However, Zahn was approached again because "the series took off", and recalled "they came back at the end of '93 and asked me to do one more book... I thought about it for awhile and came up with two things I needed to do if I was to [write] the book: one was to end the war between the New Republic and the Empire, and [two] to get Luke and Mara together." Zahn recalled the initial resistance for latter idea: "At first they were unwilling to have Luke and Mara married, engaged, whatever. They wanted it left ambiguous [but in the end they] agreed to let me do that. So it was immensely fun during the next few years to watch all the rumors starting that Luke was cursed, he could never get married because Lucasfilm had decided Luke would never be married, all the time knowing that, yes he WAS set up, and all the authors knew he was set up, and so they were bringing it that direction. So any woman they brought in would eventually be written out or put into "friendship mode" or whatever... And everyone was keeping it a secret. It was very well done." Zahn also was "not surprised" that later Star Wars writers had Mara and Luke Skywalker married, because "She seemed to be, from my point of view, the perfect match for him."
Asked to compare Mara Jade with iconic female Star Wars character Princess Leia, he answered: "Mara has a sharper and more sarcastic manner, and of course she had to go through the painful realization that her service had been to an evil cause. But they’re both women who are strong without sacrificing their femininity, a balance which I think some authors have trouble writing. Bear in mind too, that Leia was one of the first people in the New Republic who decided Mara could be trusted, which perhaps says something about their understanding of each other." Zahn commented that Mara Jade is one of his favorite characters. Asked about the high popularity of Mara Jade, Zahn assumed: "One simplistic answer might be that women can identify with her, while men would like to have her at their side in trouble."
The Emperor's Hands were a group of assassins handpicked by Emperor Palpatine to carry out his will. Palpatine's Hands were disposable, and were usually unaware of the existence of any Hands other than themselves. Some of the Hands were able to hear the Emperor's voice from across the galaxy, and respond to him in kind. Mara was one of the few who could hear his commands. In Timothy Zahn's book Allegiance, Mara is the Emperor's Hand, working to expose the embezzlement of funds, tracking a pirate group in the Shelsha sector, and in conjunction with the rogue stormtrooper unit "Hand of Judgment", succeeds in preventing the rebellion and secession of Shelkonwa from the Empire. While a lethal and precise warrior, Mara's compassion and sense of justice are apparent; she is not dark like her master in either actions or allegiance.
Jade was introduced in Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. Emperor Palpatine took her from her parents when she was a small child. She has no memories of her previous life, except that she thinks that her parents didn't want her to go. He trained her to use her strength in the Force, and gave her the position of a Hand. When Palpatine began to worry about the threat Luke Skywalker posed to the Empire, he sent Mara to infiltrate Jabba the Hutt's Palace disguised as a dancer for Jabba to await and kill him. In the end, Jabba would not allow her to leave the palace to view the proposed execution of Luke by the Sarlaac, so her mission was a failure. Luke once had a dream where he was on the plank to jump into the Sarlaac pit and he called his lightsaber from R2-D2, it was pulled from the air and into the hands of Mara (instead of Luke's) who was on the deck of the sail barge. If she had really done that he might have been killed. Luke later commented that had Mara been on the sail barge that day, she would have succeeded in her mission and killed Luke. Mara's mission in the palace is briefly glimpsed when the character makes an appearance, albeit under the pseudonym "Arica," in the "Return of the Jedi" radio drama series. Although there have been rumors of her appearance in the films, and many have tried to pick her out in the palace crowd, she never appears. She is constantly mistaken for other female palace guests.
Mara subsequently saw the Emperor's death through the Force, in a vision that made it appear as if Vader and Skywalker killed him together. Palpatine's last message to her was "you will kill Luke Skywalker". Meanwhile, her life was a shambles: the resources she had once had access to were all dependent on the Emperor, meaning her life of luxury, privilege and purpose was over.
Into this promising future crashed Luke Skywalker, the man she was compelled to kill. At Karrde's base on Myrkr, where Skywalker lacked his Force talents (inhibited by native ysalamiri, creatures who create a void in the Force around them in order to protect themselves from their Force-sensitive predators), Mara was intent on following through; but a series of circumstances (and some unknown hesitation) resulted in her helping him escape instead. Karrde and his organization fled soon after, a massive Imperial bounty on their collective heads.
