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Literature / The Thrawn Trilogy

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The covers for this trilogy were designed by the same man who did the posters for the Original Trilogy. Gotta love that.

Thrawn: It's the second piece of the puzzle, Captain. The piece I've been searching for now for over a year.
Pellaeon: I congratulate you. May I ask just what exactly this puzzle is?
Thrawn: Why, the only puzzle worth solving, of course. The complete, total, and utter destruction of the Rebellion.

A trilogy of novels written by Timothy Zahn that form part of Star Wars Legends, the original Star Wars Expanded Universe.

  • Heir to the Empire (1991, hardcover)
  • Dark Force Rising (1992, hardcover)
  • The Last Command (1993, hardcover)

This trilogy was one of the cornerstones of the now Alternate Continuity Legends, being the first major work set after Return of the Jedi (five years after to be exact), the first truly popular entry of the franchise since Return of the Jedi, and serving as the introduction of some of the most beloved figures in Legends canon, like Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Gilad Pellaeon and Talon Karrde. Back before the Sequel Trilogy was made, many fans considered these stories to be the closest thing to an Episode VII, Episode VIII, and Episode IX that they would ever get. Years later, these stories are still regarded highly despite showing their age in some places.

Given the Big Bad is an alien, this trilogy introduced a slightly more human Galactic Empire — still certainly villainous, but no longer a 0% Approval Rating organization. In movie terms, it is somewhat closer to Admiral Piett and Captain Needa than Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. Thrawn himself (the aforementioned alien Big Bad) was certainly a Magnificent Bastard of the highest caliber, one whom the reader did not hesitate in respecting. The trilogy also reflected the Real Life movement into the Information Age, with Thrawn (and Karrde opposite him) being able to connect esoteric and obscure bits of data together into a much larger picture. Thrawn in particular was able to practice an almost obscene version of psychoanalysis on people and cultures by studying their artwork, using it to identify weaknesses in their thinking or perception patterns, and then exploiting said weaknesses in devastating ways. The trilogy, as implied by its name, concerns the adventures of the New Republic, particularly Luke, Han and Leia, to deal with Thrawn's plans, leadership and genius.

A comic-book adaptation of the trilogy was also produced, with six issues allotted per book. The art for Heir to the Empire is kind of questionable. The art for Dark Force Rising is much prettier, but it has problems of its own. The art for the last book is pretty decent; less realistic, but more expressive. The comics are a very Compressed Adaptation, with some pages having a Wall of Text and somehow still leaving out some important elements, but they do fairly well at sticking to the narrative.

For an idea of just how much of Legends canon got its start in these books, go here, here and here and note how many times the phrase "first appearance" comes up. These novels basically invented the New Republic that the Rebellion became. A few years later, Zahn wrote the Hand of Thrawn duology.

On June 21, 2011, the 20th anniversary edition of Heir to the Empire was released, including a new novella featuring Thrawn, Crisis of Faith, and some interesting notes by Zahn himself on the process of the writing of the novel.

Thrawn appeared in Season Three of Star Wars Rebels (voiced by Lars Mikkelsen) and in a new non-Legends novel by Timothy Zahn, making him the first major post-Jedi Legends character to be transitioned back into the new timeline.

In addition to the character and universe tropes it carries over from the Original Trilogy, this series provides examples of:

