Author: Timothy Zahn
Publisher: Del Rey
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
I love Timothy Zahn’s writing, particularly his work in the Star Wars Universe. He created one of the best, most well-rounded Star Wars villains in Grand Admiral Thrawn. He also created one of the best heroines in Mara Jade, but that is not the subject of this review. With the total revamp of the Star Wars Universe by Disney, some of Zahn’s characters have gone by the wayside, but one still remains – Thrawn. His story has been rewritten, but fascination with his character remains. When I heard a new Thrawn trilogy was in the works, I was excited. So, on one of my latest excursions to Barnes & Noble, I made sure to get my hands on the first book in that series, Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising.
Most recently, Zahn has taken to telling Thrawn’s backstory by writing a Thrawn tale set in a specific time period and then using flashbacks to explain things Thrawn does. Previous books have taken place during the Rebellion while flashing back to the Clone Wars. This time around, we are taken back to Thrawn’s time as a Senior Captain in the Chiss Ascendancy. Lately the Chiss have experienced minor attacks on the fringes of their territory and recently, they have discovered a ship of dead refugees in the area. The military believes this to be a message of impending attack, but the Aristocra see things differently.
Much to the Aristocra’s chagrin, Thrawn is called upon to give his observations of the incidents. In flashbacks, we travel to a point in time when Thrawn is selected to be a member of the Mitth family. At the time, he was a bright and shining star, expected to bring honor to the Mitth, but it is clear that he has no interest in politics and a different thought process regarding the Chiss isolationist views. When he sees a people in trouble, Thrawn finds it difficult to leave them to their doom, despite the Chiss view that Chiss should not be involved in issues outside of their territory. It has gotten him in trouble in the past and it threatens to ruin his career now.
In this novel, we are given insight into Admiral Ar’Alani’s beginnings, her rise to Admiral and her relationship with Thrawn. We are also introduced to a new character in Thalias, a former sky-walker who has applied to be an observer on Thrawn’s latest journey aboard the Springhawk, seeing it as an opportunity to thank him for helping her in her youth. Bureaucracy has caused her admission as an observer to be declined, but she is able to board by volunteering to be a caregiver to the ship’s young sky-walker Che’ri. Her ward is not happy with the situation, but soon realizes that her new caregiver is different from the ones she’s had previously – this one actually knows what it is like to he a sky-walker…and what it is like to lose those abilities.
When the Springhawk embarks on its journey to determine the origin of their pirate attacks, Thrawn discovers a similarity to an enemy he has faced in the past and Ar’Alani, Thalias and Che’ri are all drawn into his plan to stop them. Thrawn’s enemies are none to happy with the situation. Will their enmity mean the end of Thrawn’s career in the face of a danger the Ascendancy has never before faced…that of invasion and subservience?
I still love Timothy Zahn’s writing style and Thrawn’s ability to understand his enemies through the analysis of art is still as enjoyable as ever. I also loved the new characters and can see a possible love triangle forming between Thrawn, Ar’Alani and Thalias…though Thrawn might be oblivious to it. That being said, I’m a bit annoyed at the changes being made in the Thrawn origin story that have been going on over the past few years. Call me a purist, but I really enjoyed the original origin story and felt the changes being made were unnecessary.
Okay, I’ll get off my Disney is messing too much with my Star Wars soapbox now. The fact of the matter is that Thrawn is a fascinating character and Timothy Zahn is an excellent writer. For those non-purists out there, Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising is an excellent read, full of action and adventure and thought-provoking as well. For those reasons, I can honestly say that even purists like myself will enjoy reading this novel as much as I did, origin changes aside. Well done, Mr. Zahn.