Something I've heard repeatedly since the Walt Disney Company purchased Star Wars in 2012 and relegated the old "canon" novels into "Legends" has been: "How dare you! Those stories were my Star Wars!" and, where I do agree: I myself invested years of my life reading those novels & comics - following my heroes in a galaxy far, far away... that "canon" was also a convoluted mess.
That's fine, you don't have to agree with me... BUT, I challenge you, dear reader (all 1 of you) to find a way to tell the continuing story of our galactic heroes -in movie form-, without forcing the masses to read all 202 novels (not to mention the hundreds of comics and more that were also once considered "canon"). Go ahead, I'll wait...
Yep... didn't think so... and Disney tried.
So, like the Yuuzahn Vong before him, Mikey Mouse dropped a moon on the Chewbacca sized "canon" wiping out 20 years worth of canon... but fear not, all of those books are still available, it's not like they immediately went out of print.
Once the dust settled, along came the new canon of novels and comics, some of which have been good: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller; Catalyst by James Luceno; Marvel comics Darth Vader by Keiron Gillen for instance. Some have been... well, they've been written: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig; Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne; Battlefront Twilight Company by Alexander Freed; and, Sorry to my buddy Kris: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp did NOTHING for me.
All of these new canon novels have added very little to the lore of the Star Wars universe which has been my issue. The old Legends novels were chock full of lore and substance for better or worse. These new novels were kind of information heavy (if you cared about characters that, in the long run, really meant nothing), but lacked any real substance... and then along came one author that stood head and shoulders above the rest: Claudia Gray.
I make it sound as if Claudia magically appeared on September 4, 2015, the first Force Friday (the date her first Star Wars novel: Lost Stars hit shelves), which is far from true, Claudia has been a published author since 2008... my introduction to her, however, was that fateful first Force Friday (say that 5 times fast), and I've been a major fan ever since.
Why? Claudia gets it. She gets it better than, I daresay, ANY author has gotten it before.
Yes, I love Timothy Zahn's Thrawn books, Kevin J. Anderson's epic Jedi Academy novels, or -insert any dozen author names that have written Star Wars novels here. She understands the language of Star Wars; she understands the voices of the characters; the vast galactic landscape of the galaxy, the magic of the "science fantasy" that is Star Wars... I don't know how else to explain it. She just 'gets it.'
Here are a few brief, spoiler free summaries of her Star Wars fiction to date:
Lost Stars - A young adult novel (don't let that deter you if you're a 40-something guy like I am) weaves in and out of the original Star Wars trilogy up to the fabled battle of Jakku. She takes two 'star crossed' lovers: Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree and thrusts them into the middle of the galactic conflict with some familiar faces and set pieces. This novel about two characters I didn't know (or care about at first) made me long for more about them... oh, snap! Maybe they're Rey's parents? Nah. Well... you never know...
Bloodline - A story about the rise of the First Order and the fall of Senator Leia Organa-Solo's fall from the politics set approximately 6 years before The Force Awakens. Don't get me wrong: it doesn't answer ANY of the questions you want the answers to regarding Ben Solo and Luke Skywalker (if anything it just made me want those answers even more), but it does set the stage for the rise of the Resistance. There are a few action pieces in it that are a little hard to believe when it comes to Leia's physicality, but hey, a lot can happen in 6 years to slow you down.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan - A young adult novel and the story of Leia's coming of age. How does Leia join the Rebellion? How does Leia become a tough-as-nails leader? How does she know Holdo? All of those answers are here in this fun, easy read.
From a Certain Point of View: Master and Apprentice - A short story, and one of the FEW short stories worth reading in this novel. Here Claudia dives deep into Force Ghost mythology as Obi-Wan (Old Ben) Kenobi has a conversation about the fate of the galaxy with his long dead mentor Qui Gon Jinn all while Luke races home aboard his landspeeder to find the Lars Homestead in ruins. This one, coupled with the next, may just bring a tear to your eye.
If you are a Star Wars fan and long for the lore of those Legends books, but want it to actually count toward the new canon, look no further than Claudia Gray, you won't be disappointed. And, Lucasfilm, if you happen upon my sad, lonely little blog, do me a favor: Give every novel of importance to Claudia to write. Thank you.
By the way, if you think I'm 100% OK with the old canon being gone, you'd be dead wrong... I see NO REASON that the Darth Bane trilogy or the Tales of the Jedi saga could not exist in the new canon... they all happen THOUSANDS of years before the Skywalker Saga and would have little to no effect on it whatsoever... they're just damn good stories.
What a WONDERFUL TIME to be alive...