Author: Timothy Zahn
Title: Star Wars: Thrawn
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info: Del Rey Books, 2017
Grand Admiral Thrawn, the antagonist introduced into Star Wars literature in the now non-canonical Heir to the Empire, is reintroduced in this Disney canon novel. This story serves as something of an origin story, beginning with Thrawn being found by the Imperial Navy after apparently having been exiled his mysterious species of people, the Chiss Ascendancy. The novel depicts his rapid rise through the ranks in the years after the end of the Clone Wars. Thrawn is known for his brilliant observational and strategic skills, and throughout the novel the reader gets to see his internal monologue on how he unravels the words and mannerisms of others.
The novel is also told from the perspective of Eli Vanto, a young cadet from Wild Space who inadvertently becomes Thrawn’s translator and assistant. At first resentful of the interference in his own career path, Vanto grows to respect Thrawn and also rises in the hierarchy of the Imperial Navy. They have Holmes and Watson kind of relationship. In a parallel story, Arihnda Pryce rises to become governor of her homeworld Lothal through similar skills of cunning.
This novel is less war story or space opera and more a work of political intrigue. Zahn does a great job at taking these putative villains – Thrawn, Vanto, and Pryce – and making them captivating and even sympathetic characters. The audiobook has great production values and Thompson does great voicework, giving Thrawn the reserve of Anthony Hopkins and Vanto a Appalachian accent befitting his background in Wild Space. This is an excellent novel and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.