A Star Wars Canon Guide to Prepare for The Force Awakens

What is Star Wars canon, and which pieces should you read to know everything you need to know before The Force Awakens?

Star Wars Canon Guide heroes

Star Wars returns to the big screen on December 18th with Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The film will pave a new path for Star Wars fiction in the future. In the past, the timeline following the original films belonged to many books and comics that completely filled up the 40+ years following Return of the Jedi. But when Lucasfilm decided to make new movies, they also decided to follow a separate timeline from the previous stories laid down by the Expanded Universe. Those stories were re-labelled “Legends” and a new precedent was set for future canon stories.

The good news is, all upcoming media (film, television, books, comics, etc.) hold the same level of canon. It’s all “real” (within the context of a fictional universe of course). That means that if you read a short story about a side-character in The Force Awakens, you are reading the approved canonical history of that character. This adds a bit more weight to upcoming stories, and also engages fans in an eager scavenger hunt to find hints and clues on the upcoming Star Wars films.

For example, a few months ago Lucasfilm started a marketing campaign called the Journey to the Force Awakens, which came from a series of books and comics that allegedly held clues about The Force Awakens. So in that spirit, here is our guide to Star Wars canon, including some pieces you should definitely check out in preparation for The Force Awakens.

What is Star Wars Canon?

Star Wars Canon Guide legends

First, let’s clear up the common question about what is or isn’t canon. The canon officially includes Episodes 1 – 6, The Clone Wars animated show, and almost all of the Star Wars media released since September 2014 (except the obvious Lego spoofs and similar parodies).

It began with A New Dawn for books, “Blade Squadron” for short stories, and Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir for comics. Almost everything released since then is canon. We’ve had a unified canon for a little over a year now, so there isn’t much in it yet. But that will certainly change with time.

Television

Star Wars Canon Guide yoda

If you’re into animated television, you’re in luck. Star Wars has a few critically acclaimed TV shows you can watch, namely The Clone Wars, and Star Wars Rebels. Both will help you understand Star Wars on a much deeper level, which will help prepare you for The Force Awakens.

The Clone Wars provides a lot of background information for the prequel era, but it also gives some very interesting information on the Force, and the mysticism surrounding it. For example:

  • Season 3, Episodes 15-17 follow Anakin and Obi-Wan to the mysterious planet of Mortis, where live the Father and his children, the Son and the Daughter. These beings are representative of the Force, namely the dark side (the Son), the light side (the Daughter), and the balance between (the Father). A perfect look at the Taoist influences of Star Wars and the mythology behind the Force.
  • Season 6, Episodes 11-13 follow Yoda as he travels to the world where the Force originated, as well as the ancient homeworld of the Sith. Yoda goes on a spiritual journey that reveals much about the Force. It’s great background material before you learn about the Force awakening in the new movies.

Star Wars Rebels is another animated show, set 5 years before the original films, after the Empire has already been established and before the official Rebellion begins. This show, though it doesn’t have any direct ties to The Force Awakens, does use some concept art that was abandoned for the film, including this Inquisitor.

Star Wars Canon Guide inquisitor

On a side note, the Inquisitors are a group of dark-side acolytes who work under Darth Vader. They may not have anything to do with The Force Awakens, but we still don’t know what happened to them after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi. Perhaps they have ties to the Knights of Ren who we eventually see in The Force Awakens.

Books

Star Wars Canon Guide lost stars

Our guide to Star Wars canon would not be complete without talking about the books. If you love to read, you’ll love these books. So far, there are 8 adult books released in the canon. Here they are in chronological order:

  • Dark Disciple
  • Lords of the Sith
  • Tarkin
  • A New Dawn
  • Heir to the Jedi
  • Battlefront: Twilight Company
  • Aftermath
  • Lost Stars

If you want something that prepares you for The Force Awakens, you should definitely read Aftermath. The book takes place shortly after the films, and contains several tidbits that hint at the future of the franchise, including some mysterious “acolytes of the beyond” who search for Sith relics. This sounds similar to Kylo Ren, who we know is obsessed with such objects, like Darth Vader’s helmet that we see in the trailer. Lost Stars also helps set up The Force Awakens by providing details about Jakku, the desert planet we see in the trailers.

You can also find multiple young reader books, some of which apparently hold hints for The Force Awakens. If you want to prep for the film, read Smuggler’s Run, Weapon of a Jedi, and Moving Target. These junior novels also contain prologues and epilogues that take place right before The Force Awakens.

Comics

Star Wars Canon Guide shattered empire

Some of the best Star Wars canon comes in comic form. There are several series of comics already released:

  • Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir
  • Kanan: The Last Padawan (ongoing)
  • Princess Leia
  • Chewbacca
  • Star Wars (ongoing)
  • Darth Vader (ongoing)
  • Lando
  • Shattered Empire

Of the titles on this list, Shattered Empire is by far one of the best, and perfect to get you prepared for The Force Awakens. It focuses on the parents of Poe Dameron (the X-Wing pilot in the trailer played by Oscar Isaac), following the events of Return of the Jedi.

Short Stories

Star Wars Canon Guide perfect weapon

You’ll find many short stories in the official Star Wars magazine, or other outlets, but one was recently released with direct ties to The Force Awakens, called “The Perfect Weapon.” This short story focuses specifically on a side-character in The Force Awakens, and we’ll have several more short stories like this by the end of the month, including:

  • “All Creatures Great and Small”
  • “The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku”
  • “The Face of Evil”
  • “High Noon on Jakku”

Definitely check these out to understand some of the backstory behind the side characters in the film.

Video Games

Star Wars Canon Guide battle of jakku

Let’s not forget video games. So far we have two with any major significance, Uprising and Battlefront.

Uprising is a mobile game that focuses on a small sector of the galaxy immediately after Return of the Jedi. But it’s Battlefront that has the more interesting ties to The Force Awakens. Battlefront will soon have a free DLC that will allow you to play through the Battle of Jakku, an event that had some historical significance for The Force Awakens. Remember the downed Star Destroyer in the trailer? You get to fight the battle that brought it down.

The Absolute Essentials

Star Wars Canon Guide journey to TFA

So to sum up, the canon universe already has a lot of tie-in materials. The following list represents our best recommendations to prepare yourself to see The Force Awakens.

Novels

  • Aftermath
  • Lost Stars

Junior Novels

  • Smuggler’s Run
  • Weapon of a Jedi
  • Moving Target

Comics

  • Shattered Empire

Short Stories

  • “The Perfect Weapon”
  • “All Creatures Great and Small”
  • “The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku”
  • “The Face of Evil”
  • “High Noon on Jakku”

Video Games

  • Battlefront (specifically the Battle of Jakku DLC)

Despite the secrecy surrounding the film, you can already discover many clues about the film with these essentials. Enjoy!

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