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  • 2-D Space: Thrawn's Establishing Character Moment is realizing that an opposing commander is thinking this way, and launching an unstructured three-dimensional attack Elomin are utterly incapable of dealing with.
  • Achilles in His Tent: After playing The Cavalry at the climax of Dark Force Rising, the genius general Garm Bel Iblis, the only commander the Republic has who can even begin to stand up to Thrawn on the battlefield, is sidelined at the start of The Last Command by Mon Mothma due to long-standing trust issues between them and retires to brood when Thrawn attacks Coruscant. Leia goes to meet him to implore him to take command of the defence (and discovers that Garm's issues aren't rooted in pride, but a refusal to work with Mon Mothma until he knows he has her full trust), but it's only when Mon Mothma makes a personal appeal that he agrees to take command again.
  • Action Girl: Mara Jade flies spaceships, shoots, and even fights with a lightsaber on one occasion.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Leia notes that this used to happen with her and Winter back on Alderaan, as Winter not only looks more like a classical aristocrat than she does but has a certain grace and bearing that just comes naturally; Leia can do the same, but at least from her perspective it's more a mask she puts on rather than part of who she is.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • You know Zahn cracked a nice little smile when he realized this. In earlier printings, though, it was actually referred to as "The Empire Trilogy".
    • As an in-universe example, Zahn did it deliberately when naming Jacen and Jaina.
  • Aerith and Bob: More than any other Expanded Universe writer, Zahn likes to use a lot of normal Earth-sounding names for humans; Executive Meddling altered the spelling of some in reaction.
  • Affably Evil: Thrawn. Debatable with Pellaeon, since he became a pretty good guy later on.
  • Agri World: The planet Ukio is primarily an exporter of foodstuffs, and Thrawn takes it over at the start of the third book to feed his ever-growing army of clones.
  • Aliens Speaking English:
    • Averted by some of the planet names. Zahn isn't scared of having some very consonant-heavy and undervoweled planet names, like Bpfassh, presumably named so by their alien populations who, you know, don't speak English. Or Basic, as it's called.
    • Plenty of aliens speak in their own languages, and at one point Leia has to brush up on her Shyriiwook for a trip to Kashyyyk. Luckily, the local Wookiee diplomat has something of a speech impediment that makes it easier for non-Wookiees to understand him (Leia actually understands the Wookiee language better than she thinks, the problem is their accent is indecipherable to most outsiders).
  • And Then What?:
    • C'Baoth's original question to Thrawn as to why he should help him conquer the galaxy. C'Baoth states that he has no desire to rule over millions of people he will never meet, preferring a smaller and more intimate society that he can micromanage down to the last shirt button. Subverted when C'Baoth's rapidly expanding powers allow him to take control of people's minds from great distances. And Then What? gets thrown out the window, as now he has the means to mentally dominate everyone in the entire galaxy. In a way, his victory would be far worse than Thrawn's, as C'Baoth would control everyone in the galaxy, mind, body, and soul.
    • Although he still gets taken down a peg or two when he seizes control of all but a few of the 37,000 minds aboard the Chimaera in order to go and capture Leia's kids—and then Thrawn starts pointing out that yes, he's got a ship, but he's also got to actually get the ship to Coruscant over a minimum of five days, keeping control of the entire crew all the while but also making sure they're still in a suitable condition to fight when they reach their destination, bypass Coruscant's defenses... and that's with one ship against the entire defense fleet of the capital of the Republic; he'd almost certainly need to bring along a support fleet...
  • Anti-Magic: Ysalamiri negate the Force whenever they appear.
    • Thrawn uses Ysalamiri to completely negate C'Baoth's Force lightning, and uses them to keep the insane Dark Jedi cooperative across the trilogy.
    • Luke is unable to use the Force on Myrkr due to the high number of Ysalamiri.
    • While not a combat purpose, Thrawn uses Ysalamiri to negate a resonance in the Force that would make clones grown too quickly crazy.
  • Arc Welding: In later books it's intimated that Thrawn intended to prepare the galaxy for the Vong invasion, but there's no hint of it in the trilogy.
  • Art Reflects Personality: Exploited by Thrawn. He has an amazing gift for gleaning information about other cultures and species from their artwork, especially psychological blind spots and other similar flaws, and tailors his battle strategies and tactics to take advantage of those weaknesses.
  • Artifact Title: Originally, it was just called "The Star Wars Trilogy", as it was the first Expanded Universe novel that actually tried to continue from where the movies left off. Later, it had to be retitled "The Thrawn Trilogy" to differentiate it from the hundreds of other books set after Return of the Jedi.
  • Assimilation Plot: C'Baoth in Last Command.
  • Artistic License – Military: Thrawn runs the Empire/Imperial Remnants far more like a pirate captain than the ruler of a state, or even supreme commander of a military theater. He appears to make all plans by himself, with no signs of a military staff or regular chain of command; the only subordinate he regularly communicates with is Pellaeon, the captain of his own flagship. In fact, there are apparently no intermediate ranks or positions of authority between Flag Captain and Grand Admiral in his military, since command of the fleet is shown to default to Pellaeon as soon as Thrawn is indisposed (which is not how things typically work in the greater Star Wars Legends continuity, where the Empire uses a more-or-less standard system of military ranks, with a few senior flag ranks added to the top). The later Dark Empire Sourcebook does its best to excuse/justify/retcon these oddities.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Early in the first book, Obi-Wan visits Luke for the final time while Luke is dreaming. Five years after Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan can no longer delay crossing over to the next stage of the Force afterlife (and it's stated he can only appear through Luke's dream since he can't take a ghostly form anymore), so he gives Luke some last advice and reassures him they will meet again someday, implied to be when Luke himself becomes one with the Force.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Both subverted and inverted in The Last Command. When diplomatic negotiations by Luke's party with the natives of Wayland are threatened by a predator attack, Chewbacca draws his bowcaster—in violation of the rules of the meeting—and shoots the predator. This puts the natives in an uproar, and it seems at first that negotiations are about to go in the garbage masher. It turns out that Chewie's action is the key to securing an agreement with the natives; the Wookiee slaves used by the Empire—a previous occupier—weren't allowed to use weapons, and the fact that Chewie has a weapon is proof that the newcomers are not the same as the Empire.
