Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Series: The Thrawn trilogy
ISBN: Hardcover:
ISBN 0-553-07327-3
ISBN 0-553-29612-4
Preceded by: Tatooine Ghost
Followed by: Dark Force Rising
Heir to the Empire is the first book in a trilogy of novels known as The Thrawn Trilogy, all written by Timothy Zahn.


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 that an information raid on the Obroa-skai system was successful. A retaliatory strike by an Obroa-skai task force is easily defeated by Pellaeon's superior, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the only remaining Grand Admiral of the Empire, who takes advantage of a psychological blind spit in the task force's commanding officer to throw them into disarray. Using data found in the information raid, he claims that he now knows everything he needs to destroy the Rebellion.

On Coruscant, former capitol of the Empire and current capitol of the New Republic, 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; Borsk Fey'lya, a New Republic council member and native Bothan, dismisses this gesture as futile.

On Myrkr, smuggler Talon Karrde and his subordinate, Mara Jade, help Thrawn and Pellaeon obtain several creatures called ysalamiri, which produce "bubbles" in which the Force has no effect. Afterward, the Chimaera travels to the planet Wayland, where the Emperor kept a private storehouse. On the planet, Thrawn and Pellaeon encounter Jedi Master Joruus C'Baoth, the guardian of the storehouse. The ysalamiri that Thrawn brought with him prevents C'Baoth from attacking using the Force; Thrawn then convinces C'Baoth to support the Empire's cause offers in exchange for two prospective students: Luke and Leia. Finally, the Empire ransack the warehouse, obtaining what Thrawn was hoping to get his hands on: a functioning cloaking device, and some "Spaarti cylinders," a "small—almost trivial—bit of technology" (as Thrawn puts it) whose significance is withheld from the reader until later in the trilogy.

Thrawn sends a group of Noghri to capture Luke and Leia on Bimmisaari. Despite the lethality of these assassins, and the fact that no one in the New Republic has ever seen or heard of them (Leia does not even learn the name of their species until later in the novel), the assembled Skywalkers and Solos are able to elude capture. As they return to Coruscant, Han insists to his wife and brother-in-law that Leia begin training as a Jedi, and Luke agrees to train her, despite his own reservations about his abilities. Meanwhile, Thrawn convinces C'baoth to seek Luke while the Empire focuses on capturing Leia. To aid this, Pellaeon suggests spreading rumors that C'boath has resurfaced, which will be sure to draw Luke's attention; Thrawn, unlike Vader, is open to counsel from his subordinates, and C'boath agrees to the plan.

Meanwhile, Thrawn launches his first offensive: a series of hit-and-run attacks into New Republic territory. C'Boath is instrumental in the simultaneity of these raids, using the Force for faster-than-light communication and coordination. In addition to scaring the Republic half to death, interrupting Leia's burgeoning Jedi training and causing more speculation amongst New Republic high command as to where the Empire suddenly developed their new strategic brilliance (they are not yet aware of Thrawn's existence), this also draws the Solos into the field. Han and Leia visit Bpfaash, the hardest-hit (and most pronounceable) of the three systems, on a goodwill mission, but almost fall captive to another Noghri kidnapping attempt, this time with the help of a YT-1300 freighter mocked up as the Millenium Falcon. Luke, though he offers to go, is barred from the diplomatic visit: the Bpfaashi have been suspicious of Force-users ever since a group of Dark Jedi came rampaging through their territory during the Clone Wars, one of them (according to Leia) getting as far as Dagobah before being stopped. Luke, on a whim, decides to return there, but finds that Master Yoda's house has eroded to its foundations in the intervening five years. However, R2-D2 identifies some sort of radio transmitter nearby, and Luke obtains it... from the Dark-side-infused cave where he fought the hallucination of Darth Vader during The Empire Strikes Back. Instead of showing him a possible future, the cave this time shows him an alternate past, in which a red-haired woman, using the Force, foiled his escape attempt from the Sarlacc during Return of the Jedi.

After the attempt on Bpfaash, Han and Leia decide it might be best to keep a low profile; they decide to visit Lando Calrissian on Nkllon, where he runs a mining operation as he did on Cloud City. Luke, informed by Artoo that Lando once had a radio transmitter of similar make in his possession, visits as well. Unfortunately, they run afoul of yet another raid by the Empire, during which Luke is drawn into a trance-like conversation with C'boath through the Force. When he comes to, the Imperials have been driven off, but not before stealing fifty-one of Lando's mole miners, to the confusion of all and sundry.

