Timothy Zahn hints his third Thrawn trilogy might be the best one yet

Photo: Thrawn: Alliances (Star Wars) by Timothy Zahn.. Image Courtesy Penguin Random House Publishing
Photo: Thrawn: Alliances (Star Wars) by Timothy Zahn.. Image Courtesy Penguin Random House Publishing /

Comic-Con’s Lucasfilm Publishing panel featured Star Wars legend Timothy Zahn, who gave a brief summary of how his new Thrawn trilogy will be different than the last.

A handful of authors and several members of the Lucasfilm publishing crew hopped on a remote video chat to provide Comic-Con viewers some inside information about upcoming Star Wars publishing projects. Justina Ireland said the little she could about The High Republic. Several Stories of Light and Dark writers spoke about the upcoming Clone Wars short story anthology. And Timothy Zahn even made an appearance to briefly discuss his favorite subject: Thrawn.

The author didn’t have much to say during the panel — we’ve known about his upcoming trilogy for a while, and its original 2020 release date has already come and gone. But the info Zahn did offer up has Thrawn fans counting down the days until the book finally hits shelves.

“With this trilogy I’m being able to basically build up the Chiss Ascendancy and the culture from the ground up,” Zahn explained. “Exploring how the families work, how the military works, their relationships with others in the area … The focus will be on Thrawn, his interactions, [and] bring in a bunch of new characters … and the emergence of a threat against the Ascendancy.”

Zahn went on to explain the threat that will descend upon Thrawn and his fellow Chiss, possibly explaining how the character ends up where we find him at the beginning of Thrawn (2017).

“Someone’s got the Ascendancy in their sights,” Zahn concluded. “It’s going to be up to our heroes to figure out where these attacks are coming from, how they’re being done, and how to deal with them.”

In other words, this is — quite literally — uncharted Thrawn territory. And that’s Zahn’s specialty. He’s the one who brought the character to life in the first place.

The canon Thrawn trilogy — the one that released its first installment in 2017 — severely limited Zahn’s creativity and worldbuilding, two of the storytelling elements he excels at most.

The first book in this trilogy serves as Thrawn’s canon origin story and is widely considered the best of the three. The third book ranks lowest for most fans because the story had to take place between two seasons of Star Wars: Rebels and kept Zahn’s sandbox smaller than he was clearly comfortable with.

Based on his comments from Friday’s panel, however, it’s safe to assume Zahn got to lean heavily on his storytelling strengths in this new trilogy. One of the most seasoned authors in the Star Wars expanded universe is getting the chance to craft without restraint again, and this might mean the original Thrawn trilogy might have a series to compete with by the time Thrawn: Ascendancy eventually draws to a close.

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Chaos Rising, the first book in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn: Ascendancy trilogy, releases September 1 and is available for pre-order now.