Book Review: Thrawn

He’s back! A favorite character of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, now Legends, has been recreated in this new novel by the one and only Timothy Zahn.  I believe Thrawn was one of the greatest disappointments to numerous fans when Disney announced that the EU was no longer going to be canon.  Thrawn is amazing.  Seriously.  His tactical genius made him a beloved character, up there with Mara Jade.  Even fans who were not into the novels, had a general idea of who Thrawn was.

I can speak for a lot of fans that when Thrawn was announced as a new character in Star Wars Rebels, fans were delighted. Then they announced a new book with him as well written by Zahn and the fans went nuts.

This new novel is an origin story of Thrawn. It shows how he came to work with the Empire and evolve into one of the greatest strategist’s and commanders (or Grand Admiral) of the Empire’s fleet, overcoming obstacles along the way.  His chief obstacle was that he is an alien and as the Empire is, you know, kind of prejudiced against aliens, it’s quite a feat that he makes it as far as he does.

 

***spoilers ahead***

 

The novel starts with Thrawn being rescued by the Empire from being exiled by his native Chiss species. I use the word “rescued” loosely because Thrawn purposefully drew them to him to board their ships and let himself be seen and caught by them and we find out later, in typical Thrawn style, that it was never a rescue at all – he had planned everything. On the ship, he encounters a young man Eli Vanto, who is on the road to becoming a supply chain officer. Vanto helps translate for Thrawn at times since his Basic is rusty and also because Vanto was also brought up in the Outer Rim (therefore also slightly disliked by others because he is “backwater”). Thrawn immediately gets taken to Emperor Palpatine who puts him into the Imperial Academy on a fast track with Vanto.

Throughout the novel, Vanto remains at Thrawn’s side through the academy, to commanding posts, and missions. Thrawn sees potential in Eli though it takes a long time for Eli to also see it. Half of the novel follows Eli regretting that he ever met Thrawn as he only wants a quiet life in the supply department.

As a side story, we are introduced to Arihnda Pryce, whom we have also seen from Star Wars Rebels. Her path intersects with Thrawn’s later down the line but we get a fleshed out backstory for her (the later governor of Lothal).  She begins her story working at her parent’s mine – Pryce Mining – which gets ripped from her by the Empire. She resolves to get it back. How does she get it back? Through political scheming and working with the Empire. If you can’t fight them, join them. Her journey to that point is up and down along with lots of petty backstabbing.

As Pryce moves up the ranks in the Empire politically, Thrawn also rises as a commander. Pryce does not have too much involvement with Thrawn, but when she does she helps him and Vanto through favors with connections (the great Tarkin, who was written superbly) and Thrawn also helps her with his tactical, objective way of looking at things.

The end of the novel sees a culmination of a battle (where we know Thrawn will obviously come out ahead) where those who doubted Thrawn are now convinced of his genius, along with understanding the real reasons for…well…everything in the novel that Thrawn has done. The side twist belongs with Arihnda Pryce and how far she has gone down the path of corruption. Thrawn’s beautiful plan gets screwed up by her with unnecessary deaths, but she never admits to it and covers her tracks beautifully, though he knows but can’t prove it. Thrawn still comes out ahead, but it’s interesting to see that this is the beginning of Pryce and Thrawn’s working relationship that we see in Rebels.

 

Pros:

