STAR WARS TIMELINES Review – The Greatest Reference Book EVER Printed

(This video is adapted to be read as an article below)

I’ve finally done it! After two weeks of finding any and all opportunities to read Star Wars Timelines, I have now successfully read the book from cover to cover without skipping ahead. Which is no easy feat I might add, this thing is massive. And because of that, I am on such an incredible Star Wars high right now, and I can’t wait to dig into this review and tell you guys all about why I believe this is the most ambitious and most impressive timeline book ever printed. In this review I’m going to break down what I expected to get from this book vs what we actually received, talk about how the book is laid out and how it’s supposed to work as a tool, discuss what I liked and disliked about it, and ultimately break down who I think this book is for and who would benefit the most from reading it. Spoiler alert: this book was tailor-made for me, but I do find there to be one glaring issue with the way the information is presented to us, but I’ll talk about that in more detail later. If you’re interested in picking up a copy of this book for yourself, find a link to buy Star Wars Timelines in the description!

Welcome to Geekritique. My name is Dakota, and today I’m taking a step back from being your Forensic Chronologist so that I can assume the role of a simple Timeline Enjoyer. Please be sure to like and subscribe if you enjoy my content! Before we begin I just want to give a huge thank you to all of the writers on this book, who each took a different era of the timeline and brought it to life. Kristin Baver, Jason Fry, Cole Horton, Amy Richau, and Clayton Sandell: thank you, truly. This book is such a comprehensive feat, and your clear love for the source material shines through each and every page.

Long before this title was even announced, I’ve been dreaming about a proper Star Wars reference book that worked in a similar way to Michael and Denise Okuda’s Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future. It’s a book from 1993 that detailed a complete event by event and episode by episode chronology of the entire Star Trek corpus up to that point. It was later revised in 1996 with color images and it included all titles up to Star Trek: First Contact – though it doesn’t include the Star Trek Animated Series. What was so great about this guidebook was that it was the ultimate companion to these classic shows, giving you a precise date in which everything occurs, telling you why they occurred when they did, an explanation on the Star Dates and dating conventions that exist in Star Trek, and most importantly it gave you a list of all titles in chronological order, even when there’s some overlap. And that’s ultimately what I wanted when Star Wars Timelines was announced; an explanation about the different dating systems in Star Wars, some indication of when in each year these many titles occur in, some insight on certain timeline placements that weren’t very clear, and ultimately a complete list of all canon titles that have been released to date.

Well let me be the first to tell you, this book isn’t any of those things that I wanted from Star Wars Timelines. Like it literally has none of that stuff. Which at first was a major disappointment for me. But I really wanted to give this book and it’s authors an opportunity to sway me. So I made it a point to read this book from cover to cover without jumping ahead just to let the narrative unfold for itself and I’m so glad that I did. It’s not the book that I would have written, but I truly believe this is better than what I wanted. As I’ve done in my MCU Timeline and Avatar Timeline videos, my approach to creating timelines is to place each title on a literal line by finding where the third act or climax of the title or titles occur. Similarly Star Wars Timelines utilizes a linear graphic that runs throughout the entire book, but instead of placing whole titles, each plotted point indicates an event in the approximate order that each moment is happening across the galaxy. In this way the vast history of Star Wars is splayed out, yet woven into this linear tapestry. By going through the book this way, it truly feels like you’re seeing the universe unfold before your eyes. It’s masterfully done and it’s the most comprehensive thing I’ve ever seen in a Star Wars reference book. In fact it’s the most comprehensive reference book from any fandom that I’ve ever read.

Not only are the films and shows highlighted; there are novels, young adult novels, middle grade novels, comic books, short stories, anthologies, video games, manga, and more. I was genuinely so surprised by how much was included. That High Republic book that was only released in China? Yeah, that’s in there. That mobile game that hasn’t been playable in almost a decade? Yeah, it’s got it’s own little section. Those rides you and your family went on at the Galaxy’s Edge Disney theme park? Heck yeah that’s included! Amazingly, anything and everything that’s considered part of the Star Wars canon is included in Star Wars Timelines. Well… almost everything – more on that later.

