Could Thrawn Get Any Better?

Best. Star Wars. Book. EVER!

I really don’t know what to do now that I’ve finished Thrawn. I guess just hope Timothy Zahn can create lightning three times?  The Thrawn trilogy, beginning with the widely-renowned book Heir to the Empire, had been my favorite for a very long time.  Few could forget the extremely memorable characters that Zahn crafted including Mara Jade and of course Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Zahn had been tapped to launch what would be come to known as the Expanded Universe – those novels set in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi.  But when Disney declared new Star Wars films would be created, all of the Expanded Universe was deemed “Legends” and more importantly non-canonical.  Which left readers wondering, what about Thrawn?

The cover of Thrawn captures both his physical characteristics and the intelligence behind his eyes

Title: Thrawn
Author: Timothy Zahn
Cost: $28.99
Age: 12 and up
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Star Wars fiction

The fan favorite character once again became part of official Star Wars canon with his reintroduction (and first time on-screen) in Star Wars Rebels season 3 and will play a central role in season 4 as well – the last season for this much beloved show.  But fans don’t have to wait until the fall to get more of Thrawn.  They just have to go to the bookstore.  Thrawn returns in his own origin story of the same name and once again penned by Star Wars author Timothy Zahn.  But could Zahn reclaim the magic of Heir to the Empire? I think he did…and surpassed it!

Thrawn takes place from his first encounter with the Empire up until the events in Star Wars Rebels.  Seeds are planted throughout the book for what we know will happen to him in the animated series, but more importantly, Thrawn’s reputation as a master tactician is fully explored.  He is painted as beyond brilliant tactically with some deficiencies in political acumen (although one wonders if that too is part of Thrawn’s master plan). He zooms up the military hierarchy despite ruffling more than just feathers on the way up.  Alongside him is Eli Vanto, an able-bodied soldier of the Empire who begins his journey with Thrawn as his aide.  Together their relationship grows as Vanto bears witness to the impeccable acumen of Thrawn’s mind.

The only thing you need to decide is which cover? This one is only found at Barnes & Noble

The narrative switches largely between three central characters – Thrawn himself, Arihnda Pryce (who we know becomes Governor Pryce for those who watch Rebels), and Eli Vanto.  Zahn uses an interesting technique when writing from Thrawn’s POV.  He writes it from a first person narrative compared to Pryce and Vanto’s third person limited POV.  This gives us insight into Thrawn’s pattern of thinking and observations and helps us to better understand Thrawn’s mindset and development.

Zahn also addresses undertones of xenophobia and racism throughout the book playing not only on Thrawn’s definite alien appearance but even on Vanto’s slang and dialect from Wild Space (largely characterized as “backwater” by the rich and powerful).  Zahn reminds us how easily people allow their own preconceptions, fears, pride and prejudices affect how they treat others – which is to say unfairly and badly.  Those undertones do not distract from the story but in fact enhance it.  Zahn does such a masterful job of telling Thrawn’s intriguing story that it’s hard not to root for the guy.  Unlike Pryce whose development shows how she becomes a ruthless political manipulator and everything you despise about the Empire, I completely forget that Thrawn is one of its most masterful agents and not only appreciate him but really like the guy.  But perhaps that is exactly what Thrawn wants me to feel.

  • Thrawn is available now on and at booksellers nationwide

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