Star Wars is possibly the biggest and most popular science fiction franchise ever made. It has spawned multiple books, films, TV series, and video games and boasts one of the biggest cult following for a fictional collection. One of the biggest Star Wars spin-off materials licensed by Lucasfilm is the Thrawn novels, authored by Timothy Zahn.
Set in a time before, during, and after the original Star Wars films, the Thrawn novels were refreshing creations that jump started the stalled Star Wars franchise and introduced one of the most popular Star Wars characters: Grand Admiral Thrawn. For those who have only watched the original Star Wars films and don’t know who Grand Admiral Thrawn is, I’ll explain why he is one of the best Star Wars characters and why you need to read the Thrawn novels.
Who Is Grand Admiral Thrawn?
Everyone, even people who have not read, played, or watched anything related to the Star Wars Universe, knows the infamous villain Darth Vader. Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are well known for the terror they unleashed on the Star Wars universe. However, the most dangerous and formidable opponent the universe ever faced is Mitth’raw’nuruodo, better known as Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Having a keen intuitive mind that almost seems supernatural, Grand Admiral Thrawn is able to decipher any of his opponent’s strategies with very little evidence and dismantle their tactics and plans long before they are put in play. His assertive triumphs in countless battles make him chiefly responsible for the continuance and dominance of the Empire, long after Emperor Palpatine’s demise.
The Star Wars Thrawn Series
Thrawn Ascendancy, consists of 3 books and was written 30 years after the original Star Wars Thrawn books and is set between the events of Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith.
1. Chaos Rising – Published on September 1, 2020
Chaos Rising opens beyond the galaxy’s border in the Unknown Regions where the Chiss and the Nine Ruling families live. When an unknown enemy strikes the Chiss capital, the Ascendancy tasks an intelligent young officer named Thrawn to uncover the attacker. Alongside an ex-Skywalker seeking purpose and a young navigator discovering her own, Thrawn endeavors to save his precious Ascendancy as its leaders discover that their new Captain may be much more trouble than they had ever conceived.
2. Greater Good – Published on April 27, 2021
Greater Good picks up shortly after where Chaos Rising left off where we learn that in the Chiss Ascendancy, you’re either a member of one of nine ruling families – at the top of the order – or you’re lesser than. Even in a galaxy far, far away, there’s no better way to demolish a tiered system of families than to turn them against each other … from within. In an endeavor to evade catastrophe, Thrawn and his allies must decide what’s more important – the favor of your family, or the greater good.
3. Lesser Evil – Published on November 26, 2021
Lesser Evil picks up from Greater Good where bonds of fidelity have given way to lines of division among the families. Despite the efforts of the Expansionary Defense Fleet, the Ascendancy slips closer and closer toward civil war. To ensure the Ascendancy’s future, Thrawn must delve deep into its past, uncovering the dark secrets surrounding the ascension of the First Ruling Family, but the truth of a family’s legacy is only as strong as the legend that supports it, even if that legend turns out to be a lie.
Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy
Considered a trilogy but each book written to stand on its own, Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy is set eight years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and 11 years before the events of A New Hope and gives an account of Thrawn’s rise to Grand Admiral.
1. Star Wars: Thrawn – Published on April 11, 2017
After an encounter with an exiled Chiss on an abandoned planet, the Empire quickly realizes they may have found a new weapon. With his remarkable intellect and devastating cunning, Thrawn is soon registered in the Imperial Academy on Coruscant along with Eli Vanto, a new cadet for the Empire, serving as his translator. Despite the increasing unhappiness with the unusual pair’s success, Thrawn and Eli climb the ranks in the Imperial military, just in time to go toe-to-toe with a mysterious adversary known only as Nightswan…
2. Thrawn: Alliances – Published on July 24, 2018
No villains are more renowned and held in higher esteem than Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn. Though they both possess different personalities, both are incredibly effective tools of the Emperor. When they’re sent to the Outer Rim planet of Batuu on a similar mission to investigate a disturbance in the Force, they must find a way to work together, but sparks fly as memories of when they met when Anakin was looking for Padmé who was missing resurface…
3. Thrawn: Treason – Published on July 23, 2019
There’s nothing Thrawn wants more than to impress the Emperor. And the one thing standing in the way of fully earning Palpatine’s favor and trust is a man — or machine? — who hides behind not only a mask but a complete suit of terrifying black armor.
As Thrawn works to guarantee his place in the Imperial hierarchy, his former protégé Eli Vanto returns with an ominous warning about Thrawn’s homeworld. Thrawn’s aptitude for strategic decisions must guide him through an impossible choice: duty to the Chiss Ascendancy, or allegiance to the Empire he has sworn to serve. Even if the right choice means committing treason.
Thrawn Trilogy (The Original)
Set five years after the events of the Return of the Jedi, The Thrawn Trilogy is built upon the original Star Wars movies, introducing us to Chiss Grand Admiral Thrawn. We are also introduced to other new characters, such as Mara Jade and Jorrus C’baoth.
1. Heir to the Empire – Published on May 15, 1991
Five years after the events of the last Star Wars film, the New Republic is rebuilding from the clutches of war, but thousands of light-years away, the fearsome Grand Admiral Thrawn has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, prepared it for war, and directed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. With two crucial discoveries, Thrawn could destroy everything the heroic men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to create.
2. Dark Force Rising – Published on June 1, 1992
Discord and individual ambition threaten to tear the Republic apart. As Princess Leia who is expecting Jedi twins risks her life to bring a proud and deadly alien race into an alliance with the Republic, Han and Lando Calrissian race against time to find evidence of treason inside the highest Republic Council but instead discover a mysterious fleet of warships that could bring destruction to their friends and triumph to their enemies.
3. The Last Command – Published on April 1, 1993
Everything seems bleak and hopeless as Thrawn mounts a final siege against the Republic. While Han and Chewbacca struggle to create a skeptical alliance of smugglers in a last-ditch attack against the Empire, Leia keeps the Alliance together and prepares for the birth of her Jedi twins. But the Empire possesses too many ships and too many clones to combat and the Republic’s only hope lies in dispatching a small force, led by Luke, into the very fortress that holds Thrawn’s dreadful cloning machines.
The Hand Of Thrawn Duology
Set 14 years after the events of the Return of the Jedi, The Hand of Thrawn Duology has only two titles to its name and follows the original Thrawn Trilogy.
1. Specter of the Past
The Empire stands on the verge of total collapse, but they have saved their most egregious plan for last. First, a plot is hatched that could destroy the New Republic in a bloodbath of genocide and civil war. Then comes the unexpected news that Grand Admiral Thrawn–the most cunning and ruthless warlord in history–has seemingly returned from the dead to lead the Empire to a long-prophesied triumph.
2. Vision of the Future – Published on September 1, 1998
With the Empire’s master plan underway, the New Republic is on the brink of civil war, and the rumors that the deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn has returned from the dead is mobilizing the Imperial forces. If rumors can be trusted, their next attack will strike right at the heart of the New Republic, and Luke, Leia, and Han will face the greatest challenge of their lives.
The Recommended Reading Order
Without a doubt, the first book to read should be Heir to the Empire, as it was the book that jump started the seemingly fading Star Wars franchise and set the bar for all future Star Wars books. Therefore, the recommended reading order is as follows:
1. Thrawn Trilogy (The Original)
2. Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy
3. The Hand of Thrawn Duology
4. Thrawn Ascendancy