Star Wars: Thrawn is a canonical Star Wars novel published by Del Rey Books and written by Timothy Zahn. This book takes place before his introduction in Star Wars Rebels but in the period between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope. The story focuses on the discovery of Thrawn and his rise to power in the Empire alongside his aid; Ensign Eli Vanto.
My Knowledge and Expectation of Star Wars: Thrawn
I have been highly anticipating this novel ever since it was announced that Thrawn would be returning to the Star Wars universe in this new Expanded Universe. My excitement was enhanced because this book would be written by Timothy Zahn who is a notable figure in the Star Wars franchise. Indeed, Zahn was the author who created the character of Grand Admiral Thrawn in the old Expanded Universe. Thrawn was the central character in Zahn’s critically acclaimed Heir to Empire Trilogy and he quickly became a fan-favourite.
But, most of the material in the old Expanded Universe were re-branded as Legends and were no longer canon after Lucasfilm redefined Star Wars continuity in 2014. This included Zahn’s Trilogy and, consequently, Thrawn. Consequently, Star Wars fans were unsure whether Thrawn would return as a character in the new Expanded Universe. However, at Star Wars Celebration 2016, it was announced that this book would be released in April 2017. This announcement came alongside the news that Grand Admiral Thrawn would be re-introduced into the Star Wars franchise in Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels.
While I knew how revered Thrawn was by Star Wars fans, I never had an affinity with that character. This is because I never read any material from the old Expanded Universe. However, I have read a lot of the material from the new canon that Lucasfilm has released since 2014. On the whole, I have been impressed from what I have read and watched in this new Expanded Universe.
Moreover, if you have read my reviews of the episodes in Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, you know that Thrawn is one of my favourite things about Rebels. I love how suave, confident, methodical and calculating the character is. Thus, I was fascinated to learn about how Thrawn became part of the Empire in this novel and I had a lot of faith in Zahn to meet my lofty expectations.
My Thoughts on Star Wars: Thrawn
Overall, Star Wars: Thrawn gave me everything I wanted. I loved the fact that we got to delve into the mind of Thrawn. It was brilliant to see how he meticulously studies everyone he meets in terms of there mannerisms, body language and tone. It was also fascinating to learn more about his philosophy on warfare, his love of art and the loyalty he has to his race; the Chiss. This added more layers to a character that already has a lot of depth and it expanded on what we saw from Thrawn in Season 3 of Rebels. In fact, certain tactics that we saw from Thrawn in Rebels are in this book which was a nice tie-in.
Furthermore, I liked Thrawn’s relationship with Eli Vanto. Eli starts out as Thrawn’s aide but he quickly develops into a protégée. Eli learns about the art of warfare from Thrawn and Thrawn learns from Eli too. Indeed, Thrawn lacks political nous and he relies on Eli to guide him through the pitfalls of the Empire. Thrawn also has Governor Arihnda Pryce as an ‘ally’ to school him in political matters.
Pryce’s Backstory and Thrawn’s Motives
Arihnda Pryce is also a character in Star Wars Rebels and, like Thrawn, we also see her rise to power in this book. We get to know more about Pryce’s backstory and we see how far she is willing to go in her quest for power. This was good to see and it was also cool to see Colonel Wullf Yularin appear in this book. He too is a very influential presence and factor in Thrawn’s rise to power. Still, while Pryce and Yularin are necessary to allow Thrawn to rise through the ranks in the Empire, Thrawn does not fully commit himself to the Empire.
Throughout Star Wars: Thrawn, we piece together what Thrawn’s true intentions are. While he seemingly pledges his allegiance to the Empire and the Emperor, he is loyal to the Chiss and the Chiss Ascendancy above all else. Essentially, Thrawn sees the Empire as a tool to safeguard the Chiss from unknown threats in the galaxy. This was a fascinating revelation and I hope it is developed in future stories in the Star Wars universe.
Overall, Star Wars: Thrawn is another fine addition to the new narrative that Lucasfilm is telling in the Star Wars universe. While a very dense book, it is a much easier read than a similarly dense book in Star Wars: Tarkin. Yet, Star Wars: Thrawn is not my favourite canonical book. It does not reach the same level of quality as Lost Stars or Star Wars: Bloodline do. Still, it is a great read, a great character study of both Thrawn and Pryce and it leaves me excited for Season 4 of Star Wars Rebels.