* AlternateCharacterInterpretation: Is Thrawn's continued use of [[spoiler: the Noghri, Mara Jade, Ferrier, and C'baoth,]] despite it being painfully obvious they can and will disrupt his plans a case of him holding the IdiotBall, or an indication of how unwilling he is to eliminate potentially useful people no matter how unlikely it is that they can be incorporated into his plans?
** Is Thrawn's analysis of art really how he comes to his conclusions or is it simply the myth of his own invincibility that he has created?
* EnsembleDarkHorse: The books produced at least three extremely popular characters - Thrawn, Mara and Talon Karrde, but the most surprising success story might be the relatively minor character of Pellaeon who would go on to much greater things.
* FunnyAneurysmMoment: In ''The Last Command'' Han and Leia start trusting Mara after she risks her life to save their newborn children Jacen and Jaina from being kidnapped. [[spoiler:Years later, Jacen would pull a FaceHeelTurn and kill Mara. Oddly enough the irony of this was never pointed out in the latter book]].
* HarsherInHindsight: Thrawn's treatment of the Noghri becomes this after OutboundFlight, where he, as a young officer, expresses some distaste for slavery.
* HilariousInHindsight: Luuke being an insane clone of Luke Skywalker becones especially ironic when one remembers that Luke Skywalker's film actor, MarkHamill, ends up voicing SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker, who is an incredibly insane supervillain.
* MagnificentBastard: Thrawn is as adept as tactician and master maniuplator as Palpatine was. Not surprising, as Zahn partially based him on [[ErwinRommel the original Magnificent Bastard]].
* MaryTzu: Thrawn's able to find weaknesses in the way his opponents think, by analizing the art of their species/people, and he can come up with the perfect battle-strategy to defeat them. Some readers felt this pushed his genius over the edge.
* MoralEventHorizon: C'baoth. General Covell. MindRape. You do the math. Also [[NightmareFuel/{{Literature}} Nightmare Fuel]].
* NightmareFuel: Probably an AdultFear more than anything else, but one of the plots in ''Heir to the Empire'' has Leia pursued by Thrawn's Noghri commandos. Thanks to IndyPloy after IndyPloy she escapes them each time, but no matter where she runs and what tricks she and her family pull to throw them off, they find her. She's not safe anywhere. And she's pregnant. [[AffablyEvil Thrawn might be Affably Imperial, but he wants to take her children away]].
** What Joruus C'baoth [[MindRape did]] to that one Imperial in ''Literature/TheThrawnTrilogy''. We don't see it happening, but for a little while after it's over the Imperial is the viewpoint character, and he's basically nothing more than an extension of C'baoth's will. A few pages later and Captain Pellaeon sees a report that the Imperial who was escorting C'baoth just... died a few hours after being separated from the mad Jedi. Worse, Covell had already been the viewpoint character once before, and the contrast between the highly competent DeadpanSnarker that he was and the [[SycophanticServant worshipful puppet]] he was {{MindRape}}d into was utterly horrifying.
* OlderThanTheyThink:
** Zahn used the Star Wars [[TabletopGames role-playing game]] as a mine of source material, apparently on the advice of Lucasfilm.
** In the sidebar notes of the 20th Anniversary Edition, Zahn mentions a few cases where fans accused him of referencing stuff from current culture, not realizing that the references were older.
*** Some complained of him ripping off Franchise/StarTrek when mentioning the 'borg implant' that Lando's assistant had, but 'borg' is just a abbreviation of cyborg, a term that had been around for many years before.
*** A reference to a Corellian Corvette (you've seen one; Princess Leia was escaping in one at the start of the original ''Star Wars)'' had some claiming he named it for the car, not realizing the car had been named after a type of small [[WoodenShipsAndIronMen Age of Sail]] warship. The fact that the name for the ship predated Zahn's writing also was a factor.
* OnlyTheAuthorCanSaveThemNow: By the author's own admission, he'd basically written himself into a corner writing up a plausible ending due to Thrawn being that good of a bad guy. It took what most would consider a series of improbable setbacks in the last quarter of the books to give the good guys any chance to win.
* RootingForTheEmpire: Admit it, if you read these books, you liked it when Thrawn kept winning.