Book one, Heir to the Empire (1991)
The Thrawn trilogy, also known as the Heir to the Empire trilogy, is a series of science-fiction novels written by Timothy Zahn. They are set in the non-canonical Star Wars Legends continuity (formerly known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe) and take place approximately five years after the events depicted in the 1983 Star Wars film Return of the Jedi. The series introduced several notable characters, including Mara Jade, Talon Karrde, and Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the more notable villains in the Expanded Universe. The Thrawn trilogy was followed by The Hand of Thrawn, a two-book series (1997 and 1998) also authored by Zahn.
With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon in April 2014. At the 2016 Star Wars Celebration in London, it was announced that Thrawn would appear in season three of Star Wars Rebels, his first onscreen appearance. A canonical Thrawn trilogy of novels by Zahn, set before and during the events of the animated series Star Wars Rebels, started with Star Wars: Thrawn, published in April 2017.
Heir to the Empire
Published in 1991, the first book is set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Rebel Alliance, now known as the New Republic, has driven out the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy, and is attempting to set up a functional government. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins. Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited new line of Jedi Knights. Thousands of light years away, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the last and most brilliant of the 12 Grand Admirals, has taken command of the shattered Imperial Fleet and prepared it to attack the New Republic. Thrawn is searching for a Dark Jedi to join his side, and is confident he can restore the Empire.
According to Zahn, Lou Aronica of Bantam Spectra had negotiated the book deal with Lucasfilm in 1989, and the publisher put Zahn's name at the top of their list of possible authors. He said, "My original instructions from LucasArts [sic] consisted of exactly two rules: the books were to start 3–5 years after Return of the Jedi, and I couldn't use anyone who'd been explicitly killed off in the movies." Zahn's working title for the book was Wild Card, which Bantam vetoed because of its similarity to their other series, Wild Cards. Bantam also rejected his second favorite title, The Emperor's Hand. Warlord's Gambit was also a potential title, but ultimately Heir to the Empire was chosen, which according to Zahn was suggested by Aronica.
Zahn used information from the original film trilogy as his primary source, but supplemented that with details from the many sourcebooks created for West End Games' Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, saying that "the WEG sourcebooks saved me from having to reinvent the wheel many times". Zahn noted that he invented the concept that a lightsaber could be locked on.
Dark Force Rising
Published in 1992, the sequel reveals that prior to the Clone Wars, the Old Republic had constructed a fleet of highly automated heavy cruisers, known as the Katana fleet. A virus infected the crews of the entire fleet and drove them insane. The fleet was never seen again until smuggler Talon Karrde discovered it several years before the events of the first book.
With access to Palpatine's private storehouse on the planet Wayland, Grand Admiral Thrawn presses his advantage to marshal more forces for the battle against the New Republic. Mara Jade, in an attempt to exonerate the Empire's warrant for Karrde's arrest, goes to Thrawn and offers to reveal the location of the Katana fleet. Instead, he has her followed and Karrde is captured. Mara and Luke rescue Karrde from Thrawn's Star Destroyer as Thrawn attempts to capture another man who knows about the Katana fleet.
The Last Command
Published in 1993, the third book takes place about a month after the previous volume. Thrawn uses the Katana fleet, manned by clones, to launch an offensive against the New Republic. Han Solo, Chewbacca and Talon Karrde form an alliance of smugglers to help defend the New Republic. Mara helps protect Leia from a dark Jedi intent on turning Leia and her newborn twins to the dark side. Mara defeats a clone of Luke named Luuke Skywalker, who fights using Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber. After Thrawn's defeat and death, Luke gives Mara his old lightsaber and invites her to train as a Jedi.
Denis Lawson narrates the abridged audiobook of Heir to the Empire, and Anthony Daniels narrates Dark Force Rising and The Last Command. Lucasfilm and Varèse Sarabande Records producer Robert Townson discussed the creation a score to promote the trilogy; they later collaborated on the Shadows of the Empire soundtrack.
All three books were later adapted as comic books by Dark Horse Comics. The series was divided into six separate issues per book, and re-released in 2009 as a single hardcover graphic novel for the trilogy.
