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[ Star Wars Books & Comics ]
Staff Review.


Author: Timothy Zahn
Published: 2017

Reviewer: Ewan, Star Wars Books & Comics
Reviewed: 2017
Review rating: 4.5 / 5

Spoilers are kept to minimum however cannot guarantee spoiler-free.

Although publisher supplied copy for review purposes, all opinions are those of reviewer.

Publisher's Summary:
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.

Grand Admiral Thrawn is probably the most iconic Star Wars character never to have appeared on screen. A fan favourite for more than a quarter of a century, Thrawn has epitomised for a whole generation of fans a villain who does not fit the classic Star Wars dichotomy of good and evil: Thrawn was a man of honour, imbued with a sense of nobility, who, due to happenstance, served an immoral Empire and an evil Emperor. More than an outsider, Thrawn was an alien who rose through the ranks of a highly xenophobic Empire to, upon the death of its Emperor, take ultimate control of said Empire. So popular was he that his creator, Timothy Zahn, continued to write stories, both short and long, that continued Thrawn's legacy far beyond his initial trilogy of novels: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.
Then, for three years. the fate of this most enigmatic of characters was consigned to Legends status: in effect Thrawn had become a "did he or didn't he exist" character. Until, that is, last year when it was announced that he was to appear in the third season of Star Wars Rebels and would be elevated into the new Star Wars canon universe. Now Thrawn is back, both on-screen in animated form in Star Wars Rebels, and in a new novel by Timothy Zahn.
To be fair, like most other Star Wars authors who have also penned both Legends and new canon stories, Zahn draws from his own pre-existing material. So fans will get a smile when Zahn throws in familiar names, especially a certain Star Destroyer. While this is a nice gesture to the fans, it does mean that certain aspects of the story appears to be nothing more than the retreading of old ground. For example, Thrawn's first encounter with the Empire is a retelling of Zahn's short story Mist Encounter, with a few changes to accommodate this newer story. However, Zahn has chosen a brand new approach to the reader's understanding of his protagonist (and here we must remember that Thrawn is the protagonist of this story): we are given insights and glimpses into the mind and thought processes of Thrawn. In every encounter Thrawn has we are given details of his thoughts and every chapter begins with a synopsis from Thrawn's own guide to strategy and tactics, very much akin to The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
Although the story begins with a lot of detail surrounding the Empire's initial discovery of Thrawn following his banishment from the Chiss Ascendency, the story moves quickly, in some places to quickly, as Thrawn moves rapidly through the ranks of the Imperial Navy. While Thrawn is eager to progress to his rightful position in the Navy (certainly rightful in his eyes), Zahn balances this rapidity with the relatively slow advancement of Eli Vanto, from a reluctant ensign to Thrawn's capable aide-de-camp. Zahn includes the story of, depending on your point of view, the rise or descent of Arihnda Pryce: from family mine owner to becoming the Governor of Lothal, as seen in Star Wars Rebels. Clearly Pryce's story acts as the flipside to Thrawn's - while it is Thrawn's own innate abilities, his tactical brilliance and natural leadership skills, that will ultimately gain him his title, Pryce finds herself being manipulated before learning how to turn the tables so she too can climb to the top.
This is a book that will appeal to old and new fans alike. Older fans will once again smile as they recognise that this is the same Thrawn that they admired a quarter of a century ago, while newer fans will gawk as he explains to Vanto (and anybody else who will listen) how he was able to outmanoeuvre not only his foes but also, in some cases, his friends. In short, Thrawn is back! And he hasn't changed one little bit.

Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn is available now in hardback and e-Book from Century in the UK and Del Rey in the US.


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