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Thrawn (Star Wars) Hardcover – April 11, 2017
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“The origin story of one of the greatest Star Wars villains . . . a book that fans have wanted for decades.”—The Verge
“A satisfying tale of political intrigue . . . Thrawn’s observations and tactical thinking are utterly captivating.”—New York Daily News
“Quite the page-turner.”—Flickering Myth
About the Author
Timothy Zahn is the author of more than forty novels, nearly ninety short stories and novellas, and four short-fiction collections. In 1984, he won the Hugo Award for Best Novella. Zahn is best known for his Star Wars novels (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, Specter of the Past, Vision of the Future, Survivor’s Quest, Outbound Flight, Allegiance, Choices of One, and Scoundrels), with more than four million copies of his books in print. Other books include the Cobra series, the Quadrail series, and the young adult Dragonback series. Zahn has a B.S. in physics from Michigan State University and an M.S. from the University of Illinois. He lives with his family on the Oregon coast.
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"Thrawn" rectifies that.
From a only-barely modified origin story that will be very familiar to those who read the short "Mist Encounter" to bringing Thrawn days before his debut in "Rebels", we see the journey an alien has to take to rise to the pinnacle of military rank in the xenophobic Empire. There are familiar notes including character and ship names readers of Zahn's Legends material, new material including Thrawn's young protege, and for those who require an Imperial villain, we have Arhinda Pryce and her ruthless climb to political power that also explains a great deal about her character on Rebels and how she and Thrawn became allies of a sort. There's also a surprise twist to Thrawn's backstory that should catch even longtime readers off guard. And for the first time ever, we're permitted a glimpse into Thrawn's mind rather than seeing him filtered through a human POV.
New-canon only fans may find things like the explanation of the "civilian casualties" on Batonn strange or not in keeping with the so-far almost simple-minded insistence in new canon on black and white morality, but readers familiar with Zahn's work recognize this is a design feature, not a bug. If the book had any real flaws, it was a somewhat underwhelming antagonist in "Nightswan", and some of the battle sequences get VERY long-winded as Eli (the narrator) talks through analyzing them. But overall the book is the high quality and characterization we have come to expect from Zahn. Other than Catalyst this is, thus far the only must read new Star Wars thus far, and the only one which is a must read for its own sake.
It suffers from some of the same issues as the originals, focusing on other characters at times when you really don't care about them. The ones made in this book are incredibly dull and I could not find it in me to care about their fate. Really quite unlikable.
Thrawn did not seem to get as many chances for analysis and thrust-and-parry work as he really needed--the Sherlockian treatment that makes him interesting, you know?
A great deal of what you desperately wanted to see--interaction with Thrawn and the Emperor and other leaders, more of his tank climbing, etc., isn't there.
Honestly I'd rate this more poorly, except it was nice to know that he's canon again and get another story. I'm wondering if he will factor into the new movies...? I haven't found out yet.
In any case, you should read Outbound Flight before this (part of that book has been worked into this one, by the way.)
Every problem in this novel is solved via some deus ex machina in which Thrawn --basically portrayed as space Sherlock Holmes complete with a Watson character-- miraculously finds some detail that gives him victory...you might expect Thrawn to do this and that's fine...except Pryce does the same things.
Which might be fine (for Thrawn) except none of his victories carry any weight. We're dropped in conflict after conflict with no connection other than Thrawn thinks the same guy is behind them all. We don't care about any of these conflicts...and they aren't even connected to the rest of the franchise in any meaningful way. Rarely some important character is mentioned. The Emperor and Thrawn have a handful of very brief talks. That's it.
There's no real development. Thrawn is perfect and nothing really bad happens. The court martials are presented as a joke.
Book ends with no clear picture of what happened. There's a sequel coming. Eh.
But then Thrawn came back thanks to Rebels. And even better, it was announced that Timothy Zahn would be writing a new Thrawn book.
Excited doesn't even begin to describe how I felt.
Though this is a new story for Thrawn, many of the essential elements from the old books are present. While there's no Pellaeon, Eli Vanto is just as interesting and developed. Learning more about Governor Pryce was a nice touch as well.
While the old EU will always be canon in my heart, this book gives me hope for the new canon.
Of course, I'm also writing as someone who enjoyed the original Thrawn books. That probably shaded my view, and I'm an insatiable reader of science fiction.
The book really shines when giving us insight into Thrawn's thinking and when he interacts with classic characters from the series.