Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion

What It Is

Skuldren:  Quite simply, Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion is the essential guide to Star Wars books.  Readers get a full look at the expanse of Star Wars literature across 496 pages of book summaries, beautiful artwork, and additional info.  The book covers all of the adult Star Wars novels, most of the young adult novels and short stories, as well as side notes on some of the important comics and video games.

Synlah:  I have just one word for The Essential Reader’s Companion: impressive.  Pablo Hidalgo has gone above and beyond the call of duty because this is so much more than a mere compendium of Star Wars literature.  The behind-the-scenes glimpses alone make The Essential Reader’s Companion worth the purchase, and the compendium by itself is pretty impressive.  I honestly had no idea of all the Star Wars literature I did not know about.  I now know what I’m going to be spending the rest of my life doing.

Skuldren:  I was also surprised by how many stories are out there that I haven’t read or didn’t even know about.  It’s one thing to occasionally come across one on Wookieepedia, it’s another thing to see them categorically laid out as the ultimate checklist.

The book is broken down into eight eras.  Each era includes a introduction and is followed by summaries for all of the books and short stories.  Each entry includes info for timeline placement, worlds visited, major characters, author, cover artist, publication history, and a summary of the story.  Many of the entries also include an endnote which varies from entry to entry.  Some share information about how the project came to be, fun notes about the authors, hurdles that the story encountered, alternate story ideas proposed in the outline stages, and any continuity conflicts.

Synlah: While it makes sense, it was still an inspired idea to break the entire saga down into eras.  It streamlines a reader’s ability to pick books from an era they might be less familiar with, as well as providing them with essential information.  For example: I don’t play video games, but the first chapter, Tales of Ancient Jedi and Sith, filled me in on the information I needed to be up to speed on that era of Star Wars (Del Rey, it would still be very nice to get a novel telling the KOTOR story).

One thing that really impressed me as I read through The Essential Reader’s Companion, is how much various authors borrowed “things” from other writers.  One instance that comes to mind concerns the Codex.  It first appeared in the Star Wars Gamemaster Handbook in 1993.  It was also seen in the DarkStryder saga (Kathol Rift module) in 1996.  In 2009 Author Christie Golden utilized it for Omen.  Pablo Hidalgo’s documenting these fascinating little bits is just one more piece of impressive work that makes up The Essential Reader’s Companion.  And it means no more skimming through countless books for answers to things like where in FOTJ did the Codex make an appearance.  The answer is right there in The Essential Reader’s Companion.

Cool Stuff

Skuldren: One of the cool things I liked about The Essential Reader’s Companion was that each entry included not only a list of all the worlds visited, but coordinates that will work with The Essential Atlas. On one hand it creates a continuity between the guides, and on the other, it makes finding the planets a heck of alot easier.

Another cool thing was the endnotes for each summary.  My favorites were the ones that included alternate storylines that weren’t used.  For instance in Fate of the Jedi: Invincible, Troy Denning proposed having Jacen flow-walk back in time to meet Anakin in order to distract Jaina during their duel.  The event would’ve backfired though, enabling Anakin to swap bodies with Jacen. Jacen would have then been trapped in Anakin’s body right before the Yuuzhan Vong killed him.  Anakin would have ended up in Jacen’s body, thus getting a second chance on life.  As a huge Anakin Solo fan, I can’t help but think how awesome that would have been.

Little insights like that made The Essential Reader’s Companion fun to scour through.

Synlah: The goodness doesn’t end with the body of the book, however.  Appendix A has every book listed in chronological order and Appendix B has them listed by author.  Let’s say you’ve just stumbled across Heir to the Empire, loved it (and who doesn’t?) and want to get your hands on every Star Wars book by Tim Zahn, you can just go to the appendix and get your shopping list in order.

Skuldren:  And speaking of lists, if you’re looking for specific artwork by an artist, right next to the contents page is a section for illustration credits.  There you’ll find a list broken down by artist showing the page numbers of all the art they did.  This makes it very handy if you’re looking for the artwork done by a certain artist.

The Artwork

Skuldren:  Throughout the book there are two types of art. Before each era, there is a gallery of character portraits by Brian Rood done in a watercolor style. The faces on the characters are very realistic. Most of the portraits portray characters readers have never seen before. However that can be good and bad in itself. Some people might not like the look of some characters because it might not mesh with the image they formed in their minds while reading about them. Personally, I really loved the character portraits. I thought they looked great and I always enjoy seeing a canon image of the characters.

Even if you don’t like the way some of them look, there’s so many varied images that the portraits serve as a mini guide to galactic clothing.  Honestly, check it out. All too often we see the same forms of dress from some of our favorite characters.  In The Essential Reader’s Companion, there is such a variety that you can begin to feel the characters might actually have closets with wardrobes in them.  This was definitely one thing I did not expect from the book but got a kick out of it once I spotted it.

Synlah: I also loved the character portraits, but I really loved the scene depictions such as Obi-Wan, Siri Tachi and Anakin battling droids in the Senate chamber from the Jedi Quest series, or Mace Windu, Nick Rostu and Chalk in the jungle on Haruun Kal.  There’s a ton of art in this book, and it’s a real treat to have a visual of something you’ve only had a mental image of.  It really brings the stories to life.  As well, I believe there was somewhat more visual consistency with non-movie characters such as Mara and Jaina.  The artwork thoroughly adds to the enjoyment of the Star Wars EU experience.

Bottom Line

Synlah: If this compendium isn’t mission accomplished, I don’t know what is.  It’s definitely worth the purchase just for the simplicity of referencing any work, but all the extras make it a treat to read.  I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t want this.  Most impressive, Mr. Hidalgo.

Skuldren: The Essential Reader’s Companion certainly nailed what it sought out to do and more. I’ll admit that I’m no expert on the exhaustive archive of Star Wars literature, but this book covers a lot of material.  While sites like Wookieepedia are nice, sometimes they fail to accurately or effectively summarize the events of a book.  The Essential Reader’s Companion does that and then some.  Furthermore, the new artwork is gorgeous and is the icing on the cake.  You might not want to read it cover-to-cover, but as a reference book, The Essential Reader’s Companion serves a role I did not realize was missing.  If you have a library of Star Wars books, you’d be remiss to not have this as the cornerstone of your collection.

Reviewed By: Synlah and Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

2 Comments »

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  1. […] long wait is over, but was it worth it? Click here to read our full review of Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion and find […]

  2. just by reading the last sentence, you’d be remiss to not have this as the cornerstone of your collection. i definitely agree. MTFBWY always


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