Hoping to elude the Noghri, Leia and Chewbacca decide to hide on Chewbacca's homeworld of Kashyyyk, using Calrissian's personal yacht, the Lady Luck, for further camouflage. 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 watches the Lady Luck dock with the Falcon and determines that Han and Lando are the only ones aboard the Falcon, and accordingly dispatches more Noghri to Kashyyyk, the only place Leia could be hoping to hide with a Wookiee as her only companion. Luke, meanwhile, sets course for the planet Jomark, the rumored location of C'boath's reappearance, and Thrawn organizes an ambush for him. Luke eludes them, but only by using a technique which Thrawn knows will fry his hyperdrive; he hires local smuggling organizations to perform the search.

About a light-year away, Luke's X-wing has indeed ground to a halt, and the damage is beyond his or Artoo's ability to repair. Salvation comes through unexpected means: the Wild Karrde, flagship of Talon Karrde's smuggling fleet. Aboardship, he meets with Karrde, who identifies him quickly ("With a lightsaber attached to your belt?") and has him knocked out; Luke awakes to find himself on Myrkr, completely unable to use or sense the Force thanks to the native ysalamiri. In these more civilized settings, Luke and Karrde discuss Karrde's intentions; Karrde explains that he actually chose not to engage in the hunt for Luke, and it was only luck, chance or his helmsman Mara Jade which resulted in their stumbling over him. Luke is startled to meet Mara: not only is she wearing his lightsaber, but she is the red-haired woman from his vision. Despite Luke and Karrde's mutual desire to part ways, they are not able to find a workable compromise, and Luke remains their "guest" for the time being.

Leia and Chewbacca arrive at Kashyyyk, but have not been groundside for even a day before they see their first Noghri infiltrator. However, despite the best vigilance of the Wookiees, she and Chewie fall into the complacency of routine. She makes a snap decision to leave... at the same time two Noghri assassins make their move. She kills one of them, and unexpectedly the remainder backs off, prostrating himself in ritual obeisance; Leia and Chewie are able to capture him. After disposing of the rest of the Noghri team, she interrogates the survivor, Khabarakh clan Khim'bar, who, after smelling her scent as he did during the assault, identifies her as the Mal'ary'ush: "The daughter and heir of the lord Darth Vader. He who was our master." Khabarakh explains that when the Noghri homeworld Honoghr came to grief during the war, only the Empire came to their aid, and Leia immediately asks for a chance to visit for herself and show what the Republic can do. Khabarakh is skeptical, so she releases him, arranging to rendezvous with him in orbit of Endor in one month's time.

Han and Lando have arranged to meet with one of Karrde's associates, Fynn Torve, and end up running interference when local authorities attempt to apprehend him. Trading on this store of goodwill, they convince Torve to bring them to Karrde's home base on Myrkr. The unexpected arrival forces Karrde to stash Luke in a storage shed, where he is able to link up with Artoo and escape, using one of the power sources from his artificial hand to operate the door. As Han makes his freighting pitch, Karrde is unexpectedly called away by the arrival of the Chimaera: Thrawn wishes to obtain some more ysalamiri, as well as to chat over dinner. He also drops an off-hand comment about "spare warships" which Karrde reacts to suspiciously, for reasons that are not explained until the next novel. While Karrde hides Han and Lando away and scrambles to prepare for the Grand Admiral's arrival, Luke steals a Skipray blastboat and attempts his escape; Mara sees his ship taking off and scrambles her own vehicle in pursuit. Luke's unfamiliarity with the vehicle causes both of them to crash.

While Karrde makes his courtesies to Thrawn and Han and Lando spy on the meeting, discovering the existence of a Grand Admiral for the first time, Luke ventures into the wreckage of the second Skipray. He finds Mara waiting for him with blaster drawn. However, when the Imperials arrive to search the wreckage—Thrawn noticed the high-speed chase and "volunteers" a detachment of stormtroopers for rescue efforts—she hides them in the forest, explaining that she can scarcely surrender to the Imperials (and Thrawn) without knowing what alibi Karrde gave. She then resolves to shoot both Artoo and Luke and travel back to civilization alone; Luke, attempting to bargain her out of it, is shocked to hear her declare that he destroyed her entire life and has been dreaming of killing him for years. Luke offers to use Artoo and his X-Wing to pass encrypted messages to and from Karrde's base, and Mara decides to spare him for the moment. However, when it comes time to cut some branches for a travois for Artoo, she does it with Luke's lightsaber, demonstrating clear proficiency with it.