  • It’s Thrawn. Enough said.
  • But seriously, there is not too much changed from the character older Star Wars fans loved reading about. He is still a genius and still a masterful tactician…rivaling Palpatine in some respects.
  • How did Thrawn get in Palpatine’s good books so well that Palpatine fast tracked him through the Academy and military career? Anakin Skywalker. Yes – interesting twist. Thrawn says he heard of Palpatine through his “servant, Anakin Skywalker”. This implies a lot. It implies that 1) Thrawn met Anakin when he was a Jedi and 2) he could have caught on to Palpatine’s game of chess that he was already working on bringing Anakin to his side prior to the Empire existing. It’s not a stretch to believe that as Thrawn is able to deduce everything. The question remains though – does Thrawn know Vader is Anakin? My guess is yes though nothing is confirmed.
  • Each chapter begins with an excerpt of Thrawn’s diary which made for a fascinating read. Chapters are also interspersed with Thrawn reading people’s body language and giving insight on how he picks up on their next moves.
  • There’s a lot on Thrawn in here, obviously. But crazily, I still feel like he’s a bit of a mystery. Well done Zahn!
  • You can read this novel even if you are a Disney-hater; if you love the EU and refuse to acknowledge anything Disney related. It actually fits into both Legends and the current canon, which I admire, especially since it’s a backstory. And, amazingly, this canon backstory actually fits in perfectly with Thrawn’s original backstory in Legends.
  • This novel ties into Rebels nicely as well as the other new canon books, though it’s not hitting you over the head with it.
  • Most of the characters from the movies are spot-on with the writing. Grand Moff Tarkin was eerily written, to the point that I had no problems believing his character (which is unlike how I felt with the writing of Han in Bloodline). Palpatine was done pretty well too, not 100%, but well enough for the time he was in the novel.
  • The new characters are also well written, for the most part. Pryce ended up being one of my favorites after reading, though during the novel I kept wanting to go back to Thrawn and see what he was up to. But once I closed the book and mulled over it for a bit, she ended up being one of the most multi-faceted interesting characters to come out of it. The last scene/battle of the novel when she goes down a point of no return, and sees the look on her parents faces, you have to wonder…is it worth it? She did everything for them and their mine, but you can tell they’d rather she hadn’t if they had to sacrifice who Arihnda had become.
  • There are hints of the Rebellion littered throughout the novel, but for the most part, it’s extremely Empire-driven, which I very much appreciated. It’s hard to write about the Empire in a way that seems positive, or at least neutral, when you’re writing in the Star Wars universe. This novel did it brilliantly…and I feel a little disloyal to the Rebellion for liking it so much!
  • My favorite observation of this entire novel was that I didn’t actually feel like I was reading a Star Wars novel. I felt like I was reading a good sci-fi book. Again, a little hard to do with Star Wars, especially with characters we love in the book. But because there was no mention of the Force (I think; I don’t remember it) or mysticism, Jedi, etc., it felt like a great sci-fi, outer space novel.

Cons:

  • For me, I felt like it took a while for Thrawn to feel like Thrawn. There was a learning curve for him in the beginning of the novel as he learned the Empire, and nuances of politics. In a way, I thought he seemed very much like Spock in the beginning of this novel. It eventually leveled out and got to a point where he felt like the Thrawn I loved and remembered, so I’m not sure if that was a deliberate move on Zahn’s part or if it was him being a little rusty.
  • Some of the book was littered with little side plots that I thought could have been kept out entirely. It’s tough because some of the side plots do end up coming together at the end of the novel, but some had me thinking…oh that’s it? When they were resolved.
  • Not enough time with Thrawn and art. One of the most loved parts about Thrawn (for me) was how much information he gained from observing society’s artwork. Through their art, he was often able to bring them down. It was a final piece of the puzzle that other tactician’s didn’t have time with or feel was necessary. Unfortunately, there was only one scene in this book where art played into the success of Thrawn. It always lingered in the background and was mentioned often, but we didn’t get to see it enough in action. We get in Rebels, thankfully, but I was sad about there was not as much in Thrawn.
  • I didn’t love Eli Vanto. He was a main character but the ending of his story was a little unbelievable to me. I won’t say much, but I don’t think he has the chops for what the end of his character arc bestowed upon him. I believe he was created as a bit of a Watson foil to Thrawn’s Sherlock but I often wanted him cut from the story entirely. I think I may be in the minority here but he was blah.
  • I’m not sure I want to put this as a con but it’s a little interesting. Was there a plot? I’m not sure. It seemed more like a detailed timeline of events. There wasn’t a real antagonist, more of a mystery Thrawn wanted to solve but it didn’t seem too pressing. So if you need a plot and an arc and all that good stuff, maybe you won’t really get into this as much as you’d want to.

I’m giving Thrawn 4/5 stars. It’s hard for me to rate any book 5/5 stars, and Star Wars books usually don’t make that cut. BUT this is still the best book I’ve read from the new canon.  Read it if you have EU nostalgia, love Thrawn, or want a good Empire-driven Star Wars novel.

Fan Art Friday! Leia and the Death Star

Hey all – Kiri here!  This post was scheduled before I added a new member to our family.

Mei-Mei and I are trying to do a once a month matching page from the Star Wars coloring book we have.  Last time, we both did this interesting, intricate design that highlighted the light side of the Force and the Rebellion.  See Mei-Mei’s here and mine here.

