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It was the 1990’s. 1996 to be exact. There was no Internet (well, at least not the mega-popular, all-encompassing tool it is today). Lucasfilm decided to invigorate the Star Wars franchise by launching a huge, multimedia event that included a novel, comic book, video game and many other non-online things. The Making of Shadows of the Empire is another book that goes into this ‘90’s journey rather effectively and in-depth, but we’re not here for the Making of book, but rather the tentpole novel that kicked off this whole shebang: Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry. I remember picking up both these books and reading them on my daily bus rides to work during the summer of 1996.

This book takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, putting it squarely in the middle of the old canon. We follow Luke, Leia, Lando and Chewie in their misadventures trying to rescue Han Solo (frozen in carbonite, and maybe going after lost arks and homicidal replicants). They meet new characters along the way – characters that caused a big deal at the time, but never really appeared in any other Star Wars properties afterwards. To put the Shadows franchise into perspective: The Phantom Menace and its sequels won’t come out for a few more years and the Disney acquisition didn’t take place until 2012.

  • Can I say I love this cover by the great Drew Struzan?
  • Using my Rey TFA bookmark, so that’s meta.
  • We are introduced to a new character, the crime lord Xizor. He is the head of an intergalactic crime syndicate called Black Sun.
  • Leia’s feeling all sorts of guilt about Han being frozen in carbonite. His rescue is the primary mission but obviously won’t be fulfilled until Jedi.
  • We are also introduced to Xizor’s very expensive Human Replica Droid named Guri, his chief assassin and assistant.
  • Xizor is super powerful in the galaxy, third to only the Emperor and Vader.
  • Our little group has forgiven Lando for his supposed betrayal in Cloud City.
  • We find out that Xizor has a personal reason for hating and destroying Vader: Vader killed his whole family years ago during a biological accident/deliberate Falleen genocide incident. Neither one trusts the other.

  • Luke is trying to build his own lightsaber using Ben’s journals (modern day Lucasfilm would later use Ben’s journals in the new canon comic stories).
  • Xizor is also quite dangerous, a martial artist proficient in Teras Kasi (the same martial art from the fighting Star Wars video game and later canonized by Qi’ra in Solo.
  • Vader wants Luke alive since he knows the pilot who blew up the Death Star was his son. This, of course means that Xizor will actively be trying to kill Luke.
  • We also get a cool look inside Vader’s head. Episode I won’t be out for a few more years, which means we aren’t even close to the Obi-Wan/Anakin battle on Mustafar in Episode III. We don’t know how their battle went down in this book but Steve Perry shows how much Vader was injured in it and how much he wants to heal himself to get out of his walking iron lung.
  • DASH FREAKIN’ RENDAR. Probably the 2nd coolest character introduced in this book. He’s a smuggler. An expert and arrogant pilot. Crack shot. Like Han in A New Hope, hell do anything for a paycheck. And, of course, he has a mysterious back story. This scene also re-introduces Rogue Squadron with Wedge Antilles.
  • We then have a space battle scene with the Rogues, the Falcon and Dash that was obviously meant to be seen in a video game (and hey, guess what else the whole Shadows campaign introduced?)
  • Our heroes are now separated in their mission to rescue Han. Leia and Chewie go after their Xizor lead while Luke, Dash and the rest deal with their own mission and unraveling conspiracy.
  • Xizor maintains his body not through exercise, but through muscle stimulators. He is convinced of his own superiority, a trait that becomes more exacerbated throughout the book.

    • In another video game-like scene, Luke is chased through Beggar’s Canyon (last seen in the pod racing scene in Phantom Menace) by hired swoop-gang members. I know from the various comics out during this time that the gang includes Big Gizz and Spiker as well as Vader’s secret agent. Luke struggles to use the Force with his new green lightsaber.
    • Lots of scenes with Vader and Xizor trying to one-up each other in front of the Emperor with a ton of side missions.
    • Xizor soon takes an interest in Princess Leia as well. He really, really wants to see her naked. Humiliate, control and abandon her. Once again, his supreme arrogance comes into play.
    • We find out where Leia got the Boushh costume she uses in Jedi. Chewie also gets a disguise as the Wookiee Bounty Hunter Snoova, complete with a high-top haircut.
    • Luke is captured by Darth Vader’s bounty hunters. But this time, his Jedi powers and control increase. He quickly escapes.
    • Time for Leia, Guri and Chewie to sneak onto Coruscant! The idea of a planet-size city doesn’t start with this book but it’s an idea that made it into the Prequel trilogy. The description of the planet and its underground still hold true.
    • So it turns out that Xizor can secrete these creepy reptilian pheromones that make him gorgeous and irresistible to any female. His plans for Leia is to seduce her and humiliate a strong woman and Rebel traitor.
    • Meanwhile, Vader is beginning to find out about Xizor’s past and his present plans for Luke.
    • All the clothes in Leia’s closet in Xizor’s castle are all her size. She’s beginning to find herself under Xizor’s spell. Luckily, Chewie snaps her out of it and he escapes (unfortunately, the escape is all part of Xizor’s plan but being unsuccessful in the seduction is not). Leia defies Xizor’s “charm” and knees him in the groin. Now she’s just his prisoner with no benefits.
    • Luke and company infiltrate Coruscant and they meet up with Chewie to rescue Leia from Xizor.
  • Luke now has his black Jedi outfit and a whole new confidence in the Force.
  • Luke, Dash, Lando and Chewie get into Xizor’s castle (mind you, Xizor is still pretty arrogant and smug). They meet up with Leia. Guess what happens next?
  • They destroy Xizor’s castle with a thermal detonator. Leia tries to use the same trick in Jabba’s Palace in Jedi but with different results.
  • Now, with the Rebels gone, Xizor finally faces off against Vader. Xizor is killed by Vader’s forces and the Dark Lord is victorious, his position in the Empire cemented (although reading the canon comics, I’m not so sure).
  • Our group heads back to Tatooine for the next part of the plan.

Shadows of the Empire remains an interesting part of Star Wars history, a kind of mini-saga within a larger, more cinematic one.

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Star Wars: Light of the Jedi (The High Republic) (Light of the Jedi (Star Wars: The High Republic))
  • Hardcover Book
  • Soule, Charles (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 01/05/2021 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)
Michael Davis
Michael F. Davis became obsessed with Star Wars after repeated viewings of The Empire Strikes Back on VHS and a 1983 viewing of Return of the Jedi in movie theaters. He also saw all the Special Editions in the theater, bought all the Shadows of the Empire tie-ins, and even took a bus trip to Maine to see The Phantom Menace. He is currently employed as a Librarian in the US but has always has his sights on a galaxy far, far, away….