Friday, December 16, 2016

Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn



In honor of the release of Star Wars: Rogue One, I felt it was only fitting to review something Star Wars related. Last year, after The Force Awakens hit theaters, I was on a Star Wars high. I was eager to see more of the story and that's when I remembered the Star Wars EU. I've never really looked into it until now and I'm so glad I started here. If anyone is looking to dip there toes into the EU, this is definitely the place to start.

This trilogy takes place a couple years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The New Republic has been formed, Han and Leia are married and are expecting twins, and Luke is just starting to take steps to rebuilding the Jedi Order by training Leia in the ways of the Force. But the remnants of the Empire still linger and are causing problems for the delicately established New Republic. Among them is one of the Empire's last surviving Grand Admirals, Thrawn. Our three favorite heroes must band together to stop the menace that Thrawn brings to the Republic before the world they worked and sacrificed so much to build falls to ruin.

It didn't take long for me to realize that Mr. Zahn here is a darn good writer and that he really does care about the Star Wars movies and the mythos that surrounds it. He captures the personalities of all these characters just perfectly and it's incredible. Back in my fan fiction days, I read many stories where people try to capture the exact personalities of already existing characters. It's hard to do and not easily done. It's too easy for a writer to take a character that isn't their own creation and make them do things they want to do as opposed to what they really would do. Here, however, the characters really feel like the original characters. Luke seems like Luke, Han seems like Han, heck, even R2D2 and C3PO (whose names are spelled out as Artoo and Threepio in the book, I never realized that) are perfectly in character. It really contributes to the feeling that this is, indeed, another Star Wars story and it's just great.

While the preexisting characters are done perfectly, they're complimented by some really awesome original characters of Zahn's own design. Grand Admiral Thrawn is an amazing villain. He's utterly brilliant and has a love for high art. By studying the art of an existing race or even the artist themselves, he can perfectly predict their movements and foresee his opponent's strategies. The interesting thing about Thrawn is that he's an alien, a Chiss to be exact. If you go back to the movies and take a close look at the Imperials, you'll notice that they are predominately human. That's because our old friend Palpatine, on top of being a genocidal maniac, was also a bit of a racist. For an alien like Thrawn to rise to the highest possible rank in the Empire despite the fact that almost no other aliens have gotten close, really speaks to Thrawn's talents. He's also a really good leader. His men have a lot of respect for him and he puts up a dang good fight against our heroes, bringing a real sense of threat to the plot whenever he shows up, he's fantastic.

The other noticeable addition to the story is that of Mara Jade. She's got to be one of the best female characters I've read in a long time, and seeing as a lot of the books I've read over the past few months have had "strong female protagonists", that's saying something. She also has a very interesting backstory with strong ties to the Empire, but Thrawn leaves her rather cold. Her life is made no easier when she spends most of the trilogy in close proximity to Luke, whom she's sworn to kill but can't seem to manage it. She's smart and cunning and just a ton of fun to read about, I liked her a lot. Throw in some other great additions like the smuggler Talon Karrde, the treacherous Bothan Borsk Fey'lya, an unstable Dark Jedi, and a clan of Vadar-worshiping aliens called the Noghri and the book just comes alive. The entire cast is just phenomenal, a perfect blend of old favorites and new stand outs.

If I had to find any problem with these, and I'm really digging to find anything wrong with them at all, is that the tech descriptions and battle strategy scenes can drag on. For a true sci-fi fan, this won't be a problem at all, but for the "D in high school science class" readers like myself, it kind of went over my head. Then again, that's not really a flaw either, as it speaks to Zahn's intelligence and how much time and energy went into making sure every detail to these was handled perfectly. Then again, there is the fact that most of the scenes with the Imperials are written from the perspective of Captain Gilad Pellaeon, when I'd much rather read from Thrawn himself. Pellaeon just kind of stands by and admire's Thrawn's work to the point where I'd swear he was gathering up the courage to ask Thrawn out. Again, this is nitpicking to the highest degree so take it for what it's worth.

Final Verdict
If you're a Star Wars fan looking for something that perfectly embodies the spirit of the original movies, these books are for you, no question. There's action, intrigue, adventure, danger, escapes, everything that we've come to expect with Star Wars. Therefore it is with great honor that I announce that the Thrawn Trilogy is going straight onto the Shelf of Recommendation! The Force is definitely strong with this one.

Have you read the books? What did you think? Anything else in the Star Wars EU that I should check out? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next Time: You won't catch this Snow Queen singing "Let It Go"....

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