Thrawn: Alliances is a fast-paced, action-packed novel that follows Thrawn and Darth Vader on a mission for the Empire, with flashbacks to Thrawn and Anakin’s first meeting.
Thrawn: Alliances showcases the same partnership, only years and dramatic events apart. Yet, it’s Thrawn and Darth Vader (and Anakin Skywalker in flashbacks), playing off each other in perfect ways.
Spoiler alert: This review contains spoilers for the Thrawn: Alliances novel.
Timothy Zahn’s book is exactly what his fans would expect – sharp writing, good action, and good character development. Zahn doesn’t have an easy task as he bounces between two eras with The Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War.
However, the juxtaposition is fascinating as we see Thrawn and Anakin deal with similar things as Thrawn and Darth Vader. Thrawn and Anakin managed to turn an unlikely meeting into an unlikelier alliance on Batuu while Anakin searched for a missing Padme.
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Thrawn: Alliances starts with Emperor Palpatine sending Thrawn and Darth Vader back to that world after Palpatine felt a “disturbance in the force.”
It immediately shows the power of Palpatine being able to feel something on the edge of the Outer Rim. Vader didn’t feel it until he was on the ground on Batuu.
Starting with Thrawn and Anakin’s mission, they worked well with each other. Thrawn’s analytical eye with Anakin’s power had them turn what could have been an impossible situation into a move against the Empire. Throw in Padme, and Zahn gave us a buddy TV show we would watch over and over again.
Jumping to the later pairing of Thrawn and Vader, the two are now rivals looking for favor of the emperor. But the same issues that plagued them earlier in their relationship are still present, especially with Thrawn siding with the Chiss Ascendency over anything else.
One of the questions hanging over the later relationship was if Thrawn knew Vader’s true identity, and I believe he figured it out. Thrawn slipped a few times saying things like when “we there before” and alluded to a past relationship.
Thrawn: Alliances book cover. Photo courtesy Penguin Random House.
However, Vader continued to play the game and corrected Thrawn at every turn.
It’s not the first time Vader/Anakin tried to keep a secret from him, but in the end Thrawn allowed Vader to hold on to it. Though, the telling part, for me, was when Vader repeated Thrawn’s words to him about war being about victory and not revenge.
On the outside, Darth Vader is as scary as they come, but it’s what going on in the inside that no one is privy to – and that’s where it got really interesting. Even now, Vader has internal conflict as he deals with his memories of his time as Anakin. But instead he never refers to them as his memories, seeing his time as Anakin as though it was another person.
Vader calls them The Jedi’s memories, removing himself and adding a layer of coldness to it.
The second part of Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy is a fantastic look at Thrawn’s intentions and Vader’s ascent further as the destructive force of the Empire.
Thrawn: Alliances makes us forget that we’re reading about the “bad guys” for a moment and has us rooting for a win. But in this case, the win doesn’t come against rebels or anyone we would even know, but a lesser known alien group with potential thoughts about spreading their own domain.
Thrawn: Alliances is a great book. The only complaint: there’s just one book left in the trilogy and there needs to be more.
Thrawn: Alliances is in stores now. Get yours at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other outlets.