Biweekly Book Review: Thrawn: Treason

Happy Sunday, readers!

Today’s Community Involvement Resource is this page on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. From famine to war, an epidemic and a pandemic all at once, the conditions there are truly horrific. The page contains resources to learn more about what is happening there, petitions that need signing, and places to donate and send aid. I personally chose to donate through the ICRC (the Red Cross), and I hope you’ll join me in helping however you are able!

There’s no elegant way to pivot from something very serious to a book review, so let’s just go for it.

*Spoilers Below*

Today, the rebooted trilogy comes to a close with Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn.

The Story

First and foremost: Eli Vanto is back!

Vanto is serving onboard a Chiss vessel under Admiral Ar’alani, and has been bumped down from Commander to Lieutenant. He’s also chafing under the seemingly unimportant data analysis job assigned to him by Ar’alani.

Meanwhile back on Coruscant, Thrawn is faced with a challenge from Director Krennic. The Empire is struggling to fund both Krennic’s Stardust program and Thrawn’s TIE Defender program, so the challenge is this: if Thrawn can put a stop to the wild animal infestation that is delaying delivery of materials to Stardust, the Empire will fund his project. If he can’t, funding will shift to Krennic. Krennic sends an Assistant Director, Ronan, aboard Thrawn’s ship, ostensibly to keep an eye on him but in actuality to derail his progress.

Thrawn’s investigation lead him to uncover a larger conspiracy, aided by Ar’alani and Vanto, who were pursuing an investigation of their own. Their path also leads them to uncover a larger plot by the Grysks, who intend on taking over both the Chiss Ascendancy and the Empire using truly terrifying methods.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. Eli Vanto is back, and living with the Chiss!

Eli is back, and boy am I excited!

I really liked him in the first book in the series, he was both a fish out of water within the Empire, as well as Thrawn’s man on the inside. For all that he’s an imperial officer, he was really sweet, and keen, and he means well. It was nice seeing Anakin and Padmé in the last book, but Eli was really missed.

But he’s back in this book, he’s become more mature, and thinks a little more like the Chiss. It’s also fun to see the role reversal with him contrasted to the first book, since HE is now the outsider to the large, imposing military structure.

He doesn’t strictly have an “Eli Vanto” counterpart in the Ascendancy who can help him understand the different ways, though he does have a budding friendship with Navigator Vah’nya that’s really sweet.

Speaking of which…

2. Navigator Vah’nya

We know from the last book that Chiss navigators are young children, often female, who navigate using Force-sensitivity (called “Third Sight”), but this fades as the children get older. But Vah’nya is different.

She is 22 years old, and long past the age where Third Sight has faded, but it remains just as strong as ever with her. She also possesses a rarer ability known as “Second Sight” which allows her to look into someone’s mind, see what they saw and feel what they felt (which just feels so Vulcan to me).

Ronan witnesses Vah’nya react to an even moments before it happens, and suspects that she may be a Jedi. I suspect the same and I would like nothing more than to see this explored in a future book. We don’t know what that would look like within the Chiss Ascendancy, so I’d be fascinated to see this taken to the next step.

3. Thrawn and his life in the Empire

Since the first book, I’ve liked seeing how Thrawn functions within the Empire, and I’m so happy we get more of that in this book. Specifically, we get to see how people within the Empire react to his presence.

His relationship with Commodore Karyn Faro is actually kind of sweet. He is her mentor and she puts a lot of stock in the relationship. When Ronan insinuates that Thrawn is deliberately holding her back from a promised promotion for selfish reasons of his own, Faro is genuinely hurt by the insinuation. Fortunately, such comments were unfounded, and Thrawn is more than happy to let Faro move on with his blessing once their mission is complete.

As a reader, I found I was also hurt by the insinuation that Thrawn was cold, selfish and calculating (though he is certainly calculating). Anytime Ronan would question him, I would get upset and want to defend him. Ronan doesn’t know him. How dare he?

That’s the strength in this character. He is calculating, he works for the Empire, he is working on ways to destroy the rebellion, and yet when you spend the whole story in his point of view, or with others who regard him highly, you can’t help but feel the same way.

4. The pacing

If my plot summary sounded vaguer than usual…it’s because it is.

I don’t know what it was about this book in the series in particular, but it took about 100 pages for the ball to really get rolling for me, and every chunk after that either went so slowly I would daydream in the middle of reading, or it went so fast I missed A LOT of plot. Any time I picked the book up again, I had totally forgotten everything that came before. I actually had to reread a summary of this book on Wookiepedia before I sat down to write this. And I finished the book last night.

This is a real shame, because I’m genuinely invested in Thrawn and in Vanto. And though it was their first appearance, I really liked Vah’nya and Ar’alani and I wanted to see more of them too!

Overall Series Thoughts

There were parts of this series I truly enjoyed. I really like the characters, I think they’re very interesting, and I like the variety of dynamics presented within the story.

I do think the action portions of it can feel convoluted and confusing at times, leaving them harder to follow, and I found myself dreading them. I was far more interested in the conspiracies and power struggles. That was my one big issue with the third book: the character driven conflict was so couched in the external conflict I couldn’t pick out the plot I would have normally enjoyed.

We’re due to get another Thrawn book this September, a prequel to this series, and while I’m looking forward to the closer look at the Ascendancy, I do think it’s a shame we aren’t getting more about Ar’alani, Vah’nya, and Eli Vanto after Thrawn’s disappearance and the fall of the Empire. But maybe they’re saving that for a TV show or something.

Random Thoughts

They reference Hera Syndulla being taken by the Empire on Lothal, placing this somewhere in the middle of season 4 of Rebels.

It was Thrawn’s idea for Vader to supervise the Stardust project – a final middle finger to Krennic after he made Thrawn’s life needlessly difficult and stripped funding from his project.

I liked the mission Vanto and Ronan went on, where they try to bluster and bluff their way through a busy, sketchy trading port. It was tonally very different from the rest of the book, and made for a fun change of pace.

The two Death Troopers Thrawn assigns to accompany Vanto and Ronan on their mission are named Pik and Waffle, which sound more like names of Santa’s elves than anything else.

We finally get a closer look at what the Grysk are and how they operate, and it’s truly terrifying. They are able to invade a beings mind, and break it along with their soul, creating someone so broken and dejected that they have no choice but to do their bidding. Vah’nya explains this threat to Vanto, saying that people enslaved by the Grysk would have “no resistance, no revolt, no dissent, no hope”. The specific word choices referring to rebellion, resistance and hope seem to clearly refer to the actions and sentiment behind the rebellion currently brewing within the Empire. This leaves us, the reader, to see that no matter how bad the Empire is, rebellion and hope can still flourish within it. Something that is thoroughly impossible with the Grysk. This also makes me wonder if they’re going to pop up again at any point.

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