By Timothy Zahn
When the Star Wars sequels were announced a world of fandom got very excited. What happened to Han Solo, Luke and Leia et al? Many Star Wars fans already had an inkling having read the many Star Wars tie in book that released from the early 90s onwards. However, like many a Star Wars film, there was a twist. These books were no longer going to be cannon. Those thousands of pages null, but why throw the blue baby out with the bath water? The blue baby being Thrawn, Timothy Zahn’s creation who proved the highlight for many. Enter Zahn’s new set of Thrawn books, but can the third outing, Thrawn: Treason, live up to the legacy?
Being part of the Imperial Army is no easy task, not only must you crush any rebellions, but you also need to walk the tightrope that is the internal politics. When the Emperor is your figurehead, one wrong word could lead to your death. Thrawn is a part of the Chiss Ascendancy, but also the Empire. To which is he most loyal? When the funding for his TIE defender programme comes under threat from the Death Star project, Thrawn and his crew must solve a mystery within the week or lose all their work. This task will lead him to working once more with the Chiss, but can Thrawn be trusted to do the right thing for the Empire?
Star Wars is a rich universe full of characters and stories. Thrawn’s legacy stands large over the now defunct series of books and it makes perfect sense to bring him back and even more sense to allow Zahn to continue the work. Treason is set far earlier than the original Thrawn series. Whilst that trio rewrote the events after The Return of the Jedi, here we are more in keeping with the events seen in Rogue One. With that in mind, we see a different side of Thrawn. One that is still ultimately in the servitude of the Emperor.
Under Zahn’s careful writing, Thrawn remains an intriguing character. His tactical intelligence is seemingly insurmountable. He has the unerring ability to judge someone just by their collection of art. What makes Treason so entertaining and the character so good is that these are not just quirks, but integral to the story. The best set piece in this novel surrounds Thrawn’s forces taking on those of an opposing Grand Admiral, whist Thrawn stands next to his opponent.
Books from the Imperial Army point of view are always very interesting as the internal politics really give every action an edge. Zahn is able to create some great tension by just having three or four officers in a room. The story is separate from the films, but interweaves seamlessly with them with a great cameo from Tarkin and the newer creation of Krennic.
Even though the politics is interesting, the book is at its best when the action hots up. There are some great set pieces in the book. The professionalism and cold nature of the Imperial Army actually adds to the impact that the battles have. They go about their task with little distraction and undertake Thrawn’s order to the letter.
Treason is part of an ongoing series of books and it does have that feel about it. As a standalone novel it entertains, but it does not have the impact of a The Last Command. Thrawn was originally a three and out character – burning brightly, but only briefly. By fleshing out the years before these books potentially reoccur you lose some of the magic. As this is one of the best characters to grace Star Wars, but not the films, it makes sense to do more with Thrawn. However, it feels a little like this book is filler and that with each passing novel the original legacy of Thrawn will diminish slightly.
There are a lot of action high points and intriguing political tightrope walks in Treason that will make it an entertaining read for any Star Wars fan. It is just not able to hold a candle to those early 90s books, but seeing as they are perhaps the best three Star Wars books all time – that is a big ask.
Written on 13th August 2019 by Sam Tyler .