Review: Thrawn Treason

Thrawn may be one of the most compelling and terrifying villains in all of the EU and any other part of the Star Wars verse. Only in the last few years were we fans lucky enough to reap the benefits of Timothy Zahn’s genius as he returns to the incomparable “Grand Admiral Thrawn.” The two books before “Treason” chronologically begin Thrawn’s journey into the “Empire”. We watch him rise in the ranks and the obstacles he has to overcome to reign higher than any other alien in the ranks of the Empire.

The road to this final book was spent on the edge, including an entire story featuring Vader/Anakin Skywalker. They discovered a force that threatened both the “Chiss Ascendancy” and the “Empire”.  Sent by Emperor Palpatine himself the entire book featured a terrifying tension between Vader and Thrawn.  The end result was an impressive conclusion about this new foe. The verdict was still out on whether or not Vader trusted Thrawn, or even if the Emperor himself did, but the story left a very open-ended concern for this little known species “The Grysk’s.”

“I’m talking about the fact that Stardust is doomed.”

thrawnWe now come to “Treason” the third installment from Zahn with Thrawn coming to face these mysterious aliens. The title is clever in not just the question of Thrawn’s allegiance, but also several other characters that are introduced or brought back into the mix. Thrawn told Emperor Palpatine the first time he met him, “If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.” Up to the point of this book we have watched Thrawn toe the line. In Treason Thrawn’s loyalty is put to the ultimate test.

We are immediately thrown into the frying pan as Thrawn is tasked by Grand Moff Tarkin to defend his TIE Defender program against Director Krennic.  Krennic’s program has been devouring all of the Empire’s resources into his great weapons program: Stardust. Or, what the rest of us know as “The Death Star”.  You probably know how that tale ends, but that doesn’t diminish it’s importance here.  It’s relevance plays an important role in Thrawn’s position during the rebellion.

“It is said that one should keep one’s allies within view, and one’s enemies within reach.”

As political maneuvering often goes Tarkin has another reason for the meeting between Thrawn, Krennic and Grand Admiral Savit, who is Commander of the Third Fleet. They all meet with a holographic Palpatine.  The Emperor demands several problems to be resolved, starting with progress on Stardust. Krennic explains the reason for delays is because the supply line has been significantly hindered by grallocs.  These space vermin are larger cousins of mynocks.  And more destructive.  The challenge is appointed to Thrawn. If he can solve the “gralloc” problem within one week, he will secure his funding for his Defender program. Thrawn agrees with not surprisingly, his own agenda.

thrawnWith the hopes of Thrawn failing, so he doesn’t lose any of his funding, Krennic insists on his Assistant Director Ronan to keep an eye on things and report back on progress. Ronan is a slimy, sneaky political type. His allegiance is only to Krennic and has no problem being a thorn in Thrawn’s side. Even if that means giving him misinformation and occasionally getting in his way.

“One may learn a great deal of a people by the stories they tell of others.”

Thrawn quickly discovers the grallocs aren’t the real cause of the problems with the supply line, it’s a deception behind something bigger. Yes, a conspiracy thwarting the Empire’s greatest endeavor so far. The theft of these shipments leads Thrawn into what he and Vader learned in “Alliances” to be possible interference by “The Grysk’s” even though it seemed it began as simple piracy.

“But the Grysks…three can command a nation. A hundred can rule an entire world. Billions of beings, their hearts and souls broken, ready to fight and die at the order of a handful of aliens. No resistance, no revolt, no dissent, no hope.”

In the midst of this discovery Thrawn runs into Admiral Ar’alani of the Chiss Ascendancy and his former protégé Eli Vanto. Admiral Ar‘alani is not happy with Thrawn’s interferance, but realize they must work together to defeat “The Grysk”.

The return of Eli Vanto is most enjoyable. Even though his interaction with Thrawn is minimal (as even he often notes) he brings us to one of the more tense twists in the plot.  He and Ronan are accompanied by some of Thrawn’s “Death Troopers” in a secret mission to help unfold the mystery of who was behind the theft in the first place.  This adventure is one of the more fun bits of the story.  It’s also a great reveal of how capable Eli has actually become.

“All strive for victory. But not all understand what it truly is.”

You don’t receive the same kind of mystery and suspense you get from your typical science fiction novel here. Thrawn plays every beat calmly, coolly, and with anticipation for twenty moves in each direction. You can’t always predict which way the story goes and you aren’t supposed to.  It’s fascinating watching him unravel things from the eyes of his subordinates, peers, and enemies.  You wouldn’t think reading about a chess match would be interesting.  You’d be wrong.  Zahn gives you very little and yet a very vivid picture.

thrawnCommander Faro may have been my favorite character in this trilogy. We see Thrawn best through her eyes and her reactions.  But we also are present in her thoughts as she works things out and learns on her own. She is indeed one of Thrawn’s greatest protege’s.  Through Faro you understand why his crew is so loyal to him and each other.  They don’t have to understand why he makes the decisions he does, they trust and respect him enough to follow his orders.  Even when seeds of deception are planted to sway Faro, she is loyal to Thrawn and her post without question.

“I wished for a better view of the coming battle.”

This was my favorite book of the trilogy. There was everything a girl can hope for in a character driven, thought provoking science fiction story. The twisted politics, threat of an unknown enemy, mystery, adventure and even some serious space battle action is second to none.  All the while you are unsure if Thrawn has categorically worked this all out ahead of time. It’s a true joy to see him undermine everyone around him who thinks THEY have it all worked out. His enemies underestimation costs them a great deal.

“Treason” was a dynamic and exciting way to end this trilogy. After the building of the first book, and the crazy tension from “Alliance” this was the payoff we needed and deserved. You know you’ve had a great experience when you close and book and want to turn the pages right back to the start so you can have that same experience again. Timothy Zahn is magical and Thrawn is one bad, bad dude. I sincerely loved this book.

4.5 stars

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