Today’s post is a book review of a book I’ve been waiting to read since May. This Thrawn series has been really enjoyable, and I’m curious to see what happens next with the character.
The fate of the Chiss Ascendancy hangs in the balance in the epic finale of the Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.
For thousands of years The Chiss Ascendancy has been an island of calm, a center of power, and a beacon of integrity. Led by the Nine Ruling Families, their leadership stands as a bulwark of stability against the Chaos of the Unknown Regions.
But that stability has been eroded by a cunning foe that winnows away trust and loyalty in equal measure. Bonds of fidelity have given way to lines of division among the families. Despite the efforts of the Expansionary Defense Fleet, the Ascendancy slips closer and closer toward civil war.
The Chiss are no strangers to war. Their mythic status in the Chaos was earned through conflict and terrible deeds, some long buried. Until now. To ensure the Ascendancy’s future, Thrawn will delve deep into its past, uncovering the dark secrets surrounding the ascension of the First Ruling Family. But the truth of a family’s legacy is only as strong as the legend that supports it. Even if that legend turns out to be a lie.
To secure the salvation of the Ascendancy, is Thrawn willing to sacrifice everything? Including the only home he has ever known?
This was a fitting conclusion to the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy. It had everything you’d expect from a Thrawn book written by Timothy Zahn, interesting politics, good writing, and plenty of mysteries and logic puzzles. The pacing of this book was quite good, and it was faster than I remember the previous book being paced, which I preferred. I didn’t find any dull spots in this one, and the mystery and frequent action kept me wanting to turn to the next page. Occasionally, the mysteries and logic became a bit convoluted, though, and some of it went over my head. However, it wasn’t enough to ruin my enjoyment of the overall story. It is also important to note that this book relies very heavily upon knowledge of the previous Thrawn books, and I think re-reading them prior to reading this one might have helped my understanding of some of the more convoluted parts.
I loved the world-building in this book. I’ve always found the Chiss Ascendancy to be fascinating, and the new information about their culture provided here was a lot of fun to read. The politics was interesting and believable based on what had previously been set up in other books. It showed a civilization so focused on isolationism, tradition, and tribalism that it had become stagnant and begun to destroy itself from the inside out, which has left it vulnerable to outside attack. I’ve found it interesting in all these books to see that the Ascendancy and its bureaucracy is just as much the antagonist to Thrawn as the enemies from the outside. There are a lot of good lessons to take away from this, especially how any civilization regardless of its past greatness can be ruined by complacency, stagnation, and an over-reliance on doing things the way they’ve always been done.
The characters were also a highlight of this book and the series as a whole. While Thrawn may be the titular character, this series spent more time developing new characters than focusing on him exclusively. I was annoyed by this in some of the previous books, but I liked the balance that was struck here. I’ve also come to really enjoy some of the new characters. They were all well-developed and showed a great deal of growth throughout the course of the book. I liked both Che’ri and Thalias a lot and loved getting to learn a bit more about the Skywalker program and their abilities. I also found Thurfian’s growth to be interesting, but I missed his single-minded hatred of Thrawn a bit more than I thought I would. With the way the second book ended, I expected Thurfian to be a main antagonist of Thrawn in this one, but that didn’t really end up happening. He felt stuffed in the background of everything else going on until the very end, which left me a little let down. I liked the memories chapters of this book and the introduction of Thrass. His friendship with Thrawn provided a window into Thrawn’s humanity that hadn’t really been shown before, which was nice to see. Although, I didn’t really feel the memories, or Thrass himself, tied too much into the story being told, which surprised me because in previous books there had been a more direct tie in. Here they seemed to provide just a little more context for some of the decisions made by characters in the current story. It was fine. I was just expecting a little more of a payoff from the inclusion of all those scenes.
The plot of this story was interesting and answered some of the series’ overarching mysteries while also deepening others. The villains of this series have been like a Russian nesting doll with various villains masking the presence of the true enemy within their ranks, the Grysk. I was hoping for a few more answers about the Grysk than I got, but the book did a nice job of wrapping up the Jixtus storyline. Hopefully, the unanswered questions mean they will be popping up again in future Star Wars media along with Thrawn. One can hope, right? The end of the book honestly surprised me and was not what I was expecting at all. I knew it had to lead to Thrawn getting exiled in order to place him where he needed to be for events that happened later in the timeline in other books, but it all played out differently than I expected. The last thing I will note is that the story had a lot of different space battles, which I really enjoyed reading. Zahn did an excellent job of bringing them to life and making me feel like part of the fight, which made the book fun to read while keeping me on the edge of my seat.
Overall, I really enjoyed this conclusion to the Thawn Ascendancy series. I recommend it for all Star Wars fans but especially those who love Thrawn. Despite being a bit convoluted at times, the series has considerably expanded the lore about the Chiss and introduced numerous characters that are intriguing to read about. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.