Timothy Zahn’s ‘Thrawn’ is The New Gold Standard for Star Wars Fiction

When author Claudia Gray was introduced to Star Wars fans with Lost Stars, followed by her Leia-centric novel Bloodline, I said that she was on her way to becoming the new Timothy Zahn of the Disney/LFL canon. Make no mistake, Gray is an amazing author and one of my favorites in the franchise – but it seems I may have spoken too soon. Another author has entered the ranks of Star Wars canon authors and has proven that he has no intention of getting replaced any time soon.



Timothy Zahn is back. As upcoming Star Wars authors continue to write great stories and make a name for themselves, Zahn reminds us with his latest novel Thrawn why his works are the gold standard for Star Wars fiction, and I for one am overjoyed that he is getting the platform he deserves to grace us with his captivating stories and brilliant characterizations.


author Timothy Zahn


Now there’s a couple of words that have long been attributed to Zahn’s Star Wars novels – captivating and brilliant. Nearly a decade after the original Star Wars trilogy’s conclusion, fans were hungry for more Star Wars – something many never thought they would ever get – especially not on the big screen. Who would have imagined that we would live in a world today where Star Wars is more popular and mainstream than it has ever been? Certainly not those fans back in 1991. Enter Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy (a.k.a. “The Thrawn Trilogy”).



Up until 2015, Zahn’s trilogy of novels (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command) was considered (and still is to some) the true sequel trilogy to the original Star Wars films. His works have inspired so many other creators, as they have built upon Zahn’s post-ROTJ world and continued the stories of the fan-favorite characters he created. Zahn himself wrote several other novels that tied in to his original trilogy such as Spectre of the Past, Vision of the Future, Survivor’s Quest, and Outbound Flight – as well as two novels about the Emperor’s Hand, Mara Jade (one of his more popular creations), and Scoundrels featuring Han Solo and Chewbacca in an Ocean’s Eleven style caper.


Hands down though, the most intriguing (and perhaps beloved) character ever introduced by Zahn was the blue-skinned antagonist in his first Star Wars novel – Grand Admiral Thrawn. All of Zahn’s previous novels have now been relegated to Star Wars Legends, meaning that they are not considered to be part of the official history of the Star Wars universe, which effectively turned Thrawn into nothing more than a myth, a character that many thought we’d never see again. But thank the maker that the folks at Lucasfilm love Zahn and his creations just as much as the fans do.


Grand Admiral Thrawn and Governor Arihnda Pryce


Recently, in the Disney XD TV show Star Wars: Rebels – Thrawn made his triumphant return to Star Wars – this time in an official capacity as the primary villain of the show’s third season. How fitting it is that we continue his story further in the same medium in which he was introduced, and by the same author no less. Zahn raises the bar yet again with his latest novel Thrawn, a fascinating backstory to the Chiss Grand Admiral that provides a perspective on the character that is at the same time both familiar and refreshingly new.


In short, I loved this book, and I would say that it is in my top five Star Wars novels ever (Legends included) and possibly in the number one spot. I’d have to re-read it a time or two to cement its status in my own personal hierarchy, but it definitely is my favorite Timothy Zahn book.


What I loved about this book is the same thing that I love about all of Zahn’s Star Wars books – the characters. I went in to this book (already familiar with the titular character) ready to experience Thrawn in all his glory, to remind myself yet again why I love the crafty alien imperial officer so much. To my surprise, I walked away from this story in love with not one character, but three.



I’m sure it was aggravating to many of the expanded universe authors that so many of their characters no longer have a place in the Star Wars universe, but this doesn’t seem to have bothered Zahn all that much. Oh okay, so Mara Jade and Talon Karrde are no longer characters in this world? No problem. I’ll just introduce a couple of new characters that are just as good… Eli Vanto and Arihnda Pryce.


Granted Governor Pryce is not Zahn’s original creation, but he does things with her character that flesh her out in such a way that my understanding of her will forever be influenced primarily by his work with her in this novel. I closed this book that final time, not wanting just to know more about Thrawn, but to also further the adventures of these other two characters. I can’t wait for a novel about Eli Vanto and the Chiss Ascendancy (c’mon LFL – get on this!).



Pryce and Thrawn also compliment one another nicely, and I very much look forward to seeing what Filoni has in store for us with these two in the final season of Rebels. There is not much more I can say regarding Thrawn that has not already been said by Patrick and Kyle in their previous reviews (here and here). But I will say this – if you have not read this book yet, I envy you. Not because you have so far spared yourself from it – but because you still have the opportunity to experience it for the first time.


That being said, I have to point out that this novel might not be for everyone. It’s not necessarily action-packed, nor is it a thrill ride of any sort. If you’re looking for that type of story, you may want to look elsewhere. But if you are a fan of Star Wars novels like Tarkin and Bloodline, you will most likely really enjoy this one as well, especially if you are a fan of the character.


