Warning: Minor spoilers ahead
It’s been an exciting few weeks for the Star Wars community. From the release of the Episode IX cast and the Clone Wars revival announcement, there’s a lot for fans to be hyped for. In fact, there’s so much going on, that the release of Timothy Zahn’s latest novel, Thrawn Alliances seems to have gone almost entirely under the radar. No doubt that I’m excited for what’s coming down the line, but as a die-hard Thrawn fan that’s waited over a year for this book, I’m quite happy living in the moment.
Serving as a sequel to both 2017’s Thrawn and the third season of Star Wars Rebels; this book fulfills every fanboy wish list by pairing the Chiss Grand Admiral with Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker in two separate stories. Both of which, build off each other and revolve around the duos matching wits and sharp sarcasm to solve disturbances near the unknown regions.
The best aspect of this book – and all of Zahn’s books in general – is the deep investment into characters personal beliefs and motivations. Not just the main characters but the supporting cast like Commodore Faro (Thrawn’s second in command) and Commander Kimmund (leader of Vader’s First Legion of Stormtroopers), have several chapters told from their perspectives. Which not only builds their characters but showcases the contrast between Thrawn and Vader’s leadership styles. Thrawn is patient, inquisitive, and seeks victory opposed to personal accomplishment, which reflects onto Faro; while Vader is brash, arrogant, and demanding, which is conveyed in his Stormtroopers. The differing points of view adds another layer to the plot as my opinion of each character’s role would constantly change by the chapter. At times, I found Vader to be too close-minded, but when presented with the sith lord’s perspective, I became more frustrated with Thrawn’s vague reasoning. It sparked a fun debate in my head while reading and by the end of the book, I didn’t see one character’s goals as superior to another’s, just different.
I found the plot to be equally compelling. Both stories set themselves up for big reveals and without giving away major spoilers, I’ll just say I found both extremely satisfying. As a Clone Wars fan, I gravitated a bit more to the Anakin and Thrawn story because it almost read as a script for the TV series. Its over-the-top action sequences and playful banter gave the plot a more light-hearted feeling compared to its counterpart. Zahn does an excellent job of taking the reader back to the Clone Wars era and gives us yet another reason to be overly hyped about the show’s return.
Padmé’s big role was a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one. We get a very intimate glimpse of the fan favorite character that previously hasn’t really been available in the current canon.
The arc touches on her past, changing outlook on the war, and her husband’s dark side tendencies. With Padmé getting her own novel next year, her story serves as a nice tease of what readers can expect.
I’ll come out and say that I really loved this book. Rating wise, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 with only a few complaints. The conversations between Thrawn and Darth Vader we so repetitive at times, that they reached a point of annoyance as the story progressed. There were also a few times where I couldn’t help but cringe at some of Vader’s dialogue. I know it can’t be easy writing a character that’s famous for lacking an expansive vocabulary, but his three-worded responses and demands made him sound like a four-year-old, who is upset that another child is infringing on his self-proclaimed property rights to a jungle gym. It was only a handful of lines and they didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story or Vader’s role in it, but I did have to take a couple breaks to laugh.
My only other complaint is that I wanted to see more of Thrawn’s bodyguard, Rukh. His interactions with Kimmund and his troops absolutely stole the show in the Thrawn and Vader arc. The Noghri’s role in the fourth season of Rebels was also a bit smaller than I liked, so understandably, I finished the book feeling a bit disappointed. Although, I suppose it’s always best to leave them wanting more.
As a post-millennial with ADHD, it would be an understatement to say that I struggle with reading, but I was hooked on this book after the prologue. Each chapter leaves you increasingly hungry for more. If you’re like me, you’ll power through it in a couple of days because you simply can’t put it down. The story offers a bit of everything with Clone Wars, Rebels, and legends references, making it easy to recommend to fans of all branches. I’ve loved everything Lucasfilm has done with Thrawn in canon and this book only increases my excitement for what’s to come