Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition

Heir to the Empire is one of the most significant books in the Star Wars Expanded Universe and it’s a novel many fans hold dear to their heart. The 20th Anniversary Edition is not a book geared toward new readers as so much a gift for long time fans. For a lot of readers, their first Star Wars books were the Thrawn Trilogy. It is in that perspective, as a reader who has already enjoyed the story, that I present this review.

So what does Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition have to offer? Other than the luxury of having it in hardcover with a shiny new dust jacket, inside readers will find several treats to make this expenditure worthwhile. First off the book starts with a brand new foreword by Howard Roffman, the President of Lucas Licensing who talks about how the adult Star Wars books got started and led to Heir. Then Timothy Zahn picks up with an introduction that tells his side of the story. He mentions where he was and what he was doing when he got the call to do Heir. He talks about the thoughts that went through his mind and the six month creation of the original manuscript. Although brief, it provides a behind-the-scenes look at how the story was born. After the story ends, Betsy Mitchell wraps it up with an afterword that talks about how Zahn was selected to write the book. Yet the real meat of the anniversary edition is the annotations.

Throughout the entire book are 200 annotations by Timothy Zahn and editor Betsy Mitchell. The annotations range from the origin of plot ideas to the tuckerization of various characters and places. Some notes reveal the differences from the original manuscript or how certain things got changed in the edits. Others detail side stories that add an interesting element to how Zahn went about creating the story. Some of them are just plain fun. For example, Zahn mentions that Outbound Flight was initially just a throw away line, as was Rogue Squadron. Later both of these throw away lines became novels, and in the case of the Rogue Squadron, a whole series. The Sluis Van Shipyards were a tuckerization of one of Tim’s friends in Illinois, Don Vandersluis. He even talks about the difficulties in trying to write sounds like R2’s beeps and the igniting of a lightsaber.

Each chapter averages about 6 annotations. Of the 200, 15 of them are by Betsy, leaving the vast majority of them by Tim. The annotations are very enjoyable and add an extra level of satisfaction to the re-read of Heir. Yet the annotations alone don’t quite justify the $17 for the novel. They’re fun, but to be honest, only hardcore collectors would go just for that hook alone. The new intro, foreword, and afterword add extra incentive, but the scales still waver on that line of “is it really worth it?” Thankfully there is one last surprise that tips the balance in full favor: Crisis of Faith.

Crisis of Faith is the all new novella that Timothy Zahn included at the end of the Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition. The 52 page short story continues the rivalry that left off in Tim’s other new Star Wars release, Choices of One. Thrawn is once again after the warlord Nuso Esva, and this time it’s for keeps. Each leader lays out their intricate plans of battle in a story that plays out like a delicate chess match. In this game the pieces are the Empire of the Hand and an alien race from the Unknown Regions. While readers get to enjoy some classic Thrawn action, Zahn also includes some new characters that add to the enjoyment.

When taken all together, the new material makes the 20th Anniversary Edition well worth checking out. By itself Heir is a great story, and the new insights from Zahn and the others adds a lot to the book, plus Crisis of Faith helps wrap up another chapter in the tale of Thrawn and closes up some gaps in the timeline. I give this new edition to the SWEU a five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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