The world waits for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Will it be good? Will it erase the memory of The Phantom Menace? Based on the previews I’ve seen, it’s going to be awesome. What if you just need more Star Wars? There is another option. Reading!
I recently finished reading Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. Published in the early 90’s, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command tell the tale of what happens to Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie and the Rebel Alliance five years after the battle of Endor. This use to be part of the official Star Wars Expanded Universe, which meant everything in these books connected with the stories we saw in the Episodes IV-VI. But when Disney bought Lucasfilm they scrapped this version of the Expanded Universe, rebranding books like the Thrawn Trilogy in a new series called Legends.
The Imperials have regrouped under the command of Grand Admiral Thrawn. He has brought order to the chaos of defeat and he is planning to strengthen the Imperials and destroy the ‘Rebels’ as he refers to the newly established New Republic.
Luke Skywalker wakes up on Coruscant. His sister, Princess Leia, is pregnant with twins, and just beginning to master her Jedi powers. Leia is bogged down in government duties as the fragile New Republic aims to grow what they have won and maintain their control in the galaxy.
Meanwhile, Grand Admiral Thrawn has set in motion a plan that could destroy everything that has been achieved by the New Republic. His first act is to enlist the help of a cloned version of a long dead Dark Jedi Master, Jorrus C’Baoth. Luke Skywalker has become famous for his defeat of Darth Vader and the Emperor. His power is growing, and to take him out of the equation, Thrawn believes that C’Baoth is the answer. Jorrus C’Baoth also protects Emperor Palpatine’s last cloning facility. This is what Thrawn needs the most. More soldiers to fight in his war against the New Republic. C’Baoth wants to rebuild the Jedi Order with Luke, Leia, and her unborn children.
Heir to the Empire brings all the past Star Wars characters to life and expands on what we know. Zahn does a great job fleshing out the characters like Han Solo who has gone from smuggler to general and now father. We also get a chance to see the family relationship develop between Luke, Leia, and Han. Even Lando Calrissian comes back into the story to help.
We also get a chance to meet characters that will have a great influence on how the future of this line of Star Wars history develops. We meet a smuggler named Talon Karrde who may end up being a friend and the former Emperor’s Hand, Mara Jade. She wants nothing more than to kill Luke Skywalker for taking the Emperor away from her. Or it just might be the work of Emperor Palpatine controlling her.
The action is exciting, but what I didn’t like was the countless pages about the intricacies of the politics in the New Republic. Yes I get it, politics can be more dangerous than the battlefield, but the framing of Admiral Ackbar could have been shortened down.
The story ends with the New Republic knowing they have stopped Grand Admiral Thrawn for now.
Dark Force Rising does an admirable job of maintaining the action started in Heir to the Empire, while telling a separate story that connects to the whole series. This book has a lot happening. Everything from Luke Skywalker meeting with the insane Jorrus C’Baoth in hopes he could save him and work together in rebuilding the Jedi Order, to Han and Lando tracking down a possible corrupt Senator.
Leia leaves with Chewie and C3PO for the planet Honoghr where she hopes to negotiate with the Noghri people after promising to do so with a captured assassin in Heir to the Empire. There is a great chapter where Leia waits in orbit of Endor for her escort to Honoghr, and they fly through the area where the Death Star blew up in Return of the Jedi. The evil of Palpatine is still evident so many years later, and it sends a chill down your spine.
The real focus of Dark Force Rising is that Thrawn’s empire is growing and gaining more ships and winning more battles against the New Republic. A lost fleet of ships, the Katana Fleet or Dark Force is sought by the Imperials and the New Republic.
Talon Karrde and his crew including Mara Jade end up helping the New Republic in their battle for possession of the Dark Force ships. Thrawn has captured most of the fleet but this last battle between Thrawn and the New Republic allows us to see new characters like Karrde and Corellian Senator Garm Bel Iblis join the struggling Republic ships and save the day.
Though he doesn’t get all the ships from the Dark Force, Thrawn gets most. It is Luke and Han who determine how he will be able to crew these massive ships. Storm troopers are revealed to be clones, and the members of the New Republic are worried about their future.
The New Republic is in trouble. Grand Admiral Thrawn is no longer a nuisance, but a threat to the victory that was gained at the defeat of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker is pursuing a lead to find the cloning facility being used by Thrawn.
Talon Karrde is favoring a relationship with the New Republic and sees the danger that a new Empire would be under Grand Admiral Thrawn. While fighting political intrigue on Coruscant, Princess Leia goes into labor and delivers twins, Jaina and Jacen.
Jorrus C’Baoth is angry with the deal he made with Thrawn and is actively seeking out Luke, Leia, and now the Force sensitive twins, Jaina and Jacen. The Last Command seemed to move pretty fast.
There is a lot of action in this book, with the characters flying all over the galaxy. Talon Karrde proves to be a very likable character, you want him to be successful and to join the New Republic. In no time I was breezing through the pages watching as Luke, Han, Chewie, and Lando head off with Mara Jade to where the Empire’s cloning facility is hidden. Since Mara Jade was the Emperor’s Hand, she was privileged to secret information. But, it’s a trap. Jorrus C’Baoth waits.
The story ends quickly. Luke and Mara are forced into a battle to the amusement of C’Baoth. Leia arrives with Talon Karrde and together the band of heroes’ that we have followed since 1977 save the day and escape.
My Final Verdict
This is a fantastic storyline that many Star Wars fans hoped would be the basis for the new Star Wars movies. But, based on everything that has been learned about The Force Awakens, the Thrawn storyline has nothing to do with the new movies.
I personally enjoyed every one of these books. You get to see your favorite characters and you get to meet new ones that will build a fantastic story line for the galaxy that is far far away. How the super genius Grand Admiral Thrawn is defeated is perfect. Thrawn is brilliant, but his defeat is something that even he could not anticipate.
I look forward to seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Friday night and every other sequel and anthology film to come. But there is a whole other timeline to explore, and I suggest you check it out with these books. Hopefully one day we can see some version of Grand Admiral Thrawn onscreen. At least we have him in book form.