  • Author Catchphrase: Using "the other" as an alternative to a character name when describing dialogue (as in, "...Han said to the other"), as well as "Luke reached out with the Force" and " was all over". Also, a very large proportion of his characters are "sardonic" in some way or have "wry" smiles.
  • Author Usurpation: Timothy Zahn has written many other novels that have been critically and financially successful, yet fans only associate him with The Thrawn Trilogy. Even his other Star Wars books, including the sequel duology Hand of Thrawn, aren't cared about nearly as much.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Thrawn gleans details about a species' psychology from the works of art they create, and even about an individual's psychology from the works of art they collect, and uses this knowledge to discern weaknesses and predict behaviors with uncanny accuracy.
    • Karrde absorbs information, knowledge, rumors, and tales and compiles seemingly disparate pieces of trivial information into actionable intelligence.
  • Axe-Crazy:
    • Joruus C'baoth. An Axe-Crazy dark sided clone of a Jedi Master is a scary, scary thing.
    • Also, Luuke Skywalker, the clone of Luke Skywalker. Though whether or not Luuke even had any mind left at all, or was just an extension of C'baoth's will, remains unknown.
  • Bad Boss: Pellaeon contrasts Vader being one with the fact that Thrawn isn't. Which doesn't mean Thrawn isn't above a You Have Failed Me on occasion (reference the situation with the tractor beam operator), he's just more pragmatic about it.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Thrawn shows us exactly who's in charge:
      I rule the Empire now, not some long-dead Emperor.
    • C'baoth:
      I am the Jedi Master C'baoth! The Empire — the universe — is mine!
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Thrawn is master of these, usually working out from an enemy's artwork how they will respond to a given tactic. He also realizes our heroes' penchant for choosing strategies on the basis of "our enemies can't possibly believe we'd be that crazy", and uses it to deduce that they'll hit the heavily defended shipyards at Bilbringi rather than the less-defended Tangrene.
    • His trick of faking the ability to fire through planetary shields relies on choosing a target psychologically prone to panic when they think they've seen something impossible without examining it too closely. When a recording of the attack makes it to the New Republic they figure out how it was done immediately, but by then the Empire has secured the planet.
    • The Republic's side also gets some examples. In The Last Command we are introduced to "The Cracken Twist", used to transmit coordinates for a rendezvous point when the enemy is listening in. An order is given: "Cracken Twist: on two, one, two!" The ships all pull off a Cool Maneuver that the enemy will think is the Twist, but it's actually code for "add the number 2 to the second digit of the coordinates I'm transmitting to get the real place".
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Mara and Luke. He quickly comes to admire her skills, she grudgingly notices that he really is as nice as a person as he appears to be, but she blames him for the Emperor's death, and has a vendetta implanted in her head. By the time she kills his clone and the Emperor's voice finally falls silent, she doesn't want to dislike him any more.
  • Berserk Button: For Mara Jade, any mention of The Empire or her former master Palpatine.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Thrawn, who is quiet, reserved, and almost unfailingly polite even to enemies. But anger him and one would be lucky to leave alive, as spaceship thief Niles Ferrier found out the hard way.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Thrawn and C'baoth have largely exclusive plans for the galaxy, but work together for mutual convenience. Each has plans for disposing of the other when the time comes (though Thrawn is usually able to talk C'baoth down when he's in one of his mad rages), and each seems to consider himself the Big Bad and the other The Dragon.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Talon Karrde's pet vornskrs are named Sturm and Drang. Those are not words of some made up alien language but German words that, when showing up together, refer to a certain movement in German literature.
  • Blessed with Suck: Winter's Photographic Memory. She's Alderaanian and remembers the destruction of her homeworld with as much clarity as if it happened yesterday, as well as a number of other unpleasant incidents in her life.
  • Blofeld Ploy: The incident with the tractor beam operator and his supervisor in book one. One of the more intelligent versions of the trope, as the person actually at fault is the one killed, and Thrawn explains to Pellaeon shortly after exactly why: the tractor beam operator tried to pass blame for the failure onto his supervisor by way of poor training, but Thrawn, who values integrity and personal initiative, isn't having it.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Rukh to Thrawn. After Rukh finds out that the Empire has been poisoning his homeworld instead of helping the clean-up process as they say, he stabs Thrawn. It's mentioned in the Hand of Thrawn duology that Rukh did not live to tell about it, being intercepted and killed by an elite stormtrooper squad.
  • Bodyguard Legacy: The Noghri serve the Galactic Empire as Over-the-Top Secret commandos and bodyguards to repay Darth Vader for saving them from extinction after a Clone Wars-era starship crash poisoned their homeworld Honoghr's environment. Vader later gave the Noghris' reins over to Grand Admiral Thrawn. After Leia Organa Solo, whom a Noghri recognized by her scent as Vader's daughter, proves that the Empire has only been pretending to decontaminate the planet, they switch their allegiance to her and her brother Luke.