As far as events go that don’t have an exact timeframe attached to them, such as flashbacks or historical moments discussed in passing like the Night of a Thousand Tears, I assumed this book would make the executive call and give us an exact time period. Instead it plotted these moments out in a rough guesstimation of where they might occur on the timeline. Sometimes this was frustrating, but what this allows is for future storytellers to fill in those gaps and tell those stories without being locked into a highly specific period on the timeline. I think this lends to creativity and helps avoid the future expansion of the Star Wars narrative to feel too boxed in.

Ultimately this book doesn’t have too many huge surprises when it comes to its placement of titles. It plays it safe and most of the fan assumed placements you might find on Wookieepedia are adhered to. The biggest change and potential upset seems to be the removal of 0 BBY which was a short period before the original Star Wars movie. Now the titles that previously existed in that confusing 0 BBY year, like Rogue One and the last few Star Wars Rebels episodes are more appropriately placed in 1 BBY. As you’re probably aware, BBY refers to any events that occur Before the Battle of Yavin (which is the battle in which the first Death Star was destroyed at the end of A New Hope). ABY, or After the Battle of Yavin refers to all the events that occur after the first Death Star was destroyed. Where it was previously understood that the timeline went from 0 BBY to 0 ABY (with the decisive center point being the destruction of the Death Star), this new understanding of the official Star Wars timeline goes from 1 BBY to “0”, which now encompasses all the events within A New Hope, and then after the victory ceremony 0 ABY begins. Notice the distinction made between 0 and 0 ABY.

While I would have enjoyed learning more about in-universe dating systems and how that compares to the real-world dating structure of BBY and ABY that we apply to the Star Wars universe, this book focuses solely on the BBY/ABY structure. And that’s fine, because the amount of information contained in these 335 pages is absolutely legendary. Star Wars Timelines is sectioned into 7 distinct eras. Early History comprises the years between 26000 BBY and 501 BBY, and considering no canon titles currently inhabit that timeframe this is strictly a brief overview of what we know. What I find interesting is this Early History spread does heavily hint at the recently announced Dawn of the Jedi film, and that Professor Huyang may be integral to the early Jedi. Next we have the High Republic section, which covers the next 400 years between 500 to 100 BBY. The Fall of the Jedi era comes next and this details all the events from 100 BBY to 19 BBY, the year the Empire took control, and within this section is over 30 pages of pure Clone Wars fun, which was super exciting to see. The Reign of the Empire runs the next 18 years from 18 BBY to 1 BBY, and includes everything from the inquisitors hunting down the Jedi to the rebels stealing the Death Star plans. The Age of Rebellion is the shortest period in terms of actual years included, from the 0 point of A New Hope to 5 ABY, which covers the entirety of the Galactic Civil War. Despite many of the Disney+ shows taking place in The New Republic era, the fact that so few titles actually inhabit the years between 6 ABY and 27 ABY is pretty interesting, as one page alone comprises more than a decade on the timeline. And finally the Rise of the First Order chapter sees the years between 28 ABY and 35 ABY, with 34 ABY being the most pronounced year in Star Wars canon to date, comprising two films, a whole show, several comic series, books, and that one year alone is spread out over 40 pages.

The timeline is meant to be read from left to right, placing the earliest events and history at the front of the book and the latest events at the back. Occasionally the timeline will splinter into 4 to 6 different branches of the timeline as it follows individual groups of characters during battles or significant periods where a lot is happening at once in the galaxy. The introduction of the book asks that you read each branch from left to right before moving onto the next branch, and I did that for a while, but I think I may have a better way to engage with those multi-branch timeline spreads. Take a ruler or a bookmark and place it vertically on the page, and starting from the left, drag the bookmark to the right until you reach a plotted point on one of the timeline branches, read that, then move to the next plotted point, from left to right, and keep reading each subsequent point from there. Most times this offers you an exciting overview of these major events without having to break up and restart each timeline branch from the beginning again, and helps keep your experience as chronological as possible. Just a heads up though, this method doesn’t always work; for instance on the Battle of Crait spread you’ll find this method introduces you to Poe reacting to Luke’s diversion before he even materializes on the planet. That said, the book mostly does a tremendous job of keeping all these moments on different branches in the correct order.

