Thursday, 14 December 2017


He's back to terrorise the galaxy and its freedom fighting heroes anew with the latest and final season of the DISNEY XD Star Wars Rebels series. But let's find out more about this mysterious, unique alien strategist Grand Admiral who's in loyal service of the Empire, as his acclaimed creator in author Timothy Zahn brings us a masterly and efficient backstory like no other- Thrawn, now arriving in UK paperback from Arrow Books.

From his suspicious but inventive origins - seemingly 'discovered' by an Imperial squad in the mysterious Outland Regions - to his swift ascendancy, if rubbing his superiors and xenophobic elitist human colleagues up the wrong way at the Imperial Academy, during his early days 'discovering' both how the Galactic Empire works and the ways it can be used to his subtle benefit, soon sweeping his intimidating presence over officers primarily in their positions of powers via means of existing political/family dynasties, rather than showing any of the superior talents indeed possessed by Thrawn. Swiftly promoted for those 'talents' and his abilities as a tactician for combat and war strategies, the blue-skinned alien is recognised by the feared Emperor himself for his knowledge and his usefulness in a sector of space not yet explored and potentially dangerous to the stability of his realms of influence and control.

Yet such a being like Thrawn can' t survive, nor thrive, these early days without a friend, a guide and and ultimately, often, a decoy to be used in a friendly way as he rises the ranks. And that human/alien is Eli Vanto, at first an unwilling and wary translator to Thrawn, essentially one of the key people involved in his 'discovery', seemingly becoming a friend and confidante and recognizing faster than others the Chizz's true abilities. Or was it all a case of Thrawn letting him know his talents as and when needed? Is Vanto simply yet another tool, a pawn in Thraen's unique life goals- his masterplan?

At first feeling wasted in his new role alongside Thrawn, after years of limited career advancement seemingly stalled by the upper echelons, Vanto travels alongside Thrawn's personal journey to Star Destroyer officer and commander, as the book's second half deals with the Imperial hunt for elusive and smart smuggler insurgent known as Nightswan, soon proving himself a resourceful and equally matched opponent. Thrawn knows that if Nightswan can be found and his pirates eliminated, the final path to power in the Imperial Navy will be assured...

With the original twenty year Expanded Universe of comic/book fiction gone and reshaped from The Force Awakens onwards, author and Thrawn creator Timothy Zahn has to stay away from the tales and history previously concocted linking into what was is now an alternate sequel history post -ROTJ, as well as prior connections from the Prequels. Thankfully, though, the new Lucas books empire does at least respectfully allow him to recognise certain elements of Thrawn's once future background and especially a one-off past encounter with Anakin Skywalker, as seen in the memorable Outbound Flight - a scenario that will surely be crucial for his eventual meeting with Darth Vader in this book's upcoming 2018 sequel.

Governor Tarkin, the Emperor and now ISB Security Chief Admiral Yularen (the latter from The Clone Wars animated series originally and transplanted into Rebels) make effective appearances in Thrwan at strategically placed moments linked to the Thrawn's personal journey. The build-up to the Rebels timeline of which Zahn's plot and lead character now travels in ultimately proves well handled. Plus, there's mention of that mysterious top secret Imperial construction project underway, out in the deepest reaches of space, soon catching Thrawn's quiet attention...

Above them all, though, and obviously the star of the title, Thrawn, by hyperspace miles, remains one of the best non-Lucas created characters ever conceived for the STAR WARS universe, and this book effectively reminds us why this is so, and how blessed the fiction universe of Lucas Books is to have such a talented writer in Zahn still with them, always delivering solid books and page-turning adventures. The genesis of the character is fascinating and intriguing, especially in the aforementioned second half of the book, what with his command of the Expanded Universe Imperial cruiser Chimera, as well as showing us the original officers under his command, of which the inclusion of more female officers in the Empire and its vast Imperial navy is most noticeable here than ever, in sync with Kathleen Kennedy's plan to put more female roles into the saga in all its facets.

A key female player alongside Thrawn in the Rebels TV series, the soon-to-be Governor Pryce's origins are also revealed concurrently to Thrawn's and eventually converging, revealing her steady turn to the dark side over the years by revealing her mining world home of Lothal and the mining company her family once owned soon taken control of by a greedy and duplicitous Imperial officer and a corrupt senator, all of whom sow the seeds for her own entrance into the Empire and setting about her plans of revenge on them, and in taking control of Lothal, and its desperately needed minerals, for herself. I have to say that I personally would have preferred to have read the entire book just abut Thrawn, as Pryce's character, though fleshed out in a workman-like way beyond the boo-hiss cypher she is on television, ultimately proves less interesting and distracting.

AFICIONADO RATING: Thrawn fans and Rebels fans in particular will find this well worth the wait if they don't already have it in hardback. A book that carefully peels back the layers of the Chiss warrior, yet teasing us that there is still so much more to come with him... 4 out of 5

Get hold of the best-selling Thrawn, out now in paperback, here:

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