  • Book Ends: The trilogy opens with a scene where Luke goes up onto the roof of the Imperial Palace to think about the future, and when somebody comes up for a conversation he knows who it is from the Force before he turns to look. In the closing scene of the trilogy, Mara Jade is up on the roof thinking about the future and does the same thing when Luke comes up for a conversation.
  • Breakout Character: Thrawn himself. It's easy to forget given how popular he became, but in many ways Thrawn plays second fiddle to C'baoth. C'baoth is the one that has direct confrontations with the heroes and during the trilogy's final act is presented as a greater threat to the galaxy than Thrawn. C'baoth is featured more prominently on the novels covers and Thrawn's death comes about matter of factly after C'baoth is defeated. As far as the fanbase is concerned, however? There's a reason these books came to be called the Thrawn Trilogy.

  • Call-Back:
    • The "No time to discuss this in committee!" "I am not a committee!" exchange between Leia and Han in The Empire Strikes Back has apparently become a private joke between them (they drop the lines again after Bpfassh), and Luke thinks to himself he's going to have to have them explain it to him at some point.
    • Nearly all of the iconic lines from the movie trilogy find their way into the books, sometimes with slight changes.
      Admiral Ackbar: It appears to be a trap.
    • It's mentioned in the third book that after the collapse Cloud City became the Empire's main source of Tibanna gas. Probably for the same reasons that Lando set up there in the first place: it's small, remote and unlikely to attract much attention.
  • Canon Immigrant:
    • The trilogy introduced a vast number of characters, starships and planets to the Star Wars universe, perhaps the most significant being Mara Jade. Also, the name "Coruscant" for the capital world was first established in Heir to the Empire, and would go on to be used in the prequel trilogy.
    • In an odd instance of Schrödinger's Canon, Thrawn became a Canon Immigrant to the new Expanded Universe after being "de-canonized" with the rest of Legends with his appearance on Star Wars Rebels.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Mara's constantly in this situation with Luke, and she's none too happy about it. She was given a geas to kill him by Emperor Palpatine during Darth Vader's Heel–Face Turn at the climax of Return of the Jedi, and frequently has to fight against the compulsion when they're working together. Loophole Abuse in the form of Mara killing Luke's clone in the last book breaks the geas.
  • Career-Building Blunder: After Luke outwits Thrawn's tractor beam for a second time in The Last Command, everybody remembers the time this happened in Heir to the Empire where Thrawn ordered the tractor beam operator killed. However, this tractor beam operator improvised upon encountering a scenario that wasn't in the manual. It didn't work, but he gave it a shot and, more to the point, he didn't try to pass the buck to somebody else afterward, so Thrawn promotes him and gives him the job of working out how to defeat the trick Luke used. Which pays off in Hand of Thrawn when the Empire is able to defeat a variant used by Lando.
  • Characterisation Marches On:
    • When Thrawn is asking C'baoth to join him, these lines seem rather out of character for the later Thrawn:
      (Thrawn has explained what he wants C'baoth to do for him, coordinating his armies)
      C'baoth: To what end?
      For the first time since landing, Thrawn seemed taken aback.
      Thrawn: The conquering of worlds, of course. The final defeat of the Rebellion. The reestablishment of the glory that was once the Emperor's New Order.
    • Shortly after that, C'baoth prevents Thrawn from executing one of the Wayland natives who tried to kill him. When he does so, Thrawn whirls about in surprise and anger; two emotions that, from here on out, Thrawn rarely visibly shows. However, this can easily be explained by Thrawn's explanation to Pellaeon later that he killed the original C'Baoth when he destroyed Outbound Flight and was not aware that Palpatine had cloned him of all people, a fact which the annotated anniversary of Heir to the Empire spells out further.
  • Charm Person:
    • Joruus C'baoth uses a simple Jedi Mind Trick on Pellaeon to get him to deliver an order C'baoth doesn't want Thrawn to know about, and then has Pellaeon forget ever giving such an order. Later we find out C'baoth is capable of far, far worse, using a highly destructive form of mind control to destroy an Imperial general's mind and turn him into a near-mindless puppet. When the poor man passes into a Force null area, he operates on implanted instructions, then lies down to take a nap he never wakes up from - C'baoth had demolished so much of his brain he couldn't survive when not directly being controlled. Really, Pellaeon got off very lucky.
    • The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook mentions that this Mind Trick was several degrees nastier than what Obi-Wan and Luke were willing to do. Pellaeon's willpower was permanently reduced by what C'baoth did—though considering the things he was willing to work for in later books, it must have been formidable from the start.
