In Review: Star Wars Thrawn by Timothy Zahn


*This book review does contain spoilers for those that have not yet read Star Wars Thrawn by Timothy Zahn.*

Excerpt from Star Wars Thrawn:

“There are things in the universe that are simply and purely evil. A warrior does not seek to understand them, or to compromise with them. He seeks only to obliterate them.” — Grand Admiral Thrawn


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …

You already know the story. You know how the Empire began and how it rose to power. And as that leadership grew into a rule by fear, a small flicker of hope forged an Alliance of Rebels, but there is another story. A story behind the story. The story of one being that became so entirely futile to the reign of the Empire that you could say, he was inconceivably irreplaceable. Thrawn.

This is his story, how a blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military tactics managed to quickly ascend through the ranks of the Imperial Navy. His intellect alone is by far one of his greatest advantages. From the moment he is introduced to us he captivates us, leaving us spellbound and craving more, and we are left to wonder: how does he do that?

Grand Admiral Thrawn is undoubtedly one of the most captivating Star Wars characters of all-time and rightfully so…

“It is said that one should keep one’s allies within view, and one’s enemies within reach.” — Grand Admiral Thrawn


To echo my previous statement, Grand Admiral Thrawn is undoubtedly one of the most captivating Star Wars characters of all time and rightfully so. He originated at a time when Star Wars, and its fans, seemed lost.

Then suddenly, out of the blue (pun not intended) a new villain of the Empire arose and graced the cover of a new series of books that spanned across that galaxy far, far away. A Chiss called Thrawn.

Story Origination:

Grand Admiral Thrawn emerged through the creative works of New York Times bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classics Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. And now, with his introduction in the animated series Star Wars Rebels, his character has come to life right off the pages, in a manner of speaking. Not only is it epic to see Mr. Zahn “reopen” his original creation but, in a way, this brings both character and creator full circle. One might even say that’s legendary.

Honestly, Star Wars Thrawn is an enjoyable read and could be considered a fun companion piece to Rebels. The way Mr. Zahn introduces Thrawn in the opening chapter and reconnects the reader with familiar characters from Rebels throughout the story is a homerun. Not only do we discover the mystery behind Thrawn’s quick ascension through the ranks of the Imperial Navy, but we learn so much backstory on Governor Arihnda Pryce and why she chose to side with the Empire. And that’s not all–we also find out that not only is “Chiss” canon, but there is a Chiss Ascendancy. Yeah, let that sink in for a moment.

Character Development:

Thrawn — his introduction is probably the most intriguing moment of the story.  It actually does for the reader what his character does throughout the entire story–it gives us, the readers, an in-depth (literary) view of our “meticulous” prey.

From the beginning, we discover he knew Anakin Skywalker from the Clone Wars. That alone should be enough for all who learn that fact that he has most likely picked up a thing or two on military tactics. But that’s not all, as the story unfolds, we see exactly how a Chiss’s mind works. He literally studies every being he comes in contact with by taking mental notes on their behaviors, mannerisms, culture, likes and dislikes. Hence, “To defeat an enemy, you must know them.” And yes, this goes for everyone–not just adversaries, but for friends as well.

As he quickly achieves promotion after promotion, he brings his aide and close confidant, Eli Vanto, along for the ride. And though Eli may not ascend as fast through the ranks as Thrawn does, it doesn’t make him any less important throughout the journey. At least, not in the crimson-eyed view of his commanding officer. That said, it’s a unique relationship. Almost a Sherlock Holmes and Watson twist in a galaxy far, far way. Oh, yes, and it’s quite obvious that anyone nonhuman is an immediate outcast among the Imperial elite, which makes Thrawn’s rise to power that much more preeminent.

Arihnda Pryce is a character worth taking a second look at. In fact, she might be one of the most conflicted characters we’ve seen within the Imperial ranks. Her character development is probably the most pivotal to the storyline. We learn that she is from Lothal, born and raised. Not just that, but her family had been the leading mining company on Lothal for generations, and she was next in line for running it until the Empire came.

The Empire takes what the Empire wants and Pryce mining was no exception. Arihnda wasn’t left with much choice and eventually,  gave in. By doing so, she gave her life and loyalty to the Empire. So much so, that she turned her back on friends in order to climb the political ladder to power. It was, in a way, her justification for all that she and her family had lost. By the time all is said and done, corruption wins over integrity, and even Thrawn sees her as a necessary means to meet his needs.

The Means to an End…

It is said that one should keep one’s allies within view, and one’s enemies within reach.” — Grand Admiral Thrawn

As far as storylines go, Star Wars Thrawn is a literary form of investigation where you, the reader, are the detective. The entire time you are piecing together the clues that are left behind in each chapter. It’s not until the ending epilogue where you realize the truth–the means to an end. Mitth’raw’nuruodo was never looking to be found nor to be rescued. In truth, he was waiting for them. Waiting for the humans–the Empire–to come to him.

You see, Thrawn is not a tool of the Empire; the Empire is his tool. The tool that’ll assist his people, the Chiss, in their ultimate goal: dominance. The Chiss Ascendancy.

All in all, this is a fun and enjoyable read, but I do not see it as essential reading when it comes to the new Star Wars canon. Still, it could be a helpful companion piece for the upcoming and final season of Star Wars Rebels.

*Thanks to Del Rey Publishing for providing a copy for us to review.*

Thrawn (Star Wars) by Timothy Zahn, Del Rey Hardcover on sale: April 11, 2017. Also available as an audiobook from Random House Audio, narrated by Marc Thompson.


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I do Star Wars! It's a verb. Former EIC of The Cantina Cast. Host and owner of Kanata's Castle Podcast and Tarkin's Top Shelf. A contributor for: Coffee with Kenobi, Jedi News, and Making Star Wars, and a titlist for Lucasfilm artist Steve Anderson.
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