I am not going to lie. Anyone who knows me in real life, knows I am a huge Star Wars nerd- movies, comics, expanded universe, etc. When Disney ended the first expanded universe, I was actually upset as a few of my favorite characters were now gone from the Star Wars Universe with Thrawn being one of those characters. I loved the Thrawn trilogy and those books were usually the ones I would recommend to people if they wanted to jump into the EU of Star Wars.
When I heard Thrawn was coming back, but was going to the Rebels universe, I got a little nervous. Rebels is a great show, but it is geared toward younger fans. Disney's first few books from the Rebels universe were ok, but also geared toward a younger audience. Was Thrawn by Timothy Zahn, the guy who created the character, going to be on the same path? The good news is no. Thrawn wasn't Disney-fied at all! In fact, it might be one of the better Thrawn books.
As can be expected, this is a prequel for Rebels and an origin story of how Thrawn rose through the ranks of the Imperial Empire. It is also the origin story of Arihnda Pryce of Rebels fame. The book also introduces Eli Vanto, who is Thrawn's translator, but really first in command and confident as time moves on. We do not get scenes of Thrawn's past, but simply how he entered into the Empire to fight the rebels.
The main story, besides the origin stuff, is how Thrawn chases a top notch smuggler for most of his career until the final conflict between the two. It is also the story of Pryce as she seeks revenge against her former boss when she is dismissed. It is a world of politics, warfare, and what tactics and leadership look like.
Let me start with the negative. There are long stretches of this book that are political dialog. Part of Thrawn's difficulty in rising through the ranks is the Empire is notorious for disliking aliens in favor of humans, so people look to undermine him politically. Thrawn also seems to not understand the political system of the Empire, so he must learn to navigate those waters. Prepare to read a lot of politics.
The great part is the character of Thrawn is back and just as good as before. What makes his character unique, for those who do not know him, is he studies art and people's faces and mannerisms to figure out what type of character people have. He is all strategy in his thinking, but as stated, it comes from his study of art. He is a thinker and not just an actor. He is not the shoot 'em up type, but rather how does one get out of situations using one's mind and resorting to guns only when needed. It is a breath of fresh air in the Star Wars lightsaber or pistol world.
The other fun is you are rooting for the Empire, if you root for Thrawn. He is fighting the Rebel Alliance and is trying to destroy it, which the reader forgets. He is on the Emperor's side and not Luke Skywalker's. So, he is an incredible anti hero.
While I wouldn't recommend this one to new fans jumping into the EU, I would recommend it to longer fans or fans who know the movies/EU pretty well. There isn't much exposition as to who some of the characters are as you are just supposed to know them. It is a fun book for Thrawn fans and people who want to get to know this character.
I gave it 4 stars, but that is weighted as I am a fanboy.
Here is your Amazon link- Thrawn by Timothy Zahn