So the big question: Is Thrawn’s origin story all it’s cracked up to be?
The fourth canon Thrawn book, probably Timothy Zahn’s seventh or ninth book overall depending on how your own point of view of course.
Does this book give us something fresh? Yes. Absolutely.
Is it full of Thrawn and his cunning calculating methodical ways? Yes.
Are there lots more Chiss and a greater explanation of his own culture? Also yes.
The chaos is a bit difficult to navigate but let’s do our best.
SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD!
Into the Unknown
The biggest thing that sets this book apart from the usual Star Wars fare is it takes place entirely in the Unknown Regions. It’s all about Thrawn, the Chiss Ascendancy, navigating The Chaos, and all the denizens within. That was definitely the hardest thing for me. It’s so unexplored that it almost doesn’t feel like Star Wars. The technology is different. No Jedi, or legends of Jedi. No recognizable alien species other than the Chiss. I do love when Star Wars gives us new things and broadens it’s horizons but normally there are a few touchstones to help guide us. In this book Thrawn and Aralani are the only recognizable thing. It definitely took me a while to adjust to this new area. Guess there’s a reason they call it the Unknown Regions amirite…
As the grand power in the story we get to explore a lot more of Chiss society in general. It’s a bit complicated with the families, and the Aristocra, and the military all having different hierarchies and systems of class and such. I definitely referred to that helpful tweet from Del Rey a few times.
So once again watching Thrawn and his military approach come together is great. I always love seeing Thrawn’s plans unfold along with the characters as we all are watching to see it come together. There are plenty of Thrawn moments where everything comes together nice and satisfying. It seems Thrawn’s allies, whether Imperial or Ascendancy, are pretty much the same amount of confused with his antics until they coalesce.
So as we have learned in previous Thrawn books, their navigators are young force sensitive girls called Sky-walkers. GET IT? Nice right? In this story we actually get to know a Sky-walker and her caretaker. We get a much deeper understanding of the roles they play and the hardships they encounter. I also found it fascinating to discover a bit about what happens when they “age out” of their powers. The Sky-walkers tend to lose their abilities in their early to mid teens. Thinking about how they are bred for a job that ends pretty early in life must be some tough stuff.
So while the Chiss are the power in the Chaos their greatest enemy seems to be themselves. They have ruling families and councils all vying for personal power or to bring their family more pull than the other families. It’s such a politic-ky thing that reflects a lot of the greed and corruption in our own systems when people put their own personal wealth/status/ or power above the interests of the society as a whole. I think there are some good lessons to be learned here. I also think it’s great that Thrawn seems to be uninterested in such things as greed and selfishness.
A small portion of the book touches upon some recognizable (to me anyway) parts of the Star Wars universe. It’s very slight but seeing some familiar Star Wars ephemera was comforting.
Bits and Pieces
All in all the book is interesting and hopefully sets the stage for the other two books to come. I’m thinking as the first book in a trilogy a lot of groundwork needs to be laid for some future payoffs. For Thrawn fans it’s probably a must read to get the full picture of his military origins and watching him become the Thrawn we know.
I’m curious to see where the rest of the trilogy takes us. I know I myself have a couple of questions I’d love to see answered about how Thrawn eventually comes to our side of the galaxy. Some of my favorite details were droids, Sy Bisti, Duja, nut-paste sandwich, Third Sight, the trials, and the creators’ market!