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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review: The Thrawn Trilogy

The Thrawn Trilogy is a series of Star Wars books written by acclaimed science fiction writer Timothy Zahn. It consists of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. It chronicles the
exploits of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and the rest of gang as they and their pals in the New Republic face off against a formidable Imperial Grand Admiral by the name of Thrawn. This Thrawn guy, he's the best military mind the Galactic Empire has. This blue-skinned blackguard is bent on restoring the Empire to its former glory and crushing the Rebellion at all costs. Aided by maniacal dark Jedi Joruus C'baoth, the loyal Captain Gilad Pellaeon, and a cadre of Noghri assassins, it looks like he might just succeed.

First off, I'll say that Zahn handles the characters pretty well. He expertly weaves them with the plot, showcasing mainstays such as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo alongside new characters such as Mara Jade and Talon Karrde. Speaking of the plot, Zahn's got a pretty good one going for him. The plot is, to say the least, engrossing, though I'll admit that it does have its troughs. For instance, the side adventure in the second book where Luke and Mara team up to rescue Karrde dragged on for a bit, seeming to serve little purpose in the narrative. Another plot tumor that I detected was the C-plot of Karrde attempting to unite the various disparate smuggling factions. I barely understood why this subplot was given any focus at all, and could hardly remember why Karrde was doing it. Suffice it to say, it played little of a role in the overall story, aside from something else to annoy Thrawn with.

Another thing that I had a problem with was some of the stylistic choices used by Zahn. In addition to constantly replacing the word "said" with words such as "countered" or "snorted" and even "cut off," Zahn also makes use of the following example of text frequently:

"She turned around-

And then saw what was really going on."

I'm just saying, it gets annoying after a while.

But to be fair, Zahn does accomplish what many other Star Wars authors have failed to do; making their books actually feel like Star Wars. Thrawn is a great villain too, even if his fate is a bit anticlimactic and he seems to be almost infallible. The other villain of the piece, Joruus C'baoth, is less fun to watch but equally interesting. What really gets this book going though is its portrayal of the character development of Mara Jade. While the other characters essentially don't change much, Mara Jade evidently transforms from bitter, hardened mercenary to cynical but determined woman, eventually becoming a full fledged hero in her own right. Even if the other characters don't seem to change much, they all learn something or other new. I'm mainly looking at Lando and Chewbacca, who are little more than satellites to the main characters, but Zahn manages to give them a life of all their own. He does this to nearly all of the characters in fact, from Thrawn himself down to Karrde's aide Aves. All in all, I see that this trilogy is called the cornerstone of the Star Wars Expanded Universe for a reason, and I happily recommend it as one of the better examples of Star Wars literature out there.

RATING: 8/10

Image courtesy of amazon.com