I only know one truth: It's time for the Jedi... to end.
This Thursday, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi hits theaters internationally. Already, the buzz is strong with this film, with rave reviews from early critics and lucky superfans who have attended the premiere and seen early screeners. Suffice it to say, Thursday cannot come soon enough.
If you, like me, are anxiously counting down the hours until The Last Jedi, fear not! There are ways to prepare yourself for the long awaited eighth episode in the hope of gleaning background character stories that will only enhance your viewing of the movie. For you, Star Wars superfan, I submit seven books (in gift guide fashion) to distract yourself with while you wait for that evening showing on Deceomber 14th.
For the Leia Organa die hard fan, Leia and Bloodline by Claudia Gray
Both of these books are prequels, albeit for different films, and both are penned by the incomparable Claudia Gray (in my opinion, the best writer over the course of the entire Star Wars canon to capture Leia’s personality on the page).
Leia is set just a few short years before Episode IV and follows idealistic sixteen-year-old Leia Organa as she goes through the formal trials of becoming the crown heir to Alderaan. Leia shows us just how the young Princess became a rebel; in heartbreaking detail, the novel dives into the princess’s relationship with her adopted parents, her love for her people, and the principles that drive this politician and leader in the making.
Bloodline shows us an older, wiser, more seasoned Leia Organa—this time, set seven years before Episode VII. In Bloodline, we see the inefficiencies of the Galactic Senate and just how reliant the entire system has become on personality over process. Leia grapples with her responsibility to the galaxy as a leader as well as her relationship with erstwhile husband Han and her son Ben (currently training with Luke). And then…at long last, her heritage as the daughter of the monstrous Darth Vader becomes known—and nothing will ever be the same. Bloodline shows us the beginnings of the First Order just as it shows us the price of leadership and peace. It is pure brilliance and essential for any fan of the new films.
For the comic book fanatic looking for answers about Poe Dameron, Shattered Empire and Poe Dameron.
Shattered Empire by Greg Rucka picks up immediately where Episode VI ends, on the forest moon of Endor after the second Death Star is destroyed. This comic book follows several different mini-arcs including Poe Dameron’s parents, who were both rebel fighters—Poe’s father was a ground agent and specialist in the ranks with Han Solo, while his mother was a damn fine pilot charged with helping Luke Skywalker on an important mission to save relics of the Jedi past. You want to know more about Poe Dameron and why he’s such a good pilot? Shattered Empire has some answer for you.
If you want more Poe Dameron—because Poe is the character with the most backstory out there of the three new leads—try the eponymous comic book by Charles Soule and Chris Eliopoulos (of which now three trade paperback collections are available, if you don’t want to read the monthlies). These arcs follow Poe and the Black Squadron squad—and BB-8!—before the events of The Force Awakens, giving you a ton of background insight into Poe and the pilots who took down Starkiller Base.
For the obsessive spoiler hunter, Canto Bight and Cobalt Squadron.
So you say you want to glean as much as possible about The Last Jedi before the movie hits? Try these two books, set before/during the events of Episode VIII. Canto Bight is a collection of short novellas from Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, and John Jackson Miller each set in the casino city of Canto Bight (imagine Cloud City x Mos Eisley x Maz Kantata’s castle). Set over the course of a single night, these stories follow gamblers, a salesman, a fortuitous bottle of wine, and a servant. Canto Bight may seem like luxury and glamour—but the darkness that threatens to take over the entire galaxy is very much at work here.
On a personal level, Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein is the most highly anticipated book I have on this list. Following the resistance fighters in the titled squadron, Elizabeth Wein—author of the incomparable wartime novel Code Name Verity—makes her contribution to the Star Wars canon with a novel about sisters Rose and Paige Tico. (Rose you may know from the trailers, photos, and interviews leading up to The Last Jedi.)
For the Storm Trooper in training, Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson.
Last but certainly not least, Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson is everything. Until this novel, there was little to connect with but much intrigue surrounding the chrome-plated Stormtrooper Captain. Dason gives us Phasma’s complicated backstory, painting her as a fully-dimensioned leader and fighter—and we see just how she came to power within the First Order. You want to read this book to add a whole new level of depth to your understanding of Phasma, Finn, and (judging from trailers) what looks to be their epic showdown in Episode VIII.
Happy reading, fellow resistance fighters—and may the force be with you.