by Timothy Zahn
Star Wars: Thrawn appears to be the result of many, many, fans of the now non-canon Star Wars novels making enough noise for Disney to notice. They wanted Thrawn back and in the new canon time line. Writer and creator Timothy Zahn, who wrote the original Thrawn trilogy starting in 1991 with Heir to the Empire, returns to his, arguably, greatest creation and contribution to the Star Wars universes in this new canon novel. This time Zahn transplants Thrawn from post-Return of the Jedi to pre-A New Hope in the time line. In an interview with StarWars.com, Zahn said, “with this book I’ll be visiting a part of his life that I never before had a chance to explore.” And, boy, does he.
Thrawn is a masterful piece of character work by Zahn. Starting Thrawn at the bottom of the heap, literally an exiled alien on a seemingly uncharted planet, and allowing us to watch as he climbs up the military ladder was utterly fascinating. The way that Thrawn perceived threats, assessed enemies and generally out-thought everybody, friend and foe alike, was fluid and believable. Zahn even touches on speciesism and how the Empire would feel about an alien–a blue skinned one with glowing red eyes at that–not only among their typically human ranks, but also excelling and surpassing everybody in his path.
Not only does Zahn allow us to see things from Thrawn’s perspective, but Zahn, in all his mastery, has also created a secondary character worth paying attention to in one Eli Vanto. Originally starting as nothing more than a hesitant aide, a translator, for Thrawn, but eventually transforming into an equal and a trusted friend, Vanto’s insights into Thrawn and how he perceives this blue-skinned mastermind is consistently fascinating. As Vanto learns more of Thrawn’s capabilities, and eventually his thought patterns, Zahn is able to clearly show the amount of respect that Thrawn has earned with Vanto. The relationship between the two is, first and foremost, that of commanding officer and subordinate, but it’s deeper than that. As mention above, it transforms into one of mutual respect and friendship. This culminates on the last few pages where (no real spoilers here) Thrawn shows just how much respect he has for Vanto by asking him to do something that is very important to Thrawn. It’s touching, or as touching as maybe it can be coming from somebody like Thrawn.
At the end of the day, Star Wars: Thrawn is a masterpiece and will clearly become a crown jewel in the canon novel line put out by Del Rey. A book like this would not, could not, be what it is without Timothy Zahn. Zahn returns to his character and the Star Wars universe with a vengeance and, frankly, stands this book right next to his previous Thrawn-centric novels. Lucky for Star Wars fans everywhere, the second book of a new trilogy has already been announced for 2018. We won’t have to wait long for more Thrawn, but it’s still going to be an excruciating wait. Read that original trilogy again, probably for the first time in years, or read this book again in the meantime. You can even go out and watch the Star Wars: Rebels show to catch Thrawn in action while you wait for the second book. Either way, here’s to more Thrawn.