Luke came to understand that it wasn't truly she who desired to kill him, but Palpatine, whose voice Mara could hear in her head anywhere in the galaxy, even after he was long dead. Furthermore, Mara came to understand that Palpatine didn't want Skywalker dead for his own sake, but rather as a final act of vengeance against Anakin Skywalker. Luke for his part, resolved to free her from this curse, regardless of the danger she posed to him. Mara was both confused and impressed that her hated enemy would do such a thing for her. The golden opportunity came when the two found themselves battling Luuke Skywalker, the original's clone. After a protracted battle, Mara killed the clone, silencing Palpatine's voice and any ill will towards the real Skywalker. From then on the tension between the two ceased and eventually they married and had a child, Ben Skywalker.
In Dark Empire, Palpatine, reborn in a clone body and in hiding on his Deep Core throneworld of Byss, labeled her a traitor and sent her fellow Hand "Blackhole" to dispose of her. Mara was kidnapped by Blackhole in the Senex Sector, but she was eventually rescued by maverick Jedi Kyle Katarn. When Palpatine was destroyed once and for all in Empire's End, Mara was released from his shadow at last, and allowed to begin her life anew. Curiously, during a mission to Nirauan with Luke, she said she didn't believe that the "reborn Emperor" was indeed a reincarnated Palpatine, though she did not elaborate the reason for her skepticism.
After Grand Admiral Thrawn's war against the New Republic ended with his defeat, Luke gave Mara his first lightsaber, which was actually his father's, a weapon long thought lost when Vader severed Luke's hand on Bespin (as portrayed in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back). In addition to Luke's old blue lightsaber, Mara's other weapon of choice is her magenta lightsaber.
In the computer game Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, Mara trains to be a Jedi under Kyle Katarn for a time. Eventually, the first person perspective switches from Kyle to Mara, and the user experiences the game through Mara's eyes for the rest of the game. She is eventually able to bring Kyle back to the light after he briefly falls to the dark side of the Force.
Over the years, Mara and Luke work together in many important situations in the aftermath of the Galactic Civil War. Initially, Mara declined to attend the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV because of her concerns about Luke and the way he structured the school. She did, however, make visits from time to time. During The Hand of Thrawn Duology, by Timothy Zahn, they developed a close Force bond, prompting Luke to make an unexpected marriage proposal, which she accepted. They married on Coruscant, soon after the signing of the peace treaty with the Empire, as seen in the Union comic by Michael Stackpole. Mara would later continue her training and become a Jedi Master. For a time she took on her niece Jaina Solo as her apprentice.
In the New Jedi Order series, Mara and Luke fought together against a new threat, the extragalactic Yuuzhan Vong, who infected Mara with a deadly disease. Through the use of the Force, and tears from the Jedi Vergere, she enjoyed a brief remission. During her recovery, she found she was pregnant. She carried the baby to term, but nearly died while giving birth. The bond she and her family shared bolstered her abilities with the Force, and healed her.
During the Force Heretic novels, she played a major role in finding the planet Zonama Sekot in the Unknown Regions, along with a small team of Jedi and an Imperial escort. Despite a trap set up by the Yuuzhan Vong, they succeeded in finding the planet. After this, the planet's guiding consciousness Sekot made the discovery that the reason the Yuuzhan Vong were "invisible" in the Force was because it had been stripped from them because of their bloodlust. Harrar, the Yuuzan Vong priest, was present and instrumental in enabling Sekot to make this discovery. Mara fought in the battle to retake Coruscant (or Yuuzhan'tar, as the Vong called it) as part of the Jedi strike team composed of Luke, herself, Jacen and Jaina Solo, Tahiri Veila, and Kenth Hamner. She went with Tahiri and Kenth to aid the Shamed Ones in their fight, but broke off from her partners to chase Nom Anor through the overgrown maze of Coruscant. She captured him after defeating him in hand-to-hand combat, but restrained from killing him. She brought him back to Kenth and Tahiri at the site of the victorious Shamed Ones just in time to see Supreme Overlord Onimi's escape ship prepping. She, Tahiri, Kenth and Anor raced up the secret passageway into the citadel. She arrived moments after Luke killed Shimmra and Jacen and Jaina had dashed after Onimi. Despite the feat of killing the supposed Supreme Overlord, Luke had been stabbed with Shimmra's huge amphistaph. The three Jedi carried Luke back to the square, meeting Jaina and her brother Jacen, and got Luke onboard the Millennium Falcon. Jacen healed Luke with the aid of the tears Mara wept over her dying husband, as well as his own. The Skywalkers were reunited with their son on Zonama Sekot.
