Thrawn: Alliances is a sequel to last years hit novel Thrawn. No one knows Grand Admiral Thrawn like Timothy Zahn he, after all, did invent him in the outstanding Heir to the Empire in the Expanded Universe. Thrawn was one of those characters that many fans were sad to see go in the great Disney bonfire and were equally pleased to see return in the novel and Rebels TV series.
Thrawn is an engaging character and Zahn creates a believable alien that is both loyal and cunning. I enjoyed the first Thrawn book immensely as it chartered his rise within the Imperial hierarchy to Grand Admiral. This book, however, had a different feel to it, one that did not raise it to the same level.
I m not saying I didn’t enjoy the book because I did I just felt that something didn’t sit right. The book, like many, has a parallel story, one in the Present and one in the Clone Wars. I m not a huge fan of this non-linear storytelling but it wasn’t this that caused the problem, it was Anakin.
I have never liked Anakin Skywalker as a character, and I was never comfortable with his descent to the dark side as shown in the films, it was too light and fluffy and lacked nuance. This colours my view of the prequel parts of the novel which are only raised by seeing Padme acting courageously and competently on her own.
The present parts of the novel were much more engaging and the dynamic between Thrawn and Vader were fascinating. We know Thrawn is a master tactician is and we also know Vader is a ruthless and cold killer – how can these two alpha males work together effectively?
Zahn has a comfortable pace and slowly builds up the narrative to an exciting finale. The actual plot of the book is not groundbreaking but that doesn’t matter because it is the character interactions that draw you in and keep you reading. Zahn comfortably ties in the actions Rebels and continues to elude to the Chiss as something mildly menacing but unknown. It wouldn’t surprise me to see more of the Chiss perhaps in the next film, my wild imagination has Kylo Ren and the Resistance having to team up to defeat a full-scale Chiss invasion, but that is off the point.
The book leaves the plot well tied up but with the reader wanting more and I for one want more of Thrawn. I find his slow deliberate genius interesting and he is far from infallible there is so much more mileage in this character and I hope we get to read more about him from Zahns pen.