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Spoiler Review: Thrawn Treason Closes Trilogy and Opens New Doors

If you ignored the title, this is your last and only warning that this is spoiler review of Timothy Zahn’s novel Thrawn: Treason. From this point on, I will talk about some of the major plot points, reveals and speculate about potential future of both Thrawn as a character and the overall galaxy far, far away.

 

I have to preface this review with a couple of things. First, I have never read Timothy Zahn‘s first trilogy. This Thrawn, of the new trilogy (for now) and Star Wars: Rebels, is my Trawn.

 

Second, I made a major mistake in reading the excerpts prior to the book release which decidedly colored my expectations negatively: Is Grand Admiral Thrawn, the greatest tactician in the galaxy, to act as a pest control? Yes, I clutched my pearls and it took a few chapters to lose the attitude, but I should have trusted Zahn. Let’s start at the beginning.

 

The events of Thrawn: Treason span from the episode Jedi Night of the fourth season of Star Wars: Rebels to just before Thrawn’s return to Lothal and his subsequent disappearance with Ezra and the purrgils. The Grand Admiral is called by Tarkin to defend his TIE Defender program against Krennic who desires to fold his funding into the project Stardust (Death Star).

 

Jedi Night

 

In reality, Tarkin has maneuvered both Thrawn and Krennic as well as Admiral Savit, commander of the Third Fleet, into the conference with the Emperor. Apparently, the supply lines for project Stardust are significantly hindered by grallocs, larger cousins of mynocks. If Thrawn can solve the problem within one week, he will secure his funding. He is given a chaperon in Krennic’s Assistant Director Brierly Ronan whose goal is to hinder him.

 

Naturally, the problem with vermin hides bigger conspiracy, theft of specific imperial shipments, and leads Thrawn right on the path of his former compatriot Admiral Ar’alani of the Chiss Ascendancy and his former protégé Eli Vanto. Ar‘alani and her crew – of which Vanto is a part – are tracking a Grysk ship hoping to catch a bigger fish. When Thrawn inadvertently foils their plans, the humans and the Chiss are forced to work together to defeat the bigger enemy and secure a future for all of them.

 

Eli’s first encounter with Ar’alani

 

The titular treason permeates the novel; the accusations of it are hurled around, it is committed, exposed and predicted. And in the center of it all is Thrawn, a man with divided loyalties. We know Thrawn is a genius, so he is never the most interesting character in the book.

 

What is interesting are his reflections in other people. In the first novel, that was Eli and to smaller extent, as a foil, Nightswan; in Alliances, that was Anakin/Darth Vader. In Treason, Zahn shows us the array of people Thrawn has influenced and makes you believe that, if his opponent was not Palpatine himself, he could have influenced the future of the Empire.

 

At the end of the novel, Thrawn‘s right hand woman, Commodore Faro, heads out to become the commander of the Eleventh Fleet. One of the people who witnessed first hand Thrawn‘s defeat of the true traitor Admiral Savit would surely be promoted to lead the Third Fleet. And one of his opponents, Brierly Ronan, was sent to join Eli in the Chiss Ascendancy. The man who started the novel as pompous buffoon and whose constant meddling threatened to become tiresome and major problem for the novel has revealed a hidden moral center as well as courage. Not to mention that his removal from the Empire further protects the Chiss secrets, including the Force-sensitive navigators.

 

You can see the ripples of Thrawn’s influence spreading through the galaxy far, far away with each and every of these individuals. But, the Emperor can no longer tolerate Thrawn’s divided loyalties and promises him a long conversation at the end of the novel, once he deals with the Rebels in Lothal. It is ironic to think that Thrawn’s defeat by Ezra may have actually saved his life.

 

 

Eli Vanto, Grand Admiral’s original pupil doesn’t escape accusations of treason when he returns into the known space: he is branded as both deserter and hidden genius behind the Chiss. He has spent a year in the Ascendancy in a turnabout of Thrawn’s situation in the Empire. Eli, who expected leadership position, spends his days analyzing data for which he suspects is  ‘busy work’. The one bright spot is his friendship Vah’nya, 22-year-old navigator, who kept her Force ability long after it should have faded.

 

I won’t lie, like Eli himself, I expected more interactions between him and Thrawn, especially because Thrawn claimed Eli was his friend. But, I enjoyed Eli’s maturity and strength and his character provided us with the most touching scene(s) in the novel: when he first promises to Vah’nya and later explains to Ar’alani how he would kill the navigators in order to prevent the Grysks from taking them. And when the interaction with Thrawn finally happens, his old mentor provides insight into what his analysis actually means for the future of Chiss.

 

So, let’s talk about Grysks, hinted at in the first novel and finally introduced in the Alliances. They are supposed to be the new ‘big bad’ of the Star Wars galaxy. And, at first glance, there is nothing to them: they are not physically impressive; their technology, while different, isn’t unknowable; their forces aren’t overwhelming. And, yet, it takes just a few months from the events of Alliances for them not only to make an inroad into Empire’s territory, but to find the way into the Death Star project.

 

 

 

The species they conquered and enslaved are brainwashed to follow them to the point of committing suicide in the event of capture by adversaries of the Grysk. Grysks become the owners of their resources, traits, ingenuity. And everyone, including the Emperor himself, is underestimating them. As Baudelaire said: ”The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” While the galaxy is at war with itself, the Grysks are calmly taking over. The scariest implication stated in the book is that Rebellion itself may have been manipulated by bland aliens.

 

In-universe, it has been over 35 years since the events of Treason to the current era. And except the First Order, nothing has come out of the Unknown Regions – that we know of. We don’t know if Sabine and Ahsoka had found Ezra and, presumably, former Grand Admiral with him. The way the story was left of at the end of the novel – and Rebels – ensures that it could go in a million different directions, even a new trilogy completely unconnected with anything that we currently know. But, whichever way it goes, whether it’s handled by Zahn or someone else, I could see that in 5-10 years Star Wars might experience Endgame type event – with the Grysk and Thrawn in the center and humans and aliens alike united against the common enemy.

 

 

Whether my prediction comes true or not, Thrawn: Treason is a satisfying ending to the trilogy. I will have to reread it in its entirety to decide which novel is the best, but Treason is certainly the most dynamic. It combines the mystery and investigation with adventure and political intrigues. And, while Thrawn’s genius can often rob us of suspense, I felt that this was not the case here. So many things were against him and his people that there were couple of moments that I doubted that even he can succeed. Still, one of my greatest joys in life is reading how Thrawn takes down his opponent piece by piece.

 

The Chiss was surrounded by generally interesting characters, though I felt Ronan’s growth came a bit late in the game to completely counteract the previous annoyance I felt. Some of the action scenes in space were too obscure for me or maybe I am just not cut out to be Thrawn’s pupil. I would have cut down space taken by the technical gobbledygook (it’s Star Wars, I’ll take your word for it) for more character interactions.

 

I sincerely hope that Timothy Zahn will continue to write the adventures of the ingenious Chiss in the future (maybe with the Force sensitive teenager for a companion) and that Thrawn will continue to solve cases across the known and unknown corners of space. Until that happens.

 

 

THRAWN: TREASON GETS 7.5/10 STARS

 

 

 

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