Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy – Lesser Evil | Book Review

Timothy Zahn brings his epic new Thrawn trilogy to a close this week with Lesser Evil; a thrilling, masterful conclusion I couldn’t put down.

All things considered, getting not one, but two, brand new Thrawn books in the same year is pretty damn cool. Even better is the fact this final novel, which wraps up the “Ascendancy” trilogy is ridiculously good.

Written By: Timothy Zahn
Release Date: 11/16/2021
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I’ve made no secret of the fact this latest stories involving Thrawn have been among my favorite for the character. Taking him into an entirely new setting and giving him space from the confines of the shows/movies has allowed for more interesting story possibilities and a wealth of excellent new characters.

Since Lesser Evil was tasked with wrapping up a host of plot lines, and needing to tie into where the character ends up in the first (new Canon) Thrawn novel, I was a little concerned about it sticking the landing. Friends, I’m happy tell you, that this novel delivers an impressive finale and easily my favorite out of this trilogy.

Lesser Evil picks up the story pretty much where Greater Good (which I’ll be mentioning a few times, so if you haven’t read it yet…) ends. Following the battle of the three houses over the insignificant “mining” moon, Thrawn is ordered to return back home. As is typically the case, however, he decides to make a few detours to better fit in with his own plans. Meanwhile Lakinda (who was my favorite new character in the previous book) sees big changes in her life as she is once again thrust into the middle of a growing conflict. Admiral Ar’alani continues to find herself at odds with the larger governing Chiss as the threat Thrawn has been dreading comes into focus.

Having been thwarted thus far in his plans to tear apart the Ascendancy, Jixtus of the Grysks, decides to take a more direct/personal approach to things. No longer content to work through his minions (which we saw the result of in the previous novels), Jixtus is infiltrating the Chiss himself, sowing the seeds of destruction for his people.

This time around, he’s enlisted the help of a warrior culture known as “the Enlightened” to ferry him around that section of the Chaos. While they don’t play as big a role in all the machinations as some others, it’s fun to continue to see the vast diversity of cultures and people who exist in this section of the Star Wars galaxy.

Despite having narrowly avoided full-on civil war in the previous novel, things are more tense between the various Chiss houses than ever before. It’s a powder keg waiting for a match, one that Jixtus believes he is holding. The end result would not only mean open warfare, but leave the entire Ascendancy unprepared for the Grysk threat (which we actually get to see a bit more of in this novel).

As tensions rise and Jixtus is poised to win, Thrawn must put all his skills/cunning to work, along with the help of his friends, to avert the destruction of his people. To do so, however, he may have to sacrifice everything he knows and his own place among his people…

This isn’t an easy book to summarize without getting into spoiler territory, as it has a LOT going on for it. Coming in at over 500 pages, it’s also one of the largest Star Wars books out there (even in the old Expanded Universe). So, there’s a lot of ground to cover and there are a handful of revelatory “side quests” that seem small in the grander story, but are important to individual characters.

Once again the Memory inserts make an appearance, this time offering a new perspective on Thrawn’s early life, this time through the eyes of his “brother” Thrass. Thrass is a character steeped in Legends lore, but so far has only been mentioned in the new Canon. Here, he gets a good amount of attention and seeing the dynamic between him and Thrawn added a great deal of emotional weight to Thrawn’s past, and a glimpse into what could have been.

Timothy Zahn manages to handle all of these elements masterfully. While I enjoyed the previous novel, I made it clear the pacing on Greater Good felt all over the place. Thrawn himself was gone for the majority of the novel, and the jump between the different stories came at the strangest of times. Thankfully, none of that is an issue with Lesser Evil, even as the story is pulled in even more places at once.

The first third of the book essentially deals with tying up loose ends from the previous novel and showing how they’re connected to the bigger story being told here while introducing some new players to the fold. Where Greater Good seemed to struggle meshing the stories together (it felt like there was a clear line between the stories being told), Lesser Evil makes everything feel seamless.

Zahn does a much better job this time around, of letting readers in on the bigger picture without things getting lost in the minutiae. The result is a story that manages to make readers feel they’re in on the story, able to piece certain things together, a not merely waiting for Thrawn to explain it all to them. It’s a balance many Thrawn stories struggle with, but Lesser Evil shows how fun these stories can be when it happens.

Despite the major page count, I breezed through Lesser Evil faster than I did the other books in this trilogy. Honestly, I was having so much fun in the story, I didn’t even realize how quickly it was going. That’s how strong the pacing and writing are in this book. It flows smoothly and even at it’s slower moments, it pulls you along until you feel compelled to keep turning the pages.

Between the more robust action sequences (which tend to be easier to follow this time around as well), the deeper character work, and seeing all these story threads come together in a meaningful way, Lesser Evil is easily my favorite Thrawn story so far. It’s an impressive finale for a trilogy I was already digging; making the Ascendancy books among my favorite Star Wars stories, and ones I know I’ll be revisiting.

That said, it is probably the most Thrawn story to have ever Thrawned. If you’re not big on the character, or at least his more recent stories, Lesser Evil isn’t likely to change your mind. I would hope Star Wars fans give this whole trilogy a chance, especially now that it’s all out. It manages to do some fun, unique things, while still feeling like you’re in the galaxy far, far away. For my money, Thrawn hasn’t been any better than what we’ve gotten out of the Ascendancy novels.

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Jordan Maison
Editor-in-Chief: Writer and cartoonist who went to college for post-production, he now applies his love of drawing, movie analysis, filmmaking, video games, and martial arts into writing.