Thrawn – Timothy Zahn

Synopsis: In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power—uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

Holly: I can’t believe this is our first Star Wars novel we are reviewing for the blog! How is that possible? Do we not love all things Star Wars? ARE WE NOT THE GRIMDRAGONS?!?

Corey: We do! We love ALL THE STAR WARS THINGS! Which is what makes it so disappointing that this is the first Star Wars book we’re reviewing together for the blog. Because this book is, in a word, dull. Despite a strong opening, with a completely bonkers first chapter featuring Thrawn as a sort of renegade jungle mercenary, the book then takes a hard right turn into monotony, and just never recovers. It reads more like a series of mini-adventures rather than a novel, but the adventures all have the same flavor. It’s not a short book at around 430 pages, and my lasting impression is basically this: Thrawn is a genius military tactician. And that’s about it.

Holly: That opening chapter was certainly intense! 

I try not to set my expectations too high, but it’s undeniable I was fucking ecstatic for Thrawn to be canonically reintroduced into the universe. He is up there as one of my favorite Star Wars characters! I think the original Thrawn trilogy set a fairly high standard. Timothy Zahn is for sure a fan favorite writer, with reason. The fact he was returning to write another installment within the Thrawn story was major! And with Thrawn’s introduction on Rebels, everyone just got even more hyped for this to be released!

Alas, this was fairly disappointing. It started strong, however the middle was incredibly bogged down with monotonous details & little plot movement, the story finally picked up with 100 pages or so to go.

Ultimately, this was a boring salad when I wanted a decadent hot fudge sundae.
Corey: I think this is where we diverge, at least slightly, and still wind up feeling exactly the same about this book. Thrawn is not an all-time favorite character for me, and being a much newer reader of Star Wars books than you, I don’t quite hold the original Thrawn trilogy in the same regard. I enjoyed them for sure, and I think Timothy Zahn is a very strong writer. But I know that the original Thrawn trilogy is the high-water mark for lots of fans when it comes to Star Wars novels. All that said, I get excited for every new Star Wars book, and this was no exception. And definitely, Thrawn’s addition to Rebels got me even more pumped for this. But what we got was a rather formulaic origin story, one that I’m not sure even needed telling. Watching Thrawn rise through the ranks of the Imperial Fleet was just….tedious. And although the book is linked to Rebels in lots of ways, I found myself wishing that link was even stronger.

Holly: It’s true. When Zahn is good he is great, but he does tend to ramble on from time to time & it can become tedious. Which is what happened with this.

I think one of the biggest issues was Zahn not focusing more on Thrawn’s exile. There is so much story to tell there! A far more exciting one, in my opinion. His rise through the Imperial ranks could have been edited down to a much smaller portion of the book, instead of basically the entire thing. It felt like this was rushed out to the masses to go with Thrawn being reintroduced into canon.

Definitely not a bad book, but one that felt like something was missing. It is one of those books for me that doesn’t add much to the glorious Star Wars universe. It’s just.. there. And Thrawn is pretty much still a mystery. So.. there’s that!

Corey: That describes it exactly: just there. I think by & large, the new canon books have all been really good…some of my favorite Star Wars books, easily. But Thrawn slides towards the bottom of the list, along with Heir to the Jedi and Tarkin. Books that just happen. You read them, then move on. I think one of the coolest things about the new canon books is that, for the most part, any one of them could be someone’s first Star Wars book (obviously not something like Aftermath: Life Debt, the second book in a trilogy). But I really feel like Thrawn is pretty strictly for Star Wars completists, and/or huge fans of Rebels. And even then, it’s a slog.

Holly: For sure. What I have read within the new canon books have been stellar! They’ve really enhanced the universe.

However, this didn’t leave much of an impact on me. In fact, Thrawn wasn’t even my favorite part about this book!

The slog of a story between Eli & Thrawn just took far too long to get going. I liked Eli well enough. Thrawn & Eli even almost had a Sherlock/Watson dynamic to their relationship.. just without as much chemistry, unfortunately.

Arihnda Pryce though? That is who I found the most enjoyable!

In many ways, she overshadowed​ Thrawn. I mean, how badass is she in Rebels?! And then her appearance here solidifies the fact that there is sadly a lack of information surrounding her. We need a Pryce novel! This actually corresponded well with the first few seasons of Rebels in regards to her story, so that was nice to see what the backstory was within those episodes she was missing from.

Corey: There were flickers of chemistry there for Eli & Thrawn, but given that the majority of the book focuses on them, it just really lacked something. Eli felt relegated to sidekick status, even though he’s one of the main POVs in the story. And definitely, Pryce’s story was the more compelling one. It’s great to see a character from Rebels get a really well-rounded backstory.

Holly: I appreciated how some of the story did tie in with Rebels. The ending of this essentially leads to Thrawn’s entrance on the television series. I just wish there was *more* of that connection throughout. In saying that, I wonder if this could be setting up something greater with the Chiss Ascendancy? Hmm. That would be pretty damn intriguing!

Corey: So all in all, a bit of a letdown. Thrawn is certainly not a bad book….it’s well written, and it is Star Wars after all. Timothy Zahn didn’t get where he is in his career by being a bad writer. It just doesn’t add much to the universe, and it seems like it should have been at least 50 pages shorter. So if you’re just looking to start reading Star Wars books, maybe look for another entry point (we are happy to make recommendations!) For the more die-hard Star Wars readers, hopefully you’ll enjoy this one more than we did. Either way, may the Force be with you!

The Grimdragons Rating: 3 out of 5 mysterious, yet dull, blue aliens!

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