Shadows of the Empire: Book Review

It’s time to get to the book version of Shadows of the Empire.

Book Cover for Shadows of the Empire

Shadows of the Empire
Written by Steve Perry
Publication Date: May 1996

Timeline: 3-4 ABY

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Plot Notes

Following the events of Empire Strikes Back Luke, Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca are in the hunt for Boba Fett. Additionally, Chewbacca has expanded Han’s life debt to enclude Leia. To help them find Fett (and with him Han), Lando has retained the services of smuggler Dash Rendar.

Complicating things further is a political struggle between Darth Vader and Prince Xizor, the leader of the crime syndicate Black Sun. Xizor has personal reasons for wanting to discredit and destroy Vader, as a research facility in Xizor’s hometown experienced a containment breach, and Vader had ordered the town to be glassed from orbit – Xizor had covered up any record of his own ties to this incident to better let him plan for his revenge. During the events of Empire Strikes Back, Xizor was present (but just off camera) on the Emperor’s side of his communication with Vader, leading him to believe that if he can kill Luke Skywalker before Vader can retrieve him, Vader will be discredited.

Our heroes pursuit of Fett takes them to the planet Gall, where they just miss Fett before he leaves an imperial facility. Leia decides to try and make contact with Black Sun to get more information on Fett’s location, while Luke returns to Tatooine to keep an eye out for Fett arriving at Jabba’s palace, and also to finish his lightsaber.

While on Tatooine, Luke (and Dash Rendar – who was instructed to keep an eye on him) – get a message from the Bothan Spynet originally intended for Leia – they have information on a top secret computer core related to the Empire’s next big project, and they need the Alliance’s assistance to intercept and retrieve the core. Luke, Dash, and and several other Bothan pilots intercept the core (but not without casualties).

After the core is transported to a safehouse, the Bothans manage to decrypt it – only to be interrupted by bounty hunters going after both Darth Vander & Black Sun’s bounties on Luke to attack the place – leading Luke to be captured while some of the other Bothans escape (and many more are killed).

Meanwhile, Leia manages to get a meeting arranged with Prince Xizor on Coruscant, which she travels to along with Chewbacca – while Lando goes to find Luke – only to encounter Rendar who leads Lando back to where Luke is being held prisoner, and the three of them then travel to Coruscant on the Falcon.

Leia, Chewbacca, and Xizor’s synthetic human bodyguard/aide Guri arrive on Coruscant, and after scouting for some information first, they meet with Xizor at his palace, where Xizor attempts to use his pheramones to seduce Leia. It almost works, but some fortunate interruptions from Chewbacca, and Leia’s own strength of will allow her to shake off his influence. Chewbacca stages his own escape, and goes to try and contact Luke.

Back with Luke – the three arrive on Coruscant, meet up with Chewbacca, and figure out how to infiltrate Xizor’s palace through the sewers. After getting detected shortly after entering the palace, they fight their way into the place, meet up with Leia (who staged her own escape), and make their way to a landing pad, where they meet the Falcon (currently being piloted by C-3P0 and R2-D2.) Luke also has a fight with Guri, who wants to gets Luke’s abilities as a warrior.

The Falcon makes it into orbit, accompanied by Dash Rendar’s ship, the Outrider, only to be swamped by ships from Xizor’s personal fleet. The arrival of Rogue Squadron evens the odds some, but they’re still outmatched.

Throughout all of the novel, Vader has been trying to find out what Xizor is up to. As the story builds to a climax, he learns about Xizor’s background and his desire to kill Luke to discredit Vader before the Emperor. Consequently, during the climactic showdown, Vader and the Executor intervenes in the fight, and when Xizor won’t stand down – Vader has his TIE fighters attack Xizor’s ships and the Executor itself destroys Xizor’s skyhook with Xizor aboard. Rogue Squadron & the Falcon escape through the debris of Xizor’s destroyed skyhook, but the Outrider is seemingly destroyed.


