||A good story, but one that is
ultimately disappointing in many respects.
I like Thrawn's character, but his
prescient abilities got worse through Dark Force Rising and then
especially into this book. There is no way the author could make me
believe that Thrawn could predict the New Republic's attack on the Bilbringi shipyards, when all evidence predicted another target. Perhaps
he is simply suspicious when things start going exactly as planned,
because nothing else in this trilogy has gone as well as this trap. But
that kind of thought was not explored -it was simply given to his
"genius" as a tactician.
Thrawn is not the only one who gets
stray insights that are apparently correct. Where did Leia's intuition
about the Force delaying a clone's growth come from? It is a poor way to
get her to go to Luke's rescue, especially since she didn't really do
anything -and we didn't even get to see her say goodbye to her newborn
twins. This is the start of the way she treats her children all through
Karrde also gets a throwaway line,
revealing that his pet vornyskrs hunt via the Force. The clues were
presented in the two previous books, but the revelation comes at a very
strange time here, and completely out of nowhere. It would have been
better to have another demonstration, particularly with a ysalamiri
nearby. His pets could have been used better, as well, in the battle with C'boath -they are Force hunters, raw, after all! They should have been
more than a simple distraction.
The other disappointing part of the
book was the whole C'boath storyline. While the plot seems to take a
natural course of events, the insane Jedi Master seems to be more
powerful than the Emperor. I do find it amazing that Zahn used tricks
that Count Dooku would use in
Attack of the Clones, like taking the
ceiling down, and that Zahn predicted that Force lightning could be
absorbed by a lightsaber!
The most disappointing part of the
book, however, is the part that isn't there. The Bilbringi attack feels
like it was truncated after Thrawn dies, but there is no real denouement
to the trilogy. A small talk between Luke and Mara on Coruscant does not
give us closure to any of the storylines. Luke could have asked her to
become a Jedi, at least. We could have seen Leia and Han returning to
their newborns, thinking at least that their futures were safe for the
moment. Fey'lya was left up in the air, though we know that Karrde will
continue doing whatever he does.
Despite the many things I can find to
complain about in this book, it was very well written, and the
characters continued to be drawn consistently and enjoyably. While
Pellaeon is nowhere the leader he will become in later books, especially
at the end of the New Jedi Order, he is allowed to be weak-minded yet
also gains insights into Thrawn's tactics. I don't like the way he can
be manipulated by C'boath like a mindless stormtrooper, but I do like
that given the chance, he can guess Thrawn's motivations.
The characters that I continue to be
most impressed with, however, are Luke and Mara. By the way they
interact, I can see the seeds for their later romance. They are not
ready yet, but they obviously were written to be a good match. In fact,
Mara has grown to be one of my favorite characters, especially within
the New Jedi Order. I had trouble seeing her as anything but a Jedi in
this book! Despite what she keeps telling herself and others, she is
firmly on the side of the New Republic. Her plot inside the Imperial
Palace was one of my favorites in this book, avoiding the Imperial
assassination and defending Leia and her children. It is a nice twist of
fate that Mara ends up telling Leia about Wayland only because of
Thrawn's assassination and slander attempt.
Mara's time on Wayland with Luke and
the others allows her to grow in the Force, with Luke's training. She
resists all the way, but we can see that it is only really a token
resistance. I understand why she needed to be the one to kill Luke's
clone, but why was she the one to also kill C'boath? That should have
been Luke's responsibility. C'boath's real desire, after getting a taste
of it coordinating Thrawn's troops, was controlling people. By the end,
he had fully crafted a general's mind to his own will. He also finally
did what I wondered about in the last book: he killed the ysalamiri that
were blinding him to the Force around the storehouse mountain.
As expected, and consistent with the
rest of the trilogy, the clone experiments described here actually run
counter to what we now know from
Attack of the Clones. Mara says that she
doesn't want to see clones overrun the galaxy again. As I also said
before, however, did anybody actually think the clones were going to be
on the side of the Republic -the "good" side, as it were? However, the
issue of insane clones does not necessarily run counter to what we have
seen. Fast-grown clones are the ones that go insane -who knows how long
it took the Kaminoans to grow their clones... I also wonder if Obi-Wan
and the others felt the strangeness in the Force that Luke felt from the
Much of the book takes place from
Karrde's point of view, as he tries to unite some smugglers into gaining
information for the New Republic. This was the part I liked least about
the book. In fact, I was mostly bored by it. The attack on the smuggler
group at the beginning as they met in a cantina should not have
convinced the other smugglers about the Empire's "reputation" at all.
They knew the Empire was after Karrde and his friend; they should have
expected to get caught in the middle if they met with him. There was no
reason at all for them to join together against the Empire, even if it
was a setup by Ferrier. The rest of the smuggler antics didn't do
anything significant except blow up a Star Destroyer, and give a little
help at the battle of Bilbringi.
Speaking of the shipyards, if Pellaeon
still had the larger fleet, especially so many Star Destroyers, why did
he decide to flee the fight after Thrawn was killed? Yes, he was
fighting on two fronts, and the unfinished ships were being attacked,
but that means he abandoned them altogether, giving the New Republic
that many more ships. Sure, Thrawn could have pulled a victory out of
the situation, but was Pellaeon so blind that he could not have salvaged
something from it?
The whole Nogrhi setup pays off here,
but I still find it quite strange. If they now know that Vader tricked
them, why do they still revere him? I suppose he did save their world,
if he barely kept it alive after that, and he made them into great
warriors. But they have simply replaced Vader with Leia, and by
extension, Han and the twins. The final act of Rukh killing Thrawn was
terrific justice, however.
In hindsight, I am amazed at how other
authors mined the material in this book for use in later books. I wonder
how much of this was in the Galaxy Guides and Sourcebooks, though.
Moruth Doole is mentioned as running Kessel -a tidbit picked up for use
in Jedi Search, for example. It also looks like the author was expecting
to write the sequel Hand of Thrawn duology sometime, too. Most
importantly, there is the unsolved mystery of why Fey'lya wants the
Emperor's storehouse destroyed so badly. I still don't believe that the
Bothan secret could have destabilized the New Republic so much, but it
is nice to see that it goes back so far. However, I can't see how Thrawn
got a cloning tank back to Chiss space for use in
Vision of the Future.
I can't see Thrawn trusting anybody to transport one, and set a timer
for ten years in the future, and there is no way he had time to do it
Finally, another character that didn't
get much use until the Hand of Thrawn is Ghent. I really liked his
character. Just for kicks, or because he was bored, he slices and makes
his own security cards, and so on. Anything to do with computers, he can
do. I liked the way he, Leia and Winter discovered Delta Source -the
trees lining the Grand Hallway. Pretty cool.
So on a character note, this book was
quite well written. In terms of plot, there wasn't too much going on.
The siege of Coruscant was a good plan from Thrawn, but most took a back
seat to the smuggler's group, which interested me the least. The ending
was a bit of a disappointment, but not for the typical reasons. I found
it logical, to a certain point, but nowhere near long enough. An extra
ten pages would have been nice, to finish off the battle, and give us
more closure. Of course, we know what happens next, detailing the events
from Dark Empire...