Each novel in the trilogy had its own Star Wars role-playing game sourcebook created for it by West End Games. When the rules for the Star Wars RPG changed the three volumes were collected into one book for the entire Thrawn trilogy which also served as a second edition to the original three sourcebooks. According to Zahn, the writing of the trilogy was coordinated with preexisting West End Games materials (at the behest of Lucasfilm), and that "They filled in a bunch of gaps I hadn't got around to filling in."
Reception, sales and influence
The Thrawn trilogy is widely credited with revitalizing the Star Wars franchise. In The Secret History of Star Wars, Michael Kaminski suggests that this renewed interest was a factor in George Lucas' decision to create the prequel trilogy. The series also introduced the popular Expanded Universe characters Talon Karrde, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Gilad Pellaeon. It has been called "influential, much-loved, and ground breaking".
The Hand of Thrawn
The Hand of Thrawn is a pair of sequels to Zahn's Thrawn trilogy, also written by Zahn. The continuing saga includes New Republic members Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, Lando Calrissian, Wedge Antilles, and Legends characters like Mara Jade Skywalker, Talon Karrde, Borsk Fey'lya, Corran Horn, Garm Bel Iblis, Booster Terrik and Imperial agents Gilad Pellaeon, Grodin Tierce, Moff Disra, and Flim.
The New Republic's stability is threatened by infighting and rumors that the tactical genius Grand Admiral Thrawn has returned from the dead. Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, uncertain of the directions his life is taking, tries to reduce his use of the Force for unnecessary things. He runs into trouble, and is rescued by an old friend, Mara Jade. Mara and Talon Karrde then pick up strange signals from alien ships. Mara follows one, and becomes stranded on an unknown planet. It is revealed that the Imperial remnant is attempting to revive sleeper cells of clone troopers. Leia and Han attempt to deal with this issue, while Chewbacca takes the children to Kashyyyk for safety. Mara, out of contact with the New Republic, is seen by Luke in a disturbing vision. Luke sets out, with R2-D2, to help. Many of the main characters become wrapped up in the search for the Caamas document, which supposedly contains information as to who destroyed the Caamasi homeworld. Han and Lando go to the Imperial capitol, Bastion, to search. Talon Karrde and the Mistryl bodyguard Shada D'ukal, along with C-3PO, also depart to search for it. Luke meets a race of pterodactyl-like creatures and finds Mara, and they embark on a journey to discover more about the fortress they are inside.
Specter of the Past
Specter of the Past (1997) is set in 19 ABY, 10 years after the events of The Last Command and six years prior to those of Vector Prime. A decade after the defeat of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the unstable New Republic is still challenged by the remnants of the Galactic Empire. A record surfaces called the Caamasi document that indicates that a small group of Bothans were perpetrators in the tragic destruction of the planet Caamas. Admiral Pellaeon sees the Empire as fighting a losing cause, and decides to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty with the New Republic. Meanwhile, Moff Disra disagrees with this sentiment and believes that if he were to fuel the tension arising from the Caamasi document, he could bring about the fall of the New Republic. To boost the morale of the Empire, Disra finds an actor named Flim that is capable of convincing everyone that he is Grand Admiral Thrawn. Leia Organa and Han Solo try to defuse the growing conspiracy surrounding the Caamasi people. Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian stumble upon a strange fleet of pirate ships crewed with clones. Mara goes to a planet to investigate the clone ship that Luke was tracking down. She gets captured in a cave by the native people, and Luke goes after her to rescue her.
Vision of the Future
In Vision of the Future (1998), Admiral Gilad Pellaeon admits that the Empire, down to only a few sectors, is now fighting a losing battle. He initiates preliminary peace talks with Princess Leia, who acts as the New Republic representative. However, several Imperial officials are vehemently anti-surrender, the most notable being Moff Disra. He hires a con artist, Flim, to impersonate the deceased Grand Admiral Thrawn, the idea being that Imperial Forces would rally, and many systems would rejoin the Empire, due to Thrawn's "returning from the dead."
