The Star Wars fandom collectively soiled its Sunday linens when they heard Grand Admiral Thrawn was returning from his multi-decade retirement. There is still a healthy debate over how well Rebels portrayed a character from a book trilogy which literally revived Star Wars. Overall it’s been a positive welcome.
But there always exists a disconnect when a character transfers from one medium to another. A piece of its spirit is missing. Some invisible expectation doesn’t get fulfilled. That’s exactly the emotional hole the Thrawn novel fills in. This isn’t just Thrawn; this is Thrawn back in his original element.
According to author Timothy Zahn, the book was written both to work within current canon and the legends books from which Thrawn originates. The eponymous tactician, paired with cadet Eli Vanto, venture their way through the Imperial machine in a riveting, tactical story that is part Sherlock Holmes, part Sun Tzu, leading from the Chiss Ascendancy all the way to his entrance into Rebels season three.
A large portion of the book is spent following Governor Ahrinda Pryce, so much so I wonder why her name wasn’t on the front cover instead, or combined like a celebrity couple (Prawn, maybe?). And while I bemoaned reading her portions from sheer impatience to see what Thrawn was doing next, she never bored me. Pryce is still a villain in the end, but she’s humanized in a way I didn’t expect. It made me want to rewatch her scenes in Rebels.
I won’t spoil any of the excellent references (there are many), I will detail what was not mentioned. Thrawn does not discuss Spaarti cloning, ysalmiri, Jorus C’Baoth or Outbound Flight. Cloaking devices are not used. The Nogrhi are not mentioned despite the fact that Ruuk will appear in season four. Wayland is never visited. The mythic Dark Force fleet is never seen.
Art, of course, plays a large role.
Thrawn reads so much like the old material part of me wonders how long Zahn had this manuscript sitting around, needing only a few updated references before submission. Either way, it was a fantastic addition to both the new canon and Star Wars novels as a whole.
I can think of no better words of praise to use than those of the Grand Admiral himself: It was so artistically done.