During Dark Nest trilogy by Troy Denning, Mara fought in the huge battle against the titular creatures. While she succeeded in killing countless Dark Killiks, she was wounded by Lomi Plo's apprentice with a huge gaping hole in her abdomen. During this time, Alema Rar turned into the Night Herald and goaded Luke into distrust of Mara with the tantalizing suggestion that his mother, Padmé Amidala, had been one of her targets. However, they discover the truth when R2-D2 reveals a deeply encoded hologram of Padmé's death in childbirth.
Ben also partially joined the hive-mind of the Dark Nest, and she fought with the Gorog that had stowed away on her ship and befriended her son. She relegated Ben to a loose apprenticeship with Jacen, the only person Ben felt comfortable using his Force powers around. She failed, however, to see the growing darkness in her nephew, and believed his lies regarding their whereabouts. She supported Luke when he declared himself the Grand Jedi Master, seeing it as the only way to unite the fractured Jedi Order.
In the Legacy of the Force series, Mara continued to support Jacen among the Jedi due to what she perceived as a positive influence he was having on Ben. However, after Jacen sent Ben on several missions of a questionable ethical nature, she began to doubt her initial trust in her nephew. She began to track her son with an old vibroblade, keeping record of where he was at all times in order to protect him from danger. After Ben returned from an assassination mission on Prime Minister Gejjin, he caught up with his mother to relate to her what happened, and told her that Jacen had become the Sith apprentice of Lumiya. After learning this information, Mara vowed to rid the galaxy of Jacen Solo, even though it broke her heart to kill the son of her dear friend and sister-in-law, Leia Organa Solo.
In Sacrifice, Mara confronted Jacen on the world of Kavan in the Hapes Cluster. Knowing she couldn't defeat him in open combat, she lured Jacen into a system of tunnels before collapsing them on his head. Jacen freed himself before finally casting an illusion on Mara so that she saw Ben in his place. This caused her to hesitate long enough for Jacen to stab her with a poison dart, and she collapsed to the ground. Just before she died, Mara spoke to Jacen one last time.
You think...you've won, but Luke will crush you...and I refuse...to let you...destroy the future...for my Ben.
Having said this, Mara then died. Her death was felt by many Jedi throughout the Force in various ways. She also chose to leave her body behind after death rather than having it disappear into the Force as evidence for her son Ben Skywalker to discover. Although her body did not become one with the Force upon her death, she did disappear at her funeral. The body only faded away as Jacen Solo arrived, giving Luke and Ben a clue to the identity of her killer. This clue, unfortunately, was misunderstood by her husband, Luke.
Although Leia Organa Solo was supposed to give Mara's eulogy, she was attacked at the funeral by her son, Jacen Solo's, secret police, the Galactic Alliance Guard. Unable to fulfill her duty, Jedi Master Saba Sebatyne stepped in for Leia. Master Sebatyne spoke of Mara's example of transforming from the dark to the light, her relationship with Luke Skywalker, and how by simply through an opening of the heart, goodness can be achieved.
Mara later appeared as a Force Ghost in Karen Traviss' novel, Revelation. Her son Ben, fully believing that Jacen Solo was her murderer, went to the place of her death on Kavan to look for evidence. There he saw an image of her smiling longingly at him and tugging at whisps of her hair. He told her that he loved her and she mouthed the words back to him; then she disappeared. Ben interpreted her clue correctly and discovered some of his mother's hair and other DNA evidence in Jacen's personal starfighter. This evidence, along with Jacen's recorded confession secretly obtained by Ben's friend Lon Shevu, convinced the rest of the Skywalker-Solo family that Jacen was guilty of Mara's death and that he had become a full Sith Lord.
Mara also later appeared to her husband Luke, finally giving him some peace of mind that she had become one with the Force and allowing him a chance to say goodbye.