It is quickly coming to the point once again, as it did for me in the early 2000s, where it is simply not feasible for me to read every new canon Star Wars book that comes out. For a while there I was keeping up, but I feel I must concede defeat earlier than my younger self might have: there are too many, and I am too old for all of this. I shall read the ones that my people say are must-reads and I will not let my OCD make me feel bad about it. DO YOU HEAR THAT, UNIVERSE? STOP KEEPING ME UP AT NIGHT WITH VISIONS OF FLOATING BOOK LISTS. I DO NOT NEED THIS POKEMON NONSENSE.
All that to say, Thrawn is one of the good ones.
Timothy Zahn famously started this whole Star Wars Extended Universe phenomenon back in 1992 with the publication of Heir to the Empire, an official continuation (in that it had Lucas’s blessing) of the story in the films. His trilogy introduced baddie Grand Admiral Thrawn, a brilliant strategist, who despite being an alien in a xenophobic environment, managed to crawl his way up the ranks of the Empire to be a thorn in our heroes’ sides. The Hand of Thrawn trilogy is gold-standard Star Wars, which is why so many people were upset when Disney garbage-chuted the whole thing. Sure, we were losing a bunch of worthless crap published just for the money, but we were also losing Thrawn, and Mara Jade (OMG PLEASE BRING HER BACK TOO).
But lo, there was much rejoicing when it was announced first, that Thrawn would be appearing in the third season of Star Wars: Rebels, and second, that Zahn would be returning to his first creation and bringing Thrawn back into the canon through an origin story novel.
And it ’twas good.
The best thing about Thrawn as a villain is that you kind of LIKE him, even as he’s fucking shit up for everyone else. He’s so smart and secretive, and he has that whole underdog thing going for him. He’s utterly captivating. Zahn makes the smart choice not to have Thrawn be the protagonist here. Instead, we see Thrawn’s rise through the Empire through two other characters’ eyes: Arihnda Pryce, an ambitious Lothal citizen, and cadet Eli Vanto, who acts as Thrawn’s translator, and later, his aide de camp. Thrawn’s always playing like five games at the same time, and it’s fun to see his plans play out.
I hope we get more canon Thrawn in the future, especially since the only thing I didn’t really like about this book is the ending, which felt much too abrupt and not wholly earned. Now please excuse me while I finally watch the third season of Rebels.