Published: July 23, 2019 (US); July 25, 2019 (UK)
Author: Timothy Zahn
Cover Artist: Two Dots
Publisher: Del Rey (US); Century (UK)
Formats: Hardback (352 pages), eBook (352 pages), Audiobook (793 minutes)
Timeline: 1 BBY
“If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”
Such was the promise Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting. Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive.
Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency. Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets.
As Thrawn works to secure his place in the Imperial hierarchy, his former protégé Eli Vanto returns with a dire warning about Thrawn’s homeworld. Thrawn’s mastery of strategy must guide him through an impossible choice: duty to the Chiss Ascendancy, or fealty to the Empire he has sworn to serve. Even if the right choice means committing treason.
Before delving into this review both cover variants deserve a big shout out. The main retail edition is so dramatic with Thrawn side-lit in red and the Emperor looming in the background. Then the SDCC exclusive of the Grand Admiral plotting in his mastermind chair is just as mysterious. For fans who pre-ordered in the UK and signed up to the publisher’s free giveaway, then there’s also a neat badge of the Chimaera available, which will be a nice memento of this fantastic series.
After three years of following Thrawn within the tumultuous currents of the Empire, Timothy Zahn’s latest trilogy finally reaches its crescendo. Thrawn: Treason certainly lives up to its title, weaving a tale of subtle espionage and political machinations that leaves the reader confused as to where anybody’s loyalties truly lie.
One major factor that Treason must address is the proximity to the events that occurred in Rebels Season 4. Rather than stifling or limiting the plot in any way, Zahn masterfully balances the events into the story – the Battle of Lothal is neither relegated into insignificance nor controlling of the plot, and the characters of Pryce, Syndulla and Bridger are all briefly mentioned. Thrawn: Treason also explains why the Grand Admiral was absent whilst Governor Pryce was being outsmarted by the Ghost crew.
He may be a tactical genius, but when it comes to the political games played within the Imperial hierarchy Thrawn is out of his depth. It’s very interesting to see this new side of his character, especially when Thrawn was so deep anyway, and yet Zahn has added another layer of complexity to the Chiss admiral. It feels almost like a gap in Thrawn’s otherwise impenetrable armour, making him more human in some respects even if he is an alien.
Throughout this trilogy the side cast of characters have always seemed supportive to Thrawn, but here in Treason each comes into their own. Commodore Faro plays protégé more in this story, refining her understanding of tactics under Thrawn. Having Eli Vanto working with the Grand Admiral again to uncover the mastermind behind the gralloc ploy feels like a more matured version of their relationship from the first novel. As an alien within the Chiss Ascendancy, Eli now has a deeper appreciation for the isolation Thrawn endures serving the Empire.
Another exciting aspect of Treason is the introduction of more Chiss; serving in the Chiss Defence Fleet aboard the warship Steadfast under the command of Admiral Ar’alani. She’s a completely contrasting leader when compared to Thrawn – both are calmly confident but Ar’alani is notably harsher towards her crew, trying to stop any infighting between rival families. Fans would probably be very happy if Zahn wrote a series based solely on the Chiss, their complex society and the struggles within the Ascendancy.
The return of the Grysk’s could have made Thrawn: Treason far too similar to Alliances, but thankfully this time around it is the Chiss and not the Empire who deal them a crippling blow. The battle sequences are high-stakes and the tension amongst the bridge crew is almost palpable. Whereas most of the book is devoted to slowly discovering who is siphoning parts from the Death Star project, these final few chapters keep you reading as the foolhardy gambits between the Chiss and Grysk’s plays out.
It’s the “whodunnit” reveal at the end of the novel that ties everything together. Without spoiling anything let’s just say that until Thrawn accuses the traitor, they are quite likeable and appear trustworthy. All through the story Zahn plants red-herrings and misdirection’s pointing to another Imperial entirely, so that when Thrawn unmasks the real brains behind the subterfuge, it is absolutely unanticipated!
Even though Treason is the shortest of the three novels in this series, it never feels rushed and is a worthy conclusion of Thrawn’s character-arc. If anything, it just leaves you with the burning desire to know what happened to Grand Admiral Mitth’raw’nuruodo and where he is now.
Thrawn: Treason was released on 23rd July 2019 and is available from all good bookstores and through online retailers including Amazon with a RRP of £20. It is available in hardback, eBook and audiobook formats.
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