Ricky Church reviews Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn…
Ever since last Celebration’s announcement that Grand Admiral Thrawn would officially be joining the canon in Star Wars Rebels, fans of the character went wild with anticipation for his ‘return’. His characterization in Rebels, played by House of Cards’ Lars Mikkelsen, was well received, but fans have been even more excited for the return of Thrawn’s creator Timothy Zahn to the Star Wars universe in the new novel, Thrawn.
Thrawn details the Grand Admiral’s rise through the Imperial ranks as he’s introduced to the wider galaxy. With his rise though comes competition as Thrawn has to navigate the murky waters of politics and rival officers while dealing with insurgent threats to the Empire. What Zahn delivers is an interesting character piece on the central villain that’s one half Star Wars and one half Sherlock Holmes.
It’s no surprise that Zahn writes a compelling tale for his creation. Thrawn begins his journey lacking a bit in the way of social skills, but more than makes up for it with his intelligent and calculating mind. He has a very charismatic presence that makes it easy to see how people eventually follow him. What helps give credit to show how Thrawn’s mind works is the brief journal entries at the start of each chapter and when the book switches to his POV.
Zahn, however, is very careful during the POV passages to not reveal everything Thrawn notices. Zahn keeps the character’s feelings, motivations and especially his plans mysterious, leaving plenty of surprises for readers. This helps build Thrawn up as the ultimate tactician, willing to play the long game against his adversaries to ensure a complete victory instead of a small win.
What is also interesting about Thrawn is the sense of honour he has. While he fights for the Empire, there’s a bit of nobility to him and a respect he shows not only to his inferiors, but also to his enemies. It’s quite a contrast to some of his colder or ruthless traits seen in the book or in Rebels, yet every action he takes is logical. It nails the purpose of a character like Thrawn when it is hard to disagree with their reasoning, something that makes him such a compelling character.
Zahn also makes good use of the supporting characters. Eli Vanto is the Watson to Thrawn’s Holmes, following Thrawn around and learning the art of deductions and battle tactics. Vanto goes through an arc of his own, becoming more than just a mouthpiece for readers, as he discovers potential within himself he didn’t know he had.
Rebels’ Arhinda Pryce also has a prominent role in Thrawn, chronicling her rise to Governor of Lothal. In the series, she was only introduced in person this past season and we didn’t get to know much about her beyond her few appearances. Zahn taps into her personality and how she became so devout in the Empire’s ideology, showing there’s a bit more to her character than the typical Imperial official.
Thrawn is well paced, never really delivering a dull moment in its story. All the character’s arcs are spread out enough that nothing ever feels rushed. The stories are fully realized, though Pryce could have used a bit more closure towards the end, but that is a small nitpick. Zahn’s writing is also very enthralling as he blends Star Wars with the mystery genre, showing a series of cases and tactics Thrawn has to solve on his way to that white uniform.
Fans of the character, whether they knew him from the old Expanded Universe or were just introduced to him through Rebels, should really enjoy this story. Zahn’s return to Thrawn is more than welcome, showing he can still handle the character and adjust him to fit in the new canon with no problem at all. His writing style is very captivating as is his use of the supporting characters, making this Star Wars: Thrawn quite the page-turner.