Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Heir to the Empire: 20th Anniversary Edition, by Timothy Zahn

Rating: 4.5/5
403 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Source: Library ebook

Description: Five years after the Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated, the galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights.

But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords—the brilliant and deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn—has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to create.

The explosive confrontation that results is a towering epic of action, invention, mystery, and spectacle on a galactic scale—in short, a story worthy of the name Star Wars.
(from Goodreads)

Review: Star Wars books, like any licensed work of fiction, can be hit or miss. The Thrawn trilogy, which this is book one of, is one of the hits. The 20th anniversary edition doesn't change the original story, it just adds footnotes, some background on how the project was put together, and a novella. (And about 30% of the file is various previews and excerpts for other Star Wars books in the ebook version. Thankfully, those are all at the end.)

The author put a lot of effort into making this feel like the Star Wars universe, both with the established characters and the new characters he introduced.

The story seems a logical progression from the end of Return of the Jedi, with the New Republic (formerly the Rebel Alliance) and what's left of the Empire still fighting each other, Luke training Leia to become a Jedi, and Han and Leia now married.

Thrawn, is a great villain and comes off as a credible threat. I've seen criticism that his use of art to make predictions about how various people or races will act and react, but its never bothered me, nor is it actually presented as infallible. As the series continues, we see him get things wrong.

I also liked Mara Jade and Talon Karrde as adversaries and reluctant allies. They fit into the universe well, and I thought Mara's back story, or what we eventually learn of it, is a reasonable one. *Spoiler-highlight to read* The Emperor doesn't seem the type who'd rely on just one force wielding agent. Especially one as powerful as Vader.

There are some flaws. The ysalamiri's ability always seemed a bit more convenient rather than a logical evolution and the author throws in a few too many direct quotes from the original trilogy. (The footnotes do explain why, and while the reason makes sense, they still stick out.)

This is the first book in my favorite Star Wars series. Parts of it don't fit with what was later established in the prequel trilogy, but overall it feels like a Star Wars book and it still tells a entertaining story. The foot notes are interesting, and I'd like to see the same treatment for books two and three.

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