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.

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Fan Art Friday! Wicket’s Cuteness Overload

I am really happy with the way this Fan Art Friday turned out.  If you read my other ones, especially the ones with characters, there was always some problem I had with the way I colored them.  This time – I am pleased with almost everything.  I love the colors I chose, I’m happy that Wicket turned out slightly similar to how he looks in ROTJ, and when I combined colors they came out the way I envisioned in my head.

Usually I have a lot more to say about my colorings but because I’m so happy with this, there’s very little to go into.  Be sure to check out Mei-Mei‘s picture as well!  For those of you who are new to my blog, Mei-Mei and I have the same coloring book and color the same page monthly and compare/contrast.

Overall, a success!

wicket-2

I know there are fans that hate the Ewoks but I don’t get it.  I’ve written about this before, but stop with the Ewok hate!  Or, at least learn to accept them.  All the complaining in the world won’t get rid of Jar Jar or change the fact that the Empire was brought down by little teddy bears.  I still think that’s one of the coolest takeaways from ROTJ – you can be small, but change the fate of an entire galaxy.  What a great message for so many people!  And further, look what happens when you keep an open mind.

Han Solo wanted to shoot the Ewoks.  His first reaction was to shoot and ask questions later.  Very Han.  Leia and Luke decided to pause and assess the situation.  Maybe they had a good feeling through the Force, knowing with some inkling that the Ewoks could be a great “asset”.  Both did not shoot and possibly create a bad encounter right away.  Sure, they almost got eaten but they still didn’t resort to blowing up the village (I don’t know, if I was tied up to stakes with a fire getting ready to roast me, I would probably not be as calm as Luke) once they were free.  Because of Leia and Luke’s open mind, they befriended the Ewoks.

That friendship with a species they couldn’t understand helped them bring down a government the Rebellion only had a 1% chance of defeating (this fact was in the last Rebels episode so is now canon booya).  Life lessons from Ewoks y’all, life lessons.

 

Stay tuned for next month’s Fan Art Friday!  We’re doing the most feared bounty hunter….(Mei-Mei, it’s the Boba Fett drawing that’s on the left of Grand Moff Tarkin. Closer to the end of the book.)

 

SWCE Rogue One Update

Here’s my Star Wars round up for today: Ezra cuts his hair in the new season of Rebels and I watched SWCE Rogue One panel live for an hour and didn’t get to see the new trailer.  Sigh.

But we did see this kind of cool behind the scenes look and you know what?  I’m really looking forward to it!  I know when the first trailer came out, I had some weird reservations that it seemed too much like an Iraq or Vietnam war movie (and I still think that) but it definitely looks cool.

The most interesting parts of the reel for me:

  • Seeing an RA-7 droid! Talk about a blast from the past.
  • Director Krennic’s cape.
  • Yavin 4!!
  • Jyn in normal clothing. Not even a low cut shirt.  Thanks for not making her a Charlie’s Angel.
  • Infiltrating the Empire. We all saw Jyn in that TIE uniform in the first trailer but if you slow down the clip, you can see Cassian in an Imperial uniform throwing a stormtrooper against a wall.

There were some interesting facts from the panel.  It wasn’t all a complete waste.  For instance:

  1. James Earl Jones is confirmed to come back as the voice of Vader (excuse me if everyone already knows this – I have been SO out of it due to having a baby.)
  2. K-2SO is the name of the new droid in this movie. From what Alan said during the panel, this droid may be the comic relief.  Once an Imperial droid, he’s now been reprogrammed by Cassian so he’s “not quite all there”.
  3. Along with K-2SO, I’m wondering if Baze is also some of the comic relief. It seems like since Chirrut is the more serious warrior-monk-but-not-quite-Jedi, Baze is the foil.  He described himself as a non-believer in the Force and a “doer” whereas Chirrut is the “thinker”.  Was there some reference somewhere that they might be a little like the two guys in The Hidden Fortress whom Lucas based Artoo and Threepio off of?  I feel like I read that somewhere…Is Chirrut part of the Church of the Force like Lor San Tekka?
  4. Bodhi was a pilot who worked for the Empire. The city he is from is occupied by the Empire and makes him question his job.  We all know he joins the Rebellion but I’m not sure what the tipping point is or if we’ll find out.
  5. Jyn’s father, Galen Erso, invented something “so beautiful, so fantastic, it might change the universe.” We know from previous articles that whatever he created or knows, it’s sought by the Empire and the Rebellion.  I’m sure that will create an interesting relationship between Jyn and her father and we all know how much Star Wars loves relationships between children and fathers.
  6. Jedha and Scarrif are the new locations/planets. Jedha is the planet that looks like Iraq and people make Force-based pilgrimages.  Scarrif is where you want to go on holiday.  LFL really likes introducing planets that start with J recently.
  7. Felicity Jones said the most interesting part of her character is that while Luke and Rey don’t know their background and are searching for it – Jyn knows her story and family, but is trying to find a cause.
  8. Not sure we learned much more about Saw Gerrera. I should probably watch those TCW episodes again.  I remember that I found him annoying and slightly crazy.

