Imagine you created an iconic character, beloved by fans everywhere. Imagine that character was then set aside as newer and more relevant characters took to the fore. Then imagine you were tapped to reintroduce that iconic character. How often does that happen? Well, it happened to Timothy Zahn as his creation, Grand Admiral Thrawn, was recovered from the Expanded Universe (Legends) and welcomed into the embrace of the new Star Wars canon.
With Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn hasn’t missed a beat. He took an already fascinating character and managed to give him even more depth, without changing the core of the character. Aside from a few minor alterations, Thrawn feels like Thrawn. If you loved him from Legends, you will love him here. He remains a master tactician, and his analytical skills — especially when studying the art of his foes — are sharp as ever.
It was first announced that Grand Admiral Thrawn would be joining Star Wars Rebels, then he would be the subject of his own novel. The novel and the animated series dovetail wonderfully. The book takes place before the events of Rebels, but leads us right up to those events. Characters and locations are maneuvered into place skillfully. Aside from being Thrawn’s origin story, it also serves as the introduction to Arihnda Pryce, Governor of Lothal. Both rapidly rise to power, although Pryce is much more ruthless in her approach.
Star Wars: Thrawn is told entirely from the point of view of the Empire. There is talk of a rising insurgency, and the term “rebel” gets a mention or two, but this is very much an Imperial story. One of the primary characters is Eli Vanto, who, through no intention of his own, becomes aid and translator to Thrawn as both go through the Imperial Academy on Coruscant. Throughout their academy days and into their military careers, Eli becomes Thrawn’s most trusted ally and right hand man. The Emperor took a liking to Thrawn early on (not seeming to mind Thrawn’s Chiss origins, although the same cannot be said for others in the Empire). Having someone like Emperor Palpatine in his corner no doubt helped to advance Thrawn rapidly through the ranks — even if it didn’t appear to help Eli in his own career path. Where you think you’d find jealousy, though, you find loyalty and admiration for Thrawn to be Eli’s finest points. He also has a keen analytical mind that is appreciated by Thrawn.
Thrawn and Eli are both such likable characters — complex, endearing, and admirable — I found myself rooting for the Empire, despite my better judgment. Even Pryce has her moments. You understand her motivations, making her a bit more sympathetic than she has appeared so far on Star Wars Rebels.
Thrawn works so well as a run-up to Rebels that going back to re-watch season three will be a richer experience. I could even hear Lars Mikkelsen’s Thrawn in my head. Timothy Zahn had a hand in helping bring Thrawn to life on Rebels, and that was mutually beneficial to the book and the series. As I mentioned earlier, they dovetail nicely. With whispers of an enormous top secret project, Thrawn also calls back to Rogue One in a meaningful way. The galaxy far, far away is tying up neatly across all mediums!
The passage of time is marked mostly by Thrawn’s promotions, and the story moves along at a nice pace. The capable hands of Timothy Zahn never disappoint. He’s the one who largely kicked off the EU with his classic Thrawn Trilogy, and he is clearly right at home in the current Star Wars universe.
If you’re a Legends fan wary of this newer version of Grand Admiral Thrawn, don’t be. All the essentials are intact and Zahn has done an amazing job of resurrecting a character many thought lost forever in favor of the new canon. If nothing else, this proves that the best of what came before will always be given due consideration. If I may quote the Eleventh Doctor from Doctor Who:
“Nothing is ever forgotten, not completely, and, if something can be remembered, it can [possibly] come back.”
My rating: 5/5
Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing a copy of this book for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines