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Star Wars: Heir to the Empire is a 1991 Star Wars novel by Timothy Zahn, and the first book in the Thrawn trilogy. It reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, and has been credited with reinvigorating the Star Wars franchise.

Heir to the Empire
Author Timothy Zahn
Cover artist Tom Jung
Country United States
Language English
Series Star Wars: Thrawn trilogy
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Bantam Spectra
Publication date
May 1, 1991
May 1, 1992
Media type Print
Pages Hardcover: 361
Paperback: 432
ISBN 0-553-07327-3
Preceded by Tatooine Ghost
Followed by Dark Force Rising



Heir to the Empire is part of the Star Wars expanded universe, and takes place five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, and driven out the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins. Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited new line of Jedi Knights.

Thousands of light years away, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the last of the Emperor's Warlords, has taken command of the shattered Imperial Fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. Thrawn is searching for a Dark Jedi and is succeeding in restoring the Empire.


Gilad Pellaeon, captain of the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera, receives word of a successful information raid on the Obroa-skai system. A retaliatory strike by an Obroa-skai task force is easily defeated by Pellaeon's superior, Grand Admiral Thrawn. On Coruscant, Obi-Wan Kenobi approaches Luke Skywalker in his sleep to say farewell, sending Luke into depression. Leia Organa Solo, three months pregnant with twins, senses Luke's depression and sends C-3PO to speak with him. On Tatooine, Han Solo and Chewbacca offer legal work to Dravis and his smuggler allies in an attempt to solve the New Republic's shortage on cargo ships despite the objections of Bothan councilor Borsk Fey'lya.

On Myrkr, smuggler Talon Karrde and his subordinate Mara Jade help Thrawn and Pellaeon obtain several creatures called ysalamiri. Afterward, the Chimaera travels to the Emperor's storehouse on Wayland. On the planet, Thrawn and Pellaeon encounter Joruus C'baoth, the guardian of the storehouse. Thrawn's ysalamiri prevents C'baoth from using the Force within a short radius; with little choice, C'baoth offers his services in exchange for two prospective students: Luke and Leia. Thrawn sends a group of Noghri to capture Luke and Leia on Bimmisaari, but the attempt fails; Thrawn convinces C'baoth to seek Luke while the Empire focuses on capturing Leia. Han decides to suspend negotiations with the Bimmisaari leaders and return to Coruscant; Admiral Ackbar, commander in chief of the New Republic fleet, agrees with Han's decision, while Fey'lya feels that the departure will generate negative attention. Meanwhile, Thrawn launches his first offensive: a series of hit-and-run attacks into New Republic territory.

After another failed kidnapping on Bpffash, Han and Leia keep a low profile; they decide to visit Lando Calrissian on Nkllon. Noghri aliens once again attempt to capture Leia. On Dagobah, Luke discovers a metal cylinder and decides to bring it to Lando for investigation. When the protagonists meet on Nkllon to visit Lando, 51 of his mole miners are stolen by the Empire.

Han and Lando discuss plans to visit Talon Karrde as part of the smuggler recruitment operation. The Chimaera intercepts a message coming from the Millennium Falcon in Leia's voice, but Thrawn knows it is merely a recording; through logical reasoning, he determines that Han and Lando are the only ones aboard, and adjusts his plans accordingly. Thrawn nearly captures Luke in a space ambush; Luke escapes but becomes stranded in his X-wing fighter with R2-D2 until the Wild Karrde discovers them.

Luke guesses that the Wild Karrde is either a smuggler, a pirate, or a disguised warship. Still, he takes his chances and goes aboard as he has no other option. Luke wakes up and realizes that he is no longer on the freighter. When he finally wakes up, he notices Mara is in the room with him. Karrde is undecided as to what he wants to do with Luke. Han uses C-3PO to transmit a message to Coruscant in Leia's voice. Han interprets the response to mean that Fey'lya is gathering forces to possibly push Ackbar out of the New Republic Council. In the meantime, Han and Lando leave the Falcon to meet with a fellow smuggler who is supposed to tell them the location of Talon Karrde's base.

Karrde alerts Mara to Han and Lando's arrival and has Luke brought to a secure area before the two arrive. Karrde meets the visitors and is intrigued by the New Republic's offer. When Thrawn hails Karrde, he says he needs more ysalamiri and wants to have a talk. He tells Karrde that he is in the market for some new warships. Thrawn insists on sending stormtroopers to aid in a search and rescue mission. Karrde discovers that Han and Lando know about the Imperials' visit. They sneak out to the storage sheds to snoop on the prisoner that Karrde is reportedly holding. When they get to the storage room Luke was in, they notice that the door opener was tampered with; unknown to them, however, Luke and R2 have escaped with Mara chasing them. Mara, Luke, and R2 fight off predators in the forest and camp for the night. Posing as Jade, Luke surrenders Mara and R2 the next day to an Imperial patrol that brings them all to the Myrkr spaceport. There, Han, Lando, and Karrde's men ambush the Imperial soldiers and rescue Luke and R2 before leaving the planet.