Han and Lando, not pleased with what they saw of the Grand Admiral (Karrde refuses to provide them his name) and unable to leave the planet due to the presence of the Chimaera, go snooping around the shed where the alleged prisoner was being held. They find Luke's power cell, as well as restraints that were clearly being used to imprison an R2 unit, and Karrde confesses the whole. He regains goodwill by reminding them that, despite very clear opportunities to do so, he has not surrendered Luke, Han or Lando to the Imperials. Han and Lando agree to wait out the night, during which the Chimaera leaves: they have an attack scheduled on the Sluis Van shipyards, currently full of traffic for the relief efforts to Bpfaash and other recently-struck worlds. However, Thrawn has deduced from Karrde's behavior and the suspicious Skipray chase that Karrde did indeed have Skywalker imprisoned, and the Chimaera leaves a garrison of troops at Hyllyard City, the only place at which Luke and Mara could hope to emerge from the forest, to apprehend them.

Fortunately, Han and Lando have already insisted on visiting Luke's X-Wing, where the encrypted message is waiting for them. The reply, retrieved by Luke and Mara two days later, warns them of the Imperial garrison, explains Karrde's cover story and confirms that he and Han are colluding to prevent their capture. This only adds to Mara's stress: she has not slept since the crash and, as the only member of the party with weapons, must fend off the local carnivores, sinewy creatures called "vornskrs," which for some reason seem to target Luke exclusively. Perhaps this explains why the next one takes her by surprise: it attacks her instead, and Luke and Artoo risk life and limb to retrieve his lightsaber and slay it. Mara, shaken but unhurt, continues to hold him at gunpoint... but when he asks why she hates him, this time she explains. She was the Emperor's Hand, personal servant to Palpatine, a Force-sensitive operative who could hear his voice from anywhere in the galaxy... and completely outside standard command structure, which left her with no official position whatsoever when the Emperor died. She has clawed her way back up after Luke destroyed her life, and considers it her duty to destroy his in return.

While Thrawn and Pellaeon test their cloaking device on a "battered A-class bulk freighter"—a cloaking device which, despite Thrawn's declarations of success, does not seem to do anything to the ship itself—Wedge Antilles of Rogue Squadron is dismayed to find his people assigned to convoy duty. Admiral Ackbar has solved his lack of shipping tonnage by converting warships into freighters. They are operating on skeleton crews, and they will need all the protection they can get. Wedge is also dismayed to hear rumors that Fey'lya is planning to make a move on Ackbar's political position.

As Luke and Mara emerge from the forest, now cooperating more smoothly in light of Mara's confession, they are indeed apprehended by Imperial troops. Soon they are joined by a third "captive"—Han, who has been turned over to them by Karrde's people. Using booby-trapped weapons and an ambush, Karrde's people are able to pin the Imperials down; Luke and his lightsaber take care of the rest. While Karrde begins to evacuate, the Republicans depart; as Lando took a near-miss during the firefight, they set course for the medical facilities of Sluis Van.

Wedge, cluttering up the bridge of the Escort Frigate Larkhess, gets a bad feeling about a battered A-class bulk freighter, the only ship at Sluis Van with no armed escort. He gets his squadron into space in time to see its cargo bays explode... and TIE fighters, hidden within by the cloaking device, come boiling out. The TIEs are augmented, though no one can credit it at first, by the fifty-one mole miners Thrawn stole from Nkllon. Wedge sees one attaching to the side of a Star Cruiser, using its drilling jets and disgorging troops, and Thrawn's plan becomes clear: they are being used as boarding craft, putting enough infantry aboard to overpower the tiny Republic crews; their objective is to steal the ships. However, Han has the answer: Lando uses his command codes to order all the miners turn on their drills, cutting the victims' control linkages and preventing the Empire's mass piracy. Thrawn chooses to withdraw, leaving the Republic in control of the shipyard... and "a great number of severely damaged major ships."

Captain Afyon of the Larkhess congratulates Han on his cleverness, but points out that Fey'lya will needle him on his choice to save the ships by destroying them. This warning is echoed unexpectedly by Leia, who has returned to Coruscant and calls to warn him that Admiral Ackbar has been arrested on charges of treason.


Heir was extremely well received, making it onto the New York Times best seller list. 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 (such as the very name of the former capital of the Empire, "Coruscant"), and also introduced the popular EU characters: Talon Karrde, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Gilad Pellaeon.


  • Aves
  • Rukh
  • Khabarakh clan Kihm'bar
  • Fynn Torve
  • Sturm
  • Drang
  • Cris Pieterson
  • Dravis

Dead characters mentioned:

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)

External linksEdit

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Heir to the Empire. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Lucasfilm Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.