Review: Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn


Timothy Zahn’s return to Star Wars canon novels, Thrawn, is a great re-introduction to the character for those who don’t watch Star Wars Rebels.

It may seem shocking, but not all Star Wars fans consume all forms of Star Wars media. Beyond the movies, there once was a huge library of novels that filled in other parts of the galaxy. Indeed, there was one particular set of novels that introduced none other than Grand Admiral Thrawn, a brilliant Chiss tactician who wasn’t about to let the fall of the Empire stop him. But then Thrawn became non-canon when Disney took over … until he showed up in Star Wars Rebels.

Since Thrawn now exists in a slightly different part of the timeline, Timothy Zahn, his original creator, wrote a novel, Star Wars: Thrawn. Unsurprisingly, it’s dedicated to “All those who have wished for more stories of Grand Admiral Thrawn.” As someone who has actively wished for more stories of Grand Admiral Thrawn, Thrawn as a book satisfies.

Although it may be better-served for fans who also love Star Wars Rebels, it can easily spur those who haven’t seen the series to go check it out. For those who have, it fills out more of Thrawn’s character and story in a way that the series may not be able to. Overall, Thrawn gets 4/5 stars.

The Good

As per usual, Zahn pulls things together incredibly well. Even small details end up paying off in the long run of the plot. After all, Thrawn emphasizes “patterns and connections” throughout the novel. It makes perfect sense that a story that is partially told from his perspective would do the same. Even as you run through the quick-paced parts, the prose invites you to look deeper and try and see where the story is going. Paying attention comes with a reward, of course. (Yours truly closed the book and had to sit and just process for a minute, muttering to herself.)

The book uses three primary points of view: Eli Vanto, the young cadet who works his way up alongside Thrawn; Arihnda Pryce, whom Rebels fans will also recognize; and Thrawn himself. Vanto, in particular, will remind people of Gilad Pellaeon from the original Thrawn trilogy, and that isn’t a bad thing. However, he does have his own quirks, and he fills the role of “the human who explains Thrawn to the reader” very well. But even so, the novel mostly works when it lets us into the Grand Admiral’s head; each chapter starts with something from his perspective, meditating on things like war and the nature of allies.

But even as the novel has its subtleties and its intrigues, there’s also a healthy dose of action involved. Ultimately, the book feels balanced in its approach between the two, and that can be difficult to accomplish. But Thrawn was always more cerebral anyway, so it again works to have both.

Of course, there are also some nice touches for those who do recall the original adventures, Vanto aside. We won’t spoil them, but suffice it to say they exist.

The Not-So-Good

Although moving into Thrawn’s head mostly works, there are points where it doesn’t. In parts from his perspective, there are italicized portions that it seems we should read as his thoughts. Effectively, Thrawn narrates what other characters are doing. Though it works to help us understand what he’s using to make his determinations, and a reader will see how his actions change accordingly, it can become somewhat distracting. Indeed, it almost feels a bit overused, especially if you’re driven to read the book in long sittings instead of in smaller bits and pieces. (Let’s face it, you probably will. Zahn really does pull you back in.)

The Recommendation

Star Wars: Thrawn makes you want to see Star Wars Rebels if you haven’t already. It will also make you want more stories of Grand Admiral Thrawn, and is that really a bad thing? We think that the answer is no. Pick Thrawn up, even if you may not have enjoyed all of the new books so far. It certainly stands out.

Next: 21 Star Wars Books You Should Read

Star Wars: Thrawn is out now.