Thrawn Ascendency 1: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn Book Review

Thrawn’s back baby and this time he’s bringing his fellow Chiss along for the ride.

Set during The Clone Wars (for the most part), we find Mitth’raw’nuruodo during his time in the Chiss Ascendency. Brought in to investigate an attack on the Chiss Homeworld, Thrawn’s investigation takes us on an adventure throughout ‘The Chaos’ (The Unknown Regions) where we meet many new races and an intriguing new foe for our favourite Grand Admiral.

The first part of a planned Trilogy, we get to learn a great deal about the previously u known Chiss Ascendency and how it works, with nine ruling families, various roles and levels within those families and how they adopt promising young Chiss into those families, potentially granting them a high rank where their bloodline becomes an official strand of the family bloodline. It’s all very ‘Game of Thrones’ and the politics of those families can become very intertwined which is a great read, and somewhat refreshing for a ‘Star Wars’ novel.

We also get to learn more about the Sky-Walkers. Force Sensitive children who call it their ‘third sight’ who use their power to navigate ‘The Chaos’. We get to know how this roles works within the Ascendency through Che’ri, the Sky-Walker assigned to Thrawn’s ship and Thalia, a former Sky-Walker who’s admiration of Thrawn drives her to take the role of Care-Giver to Che’ri on the mission.

With the aid of Admiral Ar’alani, whose history with Thrawn has spanned almost her entire military career and General Ba’kif who has supported Thrawn throughout his time as a member of the Mitth family, Thrawn brings the enemies of the Ascendency closer to draw out a warlord, seemingly hell bent on taking control of all worlds in ‘The Chaos’. Thrawn, of course, is the military mastermind, using art from the various races to help his tactics as well as learn and understand those he is fighting to protect.

We also get flashbacks, detailing how Thrawn became a part of the Mitth family, through his early years as a cadet where he met a young Sky-Walker, Thalia, coming to the end of her career and trying to find a. Future for herself and later, on various missions with Ar’alani. These are all told from the point-of-view of the characters whose lives that Thrawn has touched, from Generals, to Path Finders and even the high ranking members of the Mitth family, Thrawn’s influence has a far reach, and it’s not a good thing for some.

The second part of the Trilogy is set up at the end of this one, introducing a new character who seems to have a growing interest in Thrawn after his actions in ‘Chaos Rising’ and I’m hopeful we will find out more about Book 2 sometime in the next couple of months, maybe around the time NYCC would have been happening as there is usually a Star Wars Books/Authors Panel and Zahn is a regular on those things.

Speaking of Timothy Zahn, I wonder if this is a story he has been wanting to write since he created the character in the early nineties. I know that fans have been dying for a chance to learn about Thrawn’s past since ‘Heir to the Empire’ was first released. Perhaps this was brought up back when Zahn pitched his recent Thrawn Trilogy, set amidst the events of the characters appearance in ‘Rebels’, we even get a key moment from one of those novels replayed from Thrawn’s point-of-view which also allows the book to heavily focus on Thalia for a short while as she undergoes a trial of her own.

Not only did I read this book, but I also listened to the Audiobook due to the very little free time I have at the moment and I must say that Marc Thompson once again knocks it out of the park. His Thrawn voice is perfect, a great imitation of Lars Mikkelson who brought the character to life in ‘Rebels’ and the wide array of voices he lends to the group of characters is very impressive. One thing that does stick out to me however, is how the Chiss (other then Thrawn) tens to speak. I have always assumed that they spoke quite like Thrawn (not in terms of accent but how they structure their sentences and the vocabulary they use), but thinking about it, what we read is actually a ‘Basic Language’ translation of the Chiss language and various trade languages used throughout the book.

My usual gripe about using familiar Star Wars music still stands, although it’s not as ‘in-your-face’ as it has been in other Audiobooks, however, being set in a whole new part of the Galaxy, I did have a glimmer of hope that we could hear some new and different music (Lugwig Göransson anyone) to let the listener feel like they are somewhere new and vastly different.

It’s an incredibly enjoyable novel, establishing some great new characters we hopefully get to see throughout the rest of the trilogy, which I assume will lead us to the point where Thrawn is found by the Empire in ‘Thrawn’ which kicked off the previous Thrawn Trilogy.

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