Review: THRAWN: TREASON by Timothy Zahn

Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 23rd, 2019
Page Count: 334
Series: STAR WARS: THRAWN, Book 3
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It

43156251The Empire has come to a crossroads in deciding what military program will best protect its reach from the increasing nuisance that is the Rebel Alliance. Grand Admiral Thrawn is a staunch defender of the new Tie Defender prototype, and believes they should be produced on a mass scale.  There’s just one problem: the Emperor has become enamored of Director Krennic’s Stardust weapon, and is diverting all military funding to completing the project.  But with construction beginning to fall dangerously behind schedule because swarms of creatures known as grallocs keep attacking ships at a supply depot in a way that accidentally triggers the ships to jump to unknown points via hyperspace, Grand Moff Tarkin makes Thrawn a bet. If Thrawn can solve the gralloc problem within a week, the Tie Defender program will be funded. If he can’t, then Thrawn has to throw his support to Stardust.  As Thrawn investigates the disappearances, it soon becomes clear there are more to the attacks than what meets the eye. Complicating matters further, Thrawn stumbles across a warship of his Chiss people in Imperial space – and they’ve got his former human protege Eli Vanto in tow.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: when it comes to anything involving Thrawn and/or Timothy Zahn, I am incredibly biased.  There’s probably a half star inflation on my ratings and I own that freely.  That said, I had a lot of fun with this read, especially as I’ve come to understand what this particular Star Wars series is: sci-fi mystery adventures.  The jacket blurb forever promises high intrigue and high personal stakes that will push our anti-hero to the brink of his loyalty to the Empire, but really, there’s little of that to be found.  There’s some scheming and maneuvering between Tarkin, Krennic, and a few ancillary characters, but at the end of the day, it’s the universe’s best detective/fleet commander out to solve a mystery.  And you know what?  This is apparently my kind of comfort read.

That last bit has a lot to do with the fact that I love watching people who are good at their job doing what they do best.  In this case, that’s Thrawn following obscure lines of thought to outwit an unseen enemy, with subordinates he has groomed to be capable Watsons to his Holmes.  You won’t find much in the way of oppressive Imperialism on display here, leaving you to freely cheer as the Tie Fighters and Star Destroyers pull off daring maneuvers against pirates and other foes.

If there’s a flaw in these recent Thrawn books, it’s that the plots remain relatively low stakes.  In TREASON, there’s some clashing of personalities by the addition of a Krennic-flunkie assigned to Thrawn’s ship to oversee the terms of the bet, but mostly people work together against this common problem.  The villainous alien race that makes a return appearance has always left me a bit underwhelmed by the threat they pose.  Mostly they return as a plot MacGuffin, and I do wish that the powers-that-be would allow something more nefarious to be at odds against Thrawn.

There’s a chance, however, that this might be the last we see of Thrawn in book form for some time.  In the closing pages of TREASON, there’s references to Thrawn returning to the planet Lothal, and based on a few other hints dropped, it’s clear that the timeline puts the end of TREASON just days or even hours before the series finale of the animated STAR WARS REBELS which left Thrawn in an….interesting situation that I suspect is largely meant to explain why Thrawn isn’t around for the live action movies.  It would be a DREAM if Zahn were allowed to pen the further adventures of Thrawn post-REBELS, but I can only imagine such a dream is unlikely. Until then, I’ll just enjoy my space mysteries with my favorite Grand Admiral.

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