Because of my vocal issues with the Disney+ MCU timeline in the past, many of you were excited for me to find a whole list of issues with this official Star Wars Timelines book, but I genuinely wasn’t going into this looking to poke holes in every page. The Star Wars Timeline isn’t based on our real-world calendar like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, so I’m not married to my placements like I am with my MCU timeline content. And for the most part, the way they present estimated dates for less defined or harder to pin down moments allows for there to be less room to be upset. That’s not to say there aren’t mistakes in the book. I did notice some typos, some misspelled character names, there’s a moment where they confuse a character named Ren with Ben Solo, and there’s even a moment where they suggest the Empire surrendered a year earlier than they did, but these issues are few and far between, and are clear mistakes that will most likely be fixed in future printings.

I will say that I’m disappointed with the way The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett are all sectioned away into 9 ABY. I made a video recently about how I believe this to be impossible, and I hope this is something that more thought is put into in the future, but for now it’s a minor gripe in an overall exceptional book. One thing I was really curious about was how the book would navigate the retconning of E. K. Johnston’s Ahsoka novel with the Tales of the Jedi episode that rewrote much of its story elements. This was answered to me very early on as I realized that none of the Tales of the Jedi episodes are included in the collection, so only the events outlined in the Ahsoka book are listed here.

I was very surprised at what was and wasn’t included in Star Wars Timelines. It seemed to very much depend on the medium and the era each new title was introduced. While The High Republic’s Phase II events are broadly discussed in the High Republic section, none of the Phase II titles make the cutoff for inclusion in the book, which means they had some rough understanding of what was being worked on before the new phase began in October 2022. Shows like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi make the cut, but Mandalorian season 3, Tales of the Jedi, and surprisingly even Andor are too recent to have been included. Any comic books that were released after the War of the Bounty Hunters arc are not included.

All that being said, let’s talk about what I really enjoyed about the book. Star Wars Timelines does have an abundance of information from essentially all canon titles, and treats them all with similar love. The book doesn’t differentiate between what some consider good or bad films, shows, or books. All events are treated as historical moments in the vast history of this universe, and that’s exactly how I view Star Wars. This is all stuff that’s happened in the galaxy far far away, whether you or I like it or not. The book is beautifully laid out, with distinct pictures and graphics that help flesh out where you are in the galaxy at any given time. Each page and spread feels like a wealth of knowledge that you need to really pour over and spend a little extra time meditating on to really let it all sink in (which is partially why it took me so long to read). The information is so exhaustively researched that each new page feels wholly fresh and unique, despite much of it looking very similar. Occasionally when the tonal shift changes in the galaxy or period discussed you’ll see a header that briefs you in 3 to 5 sentences about what you’re about to read. It’s all really well organized. I also really appreciate the full page spreads you’ll find on individual characters like Padmé, Luke, or Palpatine, and unique timelines on stuff like the Skywalker lightsaber, TIE Fighters, and stormtroopers. These spreads break up any potential monotony you might find in the way the primary timeline is laid out, and they’re each uniquely gorgeous.

There are things that I thought were mostly good ideas, but could have been handled a bit better. The inclusion of small boxes that indicate when a character was born or when they died were fun visual elements, but I felt they weren’t consistent, and were often thrown in as an afterthought. How could you include the deaths of small side characters like Lyttan Dree and Zin Graw, but forget to include Yoda on the very same page? The same goes for Palpatine being excluded from the deaths list a few pages later. Another small issue I had that I believe could have been handled better was the estimated date boxes. Early on in the book there are a lot of estimated boxes, but because they float above the timeline and aren’t connected to it, it’s easy to read these out of order or miss them entirely. You can very easily attach these boxes with a line to the timeline itself and we’d just as easily understand that the dates are estimated and can be shifted in the future. I also found that the book trains you not to care about what the cute little titles for each plotted point says, and I thought they generally just took up space for no reason, instead of telling you where the information is coming from – but occasionally the small title would tell you a crucial piece of information about a character that anywhere else in the book would have been fully explained in the subtext below it – which was frustrating. Another curious thing was the complete lack of inclusion for any anthology books or short stories that occur during the films, like the two From a Certain Point of View books, but I understand why those would perhaps lessen the impact of the original trilogy spreads. But if Boba Fett’s flashbacks could get their own 2-page spread, they could very easily have put together a page after those film’s sections that explained what the side characters are up to during the main films. Also, why weren’t Boba Fett’s estimated flashbacks included in the primary timeline like every other estimated point?