We’re introduced to the Faleen as a species – they’re a reptilian species with very potent pheromones… and it’s all kinda icky. It feels like something of an extension of Victorian stereotypes of Asian (particularly Chinese) men.

We have our first mention of Black Sun as a criminal syndicate.

We have the first mention of synthetic humans – basically Replicants.


  • Chewbacca: It’s made official here that Han’s statement to Chewbacca in Cloud City (“You have to protect her…”) extended Chewbacca’s life-debt to Leia.
  • Luke: We canonically see the creation of Luke’s new lightsaber.
  • Prince Xizor: Xizor is spectacularly ignorant of the power of the Force, or any knowledge of the Sith – he assumes that (while utterly lacking Force sensitivity) he can take Vader’s place at Palpatine’s side by discrediting him (without considering what this potentially could mean (i.e. “Lord Vader, you cannot return to my side without addressing this disgrace.” *Vader proceeds to murder the everloving fuck out of Black Sun in general and Xizor in particular*). And he is utterly shocked when Luke parries blaster bolts.
  • Emperor Palpatine: Proceeds to play Xizor like a fiddle.

About the Soundtrack Album

I’ve done a video review of the soundtrack album earlier – having finished the novel, the album still does not do justice to the action and plot of the book. My criticisms from the video are still valid.

The entire project sets itself up as a mainline Star Wars story, in its presentation (as opposed to the side stories we would get later with Solo & Rogue One), and the soundtrack at the beginning reflects that. The album opens with the full fanfare, and re-uses a few cues from the Empire Strikes Back – in one and only instance adding Prince Xizor’s theme to accent the changes to the scene based on the change in perspective bringing him into the sequence. The problem is the album as a whole is just too short, and the rest of the tracks on the album don’t engage with the new themes that are created (Xizor’s own theme and the theme for Coruscant), to really fit the style of a mainline Star Wars film, nor do they generally engage with any of the other established themes from the Star Wars series – the moment where Luke threads the Eye of the Needle on a swoop bike should be the kind of moment that brings up the Star Wars fanfare, and it’s just… absent.

Final Thoughts

The problem with interquels that are written after the fact is the fact that they exist to check boxes and that they can’t necessarily move the plot forward too much, because there’s a particular starting point that needs to be reached. Shadows of the Empire is a great example of this. Leia & Co are never going to save Han, because he has to be in the possession of Jabba in Return of the Jedi. Likewise, they are in no particular peril for the same reason.

Where there is an opportunity for peril, particularly with something that’s part of such a larger universe as the Star Wars EU, is with the supporting cast, and some of the new characters. The introduction of Black Sun serves as a great example, as it’s introducing something that can be a recurring antagonist that other authors can use outside of the Imperial Remnant and the Hutts.

Xizor is presumed killed, but he’s killed in a way where we don’t see his death from his own perspective, and the fateful words “No one could survive that” are spoken, so if an author wants to say later that Xizor made it to an escape pod, and the proximity to Return of the Jedi meant that he couldn’t get his revenge on Vader or Palpatine, then that would be completely feasible. Luke didn’t “kill” Guri, so she could have left Xizor’s palace through some other method or another (and she would be established as still being alive in a sequel comic). Even with Dash Rendar – the expanded ending of the Shadows of the Empire video game establishes that he survived.

Ultimately, Shadows of the Empire is an experiment. Looking at it in the larger context of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, in general, Legends Timeline aside, we can see here the groundwork being laid for what would be done after Attack of the Clones with the Clone Wars – an epic war told through animation, comic books, novels and video games, where the scope of the is wider than what a couple of films could do justice to.

Later I’ll take a look at the comic.

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One response to “Shadows of the Empire: Book Review”

  1. […] I’ve already covered the full novel of Shadows of the Empire, this time I’m going to be focusing more on the comic book version and some of the […]

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