Another Imperial plot is underfoot, to provoke civil war in the New Republic, involving the Caamas Document. Caamas was a world destroyed by the Empire shortly after the Clone Wars, and it is revealed in the book that this was made possible by Bothan sabotage of that planet's planetary shield. Various alien races take sides over treatment of the Bothans and what would be justice for Caamas; more than a hundred alien warships gather in orbit over the Bothans' homeworld of Bothawui. Several of this book's plotlines revolve around major characters seeking an unaltered copy of the Camaas Document, in an attempt to settle the issue. Han Solo and Lando Calrissian travel to an Imperial base at Bastion in an attempt to find it. Meanwhile, Garm Bel Iblis attempts a raid on an Imperial Ubiqtorate base at Yaga Minor.
The Empire hopes that the confrontation over Bothawui will reach a flash point, and three Imperial Star Destroyers lie in wait to 'finish off' the survivors. Furthermore, an Imperial sabotage team knocks out a major section of the Bothawui planetary shield. Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade sneak into a fortress called the Hand of Thrawn (so called because of its 'four fingers and a thumb' shape). Many secrets are revealed there, including mention of an expedition by Thrawn to the galaxy's Unknown Regions. Luke and Mara are about to die, when Luke proposes to Mara, she accepts. They escape and at the end of the novel, a peace treaty is signed by Admiral Pellaeon and New Republic president Ponc Gavrisom.
|Cover artist||Dave Seeley|
|January 31, 2006|
|Preceded by||The Final Showdown|
|Followed by||The Approaching Storm|
Outbound Flight is a novel set in the non-canonical Star Wars Legends storyline, released on January 31, 2006. Written by Timothy Zahn, it is a prequel to Zahn's Thrawn trilogy (1991–93). The book was released by Del Rey, first in hardcover, then in paperback in January 2007. The cover art is by Dave Seeley. The book, which is set five years after the events 1999 film Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, tells the story of the mysterious Outbound Flight Project mentioned in Heir to the Empire (1991), Specter of the Past (1997), Vision of the Future (1998), and Survivor's Quest (2004).
Characters featured in the novel include: Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo/Thrawn, Palpatine, Kinman Doriana, Admiral Ar'alani, Aristocra Chaf'orm'bintrano, Syndic Mitth'ras'safis, Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth, Jedi Knight Lorana Jinzler, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, Jorj Car'das, Dubrak "Rak" Qennto, and Maris Ferasi. Also mentioned are Count Dooku, Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, and Padmé Amidala.
Zahn said in 2006 that the idea for the expedition known as Outbound Flight "began life basically as a throwaway line". He explained:
It was a way to confirm for the readers in Heir to the Empire that Joruus C'baoth was indeed a clone and not the original Jorus, as well as to provide another reference to Grand Admiral Thrawn's military skills. It also seemed like something Palpatine might reasonably have done: create something else to distract the Jedi and perhaps prune away some of the troublemakers in advance of his full extermination scheme. If I'd known that I'd eventually write two books dealing with the project, I'd have definitely tried to come up with a classier name.
Suggested by Sue Rostoni at Lucasfilm, the novel was initially scheduled to be published in 2002 just before the release of the film Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. It was subsequently rescheduled for November 2005, and then January 2006. The storyline was not originally intended to be connected to that of the 2004 novel Survivor's Quest. Lucasfilm and Del Rey had planned that novel as a Luke/Mara parallel to Tatooine Ghost, a Han Solo/Princess Leia book being written at the time. During the outline process, Zahn got the idea to have Survivor's Quest cover what was essentially the end of the Outbound Flight story before the beginning was explored in Outbound Flight, already in the works but scheduled to be published second. Zahn said of writing the novel, "as always, it was immensely fun to play tactics with Thrawn", and noted, "between this book and Survivor's Quest, I've said pretty much all I have to say about Outbound Flight."
Publishers Weekly called Thrawn the "true star" of the novel, noting that his attack on the ship, secretly influenced by Palpatine's agents, "insures his own eventual exile from his race and sets other sinister wheels in motion".
Other Thrawn novels by Zahn
With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon in April 2014, including all of Zahn's novels.
At the 2016 Star Wars Celebration in London, it was announced that Thrawn would appear in season three of Star Wars Rebels, his first onscreen appearance. Zahn returned to write a new and canonical Thrawn trilogy of novels, consisting of Star Wars: Thrawn (2017), Star Wars: Thrawn – Alliances (2018), and Thrawn – Treason (2019).
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