When Thrawn appeared in the Season 3 trailer of “Star Wars: Rebels,” marking his official welcome into Disney’s new canon, fans gave a standing ovation. The Legends character made such an impact on Star Wars fans that Timothy Zahn, author of the Thrawn trilogy, was given the go-ahead to start a new book on the grand admiral. That book lead to greenlighting a sequel, and now, finally, the completion of a new trilogy. “Thrawn: Treason” came out on July 23, and with the return of newer beloved character Eli Vanto, it promises to deliver a thrilling end, as well as a closer look into a character first known only as a fascinating villain, and then transformed into a hero.
One thing that distinguishes Thrawn is his true depiction of an INTJ Myers-Briggs personality type. Despite all those charts claiming that every bad guy ever is one, almost no one actually is. Thrawn is methodical and principle-based. His actions are logical, and his methods are impeccable. His battle strategy is unpredictable due simply to his massive intelligence, but his actions stretch out in such perfect order that patterns emerge quickly.
Since Thrawn comes from the Unknown Regions of the Star Wars galaxy, he has had very little communication with the Empire, or any culture outside that of his homeworld. He doesn’t understand human society, so his logic is unimpeded by societal norms. His actions are often unpredictable because he crosses boundaries that don’t occur to others to cross.
Thrawn isn’t human. In the Star Wars universe, that might not seem like much to note — however, he’s also an Imperial, which means that his non-human status is much more notable. In an empire of human leaders, Thrawn was an instant outcast. “Star Wars: Thrawn” makes that literal — his first appearance in New Canon is being found alone on a deserted planet, part of a species unknown to the Empire.
Upon starting his new life in the Empire, Thrawn faced the hard task of adjusting to an entirely new culture, including learning a new language. To this end, the one cadet who knew a trade language that Thrawn also knew is assigned as his aide — Eli Vanto, a character all-new to the first New Canon book to feature Thrawn and unseen in any book prior. Audiences were drawn to “Star Wars: Thrawn” for the titular character, but fell in love with this newcomer within only a few scenes.
Throughout the rest of “Star Wars: Thrawn,” the pair rise through the Imperial ranks together. They deal with corrupt officials and outlaw smugglers, following the Empire’s steady acquisition of a certain precious metal and running into Governor Arihnda Pryce. In the book’s poignant conclusion, Thrawn and Eli Vanto must split ways, and the next time fans see Thrawn is as a villain in “Star Wars: Rebels” Season 3.
Between the two seasons of “Star Wars: Rebels” that feature Thrawn, “Thawn: Alliances” takes place. In this second installment into New Canon by Timothy Zahn, Thrawn and Darth Vader investigate a dangerous presence the Emperor has sent them to eliminate. Throughout the book, he recalls his previous experiences with Anakin Skywalker and guesses at the truth behind the two men.
Compared with the angry and often temperamental Darth Vader, Thrawn exudes a near-impenetrable calm. As the pair vie for control of their starship and of the mission in general, Thrawn refuses to rise to Vader’s threats and anger, and maintains control of his crew, protecting them from Vader’s infamous wrath. However, Thrawn is still ruthless in his own right, and ultimately, the two find ways to work in tandem, even if they question each other’s methods.
The conclusion of “Thrawn: Alliances” leaves the Emperor with lingering doubts regarding Thrawn’s loyalties; on the heels of that story comes Timothy Zahn’s third installment, “Thrawn: Treason.” With it comes the return of Eli Vanto and the entrance of the Chiss, Thrawn’s species, to New Canon.
The chemistry between Thrawn and Eli Vanto formed a huge amount of the appeal of “Star Wars: Thrawn” as Vanto rose up alongside Thrawn through the Imperial ranks. In the time since Eli left Thrawn’s side, Thrawn has transgressed several of the principles he once held dear — the sanctity of life being among them. His treatment of the rebels may well leave Eli wondering what became of his mentor and at odds with the man Thrawn has become.
Of course, Eli has spent that time facing new difficulties of his own. Fans don’t know much about what he’s been up to but, no doubt, they will have shaped his character. Could it be that these two are still so bonded that even after years apart, when they come back together, they’re still alike? Or will it be that the two have drifted so far apart as to lack compatibility? It’s safe to assume that both will hope for the latter.
In addition to the reappearance of Eli Vanto, “Thrawn: Treason” promises to give the final test between Thrawn’s loyalty to his homeworld and to the Empire. One of the Emperor’s first conditions was that Thrawn renounce any other loyalties, and he complied — or so he said. Throughout that first book it becomes clear that Thrawn’s actions are still largely motivated by wanting the good of his homeworld.
The New Canon Thrawn might seem like a departure from the original character to some EU fans. After all, in the original Thrawn trilogy, the best word to describe the character was “ruthless,” and evading him proved a nigh-impossible task. For those fans who picked up the New Canon content as a way of reliving the stories of their favorite EU character, the reality of Thrawn’s New Canon persona might come as a disappointment. In the end, though, the character grows into the EU persona as his character arc progresses.
In “Star Wars: Thrawn,” the character was probably as far from the EU version as he’s ever been. He formed the moral center of the book and taught his protege Eli Vanto until he was nearly an equal. However, upon Eli’s departure, Thrawn’s actions have become more and more ruthless. His appearances in “Star Wars: Rebels” solidified him as a villain in the eyes of the rebels, and even within the Empire, Thrawn is a man to be feared. As a grand admiral, Thrawn has aided the Empire in its many atrocities, and while he is ultimately opposed to the creation of the Death Star, it isn’t out of the goodness of his heart — he simply has a different project he wants resources dedicated to instead.
By the end of “Thrawn: Alliances,” as well as both seasons of “Star Wars: Rebels” that Thrawn appears in, his character seems changed from that first logically compassionate persona and changed into a true antagonist. Thrawn’s dedication to his own principles remains intact, and he certainly values life much more highly than his fellow Imperials, but some of his character has been compromised.
This is the character who must make a final stand against either his homeworld or the Empire. The very name “Thrawn: Treason” encourages speculation on who will betray what, and what the consequences might be. No matter what Thrawn decides, his answer will mark him a traitor to one of his loyalties. Whatever his choice, “Thrawn: Treason” promises a fitting end to a new trilogy.