I love seeing the differences between what she creates and what I create.  Though we both start off with the same black and white picture, our interpretations are different and show the uniqueness of both our views.  Mei-Mei is also way better at this than I am as she seems to have practiced more, whereas this is my first venture into coloring books since I was probably 10.

Mei-Mei suggested the picture this time of Princess Leia sitting on some kind of balcony and viewing the Death Star in the sky above.  Here is what I ended up with:

rsz_0522161615_hdr

This is what I was attempting:

  • I thought it would be cool to take Leia out of her standard white dress that we all associate her with.  Then I thought it would be even cooler to make it reminiscent of Padmé’s handmaiden dress in Episode I.  This did not go as I had planned.  The blues didn’t really fade in and out as I was hoping and instead it just ends up looking like I had done half of her dress darker and the other half lighter.  I tried to convince myself that it looked like I had done it on purpose, but nope.  Fail.
  • The only thing I do like about the blue is that I stayed true to my original thought that her outfit was going to be the only blue in the entire picture.
  • I liked the idea of having this take place at night.  I thought that would be an interesting twist.  Meh.  Still not sure if it was the right decision.
  • It took me forever to find the right skin color for her.  When I finally found it, her skin ended up a weird color because I had been experimenting with so many different ones on her face that it just looked…not entirely right.  I should have experimented with her little hand peeping out, not her face.  Fail again.
  • Then I tried to add these shadows and grey to her face because she was looking out at this eerie Death Star at night.  Bad choice again.  Now she has weird grey lines over her face.
  • For the flowers, I randomly picked out colors and went with it.  Those were probably the most boring to do and I wish I had more peach and yellows than pink and purples.

Overall, I’m probably being harder on myself than I should be but I was coming off of the last interpretive picture with lots of confidence.  Coloring a well known character had me frustrated and annoyed because nothing came out how I envisioned it.  That said, it was still a lot of fun and was relaxing as well (I’m consistently surprised that this coloring book IS actually a stress reliever).  But I’m sure Mei-Mei’s is better.

Now, for next month!  Mei-Mei here’s your challenge.  It’s actually pretty easy…I wish I could say that I picked it with a lot of deliberation, but I didn’t.  I did my standard open-the-book-to-a-random-page-and-see-what-I-land-on.  Lol.

Star Wars coloring book jabba intepretive

12 Days of Christmas…with some Star Wars spice

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

tauntauns on Hoth

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

Tooka

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

death star

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

homing beacon

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
5 Golden Droids
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

golden droid

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
6 Eopies farting
5 Golden Droids
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

eopie

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
7 Varactyls swimming
6 Eopies farting
5 Golden Droids
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

varactyl

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
8 Blaster pistols
7 Varactyls swimming
6 Eopies farting
5 Golden Droids
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

blaster pistol star wars

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
9 Corellian freighters
8 Blaster pistols
7 Varactyls swimming
6 Eopies farting
5 Golden Droids
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

Corellian freighter

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
10 Flashing sabers
9 Corellian freighters
8 Blaster pistols
7 Varactyls swimming
6 Eopies farting
5 Golden Droids
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

lightsabers

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
11 Massive Wookiees
10 Flashing sabers
9 Corellian freighters
8 Blaster pistols
7 Varactyls swimming
6 Eopies farting
5 Golden Droids
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

wookiees

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Astros beeping
11 Massive Wookiees
10 Flashing sabers
9 Corellian freighters
8 Blaster pistols
7 Varactyls swimming
6 Eopies farting
5 Golden Droids
4 Homing Beacons
3 Death Stars
2 Tooka pets
and a Tauntaun on a cold Hoth

astro droids

I wouldn’t want to mess with whoever gets these gifts.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!  May the Force be with you today and always.

This is cool…

I don’t know if you guys have seen this yet, but I fell in love.  So much fun!  It’s a Star Wars Where’s Waldo with all geeky wonderfulness.  And no Waldo…at least, I haven’t found him yet, but tell me if you do!

P.S. I have no idea how to make images attach to a separate page to see them larger with this new WP posting thing, so to see it really large, go here: http://www.wired.com/2015/11/building-the-star-wars-universe/

SW wheres waldo

Source: Wired 

I Tip My Hat to You, Joel Edgerton

I thought it would be nice to pay special attention to Joel Edgerton, if only because out of all the Star Wars actors, I think he’s had the most interesting rise.