    • C'baoth can also take physical control of people while leaving their minds alone, controlling them like puppets; in one display of power, he does this for the entire Chimaera crew (mindraping 37,000 people, all at once), or at the very least the several dozen bridge crew. The physical symptoms post-possession, moreover, are a blend of mental trauma and something resembling the flu.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Katana Fleet, Delta Source, ch'hala trees. A particularly obvious one is the "small, almost trivial piece of technology" mentioned several times that Thrawn hoped to find in Mount Tantiss in addition to the cloaking shield. This turns out to be the Spaarti Cylinders, which are a critical part of Thrawn's plans.
  • The Chessmaster: Grand Admiral Thrawn. While his opponents admit that not everything that happens in the galaxy is part of his all-encompassing plot, enough of it is that he's got them not only jumping at shadows, but more often then not at the specific shadows he wants them jumping at.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • Fey'lya. This is apparently the Bothans' hat, at least when it comes to politics. Han even tells him straight up that the rules of politics are different with people like Leia and Mon Mothma and that Bothan strategies will not work, but he's ignored.
    • This strategy itself ends up stabbing him in the back as the military officers loyal to him take umbrage when he admits over the ship's com system that he is simply using them to gain power.
  • Cigar Chomper: Or Cigarra, the Galaxy's equivalent. Niles Ferrier likes his stoogies.
  • Commander Contrarian: Pellaeon is a positive example, questioning Thrawn's conclusions and plans not because he has no faith in his CO, but because Thrawn loves having someone try and poke holes in his reasoning. If they fail, the reasoning is sound. If they succeed, he needs to reevaluate.
  • Common Place Rare: It's stated that Luke considers hot chocolate to be an exotic beverage, and Lando introduced him to it. This is the first series in Legends where he's shown drinking it.
  • Compromising Call: Discussed then averted. Han goes off to follow a suspicious looking character, leaving Lando and Luke on their own. Han tells Lando not to call him, as he might be somewhere he wouldn't want a callbeep going off. Lando later tries to comm Han anyway, since there's an Imperial raid happening, but it's moot because the Empire is jamming comm traffic and Han had his comlink taken by the suspicious-looking character's associates anyway.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Luke and Mara's rescue of Karrde from the Star Destroyer; not to mention more "had a bad feeling about this"es than you can throw an Ewok at.
    • A subtle one: the Original Trilogy films all started with establishing shots of a Star Destroyer on Imperial business. Likewise, each novel in this trilogy begins aboard the Chimaera, implying we've just panned down from that iconic diagonal scrolling text...
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Thrawn was intentionally written to be as different from Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader as humanly possible: a villain who is a brilliant strategist and inspires loyalty, as opposed to a Sith Lord whose subordinates fear him.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • When first meeting Joruus C'baoth, Thrawn instantly deduces that he's a clone. Why? Because he was personally present when the original Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth (note the spelling difference) was killed. This is later fleshed out in Hand of Thrawn and then shown in Outbound Flight, although it's still a bit improbable that Thrawn would happen to meet both C'baoths in completely different parts of the galaxy.
    • Leia and Han mention a Dark Jedi from the Bpfassh region making it as far as Dagobah before he got caught. Luke travels to Dagobah, to see if Yoda left something useful behind (and just because he suddenly feels it's very important to do so), and finds an old ship's beckon call, which Artoo recognizes as similar to a device Lando once carried. Luke heads to Lando's new mining operation on Nkllon, arriving at the exact same time Han and Leia are dropping in on Lando to help with Leia's "the Empire's trying to kidnap me" problem. In the 20th Anniversary annotations, Zahn notes that this trope is part and parcel of Star Wars (and almost all fiction, to a greater or lesser extent), but that it's particularly forgivable in Star Wars, as one never knows just how much the Force is influencing people and events.
  • Corrupt Politician: Fey'lya. Backstabbing politicking seems to be a Bothan trait. Even more so when it got flanderized in subsequent books.
  • Covers Always Lie: Well, mislead. The Last Command shows Mara and Luke in a lightsaber duel. Mara is actually fighting Luuke, the clone of Luke. The key hint is that Luuke is depicted with a blue lightsaber (the one Luke lost when he fought Vader at Cloud City), not Luke's later green lightsaber.
  • Covert Emergency Call: During The Last Command, Talon Karrde is held at gunpoint at the helm of his ship, but he's able to covertly flash the ship's landing lights on and off, drawing the attention of people nearby. For bonus points, he then tricks his captor into believing that one of the light controls is a Dead Man's Switch.
  • Cultured Badass: Thrawn is a dedicated scholar of the arts. In fact, much of his strategic and tactical skill derives directly from his close study of a huge variety of art from uncountable species and cultures. Studying the art gives him insight into each species' or culture's psychology, including their weaknesses, which Thrawn exploits ruthlessly. Thrawn even mentions knowing Karrde's particular psyche from the art he collects, and studies Mon Calamari art (including a few pieces created by Ackbar himself) to get into his opposing Admiral's head. Cultured badass indeed.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Zahn is fond of using these. Many of them proved to be Canon Fodder for later authors, especially Michael Stackpole. A few were never followed up on, but their number is tiny compared to the ones that did.
