For over forty years of Star Wars media, it’s been hammered into our heads that the Rebel Alliance is “Good” and the Galactic Empire is made up of “The Bad Guys.” That’s why it’s a tricky feat to make Imperial officers and soldiers relatable or– especially– sympathetic as protagonists. But celebrated author Timothy Zahn (writer of 1991’s Expanded Universe-defining Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, among others) has done so admirably– no pun intended– with his recent and now-complete Thrawn trilogy.
Star Wars: Thrawn – Treason, the third book in this series, is an ideal way to wrap up this current-canon story of Grand Admiral Thrawn– AKA the enigmatic and brilliant Chiss warrior Mitth’raw’nuruodo– which Zahn does by skillfully and thankfully doing away with the structural crutches that made the previous two entries a bit overly repetitive, as entertaining as they were. Gone are the episodic rise-through-the-ranks historical accounts of 2017’s Star Wars: Thrawn and the plodding prequel-era flashbacks of last year’s Star Wars: Thrawn – Alliances, and in their place is a very welcome straightforward narrative mixing engaging political intrigue with good old fashioned space battles.
As others have observed before, the character of Grand Admiral Thrawn is the Star Wars equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, and it’s nice to see him reunited– however briefly– with his Dr. Watson, the former commander of the Imperial navy Eli Vanto, now serving as a number-crunching military and strategic advisor to the Chiss Ascendency, one of the many elements of this story that hint at the possible meaning of its title. Yes, Thrawn and Vanto are working with the Chiss, but Emperor Palpatine is aware and it may very well be all part of his Grand Scheme.
You see, Star Wars: Thrawn – Treason takes places after the other two novels but also between two very specific episodes of the Disney XD animated series Star Wars Rebels— namely the season four installments “Rebel Assault” and “Jedi Night.” The book begins and ends with such precise references to the events of that critically acclaimed cartoon that those setups and antecedents may make little sense to anyone unfamiliar with the show, but the remainder of the plot is easy enough to follow without a tremendous amount of foreknowledge.
Grand Admiral Thrawn is called in by a cadre of Imperial higher-ups, notably the always-butting-heads Grand Moff Tarkin and Director Krennic (see also Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) to perform a somewhat menial task– it seems a creature related to the power-sucking mynocks seen pestering the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back are causing a nuisance at one of the Empire’s waystations servicing the construction of Project Stardust– more commonly known as the Death Star.
Naturally, Thrawn uses this inglorious undertaking as a jumping-off point to uncover not only a potential invasion of Imperial space by an alien species known as the Grysk, but also a threat growing within the Empire itself– there’s another hint at the meaning of the novel’s title. Along the way we meet Zahn’s take on Inspector Lestrade: the surly Colonel Ronan working under Krennic’s Advance Weapons Research division, who is assigned to monitor Thrawn’s progress, plus several strong, intelligent female military officers and navigators in the Imperial and Chiss militaries, and (perhaps best of all) Zahn’s newest allusory creation, a secret agent for Imperial Intelligence named Dayja who’s basically a Star Wars take on James Bond. It would be great to see more of that last new character in future ancillary material– maybe even a movie or television series– set in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.
The only issue I have with Star Wars: Thrawn – Treason is that we, the readers, know the Grysk don’t play a major role in the ongoing saga for at least the following thirty or forty years in the timeline, so that particular threat never feels very… well, threatening. I also missed Thrawn’s personal Noghri bodyguard Rukh, whose story gets wrapped up in Rebels but whose absence is glaring here after he played such a key role in Alliances. What work perfectly, however, are the peeks at the inner workings of both Imperial and Chiss combat procedures. Anyone wanting more of an insight as to how Thrawn plans out and follows through in his space battles will inarguably get what they’re looking for in this novel.
Ultimately, Timothy Zahn still reigns supreme as the prime example of Star Wars literary authors, perhaps alongside Lucasfilm Publishing’s more recent addition Claudia Gray (Star Wars: Bloodline) who also regularly knocks these stories out of the park. Star Wars: Thrawn – Treason is an intriguing mystery, a fun adventure, and an action-packed war story. But where does Thrawn wind up after the Rebels series finale? That thread has yet to be picked up in any Star Wars media on the big or small screens or even in the written word, but when it is eventually followed up on, I truly hope Zahn has a hand in making it happen.
Star Wars: Thrawn – Treason is available now wherever books are sold.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general since a very young age and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.