dooku’s who split from him partway through the series and forged her own path. This novel focuses on her character, but also, on a larger stage, the moral downfall of the Jedi. The Jedi were far from perfect, and this story really encapsulates the corruption present within the order.
Phasma - Delilah Dawson
Would you like to learn more about the chrome-clad stormtrooper leader? Well, this book about her origins shows just how brutal her life was. How did Phasma come to be so ruthless? And why does she lower the Starkiller base shields for Finn? That's what this novel aims to explain. It's a stark read — the planet Phasma originally is from is harsh, and she must do terrible things to survive — but it provides some wonderful character development for Phasma.