*This review of Thrawn: Alliances contains minor spoilers.*
Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn is a follow-up to Star Wars: Thrawn, published in May 2017. (You can my review here.) In Thrawn, Zahn laid a thread that the Chiss had once worked alongside General Anakin Skywalker, during the time of The Clone Wars. In Alliances, that thread is picked up as now Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader are sent on a mission that harkens back to their previous alliance. Emperor Palpatine senses a disturbance in the Force emanating from the region of the planet Batuu, and decides to send the two most capable of handling the situation. It also serves as a test for both Thrawn and Vader — each facing aspects of their lives left behind, or still lurking.
The book switches back and forth between the character’s past and their present. In the past, Senator Padme Amidala heads to Batuu (soon to be the destination at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge) to meet with one of her handmaidens, Duja, who has come across a situation that could mean trouble for the Republic. While on her mission, Padme disappears and Anakin sets off to locate the missing senator — who, unbeknownst to everyone else, is also his wife. On his approach to Batuu, Anakin encounters Thrawn. Each is intrigued by the other, and they have interests that align, so they decide to work together to find Padme and determine exactly what is going on in the region.
In their present situation, Darth Vader and Thrawn find themselves at the same location, which only serves to stir up issues for both. Vader, his memories of The Jedi (as he refers to Anakin Skywalker) and Padme. For Thrawn it’s his memory of Skywalker — someone he respected — and his responsibility to his people, the Chiss, and how that conflicts with his loyalty to the Empire — or so Vader believes.
Reading this book, I’m sure I can’t be the only one who experienced this phenomena — For Anakin and Padme, I would visualize the film actors (Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman) but in my head hear The Clone Wars voices for the characters (Matt Lanter and Catherine Taber). I bring it up because I thought it was a fantastic melding of the two mediums — the movies and the animated series — and how both exist equally in my head. Prior to reading Alliances, I hadn’t really considered that before.
The teaming up of Anakin/Thrawn and Vader/Thrawn was inspired. Author Timothy Zahn captured the youthful Skywalker — his power, boldness, and impulsiveness — perfectly. Thrawn, a creation of Zahn’s, was skillfully handled. He’s such a rich character — a strategic genius and a keen observer with a calm manner — that you find yourself often seeing his side of things, even though he’s an Imperial and we’re supposed to be pulling for the other side, right? In this book, in particular, he’s more. He almost feels like he could be… a good guy? It’s hard to put my finger on it exactly, but he’s certainly not straight-up evil like the Emperor, even as he pledges loyalty to the tyrant and has served him for years up to this point. He has a code of honor, a certain morality, and a patient hand for those under his command. There is room to err under Thrawn — as opposed to say, Vader.
The verbal sparring, interplay, and competitiveness between Anakin/Thrawn and Vader/Thrawn was fun to read, particularly the younger versions of the two, and an interesting question arises in the reading — Does Thrawn know who Vader was? That might depend on a certain point of view.
The present timeline for Alliances places it just after the Ghost crew eludes Thrawn on Atallon, with the aid of The Bendu (season three finale of Star Wars Rebels) — something Vader uses to taunt Thrawn. The earlier time is at some point after Ahsoka’s departure from the Jedi Order. The alternating timelines never become an issue Alliances. It's very clear where we are and when.
One thing I missed in Alliances was the character Eli Vanto, introduced previously in Thrawn. I was hoping to see more of him, as I'm fond of his character, but he is mentioned in passing and we know of his whereabouts, acting as Imperial liaison to the Chiss Ascendancy. Hopefully he will return at a future point in the canon.
Something I really appreciated about Alliances? Padme Amidala! She’s been absent from the books, but her appearance here makes up for that. Zahn writes Padme as we know her to be — Strong, determined, and dedicated to doing what is right. She’s a delight in this book and, while she’s not the focus, her own adventure and her interactions with Thrawn are well-worth reading. And one wonders, what does Thrawn surmise about the Senator and the Jedi?
Thrawn: Alliances is a strong entry from Timothy Zahn. It is equal to what we've come to expect from a writer of his caliber, and his voice will always be an important and welcome one in the Star Wars universe.
My rating: 4/5
You can purchase Thrawn: Alliances on Amazon now.
The review for the Thrawn: Alliances audiobook can be found here.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing a copy of this book for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines