Star Wars: The Last Command (1993) – Timothy Zahn

Five years after the events of The Return of the Jedi, the battle against the Empire continues, as the blossoming New Republic gears up for a final encounter with Grand Admiral Thrawn in the third volume of Timothy Zahn’s trilogy that truly launched the original Star Wars Expanded Universe.

While Thrawn plans to cripple the Republic and draw them into one final trap, the rebels, led by Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian find themselves caughtup in subterfuge and adventure as the leak within the Republic threatens them all, and they learn the location of the Empire’s cloning facility and launch a last chance gamble on taking it out once and for all.

But that will mean a final confrontation with the mad clone of Jedi Master Jorus C’Baoth, who has designs on the Skywalker family, Jade, and Leia and Han’s newly born twins, Jacen and Jaina.

The story races along, paced as fast as the Original Trilogy, and I made sure to listen to the scores by John Williams to enhance the mood. I recall the first time I read this book, and how swept I got up in events, delighting in the realisation that my adventures with Luke, Han and the rest would continue in novel (and even comic) form.

Zahn makes sure to tie the story into the existing universe, referencing past events (from the films) and even the re-use of familiar lines, all of it racing to a fantastic climax that sees space battles taking place at the same time as an assault on the hidden cloning facility, and a final lightsaber duel…

… Mara Jade shines as the stand-out character of the series, followed closes by Thrawn and the Noghri, and even now I can see the appeal of this character, and love how her arc over the course of the three novels resolves itself while setting up future adventures and possibilities.

I like that everyone gets a moment, and that even though the twins have now been born, that doesn’t put Han or Leia on the sidelines. They are still front and centre through it all and it’s wonderful to see how Luke has grown and continues to grow, and of course, there are fun little moments with the droids Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio, as well as some political infighting as the New Republic attempts to form itself, and create a functioning government, despite Thrawn’s best efforts.

These books were huge when they first came out, and over the years, what with so much Star Wars out there, their impact has kind of diminished, until you remind yourself that back in the 90s, this was it. There were no Prequel Trilogy, no Sequel Trilogy, no television shows… this was the only way we knew what was going on in a galaxy far, far away, and consequently their impact and relevance should never be questioned.

We’ve already seen Thrawn and the Noghri incorporated into the new canon, dare we hold out hope for Mara Jade?

There are more adventures to come, so until next time, may the Force be with you…

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