  • Cyanide Pill: In Heir to the Empire, Khabarakh is captured as he stops fighting, after he realizes that Leia is the Mal'ary'ush (the daughter and heir of the Lord Darth Vader, who they revere as the Messiah). It's never overtly said that he has some kind of suicide mechanism, but when Leia talks to him he says that his duty is to obey all of his orders—and Leia knows that for a captured commando facing interrogation, there could be only one order left to follow. She manages to talk him down by telling him that he now knows something none of his people are aware of—that Leia is the Mal'ary'ush—and he needs to live to bring the information to them.
  • Dead Man's Switch: Talon Karrde defeats an enemy's attempt to steal his ship by holding down a switch on the control board and bluffing that it's a dead-man's switch controlling the ship's self-destruct mechanism. (The switch actually just turns on the ship's headlights.)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Half the cast, especially Mara.
  • Decapitated Army:
    • Averted. Once Thrawn has his fleet and clone army, you would think he would strike Coruscant. Instead he concentrates on restoring the Empire system by system. He even goes so far as to diminish the Republic fleet (which he is beating soundly) by dispatching cloaked asteroids in the vicinity of Coruscant, forcing the New Republic to tie up an exorbitant number of ships which sit in orbit around Coruscant and fire their turbolasers constantly in hope of hitting one of the cloaked asteroids.
    • Discussed when Thrawn explains to Pellaeon exactly what happened during the Battle of Endor. Thrawn claimed that, because Palpatine was using mind control to coordinate his forces in battle, his death led to a high level of fleet-wide disorganization that resulted in the loss of the Super-class Star Destroyer Executor, six other Imperial-class Star Destroyers, the Death Star, and the Endor garrison, which changed the course of the battle from what should have been the Last Stand of the Rebellion into a catastrophic defeat for the Empire. Pellaeon, who was present at the battle, initially tries to argue that Palpatine was not personally directing the fleet and the losses were a result of battle stress, but is rebuffed by Thrawn. During a later battle where Thrawn has C'Baoth using the same type of mind control to coordinate three separate engagements, Pellaeon compares the fleet's current performance against its historical benchmarks and notes a 40% improvement across every measurable category, and he reluctantly admits to himself that the issue is no longer open to argument.
  • Deconstruction: The series was the first major exploration of the (first) Expanded Universe following the events of Return of the Jedi and set out to completely deconstruct the entire Happily Ever After ending. However, many of these are then reconstructed:
    • Luke becoming a full Jedi Knight after confronting Vader marks the Return of the Jedi. But how would a single Jedi who only received an extremely rushed and highly irregular training even start at training more Jedi? Especially given how terribly things turned out when Obi-Wan tried his hand at training his own student, and that was with the support of the whole Jedi Order and its ancient traditions and knowledge. After trying to find someone he deems more qualified for the role, though, Luke ultimately realizes that, while his own training didn't prepare him for this nearly as well as he'd like, he is more than capable of being a teacher. While it started out rough for both, Leia and Mara still managed to be set on the path to becoming Jedi through his teachings, proving what Yoda and Obi-Wan had said about how he already had what he needed for the task.
    • Even though Han and Leia do get married, their new jobs as high-level politicans take a very heavy burden on their private lives. For that matter, should high-ranking leaders in an ongoing war decide to start a family at the same time? While problems did arise from them starting a family, they still managed to keep their relationship going by adapting and taking advantage whenever they can to spend time with each other, proving making this work alongside their new jobs was more than possible.
    • Some characters mention the time directly after the death of the Emperor as the mopping-up phase of the war. Leia even suspects that future history books as yet unwritten will say as much, but that to people living through it, this assessment turned out to be very wrong.
    • Thrawn is introduced as a blatant counter-example to Darth Vader, with Pellaeon frequently ruminating on Thrawn's more forgiving treatment of his subordinates vs. Vader's counter-productive tendency to kill them for minor mistakes. At the same time, this also leads to Thrawn greatly underestimating several individuals who had both failed him and tried to kill him, which even directly leads to his campaign ultimately failing and his death. While Darth Vader's lack of tolerance of failure did cost the Empire many good officers, it also weeded out the incompetent and didn't result in such a chain reaction like Thrawn's did because he didn't want to waste potential tools he could us for his campaign.
