Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil – Review

iu-2In 1991, author Timothy Zahn created one of the most memorable Star Wars villains of all time in Heir to the Empire. Since that time, Thrawn has been made canon through the Star Wars Rebels television show and Zahn has been able to expand on our knowledge of the character through two new trilogies of books. Now, the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy reaches its epic conclusion with Lesser Evil.

The Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy has given readers one of the deepest studies of a Star Wars culture ever. Zahn has been able to expound on reader’s understanding of the Chiss in incredible ways and Lesser Evil adds even more. Reader’s will finally get the deep history of the Chiss Ascendancy, as well as the personal history of Thrawn himself. The amount of detail this race now has makes it the deepest and richest of all the Star Wars cultures.

Thrawn as a character has often been derided by some for being too “all knowing”, yet Zahn fully digs into his character in Lesser Evil to explain just what makes him special. Thrawn looks at facts as they are, not through any lens or ideology and because of this he is able to see things for what they are, not what he wants them to be. There is a fantastic conversation in the book that Thrawn has with Thalias that helps explain his reasoning,

“‘I don’t teach, but merely guide. Each person approaches problems differently. All I do is ask questions that set that person on their best path to the solution.’ ‘I see’, Thalias muttered. But only if that person was willing to put forth the effort to learn that path to logic and reason she suspected. Too many people, possibly even the majority of them, were all too content to let others do that thinking and analysis for them.”

It is Thrawn’s ability to put in the work of logical analysis, without preconceived notions that sets him apart. Later in the book Thrawn complains, “I’m was disappointed. People who can’t see things that are right in front of them…”. He is frustrated with people’s inability to objectively look at the facts and see what he sees.

This is why Thrawn can look at a piece of art and understand so much about a culture. He comes to that piece of art the same way he does to a conversation, to learn what is actually being said, not what he thinks is being said. Art is always saying something, the creator or author has something to share with their audience and Thrawn looks for the intent of that creator, not his interpretation. Because Thrawn is not looking at things through any certain lens, he’s able to parse what the artist is trying to say. And because an artist is a product of a culture, Thrawn can deduct from that artist much about the culture that produced the artist.

This theme of thinking for one’s self is further driven home through the addition of the Kilji, a race who claim to be enlightened. This enlightenment is seldom at the individual’s choice, often being forced on whole cultures by the Kilji. The leader of the Kilji illuminates their philosophy further, “All beings secretly dream of having someone to give them order and purpose, who will allow them to serve without the need for burdensome thought or uncertain decision. That is the enlightenment we offer.”

This idea is the ultimate extreme but it serves the point on how critical thought can be eroded when one stops approaching things from as clean a slate as possible, as Thrawn models. When politics clouds everything, when ideologies become all, clarity becomes obfuscated. This is what makes Thrawn special, he’s only bound to his desire to protect his people, that’s it, all else for him is open. This allows him to be able to truly listen to what is being said through art and conversation and see what’s right in front of him.

It cannot be overstated just how detailed this series has been in its plotting. Every single page is full of things that continually add to what is going on and therefore must be read with care. This makes the Thrawn Ascendancy series one of the best of all of Star Wars literature. Zahn put his heart and soul into this series, Lesser Evil is no exception. There is so much more that could be written about in this review but the book’s revelations are best experienced by reading the story for one’s self. Lesser Evil is rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Lesser Evil provided by Del Rey Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good – Review

Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

Thrawn has defeated Yiv the Benevolent and in the aftermath, the Chiss Expansionary Fleet roots out the leftover Nikardun nests. Unbeknownst to the Chiss, the phantom menace of Jixtus is secretly working to insight a civil war in the Ascendancy. Will Thrawn and his allies be able to decipher his plot and stop him in time?

Timothy Zahn is at the top of his game with the Thrawn Ascendancy series as the second book, Greater Good does not disappoint. He continues to flesh out the Chiss as a people, giving readers even more background and greater understanding of their civilization. Zahn has created one of the most fascinating Star Wars races with the complexity and nuance readers have come to expect from his writing.

