Ensigns, Governors, and Plots REVIEWING Thrawn #1

Welcome to The Real World According To Sam for another Force Friday review! Today we are talking about a canon novel I've been really excited to read. 

Thrawn #1

Author: Timothy Zahn
Genre: Science Fiction
Year: 2017

Thrawn #1


One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn's classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn's origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power -- and infamy. 

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and time again -- even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy. 

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire's grip on the galaxy -- and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy. 


Well that synopsis is a mouthful, isn't it? I'm going to preface this review by saying that I have not yet read Timothy Zahn's original Thrawn trilogy. My foray into the Legends EU timeline is still pretty new and I'm moving along through it, but it has definitely taken some time and...I'm just not there yet. That being said, my only experience with Thrawn as a character is the way he was portrayed in the animated series, Star Wars Rebels, and now, this book. That is my present frame of reference. 

This book shows how Thrawn became part of the Empire, worked his way up the ranks, and eventually became the nearly impossible to beat tactician that have seen him to be. It's written in third person and alternates between two different storylines that eventually converge. The first is Thrawn's story. It begins with him being stranded on a planet, causing trouble for the Empire. He's picked up and taken to the Emperor, who takes an interest in him and his abilities. Thrawn is then sent to an Imperial academy along with Eli Vanto, a guy who saw his career path going very differently. Eli Vanto works as a translator and aide to Thrawn. He also helps provide a human perspective to counter the alien qualities of Thrawn, particularly since we don't know very much about the Chiss (the alien group that Thrawn is part of) at this point.  

The second story told within this book focuses on Arihnda Pryce. Arihnda is a young woman from the planet, Lothal. Her family owns a mining business that the governor of Lothal, and the Empire, are both trying to get from them. Mining is a very lucrative business at this point and it brings in a fair amount of cash if the mine is successful. Hoping to get ahead instead of just being tossed aside or cheated out of the business, Arihnda and her family sell the mine, and Arihnda arranges a deal. She will be given a position on Coruscant, where big things happen. This isn't enough for her and eventually she makes plans to rise up in society. 

The chapters alternate between Thrawn and Arihnda, providing a rather zoomed out view of both events. As the book goes on, the stories knit tighter until they converge and the action focuses on a more centralized story towards the end. This story is told in 3rd person, so it is easy enough to jump between all of the characters involved and see the various things happening around them. 

The main characters in this book are Thrawn, Arihnda, and Ensign Vanto. We see Thrawn's experience in the Imperial Academy and his eventual missions as he climbs the ranks. Ensign Vanto ends up being along for the ride, so we also see his unexpected rise as his destiny connects more and more to Thrawn's. Arihnda's story appears to be very separate from Thrawn's, up until there becomes more Imperial involvement and political necessity where Lothal is concerned. Each of these characters is distinct. Thrawn still feels somewhat enigmatic, but it becomes easier to see his mental process. You can see how he comes to the conclusions he does, how he makes plans, and how he manages to be so successful. Ensign Vanto is not eager to be where he is at, but he is a relatively fast learner. He's always rather reluctant in his positions and he provides Thrawn insight regarding how other humans are reacting to his abilities. Vanto is a bit like a compass, helping Thrawn walk a thin line and providing an alternate perspective, while also being slightly clueless about how Thrawn operates until he spends more time with him. Ensign Vanto is basically our window frame that allows us to get to know Thrawn. Arihnda is ambitious and is always ready to shove herself into some kind of action. She is willing to sacrifice a lot about other people, so long as she gets ahead herself. She very much focuses on the what she can gain, regardless of what others may lose. She isn't a great character, but her role generally works. The best thing about Arihnda's presence in this book is that her story allows us to know how Lothal increased its Imperial presence over time. 

The story is rather straightforward once it gets rolling. Like I said, it is Thrawn's rise. He works to solve a mystery presented by a new enemy, while dealing with the difficulties that come with being a non-human within the Empire's ranks. This sense of other is a very interesting theme that Zahn explores, without it ever feeling overly heavy or intense. It doesn't slow the story down and only adds to getting to know Thrawn and the Empire better. The beginning is a little slow and it is hard to see where things will eventually add up, but they do. The best part of this book is seeing the little connections that tie into the bigger stories of Star Wars (ex: Lothal, Thrawn as an Imperial), and seeing Thrawn being tactical. His plans and reasoning are so interesting. In some regards, they are very Sherlockian, which is probably why I enjoyed this as much as I did. He makes some major deductions that are amusing once he lays them out. They're so clear and he sees patterns and potential patterns much faster than the people around him, which makes him a very valuable asset and a dangerous foe. 

I really enjoyed this book. As an introduction to Thrawn as a character, for new readers and newer Star Wars fans, this book works. It's simple, but it touches a lot of the points that make Star Wars so fun. It provides adventure, while also showing dastardly plots at work. It shows different perspectives than you would expect to get in a standard story (Imperial view instead of rebel). This book might not be as good for Star Wars fans who have been in the EU for a long time or who are already very familiar with Thrawn from the original trilogy that Zahn wrote. If you just want to see the rise, this will show it. It is a bit episodic in some ways, so that is worth noting. If you aren't into episodic moments of a character's life in books, you might not like this one. I give this book a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯✯. I liked getting to know Thrawn better, because I didn't know much about him. I'm really looking forward to reading the next two books in this series, the original trilogy in the Legends timeline, and the canon sequel trilogy now being released (Ascendancy). 

Star Wars Canon  
      Reading Order

 Queen's Peril
 Thrawn Ascendancy Trilogy
✅ Kanan
✅ Ahsoka
 Rebel Rising
✅ Thrawn #1
 A New Dawn
 Lost Stars

As of right now, here is my breakdown on the reading order. I'm not going to read Thrawn Ascendancy book 1 until I finish with this first Thrawn trilogy. Books 2 & 3 are not published yet, anyway. Any books I'm missing that occur earlier, I do not have access to yet, so I'm not reading them just yet, unfortunately. Rebel Rising and A New Dawn are not currently available as e-books at my local library and the libraries here are physically closed with no curbside at all, so it will be some time before I can read either of these novels. The library has physical copies, but there is no way for me to currently borrow them. The next canon novels I will be working on are Queen's Peril and Lost Stars. I apologize for things being out of the timeline order, but limitations for reviewers happen sometimes. I'll fill in the gaps when the chance arises.  

Thanks for joining me for today's Force Friday here at The Real World According to Sam, where I bring the books to your computer screen and even put in my two cents about them!