 

***SPOILER ALERT***

I think the guy who plays Baze also mistakenly revealed that Chirrut dies.  I’m pretty sure I understood that correctly and the way Gwendoline got awkward and tried to change the subject was funny.

***END SPOILER***

The new poster art revealed today at SWCE for Rogue One

The new poster art revealed today at SWCE for Rogue One

There’s a Force Awakens special tonight on abc at 8pm where most people think the second trailer will also be aired.  I’ve DVR’d it anyway so hoping that it’s true and I get to see the new trailer.

Strangely, this feels very much like Star Wars Rebels to me – minus Kanan and Ezra.  I wonder if that was on purpose?  Disney is trying so hard to make everything feel cohesive within the books, novels, TV shows, and the movies.

I am happy that my interest has been re-“awakened” in Rogue One.  There’s so much even from that one clip to dissect.  I’m not sure we’ll ever know what the reshoots were about but from this clip, I still think the movie feels very “war-like”.

 

Thoughts? Let’s hope for a new trailer tonight!

 

Haiku Me Friday! R.I.P Geonosians

You guys know how much I love the Geonosian language.  Not so much the Geonosians because they are creepy bugs, but their language was so cool!  I’ve written about my fascination with them here, here, here, oh and here.

So you can imagine my great sadness and disappointment when I watched the Star Wars Rebels episode a few weeks back and found out they had been wiped out, or “sterilized” by the Empire.  Supposedly one female survived but could no longer breed soooo….yeah, all gone.  Dead.

The episode of SWR was one of my favorites this season actually.  I thought I’d love the one with the Twi’leks (my favorite species) led by Hera and her zeb agent kallusfather, but I liked the one with Zeb and Agent Kallus more.  Because Agent Kallus is awesome (yes, I like an Imperial!).  I liked how they brought two foes together, made them work alongside each other to escape, and in the end, Zeb did something I’m not sure I would do – he let him live, but also didn’t report Agent Kallus to the Ghost crew when they came to rescue him.  He let Agent Kallus remain on the moon to be picked up by the Empire.

There was one set of lines that I liked from the episode where you could tell the writers were trying to show two points of views and have a character evolution with Agent Kallus.  [Bold is Zeb]

“The only thing I know about Geonosis is that the population is gone. I never asked questions.”

“Well, maybe you should start. Or are you afraid of the answers you’ll get? Afraid you’ll learn the Geonosians were wiped out by your precious Empire?”

“And why would we do that? What could possibly be the point?”

“Ah, good questions. Chase the answers, and maybe you’ll learn the truth.”

I totally relate to Agent Kallus here and that always freaks me out.  I don’t ask too many questions and take things on face value often.  If there’s no point, why ask?

By the end of the episode, we see Kallus rescued by the Empire and alone in his bedroom cell, with what I believe is an aura of doubt around him.  Will his time with Zeb change his opinion on the Empire?  Or will he bury it underneath his feelings and not question, just do as he’s been taught?  Or will this episode come back further down the line and haunt him if he gets into a position where he has to kill Zeb?

Anyway, long discussion, but it brings me back to the point that the GEONOSIANS ARE GONE.  I’m sad.  I thought I should dedicate this entire post to point out that one person in the galaxy misses them and their language, even if no other fans care.

geonosian

Language of clicks, whirs

A fascinating species

They live deep in hives

Bugs of all sizes

Inclined to technology

More than meets the eye

Though gone forever

You will live on in my heart

And remembered

Geek out!

  1. I’ve been super busy, but there are posts in the works.
  2. Star Wars Rebels started up again this week. I will write my thoughts soon, but did you guys have any?
  3. Rumors flying like mad that the official poster for TFA will be released on Sunday, tickets will go on sale Monday after a new trailer Monday evening during MNF.  And there’s supposedly a new logo as well. Guess we’ll have to see about that.
  4. There could possibly be a 7pm showing on December 17th (which would be great for all of us who are not night owls!).
  5. Some theaters might do a marathon beforehand starting at 4:00pm on December 17th.  Ugh, no thanks.

We are in crunch time for TFA.  I’m starting to feel the excitement.  I have, unfortunately, stumbled upon some spoilers on Instagram of all places, so I know a little more than i wanted to.  But the general plot is still as thick as a Dagobah mist for me and I don’t know 95% of the movie.

LET’S DO THIS.

kylo ren