Greater Good‘s theme is brilliantly topical. The villain Jixtus is working to destabilize the  Ascendancy by fueling a civil war. To do so, he is using the Chiss nature against itself by sowing seeds of emotionally-driven selfishness in a few of the members of the Forty Great Houses. The Forty Great Houses are the next level of Chiss society, right beneath the Nine Ruling Families. Individuals in a few of these houses are being manipulated emotionally to act in their own “interests” and the betterment of their house, blinded to the dangerous path they’ve set the Ascendancy on. Zahn shows how easy it is to emotionally manipulate people to segregate people along partisan lines, creating chaos for the whole of a society and destroying the greater good in the process.

Greater Good is the best of Star Wars literature, it is telling a story that feels familiar and new all as the same time. If you like the political intrigue of The Prequels or Game of Thrones, this series is perfect. Greater Good continues the story from Chaos Rising and sets up the final book in the trilogy brilliantly, leaving readers longing for the finale; it is rated 5 out of 5 stars!

This review was completed with a review copy of Greater Good from Del Rey Publishing.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Thrawn · Uncategorized

Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising – Review

iuIn 1991 author Timothy Zahn continued the Star Wars trilogy with his book, Heir to the Empire. The story was not only a continuation of our favorite characters’ stories but also an introduction to new characters. One of these creations has stood the test of time, having been adapted into canon by appearing in Star Wars Rebels and having his story continue in the literature. His name is Thrawn. This mysterious blue alien from the Chiss Ascendancy is finally getting his origin story in Zahn’s latest book, Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising.

The Book

The book is broken up into two different, alternating story lines. One is the “current” story of Senior Captain Thrawn and the second is the Memories section which tells us the history of Thrawn. The memories section also works to fill in the backstory for the relationships between the galactic powers inside the Chaos region of space, where the Ascendancy is located.

The absolute pleasure of this book comes in finally gaining an understanding of why Thrawn is the way he is. Getting to explore his history coming up in the Chiss military is fascinating and gives readers the fullest understanding of the character by letting us see his successes and, more importantly, his failures. Thrawn has always felt like the Sherlock Holmes of the Star Wars galaxy, but Zahn is not above showing readers hisblindspots. By alternating between the “past” and the “present”, the character of Thrawn comes to life in a way readers haven’t gotten to see before. Zahn gives us his motivations and worldview in the clearest possible way by having Thrawn tell, as well as show, what they are.

But this book is not just about Thrawn. It is about the Chiss Ascendancy as well. Fans have long wanted to know more about his power in the Unknown Regions and thankfully Zahn provides an opportunity to explore them. There is a richness to having this group fleshed out and developed as deeply as any race in the Star Wars galaxy. (I could spend the rest of the review diving into everything that’s revealed about Thrawn as well as the Chiss, but honestly it’s just more fun to experience it for yourself!).

Politics

Thrawn’s biggest blindspot has always been politics. Unfortunately for him, the Chiss Ascendancy is rife with politics at every level of life. Our current climates makes this a fitting theme to explore. We live in a time when politics inserts itself into every aspect of our lives. Watching Thrawn struggle with this reality mirrors the experience of many  in our world who also struggle to come to grips with this hyper-political existence.

In many ways Thrawn is not fully aware of the depth of the political wars raging behind the scenes as he works to quell the external threats to the Chiss. What will be interesting to see, as this new trilogy progresses, is if the political nature of Chiss life emerges as a detriment to them in their quest to keep themselves safe. Politics has a bad habit of clouding the most important issues because of partisan blinders. Chaos Rising clearly shows the danger of becoming myopic through the main antagonist’s end.

Conclusion

The start to this latest Thrawn trilogy is fantastic. Zahn finally gets to run wild with his creation by digging intothe Ascendancy as well as the title character. There is so much to love about the world building on display and about a story that’s only hindrance is the canon of where Thrawn will end up. Thankfully there is so much to play with, it makes the book feel fresh and new. Chaos Rising is rated 4.75 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Chaos Rising from Del Rey Publishing.

This review first appeared on The Star Wars Report.