Thrawn by Timothy Zahn, Review by Corinne Donnelly
Timothy Zahn’s beloved creation, Thrawn, has returned to the Star Wars canon in his new novel by the same name. Thrawn spans the period of time between the character’s first encounter with Imperial forces up to his appointment as Grand Admiral. His tactical rise up the ranks of the Empire is witnessed by new character, Eli Vanto, Thrawn’s interpreter and aide, and Star Wars Rebels character, Arihnda Pryce, who embarks on her own ambitious path to power. While the plot occasionally suffers from an overabundance of villains, multiple points of view offer an intimate look into the lives of three fascinating characters.
Thrawn’s highly analytical narration sets him up as the Sherlock to Vanto’s Watson. Their interactions provide the most insightful moments in the narrative, particularly when Zahn highlights their similarities. While Arihnda Pryce narrates a third of the novel, her journey concentrates more on what occurs behind the scenes, so maintaining focus proves difficult at times. Nightswan, Thrawn’s main nemesis, adds a sense of mystery, but apart from a brilliant confrontation near the end, doesn’t provide much else.
The plot is highly episodic, jumping from mission to mission. Zahn navigates the timeline brilliantly, even while juggling multiple perspectives. Eli’s and Arihnda’s character growth, or decline, depending on one’s point of view, is the closest the reader gets to understanding how much time has passed. Thrawn’s determined personality and strong self of self remains static, but intrigues nonetheless as he reflects on his rapid promotion to Grand Admiral.
Where the beginning starts with a bang (quite literally), the middle sometimes feels like a slog, specifically when characters make detailed observations on mining procedures and trade. Zahn also waxes heavily on the Empire’s nepotism, which most readers are already well-versed in, so these sections tend to drag. The climactic and brutal last few chapters more than make up for the dull moments though.
Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn will satisfy new readers, as well as those who enjoyed his original trilogy. Zahn’s contributions to Star Wars have proven to be a force of nature, and will hopefully continue to impress as the new canon marches forward.