A Guest Review of “Thrawn: Alliances”

As a part of Sci-Fi September, I invited a friend’s review of a favorite recent Sci-Fi read. First, I’ll introduce you to the reviewer.

Kimberly Kunker of Arador’s Rustic Shop (on Etsy)

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Kimberly Kunker operates Arador’s Rustic Shop on Etsy, which sells Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Renaissance Festival leather accessories, as well as leather journals and chain mail. She’s made belts, pouches and holsters for a number of Jedi, Sith, smuggler and Mandalorian cosplayers from around the country. As a novice cosplayer herself, she understands the desire to get a costume “just right” and the pride that comes from having handmade elements as part of a kit. Star Wars, Stargate, and Ender’s Game are among her favorite sci-fi series.

“Thrawn: Alliances” by Timothy Zahn

Back Cover Summary

Thrawn

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.” Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs, including the Death Star project, the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

Kimberly’s Review

Genre: space opera

Rating: PG-13, for numerous fight scenes

First introduced to readers by author Timothy Zahn in 1991, Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the few characters to make the transition from the Expanded Universe to Disney canon. Seeing Thrawn re-introduced in the animated Star Wars Rebels in July of 2016 was a dream come true for many fans. Zahn re-created his character for the new era. “Thrawn: Alliances” (July 2018) is the sequel to “Thrawn” (2017).

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Episodes on YouTube

This book has two parallel story arcs; the first set with Anakin during the Clone Wars, the second with Vader during the Empire. In the Clone Wars arc General Anakin Skywalker went to Batuu to find Padme after she was found missing. While preparing to land, he was intercepted and delayed by an alien who wanted to learn about the Republic. He struggled to interact with this unknown species speaking in a trade language he barely understood. Padme was portrayed as competent and smart; she helped Anakin and Thrawn escape when they were captured. Anakin’s impatience was seen in his desire to rush in and blindly attack a Separatist outpost. If you’ve seen The Clone Wars animated series then you know Anakin: impulsive, quick on his feet, and always ready to use his lightsaber to do the talking. Zahn split the point of view between Anakin, Thrawn, and Padme, which helped portray each character’s mindset and how they viewed each other.

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Clone Wars on YouTube

The Imperial arc pairs the Emperor’s enforcer, Vader, with his greatest military strategist, Thrawn. Both have secrets which they try but fail to keep from the other. The parallel arcs were masterfully interwoven and they showed how Thrawn and Anakin went from complete strangers to respected but tentative allies. In the Imperial arc, Thrawn thought Vader was a stranger he had to build trust with, not knowing that they had worked together during the Clone Wars. Vader thought Thrawn’s loyalty was split between the Empire and his native Chiss Ascendancy, and Thrawn knew there was something about Vader he could not figure out. Thrawn wanted to keep his native planet and his people a secret, but he was still loyal to the Empire. Vader would have rather been sent to any other part of the galaxy than to a place where he had memories of Padme.

Competition is crucial to the Imperial hierarchy; Thrawn worked his way through the ranks, but Vader is outside the standard chain-of-command. As such, the men under their commands are unsure of how to handle themselves when aboard Thrawn’s Star Destroyer. Vader had to act as if he did not know anything about Thrawn or the planet they were on, but Anakin’s memories kept surfacing and getting in the way. Zahn’s decision to have Vader refer to Anakin as “the Jedi” showed his conflicted nature and his attempts to suppress his former life.

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Thrawn’s strategic thinking helped temper Anakin and later Vader’s reckless and impulsive nature. Thrawn is the Sherlock Holmes of the Star Wars universe; he makes deductions based on visual, verbal, and artistic cues. One reason Vader is such an enigma to him is because he can’t get a good visual read on him. Thrawn always has a long game in mind and has contingency plans in place. For the mission on Batuu to succeed, Vader needed to trust Thrawn’s intel and learn how to navigate through uncharted hyperspace lanes using a Chiss Force technique which Thrawn could only describe second-hand since he was not Force-sensitive. Only their combined abilities allowed them to succeed and find the underlying cause of the Force disturbance. At the end of the book—when Vader flew one of Thrawn’s new TIE Defenders—his piloting skills and command style allowed Thrawn to correctly deduce that he was once Anakin Skywalker. Thrawn had revealed some of his species secrets by telling Vader they had Force-sensitive children, and Vader revealed his former identity by relaxing his guard when he returned to a starfighter cockpit.

About Arador’s Rustic Shop & Owner, Kimberly

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Kimberly, an avid fan of J. R. R. Tolkien, has been hooked on fantasy ever since she first read “The Hobbit” in third grade. She became interested in making chainmaille in high school and learned to visualize medieval weapons and armour from “The Lord of the Rings” movies.

The name of her shop comes from Tolkien’s Elvish, meaning “Lord of the Land/Royal Lord.” Arador was the 14th Chieftan of the Dunedain, an ancestor of Aragorn.

Her products are solid, functional, and affordable, turning natural rustic materials into the same simple and timeless designs as the Elves and Rohirrim wore.

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Star Wars crafts at Arador’s Rustic Shop (Etsy)

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