    • Even though there is No Endor Holocaust, the planet Honoghr suffers exactly the kind of devastation that would be expected as the aftermath of the debris from a massive space battle severely damaging its global ecosystem (even if in Honoghr's case it wasn't the ship crashing but literal shiploads of toxic chemicals used in older models of warship being dispersed through the atmosphere).
  • Default to Good: Karrde, and most of the Smugglers' Alliance.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: C'Baoth blows up when Mara kills him.
  • Devil's Advocate: Captain Pellaeon acts as this to Grand Admiral Thrawn, and later commends his subordinate for playing this trope in Hand of Thrawn.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Thrawn's ultimate downfall, several things all at once. The true cause of his true downfall was however an Unknown Unknown (something he didn't know he didn't know):that Leia was Darth Vader's daughter (though as noted under Early-Installment Weirdness that varied later). Or at the very least, that the Noghri could tell that by her scent.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: C'baoth's harsh judgments on the people of Jomark, which provide Luke with the first clue that he's actually an insane clone.
  • Do a Barrel Roll: As you'd expect, both sides get a few in:
    • In The Last Command, Bel Iblis invents the 'A-wing Slash', where speedy A-wings hide in the exhaust wash of an attack group of X-wings, then pull off at the last moment and attack the unsuspecting enemy. Gets a Call-Back in Hand of Thrawn.
    • In the Battle of Sluis Van at the end of Heir to the Empire, one of the Chimaera`s deflector shields fails, much to Pellaeon's concern. Thrawn orders his gunners to focus on one side of a nearby Republic frigate, blasting away all the weapons on one side, then gets his tractor beam operators to pull the ship in to fill the gap in the shields, the disarmed side facing towards the Chimaera, basically daring the Rebels to fire on their own ship.
    • The Thrawn Pincer (as it is later called) where Thrawn uses his Interdictor cruisers to define a precise point where his warships will be pulled out of hyperspace, putting them where they need to be to make coordinated surprise attacks with pinpoint precision.
    • Also subverted at the very start of Heir of the Empire as part of an Establishing Character Moment for Thrawn: he beats a Rebel force not with a clever new maneouvre but with a textbook attack. Thrawn's genius instead lay in working out from little information that the Rebel force was commanded by an Elomin, and knowing that Elomin psychology meant they were uniquely poor at responding to the shape of that particular tactic.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Grand Admiral Thrawn is a tactical genius who manages to rise through the ranks of the Imperial military to appoint himself de facto Galactic Emperor after the Empire's leadership crumbles during a period of chaos, despite being a Chiss serving in a human supremacist military that generally looks down on aliens. He's essentially an alien Napoléon Bonaparte, right down to the distinctive white military uniform, the protective instinct towards his troops, and the strong opposition to democracy. Like Napoleon, he even abandons his "foreign" birth name to make it easier for his troops to accept him, and ultimately goes by a simple mononym; the Corsican-born "Napoleone di Buonaparte" adopted the French name "Napoléon Bonaparte", and eventually just "Napoléon", while the Chiss "Mitth'raw'nuruodo" simply calls himself "Thrawn".
  • The Dog Bites Back: The Noghri, after learning the Empire bound them in indentured servitude for forty-four years, paced the decontamination efforts to a virtual standstill and made the whole toxic rain situation worse as part of securing the Noghri's service, wait for precisely the opportune moment to turn on the Empire and reveal how bad an idea pissing off the Noghri is.
  • Do I Really Sound Like That?: Leia's reaction to hearing C-3P0 programmed with her voice.
  • Domed Hometown: On New Cov, cities are built under large domes of transparent metal to keep out the dense and hostile jungles that cover the planet. Inside they're Hive Cities, with their volumes filled by multiple stacked levels given to distinct functions. Access is through large chutes on their tops, which spaceships can fly in and out of to access the hangar levels at the top.
  • The Dreaded Dreadnought: Subverted with Dreadnought-class heavy cruisers. Though in their day they were unrivaled, they're an old design; by the standards of the post-Imperial era they're capable midsize warships but are too personnel-heavy and are severely outclassed by Imperial Star Destroyers and the Mon Calamari's own heavy cruisers. The appeal of the Katana Fleet is that there are close to two hundred of them. That many ships would be a force multiplier for either side. With enough of them, and clones to crew them, Thrawn is able to take advantage of Unstable Equilibrium and launch a major offensive against the New Republic.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Han brings the Falcon in for a bumpy landing on Wayland; in a Call-Back to Return of the Jedi, he quips to Lando that at least the sensor dish is still there. Lando grouses that next time he'll destroy the shield generator and Han can fly her into the Death Star's superstructure. Neither of them laughs, as they both realize that the Empire is on such a roll under Thrawn that it just might be able to build a third Death Star.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Han has a moment like that over Threepio in the final book. The bumbling robot actually had a reason for the bumbling, which he politely explained after being shouted at.

