This week I decided to focus on the another inclusion from the Star Wars Universe, the novel Thrawn by Timothy Zahn. The character of Thrawn was introduced by Zahn in the original Expanded Universe of Star Wars, now labelled Legends under Disney purchase. Thrawn is the by far the greatest admiral that the Empire had during the prosperity and fall of the Empire, and many years after. He was a tactical genius, brilliant commander and victorious in every task he took on. While Thrawn was considered to be one of the most liked characters introduced in the original Expanded Universe, his omission by Disney was a stab in the heart of many fans. Disney has been expanding their universe to include much of the Legends content into main canon continuity. Thrawn by Timothy Zahn is just the first novel in a probable trilogy, with the next installment Thrawn: Alliances coming out later this year.
Thrawn was released on April 11, 2017 and quickly garnered a positive review by both fans and critics.
*This review will be spoiler free*
Thrawn begins during the prosperity of the Galactic Empire. The rebels have begun trying to infiltrate the Empire to learn their secrets, but have not been effectively amalgamated into the official “Rebellion” as seen in Star War Episode IV: A New Hope. As it stands each individual rebel cell is vexing various commanders and their fleets throughout Empire controlled space and some of the Outer Systems. While the Empire is prospering so is their Xenophobia. Most systems are inhabited by more than just humans, but the upper command and echelon of the Imperial Navy is strictly humans.
Pryce Mining Company on Lothal is one of the premiere companies on the small industrial planet. When a new Doonium vein is discovered, the Empire makes political moves to remove the Pryce family from their controlling interests in the company, making an enemy of the heir to the company.
With the new special project taking up all the resources of the Empire to construct; Senators, Moffs and Governors alike are all scrambling to see who knows what and who can be removed from their quests for power.
The story begins with a small Imperial Scouting party to an uncharted world in the “Wild Space” section of the galaxy. Cadet Eli Vanto and the other members of the scouting party find a camp which shows signs of habitation. With several crates marked with an unknown language that is only familiar to those on the border of Wild Space, Vanto is brought up to translate. A mysterious assailant attacks the party and claims the lives of 5 stormtroopers. When the assailant stows away on the landing craft as is taken back to the Destroyer, he surrenders and is interrogated by officers with Vanto for translation. The assailant is revealed as a Chiss by the name of Mitth’raw’nuruodo, though he says the humans may refer to him as Thrawn. When Thrawn, a alien Chiss, is fast tracked into command in the Imperial Navy, he becomes a likely target of hate and resentment from many of his colleagues.
Arihnda Pryce is caught between a rock and a hard place, either agree to the takeover by the Empire of her family’s mining company or be thrown in jail for treason. She doesn’t take this lying down and journeys to Coruscant to begin a career in political espionage and blackmail.
Doonium is being bought up left right and center by subsidiaries of the Empire for a “Special Project” that is unknown to most of the population. Being the most precious metal in the galaxy, curiosities become piqued inciting full investigations from several individuals both high ranking and not.
Mitth’raw’nuruodo “Thrawn” – A Chiss exiled from the Chiss Ascendancy and marooned on a planet in Wild Space. He is a brilliant tactician and strategist but completely inept in the political machinations of the Imperial Navy. He believes that in order to defeat an enemy you must first understand an enemy, which leads him to research a culture before coming into contact with them. When we first meet Thrawn he only knows basic words and phrases in the Galactic Standard “Basic”; he is fluent in Sy Bisti which is a wild space vernacular known to Ensign Eli Vanto due to him being from a system bordering wild space. He requests Vanto be assigned to him as translator and aide to assist him in his career with the Empire.
Eli Vanto – Ensign assigned the be Thrawn’s personal aide and translator. Was content with his career path to be come a supplies officer at a base near his home planet. With the arrival of Thrawn, his career path has taken a detour into left field. He resents the Chiss for being able to control his career, but admires him for his tactical brilliance and strategic awareness in battle. Acting as both aide and social instructor, Eli is unsure of his future, but knows it is tied to the Chiss officer.
Arihnda Pryce – The only daughter of the CEO of Pryce Mining on Lothal. Ruthless and fiercely loyal to her family and its history. When ousted from her home she sets her sight on the seat at the top making decisions for her whole system. Moving to center of power she begins her political career with nothing to her name and even less knowledge of the inner workings of the political landscape of Coruscant. Determined not to lose sight of her goal she begins a game of cat and mouse where all the cats are bigger and fiercer than she is.
Nightswan – The Moby Dick to Thrawn’s Captain Ahab. A cunning and strategic freelance criminal that will work for whoever pays them enough. With a penchant for organizing schemes of unique style, Thrawn is drawn to solving who this mystery person is and bringing them and their whole network down.
Colonel Yularen – Colonel of the ISB which investigates the senate and any illegal dealings associated with it. Efficient and thorough he becomes an ally of both Thrawn and Pryce as their paths eventually cross.
Notable Cameos – Emperor Sheev Palpatine “Darth Sidious”, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, Darth Vader
WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD?
Speaking as someone who never really dove too much into the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, this book is a great starting point. It’s filled with lots of new locations and characters while still keeping it rooted in canon with familiar faces. The chapters all begin with excerpts from Thrawn’s personal journal in which he discusses various topics ranging from leadership to camaraderie and strategy. I don’t want to speak too much about the chapters for fear of revealing something spoilerific, just know that at the end of the book all the chapter introductions come together in the epilogue.
The entire story has an air of mystery as well with Thrawn trying to figure out who the Nightswan is and where the resources of the Empire are being diverted to. With the book taking place roughly 20-2 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), any person familiar with Episode IV: A New Hope is able to ascertain where the resources are being routed; however, it also adds an air of suspense as the characters figure it out for themselves.
As a whole I would rate the book to be a solid 7.5/10 it’s far from perfect, with some chapters really dragging on and some characters really serving no purpose, but overall a very enjoyable read. As I said before, it’s a great book for any Star Wars fan and if you were a fan of Thrawn before this is quite a poignant starting point for the character.
*This spoiler free review has been created with Barb Cottle in mind. May I never spoil anything nerdy for her ever again.*