Book Review: Thrawn Ascendancy “Book II: Greater Good” Reveals Thrawn’s Past


Grand Admiral Thrawn: blue skin, glowing red eyes, lethally intelligent. He was other-worldly even for Star Wars aliens when he was first conceived by Timothy Zahn. He played a huge role as the grand antagonist for our favorite heroes in Heir to the Empire (1991). Thrawn Ascendancy Book II: Greater Good, reveals more of Thrawn’s past and his family – the Chiss Ascendancy. Read on for our review of Thrawn Greater Good, on sale April 27, 2021 wherever books are sold.

Thrawn as a character is resilient – as famous today as he was in his debut 30 years ago – May 1991. I can still remember the screams of joy echoing through the halls of Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 from the Star Wars Rebels panel, as Dave Filoni announced Thrawn would appear in Season 3 of the animated TV show. For Star Wars fans enthralled by the books and expanded universe in the ’90’s, Grand Admiral Thrawn is on par with Luke Skywalker in terms of nostalgia.

Thrawn Today

In this new Thrawn Ascendancy Trilogy, Timothy Zahn explores Thrawn’s origin story within the Chiss Ascendancy. The Ascendancy lies beyond the Star Wars galaxy, past the Unknown Regions, and in an area of space known as The Chaos. Here, hyperspace is so treacherous that only Force-sensitive species can navigate swiftly. This particular trilogy occurs before Thrawn leaves the Chaos and ventures into the Star Wars galaxy. Before he becomes indispensable to the Emperor as Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Thrawn Ascendancy began with Book I: Chaos Rising, in which we learned the political and family structure of Thrawn’s homeworld. Between each Chiss possessing several names and a complicated story structure, this book took several read-throughs for clarity. But by Book II, all the names are sorted and the Chiss family structure is in place. Zahn can take time to weave a complicated, smart plot that Thrawn must decipher before the entire Chiss Ascendancy unravels from within.


Thrawn’s latest triumph still rests newly on his shoulders. He has led the Chiss to victory and brought glory to the House of Mitth, but the true threat to the Ascendancy has not yet been extinguished. Their foes do not send threats or ultimatums, do not mass ships on the edge of the Chaos. Their weapons come cloaked in smiles and generosity: Gifts offered freely. Services granted unconditionally. 

Across the Ascendancy, seemingly inconsequential events could herald the doom of the Chiss. As Thrawn and the Expansionary Defense Fleet rally to uncover the plot, they discover a chilling truth: Rather than invade Chiss capitals or pillage resources, their enemy strikes at the very foundation of the Ascendancy, seeking to widen the rifts between the Nine Ruling Families and the Forty Great Houses below. As rivalry and suspicion sow discord among allies, each warrior must decide what matters most to them: the security of their family or the survival of the Ascendancy itself.

Thrawn Ascendancy: Book II Greater Good Review:

Overall, the plot of Greater Good bears a striking resemblance to Captain America: Civil War. An alien race known as the agbui take the place of Baron Zemo in that film. Zemo tries to destroy the Avengers from within – using psychology rather than might. The agbui similarly plan to destroy the Chiss from within, using family honor as a tool. The Ascendancy has a powerful armada and its Expansionary Defense Fleet patrols the borders. But no one is expecting a subtle attack on family honor, political clout and values. 

Though “Thrawn” is in the book title, this novel tells the story from the perspective of the characters surrounding Thrawn, never the titular character himself. It’s an interesting writing device, as we see different layers to Thrawn through each characters’ particular viewpoint. Caregiver Thalias, sky-walker Che’ri, Admiral Ar’alani, Senior Captain Lakinda and First Officer Samakro work with Senior Captain Thrawn on the bridge of his ship in battles and thoroughly respect him. Syndics Thurfian and Zistalmu, however, view Thrawn as a complete imbecil because, while he is a military mastermind, he is politically inept when it comes to the Chiss bureaucracy. As someone who has been fascinated with the character for 30 years, I appreciate this 360 degree examination of Thrawn. Where he’s come from informs the story we already know.

Is this book for me?

Those who like to relate new Star Wars content to existing stories may be disappointed, as this book makes no reference to the Star Wars universe we know, beyond calling it “Lesser Space.” The only reference is Thrawn himself. And perhaps a mysterious, cloaked character known here as Jixtus. But Timothy Zahn leaves us guessing in this novel, perhaps planning another character reveal in Book III.

If you love a slow-burn and steady character-building, Greater Good is the novel for you. With great patience, comes reward. The final paragraph of the book kicks the story into high gear, and luckily Book III: Lesser Evil arrives November 16, 2021. Thirty years after Grand Admiral Thrawn was introduced, we will have a full character arc from the very beginning.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy (Book II: Greater Good) by Timothy Zahn will be released on April 27, 2021. Mark your calendars for Thursday, April 29th at 5:00PM PST/8:00PM EST. ReedPop is hosting a virtual book launch for  Book II: Greater Good with author Timothy Zahn!

Still need to catch up on this book series? Check out the first novel in the series, Chaos Rising.

Have an Opinion?