So until next time…happy reading Star Wars fans!



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Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he's not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

Jordan Pate (Hard Case)

Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he's not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

20 thoughts on “Timothy Zahn’s ‘Thrawn’ is The New Gold Standard for Star Wars Fiction

  • May 12, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    This was probably the most enjoyable book in the new canon for me.

    • May 12, 2017 at 6:25 pm


    • May 12, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      It was very enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. But I felt Disney didn’t let Zahn really play with his character just yet. (For obvious reasons) I felt the story, while solidly written, wasn’t large enough in scale to encompass Thrawn’s adventure. The novel feels like a place holder, re-introducing Zahn’s work into the new Canon.

      • May 12, 2017 at 8:25 pm

        Disney has nothing to do with the writing of the book. It was showing his entry into the Empire up until Rebels. More is likely coming.

        • May 13, 2017 at 2:19 am

          I meant Lucas Story Group. You can get a sense from most of the books they’re still moving cautiously with the new continuity.

          • May 13, 2017 at 5:52 am

            They have a plan and they are following it.

  • May 12, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    I read the original Thrawn trilogy a few years ago. It was great. What is so interesting with the new Thrawn book is that you get in the mind of Thrawn. How he thinks and his genius. I purchased the audio book also. Eric Thompson did an incredible job of narrating this book. I don’t how he keeps track of all the voices he can pull off, but he captures the voice of Thrawn from Rebels perfectly and does a pretty good job with the emperor, pryce and the rest. I would listen to it in the car, but sometimes you need to listen carefully or just read the book to get all the details. I highly recommend getting Thrawn and the audio book.

  • May 12, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    No, “Lost Stars” is the new gold standard for SW or any popular media tie-in literature!

  • May 12, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    I really enjoyed the fleshing out of characters too, we even got more on Yularen’s involvement too.

    Now from all the new canon material we know more about at least 5 of the Death Star Conference room gang; Vader, Tarkin, Tagge (from the Vader comics), Yularen (this book and Rebels), Romodi (bald guy also seen in Rogue One)

    Just need background on Motti (guy who Vader force chokes),Bast (“Shall we evacuate?” guy),Cass and Molok.

  • May 12, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Thrawn is an awesome book, the best one from the new canon, followed by Tarkin, personally I don’t think Lost stars is so good that it would equal the work of Timothy Zahn or James Luceno.

  • May 13, 2017 at 12:02 am

    You mention your top 5 SW novels, out of curiosity what would they be. I sure know mine.
    1- Traitor
    2- Lost Stars
    3- Revenge of the Sith (Stover’s Version)
    4- Thrawn
    5- Heir to the Empire
    Also some other big note worthy titles being Star by Star, The Hand of Thrawn duology and the rest of his trilogy, The New Rebellion and Darksaber.

  • May 13, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    I wonder if we ever get to see thrawn on the big screen

    • May 14, 2017 at 2:00 am

      You sculpted this? Holy crap. That’s really good.

      • May 14, 2017 at 2:45 am

        Unofficial…not so legal, only few copies have been produced. Just for fun.

        • May 14, 2017 at 3:54 am

          Damn. Good work. I mess around with model kits now and then and am regularly embarrassed by my work. I can appreciate any sort of real artistic talent.

          • May 14, 2017 at 4:34 am

            You are most welcome Bobby! 😉

    • May 14, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      I agree with you,man. Thrawn was a badass and in my view, he SHOULD have been the ST main antagonist. He is everything I love about a character: smart and patient. He is so different from Vader and every other commander in that he values his subordinates and encourages creativity. And isn’t motivated by ego or pride. And the Thrawn Trilogy, I know is no longer canon, but in my eyes that will always be canon. The ST stuff to me being an alternative timeline.

      It was because of Heir to the Empire and KOTOR that made me a SWs fan. I hold the latter in high regard and call it the magnum opus of the franchise, but the Thrawn Trilogy is also amazing. That said, I felt like Rebels take on Thrawn was a bit disappointing, but Zahn’s book proves to me he still has it.

      And Thrawn, in my view, has never been any better. Also, awesome sculptures man. Your dedication is something I can wholeheartedly respect. 🙂

  • May 14, 2017 at 3:25 am

    I’m still holding out hope that they let Zahn bring back Mara Jade at some point. A guy can dream, right?

  • May 14, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I LOVE this novel. It’s so well-written and is such a great exploration of Thrawn, Pryce, and Vanto as characters. They all manage to be compelling despite being cold, calculating Imperials, and it shows that even after a quarter-century, Timothy Zahn still has that magic touch when it comes to writing Star Wars books.

    RATING: I’m not going to do stars. I’ll just put it like this. Thrawn is up there with Lords of the Sith and Lost Stars. Read it.

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