With the strain of the recent Noghri kidnapping attempts, Leia and Chewie flee to his homeworld of Kashyyyk. However, another Noghri attacks Leia in the middle of the night. She successfully defends herself but the alien stops his attack. Chewbacca and Ralrracheen burst into the room immediately and Leia tells them not to kill the alien. Using her lightsaber she disables their ship so they are forced to leave.

On board the Chimaera, Pellaeon confirms that there are 112 transient warships available at the Sluis Van shipyards. They activate a cloaking shield and head toward Sluis Van for their attack. Thrawn plans to send stormtroopers to hijack the ships using the stolen mole miners from Nkllon. Wedge Antilles, who has just arrived at Sluis Van together with Rogue Squadron, notices a bulk freighter without escort and launches his fighters to inspect it. The Rogues are stunned to see the ship explode and see swarms of TIE fighters strike from the wreckage. The Falcon arrives in the middle of the battle and Han notices several Imperial Star Destroyers in the area. Remembering how the Empire stole the mole miners, Lando activates them all by remote control; his move results in many captured ships disabled. Believing that the sudden outcome is simply a temporary setback, Thrawn withdraws the Empire's forces.

As Han and Luke rest after the battle, Leia calls from Coruscant to tell them that Admiral Ackbar has been arrested on charges of treason.



According to Zahn, Lou Aronica of Bantam Spectra had negotiated the book deal with LucasArts in 1989, and the publisher put Zahn's name at the top of their list of possible authors. He said, "My original instructions from LucasArts consisted of exactly two rules: the books were to start 3–5 years after Return of the Jedi, and I couldn't use anyone who'd been explicitly killed off in the movies." Zahn's working title for the book was Wild Card, which Bantam vetoed this because of its similarity to their other series, Wild Cards. Bantam also rejected his second favorite title, The Emperor's Hand.[1] Warlord's Gambit was also a potential title, but ultimately Heir to the Empire was chosen, which was suggested by Aronica.[1][2]

Zahn used information from the original film trilogy as his primary source, but supplemented that with details from the many sourcebooks created for West End Games' Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game.[1][3] Saying that "the WEG sourcebooks saved me from having to reinvent the wheel many times", Zahn noted that he used the Interdictor Cruiser from the game but invented the "lightsaber lock" concept himself.[1]


Heir to the Empire was extremely well received, reaching #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.[4] Its influence on the Star Wars Expanded Universe was considerable; the EU had previously been primarily elaborated in RPG games, comic strips and other esoteric media. Heir revitalized and opened large portions of the post-Empire EU,[5] and also introduced the popular EU characters Talon Karrde, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Gilad Pellaeon.[6][7]

Comic adaptationEdit

In 1995, Dark Horse Comics started a comic adaptation of the novel. Created by Mike Baron, Olivier Vatine, and Fred Blanchard, the series lasted six issues. The series would later be republished in a graphic novel in 1997 and finally as part of the Thrawn Trilogy compilation in 2009.

20th anniversaryEdit

In September 2011, Zahn, Lucasfilm and Bantam Spectra joined forces to publish a special 20th anniversary edition of Heir. The pressing contains updated text, and commentary notes by Zahn and officials from Bantam and Lucasfilm regarding the production of the novel, plus a foreword by Zahn as to how he landed the project.

When asked about a similar anniversary treatment for Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, Zahn said it will depend on strong sales of the book.[citation needed]

Related booksEdit

  • Bill Slavicsek, Heir to the Empire Sourcebook (Star Wars RPG) (1992) ISBN 0-87431-179-9 (West End Games) (Hardcover)
  • Mike Baron, Olivier Vatine, Fred Blanchard, Star Wars: Heir To The Empire Limited Edition (1997) ISBN 1-56971-180-1 (Dark Horse) (Slipcase Hardcover)


  1. ^ a b c d "An interview with Timothy Zahn, author of Heir to the Empire". 1991. Archived from the original on May 21, 2010. Retrieved March 1, 2017. 
  2. ^ Zahn, Timothy (2011). "Endnote 13". Heir to the Empire: The 20th Anniversary Edition. Del Rey Books. ISBN 978-0345528292. 
  3. ^ Zahn, Timothy (1998). "Foreword". The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook. West End Games. ISBN 978-0874312805. 
  4. ^ "The New York Times Best Seller List" (PDF). June 30, 1991. Retrieved March 1, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Timothy Zahn: Outbound Flight Arrival". January 31, 2006. Archived from the original on February 4, 2006. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Critical Opinion: Heir to the Empire Reviews". April 4, 2014. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved December 14, 2015. 
  7. ^ Breznican, Anthony (November 2, 2012). "Star Wars sequel author Timothy Zahn weighs in on new movie plans". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 

External linksEdit