Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: April 6th, 2017
Format: Hardback, 427 pages
Source: Barnes & Noble
My Rating: 

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One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.
Timothy Zahn is one of my favorite Star Wars authors, so I was pretty bummed when all the old Expanded Universe books got put into "legends" and deemed "non-canon". He introduced me to my favorite Star Wars character, Mara Jade, so I was really bummed that she no longer existed in the canon timeline. However, I was really glad that they decided to let Thrawn be brought back into the canon. There is no one else that can write about Thrawn, so I was really pumped when I saw that Timothy Zahn got to write about him again. It took me a really long time to actually get to this book, but I am glad I finally got to read another book about this blue-skinned, red-eyed Chiss.

Thrawn is straight up diabolical! And it's why he is one of my favorite villains in Star Wars. I think he actually is one of the villains that doesn't really care about The Empire's true goals (see also Phasma) but is really more interested in being in power. Those are the villains that I like the most, because I don't think they set out to be inherently evil, it's just that they are more selfish. I feel like I can understand Thrawn's motivations way better than a strictly "evil" villain like Palpatine. I don't think Thrawn cares that much about The Empire's goals, but instead he goes to the most powerful source in the galaxy and just basically exploits it for his own gains. He's an alien which a lot of the Imperials hate, but since they don't know a lot about his species The Chiss, he is able to out maneuver everyone around him. He's always three steps ahead of everyone, and it was just a treasure to read about how he doesn't care about politics and rises through the ranks because his plans are just so solid that the Empire just can't court-martial him.

Although the book is about Thrawn, we also get to see what was happening on the political spectrum by also getting Arihnda Pryce's perspective. I thought this was a nice touch, because even though Thrawn doesn't get politics, she does and we saw that a lot of her scheming affects Thrawn. There are parts about the military strategy that I really could have done without, and I definitely think there are some things that could have been cut out of this book. Sometimes the military stuff got to be too much, so I was glad that we got a break to see what Pryce was doing. It's interesting to me because I feel like Thrawn at the end was starting to have doubts about The Empire, but Pryce in the end felt very strongly about The Empire being the right path. I kind of liked her in the beginning, but I think she got really knocked down by the corrupt politics. The shady politics is what got me really heated because literally nothing has changed! Palpatine claimed he wanted to have peace and to get rid of corruption, but it seems like getting rid of The Republic just made everything worse! We know that that was not what he really was doing, but I think most of the people that believe in The Empire really wanted that to be true.

While Thrawn rises through the ranks in the Imperial military he does so with an Aide by his side whom barely gets recognized (because of the politics of the military). Eli Vanto didn't intend to be by Thrawn's side, but since he's the only one that can speak the same language he gets assigned as a translator and just continues to follow him to every assignment. I really liked Eli, he seemed like the everyman, and I felt just as frustrated as him when he was not getting the recognition he deserved. I think that Eli is probably one of the Imperials that went into the service because he truly thought The Empire was bringing peace to the galaxy. There's an instance where they discover that the Empire uses slaves, and he has a really hard time with this (has he should). I think had he not been under Thrawn's tutelage he might have eventually defected to the Rebellion. I'm not sure if we are going to see any of him in the next book, but I am definitely interested in where his story ends up.

I think if you are interested in understanding the inner workings of the Imperial military, or are interested in the politics behind it, this would be a good star wars books for you to try. Also if you are a fan of Zahn, this a great way to step into his Star Wars novels.

Have you read Thrawn? What did you think?

Happy Reads Everyone!