Harrison Ford is the only other actor who has had a similar rise to fame situation that Edgerton has had, but with Ford, he shot up fast with leading roles in Indy and Star Wars and has never turned back.

joel edgerton

He’s actually kind of cute…

Edgerton, on the other hand, has had a slow and methodical rise in Hollywood since Attack of the Clones.  He’s worked hard to build his reputation in the film industry and I’ve begun to see him in more critically acclaimed films and stronger roles.

Now, I’m not a big movie watcher but I have definitely seen Joel Edgerton in more movies than anyone else in the Prequels, including Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman.  Note that I have seen him in more movies, not that he’s necessarily been in more movies than those three.

For instance, looking at his acting history on IMDB, here are the films I’ve seen him in (chronological order based on when they were released):

  • Ned Kelly
  • King Arthur
  • Smokin’ Aces
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Exodus: Gods and Kings
  • Black Mass

Look at the rise of the movies, the directors, and their reputation.  When glancing at IMDB, he is in an average of 3-4 movies a year.  3-4 movies A YEAR!  Do you know how tiring that must be?  Plus he recently directed a movie as well.

What got me thinking about Edgerton was how he completely transformed in Black Mass.  Being from Boston, it was a

Joel Edgerton playing opposite Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Joel Edgerton playing opposite Johnny Depp in Black Mass

must-see for me, but I was so surprised at how transformed Edgerton was.  In most of the movies I have seen with him, I have had a flicker of recognition, thinking, “Hey, there’s young Uncle Owen.”  But with Black Mass, I couldn’t figure out if that was him.  Every once and a while, I’d think, “But is it?  Is it young Uncle Owen?  Nah, maybe it’s just someone who looks a lot like him.”   It really bothered me.  When I saw his name in the credits, I began thinking about writing this blog post and tipping my hat in his direction to say, “Hey dude, I’ve noticed how far you’ve come from your AOTC days and that is awesome.”

Think about how small a part he played in AOTC.  He was hardly in it and barely talked.  Most of his work prior to Star Wars had been in single episodes for TV shows, made-for-TV movies, or shorts.  After Star Wars, he did another movie, a few episodes in TV series and then – bam – Ned Kelly.  (For those that don’t know about Ned Kelly and who aren’t Australian like Yours Truly, it’s an Australian movie with all the big named Hollywood accented (English or Australian, mostly Aussie though) actors like Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, etc. It’s a fun watch, if only to learn about the most notorious Australian gangster of all time – Ned Kelly.)

I’d like to see Edgerton in more leading roles, but he seems unconcerned about that.

I think part of my obsession is, “How far is the spectrum of what you can play?” Looking for the edges of that spectrum. Not to be stuck playing a hero all the time. I don’t feel comfortable in that role, so much. Looking for those weirder, quirkier, edgier parts. They just become more fun. Often times, they’re not the leading role. I think it’s good to be able to not be the star of the movie. The upside of that is getting to play really interesting questions.

The few movies where he does play a leading role have not done too well box-office wise, but I think his acting has still been stupendous.  It may just be more about getting his name out there and getting it recognized…though again, he doesn’t seem to care about the leading role as much as I do, haha.

Finally, what made me really want to write this quick post, was when I read an article that Jane Got a Gun is finally getting released this upcoming February.  The movie has been plagued with quite a few difficulties and though I love the premise, I had kind of written it off as a never-going-to-happen.  Well, it sounds like it will be!  And guess who stars in it?

Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, and Ewan McGregor.

You’re making the connection right?  All three of these people have met up separately in the Prequel Trilogy.  Portman interacted with Edgerton when she goes home with Anakin to Tatooine to find Shmi.  Portman and McGregor obviously have a lot of interaction from TPM through ROTS.  And Edgerton and McGregor meet up at the very end of ROTS (kind of) when he gives them Luke to take care of.  I fully acknowledge Edgerton and McGregor may not have actually met up and it could have been filmed separately, but I like to believe they were all there at the same time.

How about them apples?

So even if the movie isn’t very good, I’m still going to see it if only for the fact that it’s got 3 Star Wars PT actors back in the same arena.

I’m sure Edgerton will shine as he always does and I just hope I see him in many more movies to come.