Any book with the Thrawn character in it deserves the highest interest and expectation. Not only did Timothy Zahn kickstarted the Expanded Universe with a trilogy including the character, but it has been a character strong enough to become part of the new canon with his appearance in Star Wars Rebels. Besides that, the Recent ’Thrawn’ book is one of the best books of the new canon, establishing the character in the new timeline.
’Thrawn: Alliances’ is a sequel set in two timelines. The first timeline shows the Chiss having to share a mission with Darth Vader in order to complete it. The second timeline shows a younger Thrawn unexpectedly helping General Skywalker during a mission in The Clone Wars. This dynamic, with Thrawn knowing Vader’s past as a Jedi, creates a strong power play that keeps developing throughout the story.
As with the ‘Thrawn’ novel, we see glimpses of the Chiss interpreting his surroundings and the reactions of other individuals. Similarly, the double vision that allows Vader/Anakin prepare his fight moves in the foreseeable future is an interesting touch that hasn’t been seen in any recent book. Each character tries to complement its abilities, but it gets complicated as they try to see if each other is truly loyal to Emperor Palpatine.
Even though each storyline works separately, they constantly link to each other. In both occasions, the mission eventually leads to Batuu, the land on which Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is based. The information known from The Clone Wars helps Thrawn and Vader to better face the unknown planet. These similarities keeps on going, which leads to a satisfying conclusion as unexpected as any deduction made from Thrawn.
The interactions between Thrawn and Vader shows that there’s still Anakin in the Sith. Each time Thrawn loosely mentions the fact that Vader and him worked together previously, Darth shuts him down. Vader doesn’t want to face the fact that he once was Anakin Skywalker. This internal conflict makes him a more compelling, less one dimensional character. Yes, Darth Vader is pure evil, but sometimes he wonders if he’s really just that.
One of the main characters is Padmé Amidala, which truly shines on the page. Several chapters are dedicated only to her whereabouts, while she tries to search for Anakin to help her. In many ways, the chapters dedicated to The Clone Wars could be an episode of the beloved series in its own right. The same happens with the Vader and Thrawn timeline, which could easily become another episode of Star Wars Rebels.
Of the main problems you might face during reading is the complexity of the mission. It is easier to follow a path when the story is told in one timeline, but when you need to understand two timelines then things get complicated. I had to read several times some pages and even listen the audiobook to make sure I was understanding all of it. The fight sequences are also hard to read because they also convey pieces of information necessary to the rest of the story. Many of these elements that were included in the first ‘Thrawn’ book and they didn’t affected my reading experience. This time it did due to constantly switching timelines. Still, Timothy Zahn makes a great effort to constantly remember some aspects of each mission and having smooth transitions between one timeline or another. But I can’t hide the fact that this jarring experience to pick up pieces of information affected my enjoyment of the story.
If ‘Thrawn’ became one of your favorite Star Wars books, ‘Thrawn: Alliances’ keeps up in tone and style with the first book. For someone who doesn’t enjoy action sequences and multi-threaded plots, you’ll have a harder time reading this book. The character development for Thrawn and Vader will keep you intrigued in their political feud as they try to complete their mission to please the Empire.