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THRAWN ASCENDANCY Review- Clever, brilliant and utterly engrossing

Thrawn is here but is he ready to face his next foe?

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Thrawn Greater Good

Thrawn is my all-time favourite Star Wars character. I’ve always gravitated towards the Dark Side of the force. Whether that be the Empire, The First Order, or even the Separatists. But Grand Admiral Thrawn is on an entirely different level and I think that’s what drew me to him. He isn’t a lightsaber-wielding Force user. He’s an intelligent and interesting strategic master. With each new chapter of Thrawn’s deep history, I get even more engrossed. Despite Thrawn’s current whereabouts being a mystery, I will never pass up the opportunity to dive further into the Chiss.

That’s where Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good comes in.

Zimothy Zahn, the genius behind Thrawn, has gone to great lengths to explore Thrawn’s history. Each of his trilogy’s has given us a glimpse into Mitth’raw’nuruodo’s life. But Ascendancy has given fans the opportunity to see how Thrawn rose through the ranks within the Ascendancy and how his presence both protected the Chiss species and threatened some of the more influential families. Chaos Rising showed us the chaotic nature of the Unknown Regions through the Nikardun Destiny who attempted to conquer various territories. With Yiv the Benevolent defeated and captured, Thrawn and the Ascendancy believed the worst was over. Of course…. They were wrong.

However, unlike the Nikardun Destiny this new threat does not command giant fleets or conquer entire worlds. No, this enemy’s weapons consist of smiles, manners, and gifts. In an attempt to destroy the Ascendancy, this unseen enemy seeks to create a rift between the Nine Ruling Families and the Forty Great Houses. With the families at war, the Ascendancy’s doom will be at hand. It’s down to the Expansionary Defense Fleet to uncover this plot before it’s too late.

One thing I have always loved about Thrawn is Zahn’s writing. Without Zahn and his incredible modes of storytelling Thrawn would not be the character he is today. There is something utterly compelling about the way Zahn constructs this story. It’s continuously gripping, intriguing and incredibly different compared to the first book. The first instalment approached Thrawn in a more typical manner that allowed his outstanding military mind to wonder free. Greater Good, on the other hand, presents us with a seemingly innocent situation that can’t be resolved with a slick manoeuvre or some kind of military gamble. Instead, it plays on Thrawn’s ultimate weakness… Politics.

Despite this disadvantage, Thrawn never ceases to amaze me. Zahn still puts Thrawn’s skills on display and it works so well in the printed format. You can actually follow Thrawn’s deductions not just through Thrawn himself but through the supporting characters who actually witness Thrawn in action. Even when Thrawn is preoccupied the overall narrative cleverly jumps around. Once you make that connection, you can start piecing things together and you get a very vague idea where Thrawn and his crew will be heading next.

But what’s truly interesting about this second book is that it actually puts Thrawn to the side and that’s both a criticism and a praise. Thrawn is still in it of course, but his presence doesn’t feel as potent. Instead, the book focuses primarily on multiple interconnecting stories. One that takes us back to before the events of the second book, one that focuses on a farmer, some that explore the various members of the Expansionary Defense Fleet, and some that dive more into the family politics of the Ruling Families and Houses.

Part of me was sad to see Thrawn assume a less intense role. But, the culmination of all of the subplots and point of view chapters helps create an immensely satisfying narrative that gradually intensifies and unravels spectacularly. To me, it felt more like a seed growing. Greater Good is a story that focuses a lot on the world surrounding Thrawn while also teasing a much larger threat and if you’ve been following Thrawn for quite some time that threat will be a pleasant surprise that ties all of Thrawn’s stories together.

The only other negative is that there’s still a lot of new information to process. We’re dealing with new characters, species, planets, families, ships, locations, histories, and ideals. It was somewhat overpowering at times but as you adjusted and familiarised yourself with the formation of the Chiss Ascendancy, it all became a lot easier. Well, it did for me because I read Greater Good as soon as I finished Chaos Rising. Even though I had an advantage, I still found myself getting slightly confused especially with the addition of forty additional families all of which have ties with members from the Nine Ruling Families. So, you had to keep up with who was supporting who and which families despised each other. At times, I almost envied Thrawn’s inability to understand politics. Having said that though, having the opportunity to truly understand how the Chiss governed was extremely fascinating.

After finishing that last page, it became clear that Zahn has something truly special planned for Thrawn. While Greater Good definitely pushed him aside, you’re able to gain a better understanding of the galaxy and its plethora of specials and rules. It acts very much as a set up that has multiple threads. Thrawn will not only have to deal with the enemy ahead of him, he’ll also have to deal with the enemies close to home. Greater Good did a fantastic job at exploring the various characters and plotlines while also allowing us to see Thrawn at his weakest. Sure, he’s able to navigate certain aspects with absolute ease and accuracy, but there are also elements that go completely over his head.

With these uncertainties, it’s incredibly difficult to predict how Thrawn and his crew will cope with the impending threat. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil  which is coming out in November. Have you read Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good? Let us know in the comments. Greater Good is available to buy now. For more book news, click here.


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