The cover art for Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn, from Del Rey and Lucasfilm

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Star Wars Villain Thrawn Before You Read Thrawn: Treason

From the TIE Defender program to the Chiss Ascendancy.
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If you read the original Star Wars Expanded Universe, now coined as Legends, you’re probably familiar with Grand Admiral Thrawn. The brilliant tactician tormented Luke Skywalker and the fledgling New Republic in the now non-canonical Thrawn Trilogy that served as a sequel trilogy back in the nineties, but those books were deemed noncanon when Disney took over Lucasfilm. However, Thrawn was incorporated into the new canon, first appearing as the primary antagonist of the later seasons of Star Wars Rebels and as the star of his own trilogy written by original Thrawn Trilogy writer Timothy Zahn.

Today, the release of the third canon Thrawn book, Thrawn: Treason, is a lovely day to recap the Thrawn books and celebrate a brilliant villain for the series. He’s not a Sith lord like Darth Vader, or a deeply tormented would-be Supreme Leader like Kylo Ren. Yet he’s drawn affection from fans for years now, particularly with his restoration to canon in Star Wars Rebels. It also helps that his creator Zahn has returned for the books, which give a sense of interconnectedness to the stories told about the Grand Admiral.

If you’re a Rebels devotee who’s keen to get into more stories about Thrawn, or if you’re wondering what Star Wars twitter is buzzing about today, here’s everything you need to know about Grand Admiral Thrawn and why you absolutely should care about him, even if it’s just to love to hate him.

In the novel Star Wars: Thrawn, the Grand Admiral is a Chiss, an alien race that lives in the Unknown Regions. Thrawn first comes into contact with the Empire after ostensibly being exiled from the Ascendancy. When he is brought to the Emperor, Thrawn speaks of knowing a Jedi named Anakin Skywalker and of a threat in the Unknown Regions; Emperor Palpatine is so impressed by Thrawn that he allows him to join the ranks of the Imperial Navy. Alongside translator/aide Eli Vanto, Thrawn climbs the ranks of the Empire until he achieves the role of Grand Admiral.

It is at the end of the novel that it is revealed that no, Thrawn did not get exiled. Instead, he was sent to the Empire to either find out if they were to be an ally in the fight against the unknown threats lurking in Wild Space, or if he could turn the Empire into easy prey for whatever was poised to attack. As the Grand Admiral steps into power, he sends Vanto to the Ascendancy to see if he can help there.

Around this time, the events of the third season of Rebels occur. Thrawn plots to take down the Rebel cells on Lothal, facing off against Rebel pilot and leader Hera Syndulla in a battle of wits as well as sheer force. Ultimately, when Thrawn tries to stage an assault on a secret base on the planet Atollon, he loses thanks to some “Jedi devilry”; an ancient creature known as the Bendu taunts him with knowledge of his ultimate defeat before disappearing.

This is where sequel Thrawn: Alliances comes in. Thrawn and Darth Vader are tasked with going to Batuu to investigate ongoing troubles there, and the book cuts between their time on Batuu and the time when Anakin Skywalker and Thrawn met during The Clone Wars. They, alongside Padmé, fought together, and Anakin was impressed by Thrawn; Thrawn was less impressed with the Republic.

In the main timeline, Thrawn and Vader are investigating a disturbance in the Force felt by Palpatine. This brings them into conflict with the Grysk species, as well as Chiss youth possessing “Third Sight,” or Force sensitivity. These tend to be mostly female, and their talents fade the older they get. Ultimately, Thrawn and Vader return to the Emperor, having ostensibly dealt with the threat he felt.

Thrawn continues to cause mayhem during Star Wars Rebels, but leaves Lothal for several episodes in the middle of the season. This is when Thrawn: Treason takes place — Thrawn is facing the loss of his personal project, the TIE Defender program, and as he tries to maintain control of that, he is brought into contact with the Ascendancy and, of course, Eli Vanto. What happens then… you’ll have to read the book to find out.

I’ll keep the details of Treason and the end of Star Wars Rebels under wraps for now. Suffice to say, Thrawn faces new challenges that open the door to many a new story. If you like Imperial drama, interesting villains, and want to know more about one of Star Wars‘s most iconic bad guys, grab a copy of one of the Thrawn books today, and get ready to celebrate a Merry Chissmas, as the social media sites for the franchise are saying.

(image: Del Rey)

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Image of Kate Gardner
Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.