In Thrawn: Alliances, both Thrawn and Vader make a deal with the devil.

Well, not so much the devil as the Emperor, but it’s the same difference.

They make a deal to work together because the Emperor has sensed a disturbance in the Force. Something in the outer reaches of the Outer Rim that he needs his two best frontmen to handle.

So, in a flash, off they go to handle it at the current time. Meanwhile, in opposing chapters of this tale, the two are on a mission together, but it’s many years earlier, during the Clone Wars. And, of course, back then it isn’t Thrawn and Vader but Thrawn and Anakin.

A Disturbance In The Force in Thrawn: Alliances

A disturbance in the Force is felt on Batuu

What can go wrong? As it turns out, quite a bit. And just not in the current timeline but in the past as well. Apparently, having the two best badasses working together doesn’t always guarantee success. But it does guarantee results — and a whole lot of killing.

For those who’ve read the preceding novel, Thrawn, this book picks up not long after Thrawn has become a grand admiral. For those who’ve seen the animated series Star Wars: Rebels, the action picks up after Thrawn’s encounter with a Force being on Atollon and before his return to Lothal to oversee the TIE Defender program.

In the intervening period, he and Vader travel to a far-flung world called Batuu. If that sounds familiar, it should. At least to those who’ve visited the Galaxy’s Edge theme parks in Orlando and southern California. Those who visit the Black Spire Outpost are on Batuu. Of course, those guests are on a Batuu of the future, during the First Order era. Thrawn and Vader? Much, much earlier.

Thrawn and Vader Together

Thrawn and Vader in an alliance

In the current time, the terrible twosome is on Thrawn’s flagship Chimaera when it’s pulled out of hyperspace. How that’s possible — when there aren’t any visible gravity wells around — or by whom becomes the mystery both Thrawn and Vader have to solve.

Of course, Thrawn is more interested in that riddle than Vader. The Dark Lord is bent on solving the Emperor’s stated goal of discovering the Force disturbance. Meanwhile, the grand admiral is, as usual, seeking information and knowledge. And, wouldn’t you know it, their targets come together, an answer with galaxy-wide ramifications.

While their discovery will undoubtedly frame future Thrawn novels and will likely fuel many Star Wars projects going forward, its current reach is limited as the solution the two arrive at makes the threat moot.

Thrawn and Anakin Together

Thrawn and Anakin in an alliance

Set amid the Clone Wars, this part of the novel follows Queen Amidala as she travels to Batuu to check up on one of her handmaidens who’s sent along a disturbing message. When Padme doesn’t check in with Anakin, he travels out in pursuit. When he arrives, he doesn’t find his wife. Instead, he meets and teams up with Thrawn.

The purpose of this encounter is steeped in the politics and danger of the time. The Republic, of course, is still at war with the Separatists, but all the evidence points to something wider and more sinister going on. There’s a mine and a manufacturing plant, and a technology that would certainly be a game changer. And yet, that’s not the worst of it.

There’s a larger incursion of ideas that goes beyond the Clone Wars and echoes into the current timeline. It’s a realization that isn’t fully comprehended until the end of the book when both Thrawn and Vader see the commonalities and begin preparations.

It’s A Matter of Loyalty

Loyalties questioned in Thrawn: Alliances

Throughout the novel, Vader challenges Thrawn about where his loyalties lie. Is it with the Empire and the Emperor or is it with his people, with the Chiss Ascendancy? Thrawn evades the question regularly, sticking to his own thin definition. Even in the past, the question of mission versus duty pops up, with Thrawn changing the subject often.

It’s not until the very end that we get an answer. At least one that satisfies the Dark Lord. Alas, to fully comprehend it requires a deeper understanding of Thrawn. It also requires more information about the Chiss and their goals. And how Thrawn plays into them.

Without a doubt, that answer is coming. Thrawn is a complex humanoid with a remarkably clinical and tactical mind, but many of his personal goals are quite simple. For the moment, they’re attainable with the Empire, but as the rebellion gains momentum, it’ll be interesting to see how that changes.

Rating Thrawn: Alliances

Star Wars rating featuring Han Solo

The focus of this novel wavers a bit. While Thrawn is clearly a main player, his screen time is shared with Anakin/Vader. While that’s an awesome combination, the Dark Lord and the grand admiral, having both egos together is, at times, a bit much. Especially when they’re such polar opposites. There are times when it strains credulity that Vader would be so understanding, especially with Thrawn frustrating him all the way.

But tying the two time periods together is brilliant, especially by including both versions of the Chosen One. Timothy Zahn, as usual, is in command of the story. He captures the voices and strategies of the two leads effortlessly, weaving their personalities and ambitions together in a way that’s natural and, for the most part, believable.

Most of all, this book expands the future timeline, giving readers a glimpse into a threat that will only grow more grave over the years. A threat that may one day topple the New Republic, not to mention the Chiss Ascendancy.

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