Audiobook Review: Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Media Tie-In
Publisher: Random House Audio (July 23, 2019)
Length: 13 hrs and 13 mins
Author Information: Website
Narrator: Marc Thompson
This third novel which wraps up the new canonical Thrawn trilogy quite nicely, and might actually be my favorite of the three books. As readers have come to expect from this series, Treason once more takes us into the mind of the Star Wars’s greatest military strategist and tactician, the blue-skinned red-eyed Chiss alien known as Grand Admiral Thrawn. His creator and author Timothy Zahn also takes this opportunity to further embed the character into the greater universe, tying together the elements from the previous books to Star Wars: Rebels as well as Rogue One and more.
Treason, however, takes place prior to the culmination of those events. Our protagonist still has his hands full with Ezra Bridger and the rebels on Lothal, while Director Orson Krennic is yet pounding away at his secret project, codenamed Stardust, which of course is the Death Star. Dissatisfied with the rate at which things are going, Emperor Palpatine has temporary halted Thrawn’s own TIE defender program, tasking him to help Krennic instead. Needless to say, this does not go down well with anyone, except maybe the Emperor, who takes some sick delight from watching his senior commanders sweat under pressure. For Thrawn though, it is a revelation—he now knows where the Empire’s priorities are, and in order to maintain his own place in its hierarchy, he’ll have to learn how to play ball. First order of business is to find a solution to the gralloc problem, which has been plaguing Stardust’s supply lines for years. Closely related to the mynock, these giant space-faring creatures have been hampering ships by attacking and damaging their power cables. But as you’ve probably already guessed, the problem goes far deeper than a mere vermin infestation, and in time, Thrawn’s patience and methodological approach will suss it all out.
Meanwhile, the story also focuses on Eli Vanto, the young lieutenant we first met in the first novel of this trilogy. Having become Thrawn’s protégé of sorts, Vanto has gone to serve as an Imperial liaison in the Chiss Ascendency under the Grand Admiral’s direction, assigned to Admiral Ar’alani. When a turn of fate brings mentor and pupil together again, a larger threat in the form of a common foe to both the Empire and Chiss Ascendency is uncovered. This enemy is known as the Grysk, an aggressive alien race originating from the unknown regions who show no mercy in conquering and enslaving whole star systems. The problem is, they are already here, and may have already infiltrated the upper echelons of the Empire.
Like I said, I really enjoyed this novel, and appreciated the way it accomplished multiple goals while delivering a quality reading experience—which, I have to say, is a pretty high bar set by a lot of the new Star Wars canonical fiction as of late. First and foremost, I loved how Zahn continued to build on Thrawn’s character, which isn’t simply limited to telling us again and again what an evil genius he is. On the contrary, Thrawn isn’t really a villain here, nor can you really quite quantify him with words like “good” or “bad” because the truth is more complex. He is also not infallible, and Treason reveals some of his personal foibles and shortcomings. The Grand Admiral is an intellectual and results-driven type of personality which makes him scarily good at what he does, but it also means he has no time to waste on pleasantries and politicking. And unfortunately, in Palpatine’s Empire, political maneuvering is both a necessity and an art form. I also liked how we got to learn more about Thrawn through the eyes of his subordinates, which has been a recurring theme in all three books in the trilogy. Thrawn is good to his people, who reward him with their complete loyalty, and this can be gleaned through the POVs provided by Eli Vanto and also Commodore Karyn Faro.
As for the story, Treason offers plenty of action and intrigue. Whether you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan or just a reader with a passing interest, I think there’s plenty of entertainment here for everyone. As expected, the seemingly minor gralloc problem introduced at the start of the novel ultimately snowballs into a narrative of epic proportions, involving conspiracy, possible war, and of course, treason. But the book’s title also contains deeper meaning, as we soon discover. Thrawn is put in a very awkward place between the Empire and the Chiss Ascendency, leading to some of his fellow Imperials questioning his loyalty, and now he has apparently also landed his protégé Vanto into a similar position. Some pacing issues aside, the plot was overall quite impressive, and I have to applaud it for being more complex, clever and multilayered than I’d originally thought.
To sum up my thoughts, Thrawn: Treason was definitely worth the read. While the entire new trilogy has been a fantastic in-depth study on the character, this last novel takes it to another level and excels in characterization, making it my favorite of the three books. I won’t make any morecomparisons to the original trilogy because I think I’ve already done that enough in my reviews of the previous novels, but I will say this would also be a perfectly suitable introduction to Thrawn if you’ve ever been curious about the character, especially now that Rebels and Zahn have made him such an integral part of the new Star Wars canon.
Audiobook Comments: Mark Thompson is amazing, but you probably already knew that if you’re familiar with the Star Wars audiobooks. Once again, he delivered an outstanding performance, bringing the adventure and characters to life. His voices are superb, especially for Thrawn, whose tight-lipped inflection is just short of a lisp and sounds almost exactly like he does on the Rebels show voiced by Lars Mikkelsen. Thompson’s Eli Vanto is also worth a mention, his southern-boy accent emphasizing the character’s down-to-earth charm. I just can’t praise his work enough.