Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising- A Prelude to Something Larger
This review is spoiler free!
Timothy Zahn’s latest foray into a galaxy far, far away is Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising. While the first two novels about Thrawn solidified the character’s placement into the new canon, this latest novel seeks to provide background on how the fan-favorite character got his start.
The first of a new trilogy, Chaos Rising delves into Thrawn’s early days in the Chiss Ascendancy. It’s worth noting this is before his involvement with any legacy characters we come to know he will one day work beside. This is interesting because this means Zahn had the task of creating a military and governmental structure, a cast of new characters and worlds that readers may have never heard of. There was also the danger of creating a story filled with Chiss characters that were all very similar to Thrawn. However, this couldn’t be further from the case.
While Thrawn as an individual, as seen in both Star Wars Rebels and the other two novels, could easily be thought of as carrying the personality traits of his people- this novel changes the game. It is quickly shown that the while the Chiss can be very strategic and determined as a people, Thrawn is still the odd one out in the way he thinks. This is especially displayed through his perception of art as a way to understand a people and their government, military and beliefs. The irony here, of course, is that while he is seen as strange by many or shrugged off for this interest, it always ends up helping him achieve success. There’s a reason he goes on to be part of the larger narrative in the galactic war and why he is such a captivating character. Even as more is revealed about his beginnings, Zahn creates a desire to know and understand more.
There’s a big takeaway from this idea of understanding a people and culture through their art. Many times art is seen as just something nice to look at and yet there is always more meaning behind even the simplest of things. While Thrawn may ride the line between good and bad throughout his life depending on what his personal goals are, he also seems to have a large respect for the art from different worlds, and an expansive knowledge. It is not difficult to connect the line of thinking that if more people did the same in real life, everyone would be better off. The even bigger takeaway is that what sets someone apart is what will help them move forward in life. Thrawn not only would get strange looks or be mentally discarded, but many times others would try to find ways of getting rid of him. Yet being who he is, Thrawn always comes out on top.
There are a few surprises in this novel that will not be spoiled in this review, but it must be said that they are fan freak-out moments that help place this story in the timeline. One of the biggest questions raised is where this will lead in the next two novels, and whether it will connect to Thrawn’s unknown fate at the end of Rebels. Considering the sequel series may premiere around the time that the third novel in this trilogy, it’s safe to assume there will be some form of connection. One thing is very clear: the love for Thrawn is very much alive, and as Timothy Zahn reveals more, the mystery continues to deepen.