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Audiobook Review: Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances By Timothy Zahn
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Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances
Hardcover | Kindle | Audible
Sequel to Star Wars: Thrawn Book 1
Written by Timothy Zahn
Audiobook narrated by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Del Rey Books | Random House Audio
Release Date: July 24, 2018

Ever since the 1991 release of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, I have maintained that Grand Admiral Thrawn could be the best bad guy to ever grace the Star Wars universe. Even badder than Darth Vader. After author Timothy Zahn closed out the Thrawn trilogy of books – which also includes Dark Force Rising and The Last Command – I have been chomping on the bit for more Thrawn love.

Not only did I get no additional love, I had what I’d grown to love practically ripped out from under me as Thrawn and all the other characters introduced in the Expanded Universe of books and comics were declared non-canon by Lucasfilm. I was heartbroken.

A couple years ago, though, some of those EU characters started making a return to canon storytelling but with different supporting tales. One of those characters was Grand Admiral Mitth’raw’nuruodo (“Thrawn”) of the Chiss Ascendency who made his triumphant return in season three of the Star Wars Rebels animated television series. Then a book, Thrawn, was announced and Timothy Zahn, the human behind the Chiss, was going to pen it and it was fantastic!

Suffice it to say, I was exceptionally overjoyed when a sequel to Thrawn was announced late last year. It has sat at the top of my must-read list since that moment.

The second novel, Thrawn: Alliances, released at the tail end of July 2018, features two storylines. In the first, set sometime after Thrawn’s defeat by the Spectres in Rebels, Emperor Palpatine pairs Thrawn with Darth Vader to investigate a disturbance in the Force he detected. The second timeline, set approximately 22 years BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) in the midst of the Clone Wars, sees Thrawn meeting and teaming up with General Anakin Skywalker who is searching for Padme. The former queen went missing while investigating the disappearance of her security chief Duja, who herself went missing investigating a Separatist manufacturing facility in the far reaches of the galaxy. Of course, there’s more to each mission than briefings would have you believe.

On the surface, these are solid stories in concept and the promise of what might happen given Thrawn meeting the same man at two highly distinctive periods in his evolution was quite intriguing.

I have found, however, that expectation can sometimes be a very dangerous thing. I wound up finishing this book feeling a little deflated. I just don’t know if it has more to do with the story or how characters were portrayed by narrator Marc Thompson.

Yes, I listened to the audiobook and, while I have mostly loved what Thompson has done with Star Wars stories, his performance left a little to be desired here. As a straight-up narrator, he was great. He has a solid voice that keeps you engaged and has the right emotional appeal when necessary. His characterizations are fine for personas with which you are unfamiliar. Heck, I even grew to appreciate his take on both Vader and Thrawn the more I listened to them.

But Anakin and Padme? The former sounded at times like a pre-Point Break Keanu Reeves, while I swore the latter might cry with every comment she made and these characterizations really took me out of the story. I seem to recall Padme being a much tougher character than Thompson’s performance would convey. In the future, I’d love to see Disney and Random House Audio invest in casts of actors to help alleviate this issue.

I am, however, also mixed on the content of the story. We get a lot of insight into Thrawn and Vader/Anakin via internal monologues. At first, these seem like a good idea, but I actually quickly grew bored of Thrawn’s highly detailed behavioral analyses of those around him, mostly Anakin/Vader and Commandant Faro, his own second-in-command aboard the Chimaera. Anakin/Vader’s monologues are all prefaced with “Double vision” and describe how he sees attacks coming at him through his Force-driven mind’s eye.

On the flip side, as the more modern story progressed, I really found myself enjoying the insight into First Legion Stormtroopers and hearing Vader lead his troops into battle. I even grew to like Rukh, Thrawn’s personal bodyguard who made his first appearance in the final season Star Wars Rebels.

It’s really killing me to be so critical of this book given my love of Thrawn and Zahn’s treatment of him prior to this book. I’m not sure if this new series is intended to be a trilogy, but, if so, I’d love for the final book to be more of a natural sequel to the first and give us insight into why we never saw Thrawn in the Original Trilogy. Where is he? What is he doing? Is he even alive? I want more of Eli Vanto and the Chiss Ascendancy. I want… more.

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