One of my favorite characters in Star Wars Rebels is Thrawn, so this book was on my reading list for quite a while. I preferred reading it after watching all the series to see how much it would inform the series. This character centric story is everything you might expect and more for a compelling villain that has reappeared after being one of the main characters of the trilogy that kicked of the Expanded Universe books (now Legends).
Thrawn by Timothy Zahn tells the story of the blue skinned Chiss as he slowly ranks up in the Imperial Academy and beyond. Every chapter builds up the character and moves the plot forward, giving intricate details of the character that are relevant in the book. Thrawn is the most empathetic villain I’ve ever read in the Star Wars books, giving more context to its decisions. Timothy Zahn takes his time to develop how Thrawn obsesses over small details to set up the tactical plans that made him Grand Admiral. The descriptions of how he interprets body language and art give a glimpse of the character in Rebels. I was always curious if Thrawn in the series collected art just because he was powerful enough to acquire it. When the novel explains how he can analyze the culture of a planet just by the art, you understand why he is so passionate about art.
While Thrawn slowly goes up the ranks of the Empire, we see a young Ahrinda Pryce trying to find her place in the galaxy after the political attack that took over her family’s mining facilities of Lothal. This story is as intriguing as Thrawn’s, sometimes even more interesting. Her struggles and feelings are developed to make us care about her. Pryce is trying to gain power as much as Thrawn’s but in the political world. It balances both characters really well and it explains why they have a mutual business relationship during Star Wars Rebels. Thrawn’s lack of knowledge about politics balances out with Pryce’s need of military power.
Other surprising character to appear was Colonel Yularen, which took me a while to remember his importance in The Clone Wars series. This is a light connection to other canon stories that doesn’t intrude nor it makes the world seem smaller. It makes sense that, as Thrawn ranks up, he meets a veteran of the Clone Wars.
Even though the novel is character centric, it has enough action in between. We see how Thrawn handles different missions, sometimes not understanding his decisions until the very end. That keeps you engaged in such a way that you just want to keep reading. There’s a moment when you think the story plateaus because of the several missions that happen one after the other, but the payoff at the end makes you understand why these missions are relevant to the story. Thrawn’s obsessions with Nightswan, an unknown bounty hunter, leads him slowly to find out who this character really is.
Overall, I can’t explain how good this book is. If you’ve enjoyed Thrawn in Rebels, this book will develop the character in such a way you’ll want to watch the series again. I haven’t read the classic Thrawn trilogy, but it will sure be in my reading list after enjoying this one so much. Take this book as soon as you can. A sequel, Thrawn Alliances, will be released soon. So if you’ve only read action packed Star Wars novels, take this book to deepen your toes in more character based stories.