“There are things in the universe that are simply and purely evil. A warrior does not seek to understand them, or to compromise with them. He seeks only to obliterate them.”
Two months ago, I was introduced into watching Star Wars: Rebels by a dear friend of mine. And now after finishing the third season, I am proudly and unabashedly pleased to say two things: one, I cannot wait for Season Four.
And two, Grand Admiral Thrawn is my most favorite Star Wars villain right after Darth Vader. Yeah, that much.
And can you blame me? Unlike Darth Vader, whose villainous nature is displayed by how he destroyed anything and everything in his path like a monstrous beast, Thrawn is more subtle. He’s not just an ominous design and iconic voice, but a tactical psychopath who’d put Moriarty in his place. Grand Admiral Thrawn is a monster whose villainous nature comes from how composed and calculating he faces obstacles. He’s quiet, unnerving, relentless in his tasks, but does so by slowly weaving his actions and words around his enemies. Through understanding his enemies and allies, he weaves you in a tight web like an elegant, poisonous spider.
Just listen to this and tell me you don’t have chills:
Now with Disney’s claws on the franchise, one would assume they’d have done everything to distance themselves from plotlines and characters associated with the Expanded Universe. Thankfully, they decided to canonically reintroduce our favorite blue admiral by making him the latest villain of Rebels, and now this novel.
Set before the events of the original trilogy and Rebels, the novels begins in the Unknown Regions with Imperial soldiers rescuing an exiled Chiss named Mitth’raw’nuruodo ( or Thrawn for short) on a desolate planet. His insight and tactics surprise and impress everyone, especially Emperor Palpatine who seeks to use him in serving his Galactic Empire despite not knowing his true intentions. With the help of his translator/reluctant aid, a human ensign named Eli Vanto, we watch how this mysterious human-like creature with ingenious prowess and regal ruthlessness dredges through Imperial bureaucracy to become one of the most feared and respected villains in the Star Wars universe.
So what do I think Timothy Zahn’s “Thrawn”?
On the one hand, after witnessing the fifty shades of intimidating, calculating awesomeness that is the Grand Admiral, a huge part of me really didn’t want me to know everything about him, mainly because of this one really good argument.
While discussing our thoughts with one another on the new movies, a college acquaintance of mine once said Disney shouldn’t make a Han Solo movie because, the reason many find him so popular is because we don’t know his backstory. His charisma comes from the fact that his origins are a mystery and that fans could make their own conclusions.
The same could be said for Thrawn. He is such a fantastic villain, the way he is always thinking above and beyond while being confident without showing off. You assume you couldn’t, and didn’t even need to explore his backstory, but his creator did, and I was still wary. However, I must say I was not disappointed.
We see the origins of how a villain who has a simple goal will do anything and everything to achieve it, as well as the ramifications and consequences that come from his actions. We see how Thrawn’s journey to the title of Grand Admiral affects everyone around him, from simple cadets who resent nonhumans to an entire tribe losing its land and legacy. Even Eli Vanto isn’t safe from it, losing his chances for a quiet life to instead learn as Thrawn’s aid. Even so, you must admire the subtle relationship that grows between him and the soon-to-be-admiral, and how they form a bizarre friendship over their desire to protect from corruption, suffering, and chaos by doing what is best for their Galactic Empire.
Thrawn is not the only Star Wars characters given time to develop. Remember Governor Pryce? That stuck-up woman who always accompanied Thrawn by Lothal in Rebels? She’s in this too, and we focus on her backstory like Thrawn. Really, it’s great to see people you didn’t think twice about in the TV show and suddenly know who they are and why they’re here. Her character arc of how she became Governor is especially tragic, to see an ambitious woman work through the system by choosing between power and authority over friends and loved ones.
It makes me wonder if they’ll ever focus on it with Season Four coming up?
If there were any pet peeves for me (outside of the cliffhanger involving Vanto and his role in Thrawn’s plan), it’s be a couple of things, one of them involving the editing. Timothy Zahn’s narrative at times doesn’t focus on certain scenes at certain times, and only explains what happened as an afterthought rather than as an engaging scene. For example, there’s a part where Thrawn is investigating at a dojo, and spars with a Togorian (?) instructor, and I was excited to see it.
Until we suddenly cut to what happens after the spar, with the instructor and Thrawn congratulating each other on their techniques. What the hell? We have an opportunity to see Thrawn against a trained fighter. Instead it was cut for no reason. There’s more like this, especially in space battles where we should get clearer pictures of what’s happening. I am not asking for any imagery porn, but it’d be nice to see more occasional descriptions.
I dunno, maybe I’m nitpicky. Overall, as Star Wars books go, this is worth your money and your fanboying. While it isn’t something big or epic like the trilogies, it isn’t supposed to be. It’s a simple journey of one of the galaxy’s greatest villains and how he came to power. And as far as these types of stories go, it’s done greatly. The motivation for Thrawn is brilliant, his character is eerily awesome, the writing is standard (in a good way), and seeing his assistant grow alongside his superior as well is engaging.
Still, am I just being nice to this book because I am still on the high of Star Wars: Rebels? Well, to quote our Grand Admiral, “Perhaps, perhaps not.”
You can purchase the novel here: https://amzn.to/2M74sye
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