In 1992, Timothy Zahn took us back into the slowly expanding universe of Star Wars with the second book in his Thrawn cycle, following on the heels of the previous year’s Heir to the Empire.
Continuing the story that is set five years after The Return of the Jedi, the heroes of the rebellion are struggling to mop up the last of the Empire, while establishing a New Republic. But political infighting, led by the Bothans, could cause problems, and throw the entire fledgling government into disarray.
On top of that, the Empire’s forces, led by Grand Admiral Thrawn has a secret plan proceeding at the Emperor’s hold on Mount Tantiss, and the mad Jedi Master, Joruus C’Boath is intent on claiming not only Luke Skywalker for his own, but his sister, Leia Organa Solo and her unborn twins.
While Leia runs down the Noghri to convince them to turn from Thrawn and the Empire, Luke goes to meet with C’Boath, while Han Solo and Lando Calrissian find themselves travelling companions, again, and on the trail of a lost fleet of ships that could prove to be the tipping point in the battle for the galaxy.
Zahn keeps the story moving along, giving all the familiar characters their moments, and the new ones including fan favourite, Mara Jade, opportunities to shine. Escapes, battles, chases, it’s all here.
Thrawn reveals that there is a leak inside the New Republic, a highly placed source, and as the book comes to a cliffhanger conclusion, Luke, Han and Lando learn just exactly what the Empire may be up to, and that they may be able to put a fleet of dreadnoughts, completely crewed, into action sooner than they thought.
Fast moving, and you can almost hear the music cues John Williams would fill the story with, there are familiar lines and great action sequences. Thrawn continues to prove himself a superior villain, and that just makes the heroes moments that much grander. And their defeats so much more bitter.
The story has some welcome twists and surprises, while still being faithful to the source material. The only thing that kind of struck me is that in book one, Lando and Han travel to a remote base in their pursuit of a connection, and something similar happens in this book as well.
It’s not enough to detract from the story at all, but it just kind of stuck out for a moment before I got sucked back into the narrative.
The third volume in the cycle is coming, but before that there will be some other stories to explore in the expanding universe now known as Star Wars: Legends, until then, may the Force be with you.