Since Disney acquired Star Wars back in 2014 a great deal of its content to be “legacy” and thus not definitive canon, hardcore Star Wars fans let out a groan that could be heard around the world. Being in love with Star Wars myself, but having not been a person that had pursued every last book (though I still read many), I thought this was a good move for the franchise. Fast forward three years and I’m astonished at what Star Wars has been able to accomplish.
Through the launching of a number of new comics, books, shows and movies, Star Wars’ New Canon proved to be a forced to be reckoned with. And with the vast, material it is capable of pulling from the “legacy” material, the well of ideas will never run dry. A perfect example of accurately using these methods comes with a fan favorite, Grand Admiral Thrawn. The original Thrawn Trilogy was established by Timothy Zahn to be the standard for post- Return of the Jedi, prior to the launch of the latest trilogy with The Force Awakens. After being announced in Disney’s Star Wars: Rebels along with a new novel, was ecstatic to jump in.
The Thrawn novel went beyond my expectations. The epitome of this astonishment lies in the pure fact that Thrawn is such a unique, methodical character. His tactical mind is of a level that readers are constantly inside of, and yet still constantly trying to understand throughout the novel. The appreciation of the genius of this book comes primarily just from Zahn being able to write someone so shrewd, so accurately. It’s an accomplishment that would require meticulous attention to detail and analysis of each character and the essence of the plot itself, because Zahn, to write Thrawn, would in effect, need to think like him. We aren’t slighted in the least in watching him perform this task.
Thrawn follows the Chiss’ matriculation through astonishing tactical accomplishments that eventually place him in the position of Grand Admiral, faster than any other Imperial Officer ever. With the novel telling a narrative from The Empire’s perspective, we get a glimpse of individual characters for who they are as opposed to nameless faces in a dark sea of fear and powerful ships and giant moon-sized space stations. We are granted a vivid snapshot of the Imperial Military and we get this vantage not only through Thrawn, but supporting characters as well.
A personal favorite of mine is Eli Vanto, a man from the distant Wild Space planet called Lysatra. He’s a humble and loyal servant of the empire who develops into something of a tactical genius as a side effect of his constant proximity to Thrawn. Yet and still he’s far from evil. The same can be said for Thrawn. It’s this kind of character focus that allows us to understand how so many could have empowered the Empire while not all having the evil hearts of Emperor Palpatine.
The book also focuses heavily on tactics not only in battle, but the ins and out of corporate espionage. The “B story” character, is Ahrinda Pryce, who first appeared in Star Wars: Rebels as the Governor of Lothal. If you recall in the show, she’s quite cold. She wasn’t always that way, and this books weaves us through the heart wrenching sowing of her corruption, and her rise to that position of power, making it difficult to forget how callous The Empire can be. It’s painful to see the darkness overtake her, but is so well written.
However, where Thrawn really shines is between the lines. In every conversation he has from the time he reaches Coruscant, the Chiss is analyzing everyone in his thoughts. Lines such as “His eyes are steady and do not blink. The skin of his face is unmoving.” These inner analytical thoughts give us the most endearing glance to the workings of Thrawn’s mind, and helps to characterize him in way no other character has been. It’s this appeal that drives on every scene in the book, making it a delight to read.
So far, this is my favorite Star Wars book of 2017. Though I’ve only so far read two others, I think that it may prove to be the best. It’s going to be hard to match the rise of the Grand Admiral. Seeing him handle each conflict with tactical pragmatism and outsmart even the smartest of adversaries throughout is the kind of think I would never get tired of, so long as correctly written. Thrawn makes yet another staple of necessary readings for the avid Star Wars fan.