Thrawn Returns! Except not really. But Zahn is back and that is always a good thing. Both the Bantam Era and the Empire are about to draw to a close so sit back and enjoy a lovely end to this chapter of the Star Wars story.
Specter of the Past
Zahn gets the team back together again. Okay, maybe it takes until the end of the book for that to really happen but from the start, we get to see all of our (or at least my) old favorites. Obviously, we get to see our heroes from the films but then Zahn gives us Karrde and Mara and Wedge and the Rogues! It thrills me so much to see Tycho get some page time outside of the X-Wing books. (Editor’s Note: Tycho 4 President 2016)
On top of that, we really get to meet Shada D’ukal for the first time. While this isn’t her first appearance in the books, it’s the first time we get a chance to get to know her and see her take the spotlight. She is honestly one of my favorite minor characters and her decision to leave the Mistryl in this book is definitely a big part of that. It’s a struggle between honesty and loyalty and those are always interesting to read.
One thing that occurred to me while I was reading this book is that I think a lot of the authors just… forgot about the Noghri. Of course, I skipped over a large chunk of the books set between the two Zahn series but I don’t seem to really remember them having a presence. Maybe that could’ve helped prevent some of their twelve thousand kidnappings…
As far as the book itself goes, I adore the set up. I love the juxtaposition of Pellaeon and his realization that the Empire can no longer continue to fight and with Disra and his plan to try and make the Empire a force to be reckoned with by use of a Thrawn impostor. On the other side, there is the New Republic struggling to adjust to being a “peacetime” government that deals with peacetime issues.
Vision of the Future
Let’s start with the good news: The Solo children weren’t kidnapped in these books! I mean, I know they’re about to make up for it in their own series but it’s something!
Also, apparently the publishers used the same thin-as-heck paper trick that they used for I, Jedi because this is the skinniest 700-page book I’ve ever seen. But that is neither here nor there in regards to the actual content of the book, whoops.
This book is a fantastic wrap up for the Bantam/Empire era and I’ll always be thrilled that they agreed to let Zahn “end” things. Everything about it just works really really really well. Zahn even manages to make “The Hand of Thrawn” work by making it information instead of a secret agent or a super weapon. All of the plot lines from the past fifteen years in-universe get tied up nicely without it feeling entirely like Zahn just wanted to put a bow on things. Heck, we even find out what happened to Baron Fel! I also really like the Imperial triumvirate with Disra-Tierce-Flim as a plot line because not only was it a good way to show contrast within the Empire but it was also a neat way to “see” Thrawn again without making it an actual miraculous return from the dead. Really, there’s nothing about this book that doesn’t work.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about good ol’ Admiral Gilad Pellaeon for a few minutes. He is by far my favorite Imperial because not only is he an interesting character but he is a good man to his very core. Not every person in the Imperial Navy was a xenophobic despot. A lot of them were just good people who believed in law and order. (Editor’s Note: This is particularly interesting to read now that we have the new canon.) Pellaeon cares about the people under his command and isn’t someone to throw away their lives uselessly. Honestly, they should’ve just let him run the galaxy.
Again, I loved that Zahn let us see a lot of different viewpoints of the big conflict and didn’t just limit us to the Big Three and a villain. The story is made so much richer by also following Bel Iblis (and Wedge and Booster) and their part of the conflict, Karrde and Shada’s side adventure, and even both Imperial camps. I’m an unashamed sucker for minor characters but it was done wonderfully.
Oh. And now the Errant Venture is red. Basically? That is the coolest thing EVER. I first read these books when I was maybe 11 or 12 and this stuck with me as being so awesome that I immediately decided to name my first car after Booster Terrik’s Star Destroyer. (Yes, it is a red SUV. No, I do not run card games out of the back.) (Editor’s Note: Maybe I should…)
Have I mentioned that these two books are just wonderful yet? That’s really what all of this boils down to: a lovely ending to a saga. I’ll stop gushing now.
And that’s the end of this era! Next up are Scourge and Survivor’s Quest.