There’s a lot of little things like that that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but perhaps the only choice I actively disliked that they included was the 0 period that encompasses the entirety of A New Hope. While I am glad they got rid of 0 BBY, the “0” period doesn’t work for me. I understand that the entire timeline revolves around that film, but by putting such reverence on that period of 3 to 4 days and calling it all simply “0” feels like we lose a bit of the logic on how timelines work. The only thing that should be 0 is the Battle of Yavin itself, not the whole film. But that’s the chronologist in me speaking – it just doesn’t seem to make sense.

Before I continue, I need to make it clear that there is far more to enjoy about this book than there is to dislike or disagree with. I truly do love Star Wars Timelines, and I have the utmost respect for the work put into it by it’s 5 authors, but as I stated at the outset of my review, there’s a glaring absence in the way this timeline presents information that would have made this a far, far more enjoyable and useful companion tool. It all comes down to the fact that the book doesn’t site it’s sources. There is no indication anywhere in it’s over 300 pages as to where it’s getting the information to plot these points from. It’s easy to identify what info is coming from the films and shows as most fans have seen them, but if that’s the extent of your Star Wars experience, then over 50% of this massive book is going to be next to useless to you. While they do a good job explaining what happens during every title, if you don’t already have an emotional attachment to that source material, and you don’t know what books or comics these events are even being sourced from, I think you’ll be skipping ahead quite often throughout this book’s many pages. Which seems counterintuitive to the books purpose of showcasing all of the Star Wars canon.

I would consider myself very well-versed when it comes to Star Wars tie-in content outside of the films and shows, but there are notable gaps in my education. This meant that whenever I would read something in Star Wars Timelines that I couldn’t trace down to a book I’ve read or a comic I own, there was no way for me to determine how I could even begin searching for that Star Wars title so that I could experience what the book was attempting to reference. Sometimes I would vaguely remember an event, or feel like I was missing out on a whole page of info because I lacked context, but there was no footnote, no legend, and no useful title attached for me to expand on anything featured. Occasionally they would show the cover-art of a novel or comic book, so I doubt this lack of sourcing is in any way an indication that they couldn’t do so because of copyright issues. It’s really baffling, and I would assume the inclusion of these titles would be priority number one from Lucasfilm publishing, as it would push fans to read and experience more of this amazing canon that they’ve worked so tirelessly to build.

It also wouldn’t be a difficult thing to implement either. There’s two ways to handle it. One way would be to trade out the title text above each event with the name of the title the event comes from. But that could get clunky with longer titles, so I would suggest alphabetized footnotes at the end of each event that leads you to a legend on the corner of each spread with the featured titles placed in either chronological order or appearance order. This way each spread could have its own little footnote legend of titles that the reader could further engage with if they’re curious about where these adventures take place. And from each of those legend boxes add a numbered footnote next to the titles themselves that takes you to the index where you can view a complete chronological listing of all titles side by side. I assure you this chronological list would get far more use from the average reader than the index of names we currently have at the end of the book.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe Star Wars Timelines was written with every fan in mind. The more Star Wars that you’ve experienced, the more this book rewards you. The less Star Wars that you’ve experienced, the less of this book you’re going to be able to appreciate. As such, I don’t recommend this book for every fan, even though I do think it’s a great read and it will teach even casual fans plenty about the greater Star Wars timeline. I do recommend Star Wars Timelines for those who have dabbled in or plan to read more of the Star Wars tie-in stuff and have watched the animated shows, because much of the book focuses on that. This is an excellent companion for Star Wars superfans like myself and I can’t wait for the next iteration of this book in a couple of years, hopefully. Thank you guys so much for reading my review, please give this a like if you enjoyed it, and subscribe if you’d like to see more. Please find a link to buy Star Wars Timelines here and consider supporting my content on Patreon! Thanks, have a good one!

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