Fact: I love Star Wars.
Fact: Though I love Star Wars, I haven’t read many of the canon SW books. Only Lost Stars and Bloodline, by the amazing Claudia Gray, and a few other shorter SW books.
Thrawn was an obvious reading pick. Both the titular character and the author of this book, Timothy Zahn are legendary amongst people aware of the old (and since eliminated) Extended Universe. I’m disappointed to say my opinion of this book does not directly reflect my love of Star Wars.
Thrawn was the main villain of the old Star Wars Extended Universe. This book brings him into updated Star Wars canon, as a person escaping exile by joining the Empire and climbing its ranks faster than any officer before him.
Despite recognizing Thrawn as a Star Wars character, and recognizing many planets mentioned, and knowing a few cameo characters like the Emperor and Grand Moff Tarkin, I kept forgetting this is a Star Wars book. It’s possible to focus on new characters and environments and feel like a Star Wars book (read: Lost Stars) but this one doesn’t.
The central character is Thrawn, but his story is broken up by Arinhda’s. And, in all honesty, I thought Arinhda’s story was more interesting. Her motivation of revenge was clear throughout, and it was fascinating to watch her unknowingly become just like the people she wants to destroy. Thrawn, on the other hand, had murkier motivations. I never quite figured out what he wanted. Though he proved himself clever, what was the effort for? The book provides a character origin story, but to what end this origin is relevant remains unclear. Why should I be interested in Thrawn? I’m sure it has something to do with other Star Wars canon. I know he appeared on Star Wars: Rebels, but I don’t know what role he played.
Another question: what is his connection to Anakin? Did I miss it? This connection brought a juicy bit of shock to the beginning of the story, but failed to remain relevant. Unless, of course, I missed it. I was skimming some of the story near the end…
A plus to this book is that it doesn’t strive to make us hate the Empire. We know the people in this book are on the wrong side of a conflict, so we don’t want them to succeed. But we also don’t find everyone entirely evil, either. Making ultimate Star Wars villains more ambiguous makes the rest of canon so much more interesting.
At least I had that to enjoy.