Science Fiction

Star Wars: Thrawn

Author: Timothy Zahn

Published By:
Del Rey Books

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                I love Timothy Zahnís Star Wars novels.  Iíve been a fan since he revived the book series with the Thrawn Trilogy in the early 90s.  His was the trilogy I had hoped George Lucas would make someday, but, alas, it wasnít meant to be.  That hasnít stopped me from reading every novel and short story Zahn has ever created for the Star Wars Universe.  So, when I heard that Zahn was writing a new story about Thrawn, a character he created for Star Wars, I couldnít wait to get my hands on it.

                Thrawn is one of the most intriguing characters in the Star Wars Universe.  The only alien creature to rise to the high rank of Grand Admiral in Palpatineís Empire, the Chiss warrior known as Thrawn studies his adversaryís art to uncover their tendencies and flaws in battle.  I have always been intrigued by his battle strategies Star Wars Thrawn opens with an investigation into a settlement on an unnamed world, close to where a V-Wing starfighter has crashed.  Imperial Cadet Eli Vanto, hailing from Wild Space, is brought in to try to learn whose settlement it is based on the writing found on some of the items at the settlement. 

Shortly after discovering the writing to be Sy Bisti, a language spoken in the Unknown Regions, the search party comes under attack.  By the time they return to their ship, the insurgent is among them, a blue-skinned alien named Thrawn, for whom Sy Bisti is a primary language.  The Emperor is intrigued by Thrawnís strategic abilities that allowed him to fool the Imperials into allowing him to board their ship.  Meeting Thrawn himself, the Emperor realizes potential in the warrior who has been banished from his own people for making a pre-emptive strike against an enemy.  Thrawn convinces the Emperor that a relationship could be mutually beneficial Ė he could serve the Empire in the Imperial Navy, mapping out the Unknown Regions while learning from his benefactors.

Thrawn is sent to the Royal Imperial Academy and, much to his chagrin, Vanto is sent with him as a language aide.  Vanto has no wish to become a warrior.  He believes his path lies in supplies, but he is about to veer heavily from his chosen career.  Graduating doesnít free him of Thrawn Ė the two are assigned to a ship and gain notoriety aiding in taking down many pirate operations.  Unfortunately, the new Empire is not alien friendly and many push back against Thrawnís success, seeking to sabotage him and hold Vanto down as well.

It is only through ingenuity and friends in the right places that Thrawn finds a way to persevere, taking Vanto with him every step of the way and guiding him toward the path Thrawn has always known suited Vanto more than supply officer.  But when Thrawn becomes obsessed with one adversary in particular, can his attempts to come in contact with him be considered treason?  And when his reasons for actually contacting the Empire are revealed, will he ruin all that he has created for himself and Eli Vanto?

In Star Wars: Thrawn, we finally learn how Thrawn actually becomes a part of the Imperial Navy and how he rises so high through the ranks.  Some may be asking where Gilad Pellaeon is in this series Ė heís not in this novel, but we see Thrawn take on his first human apprentice, unbeknownst to the human, in Eli Vanto.  Thrawn thinks Vanto is selling himself short by aspiring to a career as a supplies officer when Thrawn thinks he is analytical enough to be so much more.  Itís fun to watch Thrawn mentor Vanto while Vanto battles between his respect for Thrawn and his analytical mind and his frustrations at being kept from his chosen career.  When he finally realizes what Thrawn has been doing for him, it comes as a shock, and yet, Vanto soon realizes he knew all along what Thrawn was up to.

Zahn tried something new in this novel Ė he allowed us a peek at Thrawnís personal log, giving us insight into his thoughts and actions for a couple of paragraphs before each chapter.  I loved this!  I wished his other novels had been like this.  Before we had to rely on Thrawn explaining his tactics to his second in command.  In this novel, we have insight into his actions that even his second in command has no idea about. 

I love how Zahn writes this character.  Despite fighting for the wrong side of the conflict, Thrawn is a military genius with a moral code who refuses to use politics to maneuver himself in his career.  As he appears in this novel, Thrawn is not about senseless killing, but saving as many lives as possible with as little military might as needed.  Itís so much fun watching this character analyze and draw conclusions from his art studies.  Itís even more fun watching Thrawn employee uncharacteristic strategies that fool his adversaries over and over again.

As always, Zahnís writing is impeccable: so descriptive that I could picture everything going on in my mindís eye; so captivating that I was loathe to put the book down for such mundane things as work and sleep.  The fact that I finished this novel in a couple of days is testimony to how captivating the tale really is for a Thrawn fan.

Out of all of the novels Timothy Zahn has written containing Thrawn, this one is my absolute favorite.  A truly intelligent and analytically thinking main character, a likeable second in command who questions his abilities despite his mentorís prodding, a storyline that holds quite a few surprising twists in it and a side story about an ambitious young woman whose search for revenge changes her in ways she could never imagine.  Any fan of the Star Wars Universe is going to want to read Star Wars: Thrawn, a terrific, action and intrigue-packed read!


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