Sunday, August 7, 2022

Book Review: Heir to the Empire

book cover for Heir to the EmpireFive years ago, the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and drove the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights.

But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor's warlords, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made a vital discovery that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to build.

I remember when this first came out. The glow from the original Star Wars trilogy had faded, but the franchise still had its rabid fans. As much as I loved the films, I didn't cross over into super-fan territory. I was content with story as it was and willing to let it go. So why am I reading it now? My son, a big Star Wars fan himself (at least before Disney got a hold of the franchise), bought me the (original) Thrawn trilogy for Christmas. How could I say no?

Zahn has had a long and prolific career penning stories set in the Star Wars universe. This was his first. I feel like he was somewhat handcuffed in how he handled the known characters from the films. They came across as flat, dull. Their quips seemed borrowed from the films. I didn't get the feeling that their characters grew.

Where Zahn excelled was with the new characters. Joruus C'baoth was an egotistical bore. Mara Jade's hatred for Luke was insufferable. Fortunately, we find out why she hates him so much near the end of the novel. Talon Karrde was a shrewd smuggler caught between the fledgling Republic and the remnants of the Empire. I grew to like him. Captain Pellaeon had my sympathies despite playing for the bad guys. He had the unenviable task of reporting to the sharpest tactician in the Empire. He knew that he was mentally outmatched by his boss, and constantly had to prove his competence to the man lest he find himself staring down the wrong end of a blaster. And Grand Admiral Thrawn was the sharpest tack in the galaxy. Someone on Goodreads compared him to Sherlock Holmes, and I cannot disagree. One of the finest villains that's ever been written for Star Wars.

I didn't get a proper sense of the internal strife among the Republic's ruling council, so I was caught off guard at the end. The peril that our intrepid heroes faced didn't seem too perilous, and yet they struggled. There was a climactic battle at the end of the novel that was entertaining, but it was far too early in the trilogy to be epic. Still, I was entertained, and I will be continuing with the series.

3.5 stars