You guys, I wrote my Goodreads review, as promised! It is full of spoilers—seriously, if you don’t want to know a lot about the story, don’t read this! I’ll say it again: there are a ton of spoilers in this review! Proceed with caution! 🙂
I’ve been waiting for this book for a very long time. (Anticipation tends to make time drag out.) It did not disappoint.
Even though this book is a sequel to Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn, you really don’t need to have read the first one to understand this. (You should read it, though, because it’s AMAZING. Seriously, Thrawn single-handedly turned me into a Star Wars fan.) Eli Vanto is mentioned once, and Commodore Faro showed up at the end of the previous book, but that’s about it. Instead, this book has references to some of the prequel trilogy, to other books, and to the TV shows Clone Wars and Rebels (I haven’t seen the shows, so I discovered that by looking up a few things I didn’t understand).
Random obscure references can be frustrating, but don’t let that stop you from reading this book. It’s excellent. I really enjoyed the interactions between Thrawn and his crew—he really is a good leader, so much so that I wish managers at work would emulate him more—as well as Thrawn and Vader, past and present. Yes, dear readers, it’s true: Darth Vader is in this book (he is a main character, as you can probably tell from the cover) and Zahn writes him well. I could hear all of his blunt, pithy statements being said in James Earl Jones’ voice from the movies.
I really enjoyed how Vader didn’t want to reveal his past. A few times, Thrawn makes reference to the fact that they met before, which Vader denies. By the end of the book, Thrawn knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Vader is Anakin Skywalker. Of course, the two of them don’t have some heart-to-heart about this. But I still enjoyed seeing this mystery play out.
Another unexpected part of this book was the inclusion of Padmé. I love Padmé! Unfortunately, her sections were the weakest, mainly because Zahn had so little to work with concerning her. The Star Wars canon has never done her justice, unfortunately. The good news is Zahn did the best he could with what he had—you’ve got to start somewhere.
By the end of the book, we discover a big secret about the Chiss—they navigate through hyperspace using Force-sensitive kids, whose strength in the Force diminishes as they grow older. These children, some of whom were kidnapped by the Grysk, a new species of alien, were the source of the disturbance Palpatine felt at the beginning of the novel. Thrawn and Vader have completed their mission and developed a grudging respect for each other. (Seriously, one of the most entertaining aspects of the this book is seeing Vader snipe at poor Thrawn for almost the entire time.) Vader promises to back Thrawn’s TIE Defender project. Thrawn says the emperor is interested in expanding the Empire to the Unknown Regions, something Thrawn is an expert in. The threads are all wrapped up by the end of this book, unlike in the prior one. I’m not sure where Zahn will go with a third book, if there is one (and I dearly hope there will be because MORE THRAWN).
Final verdict: if you’re a Star Wars fan, a Thrawn fan, a Vader fan, or all of the above, you will enjoy this. I wasn’t very happy with some of the references I didn’t understand, but those are few and far between and do not take away from the story.