I probably own way too many Star Wars books (coming in at over 120 so far) and I was first introduced to the expanded universe, with a little trilogy titled: The Thrawn Trilogy, written by Timothy Zahn. Those three books were amazing, in that they kept the feeling of the original trilogy going strong and you felt like everyone you loved, was back at it again. Also, Admiral Thrawn, the main villain, made a wonderful character, just amazing; almost up there with Darth Vader. Which brings me to the next series of Star Wars books by Timothy Zahn, The Hand of Thrawn duology, specifically Specter of the Past. Unfortunately Zahn isn’t able to capture the exact magic he had with the trilogy, but he still manages to give you a fun read, albeit laced with a little too much politics for my taste. If you would love to know more, grab your lightsaber and get read to force push your way through this review…
Short nitty-gritty plot description from the back cover is as follows: The Empire stands at the brink of total collapse. But they have saved
their most heinous plan for last. First a plot is hatched that could
destroy the New Republic in a bloodbath of genocide and civil war. Then
comes the shocking news that Grand Admiral Thrawn–the most cunning and
ruthless warlord in history–has apparently returned from the dead to
lead the Empire to a long-prophesied victory. Facing incredible odds,
Han and Leia begin a desperate race against time to prevent the New
Republic from unraveling in the face of two inexplicable threats–one
from within and one from without. Meanwhile, Luke teams up with Mara
Jade, using the Force to track down a mysterious pirate ship with a crew
of clones. Yet, perhaps most dangerous of all, are those who lurk in
the shadows, orchestrating a dark plan that will turn the New Republic
and the Empire into their playthings.
Specter of the Past takes place 10 years after the last book in The Thrawn Trilogy, The Last Command. (SPOILER ALERT!) Thrawn is dead and the Empire is falling apart. Admiral Pellaeon has had it with the fighting and decides to call a truce with the New Republic. Unfortunately for him, not everyone agrees with that and has decided to hatch a few plans of their own, which deal with causing several conflicts within the New Republic, lots of backstabbing and espionage and one other trick that requires fooling a whole lot of people. Will the tricks work and bring the Empire back into the swing of things, or will Admiral Pellaeon be able to bring forth peace? Unfortunately, you won’t really find out until you read the next book, Vision of the Future.
There are three big problems with Specter of the Past: first the book deals with way too many politics, spending several chapters inside the New Republic counsel, listening to them bicker back and forth and having Leia in the middle, trying to resolve everything peacefully. I felt like I was having severe PMAOTCD (Phantom Menace Attack of the Clones Disorder. It’s a real thing, look it up.). It was just a little too bland for my taste, especially when you add in the second issue, no real big baddie. Specter of the Past is lacking a certain big bad guy to hate. The movies had Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine and Zahn’s trilogy before had Thrawn. Unfortunately for us, Specter of the Past has a few members of the Empire and not much else. I feel like maybe Zahn is putting all the pieces of the puzzle together for the next book and maybe then we’ll get someone to hate. Last but not least, is what I’ve already mentioned before and that’s that the book feels like a starter guide to a better book. It’s a catalyst for something big and hopefully that something big, is Vision of the Future, which I have no idea whether it’s good or not, but I’m hoping it fixes the wrongs of Specter of the Past.
So, with that giant block of text of negative, is there anything I liked with the book? Of course, as it is still Zahn writing and the man knows how to capture that Star Wars feeling. It’s great to see everyone back from the movies/Thrawn trilogy and see what everyone is up to ten years later. The book does reference a few past happenings in the other Star Wars novels written before, which I have yet to read, so I did feel a little lost with some the references. It’s nothing major though and it just shows that this whole universe is connected. Specter of the Past also manages to have some pretty intense action scenes, my highlight being when Luke was attempting to sneak into a pirate base. Even though the book is mostly filled with boring ol’ politics, there are still times where the action comes forth and you’ll be right into it.
In the end, I ended up enjoying Specter of the Past and think of it as a good book, but not a great book. It’s almost 400 pages and it did feel long in places and with the lack of a big baddie, it can make getting in to it, difficult. Still, this is supposed to be part one of a two part series and you have to start somewhere and get everything lined up first. I hoping Vision of the Future rights a few of the wrongs I had with Specter of the Past, which I will find out in the near future. As for my final opinion, definitely give it a read, but know it ain’t going to match the greatness of The Thrawn Trilogy. (Of course will anything ever match it?)
Rating: 3/5 (-2 for some boring politics, no big baddie and acting like a starting guide for something better (hopefully Vision of the Future). +3 for bringing back some much loved characters and a few set pieces that had some good action in them.)