  • Early-Bird Cameo: Padme's portrait shows up in the fifth issue of the The Last Command's comic adaptation, which came out after Natalie Portman was cast, but before Episode I was released.
  • Early Adaptation Weirdness: Zahn did all this writing before there really was much canon outside the Original Trilogy, and almost a decade before Episode 1 came out, so there are a few things in the story that ended up invalidated by canon:
    • Zahn asserts that in the Clone Wars, it was discovered that clones would go insane if they were grown too fast (due to resonance in the Force between the mind of the clone and that of the original). Nobody else has ever acknowledged this as being true or, for that matter, happening. Zahn also has Mara claim that the Death Star I debacle is why Vader lost his right hand: in punishment for his failure.
      • Zahn and a couple others actually did Retcon a form of this back into canon. A comic had a battle between Republic forces (including Pellaeon) and besieged Separatist aliens who were quick-growing clones of their warriors in tubes, and as they compressed the growth cycle further and further the clones started getting disjointed. The Empire started moving away from Kamino cloning to experiment with Spaarti cylinders, an entirely different tech, and growing clones too quickly in those tends to make them insane. The Thrawn Trilogy attributes this to interference from too many identical Force presences in the same place (a problem which Thrawn solves through the use of Force-suppressing ysalamiri). It also helps that he was vague about all of that the first time around. Another short story has Vader lose his (already mechanical) right hand after the Death Star is destroyed, so this could be blamed on Mara assuming that he still had a biological hand at this point.
      • Averted in that the "rule of thumb" for safe cloning is a minimum of one year, and ideally three to five years. Fast forward (or rewind) to Attack of the Clones, and the Kaminoan system results in a clone trooper taking about ten years to reach maturity.
      • The two systems also produce completely different kinds of clones. Spaarti clones are exact duplicates with memories and skills intact, while Kamino clones are just a bunch of guys with the same DNA (and optionally growth acceleration) who have to be trained from scratch.
    • The biggest Clone Wars related issue is that Zahn sets them over a decade before the eventual timeline established by the prequels. This was actually Lucas's fault rather than Zahn's—as Zahn revealed in his annotations in the 20th anniversary edition, Lucas hadn't yet settled on a concrete timeline for the series pre-A New Hope and eventually compressed it from the more expansive one he'd given Zahn at the time.
      • Related, a grievous math error takes place when the Noghri claim in Dark Force Rising that Vader came to them and "helped" them forty-four years ago. At the point in the continuity the books took place, Luke and Leia could be no older than twenty-eight, meaning Vader would have been a fallen Jedi for at least sixteen years before Luke and Leia were even born. It could be put down to miscounting, but they specifically say it's been forty-eight Noghri years, and in the "years of the Emperor", forty-four. The Essential Guide to Alien Species later clarifies that Honoghr has a shorter year, and they were using Honoghr years rather than standard.
    • Zahn also writes from the not-unreasonable assumption that the Clone Wars involved an evil clone army attacking the galaxy. Everyone automatically assumes Thrawn's use of clones will lead to Clone Wars II even though the origins of the wars wound up being completely different—the Empire's a hostile enemy state while the original conflict was a civil war. Not to mention that the clones turned out to be the "good" guys in the Clone Wars, so to speak.
    • Zahn describes Coruscant as having hills, isolated towers, greenery, and mountain ranges—later books describe it as a planet-wide city (Shadows of the Empire specifically mentions the peak of the tallest mountain on the planet is the centerpiece of an otherwise normal city plaza), and the movies locked that in.
    • Jawas are common enough not only on Coruscant, but in the Imperial Palace itself, for their robes and hoods to make viable disguises for Leia's cadre of Noghri bodyguards. Though the original trilogy depicts Jawas only on Tatooine, the assumption that Jawas could be found underfoot on nearly any planet with a spaceport, was not unreasonable. Later materials establish Jawas as native only to Tatooine.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Pellaeon is depicted as clean-shaven in the comic adaptation and there is no mention of facial hair in the novels. Practically every picture and description since (including Zahn's later books) have described Pellaeon as having a distinctive bushy mustache to the extent that at least one unnamed Imperial officer in a later comic was thought to be him just because he had a bushy mustache.
    • Pellaeon also expressed a degree of distaste for (most) non-humans that's nowhere to be found in his later appearances.
    • In a broader sense there are several examples of this trope for Star Wars Legends as a whole, as this is the first canon post-Return of the Jedi work. For instance, the idea that Jabba the Hutt was the galaxy's biggest crime lord — later works present him as the most powerful of the Hutts, but also depict the Hutts as being able to be pushed around by more powerful organizations such as Black Sun. (But then most of the bigger fish died before Jabba did, so it's possible that by Return of the Jedi he really was the top crime lord in the galaxy.)
    • Rogue Squadron is treated as just another fighter squadron and Wedge Antilles is specifically called out as a "lowly starfighter wing commander" and Luke has to remind the Council who he is. Later novels drastically increased the importance and recognition of Wedge and the Rogues (for example, in later stories that take place chronologically earlier, Wedge is nearly Admiral Ackbar's right hand, with the latter having expressed a desire to make that status official and promote Wedge to generalnote , and instrumental to liberating Coruscant), Zahn was careful to include this in Hand of Thrawn, where Rogue Squadron is composed of the best pilots in the galaxy, are never depicted losing one of their number, and are attached to the task force under the command of the Republic's most respected active field commander. In a society more like modern Earth's, a "lowly starfighter wing commander" would be about right, but given Wedge's own record and that Zahn himself noted in Heir to the Empire that the Republic tends to rely too much on symbols, it would make a lot of sense for the Rogues to have no small amount of fame.
    • Hyperdrive speeds are quoted as "Point Three, Point Four, Point Four Five, Point Five" in increasing order of speed — this being based on the line in the first Star Wars film that "The Falcon can push point five past lightspeed". This was based on a logarithmic scale Zahn devised where 0 was a dead stop and 1 was infinite speed. Later Star Wars material changed this to the (arguably less logical) setup that the lower the number is, the faster it is — specifically, it's all based on the idea of 1 as the "baseline" hyperdrive speed, so the "number" of a hyperdrive became the modifier to travel time. i.e., the Falcon is about twice as fast in hyperspace as most ships. This comes from the West End Games Star Wars RPG, where a ship's hyperspace speed was listed as a "Hyperdrive Multiplier," a x1 hyperdrive was a military or really good civilian model, x2 was good, x5 was okay, x12 or x24 was good only for a backup, and x.5 was the fastest you could get. If the hyperlane between, say, Tattooine and Alderaan was stated to take 12 hours, a x1 would make the trip in 12 hours, x2 in 24, and so on, while the Millennium Falcon with its x.5 would get there in six hours.
    • A plot-significant one is that it is not widely known to the galaxy's people that Darth Vader was Luke's father or that Luke and Leia are siblings, and it's even not certain to most people that he's dead. Many Legends writers instead assumed that "everyone in the galaxy had seen the films" as far as information about the main characters were concerned; if this was true the Mara-Luke plot arc and the Noghri kidnapping arc couldn't exist — for instance, the Noghri arc relies heavily on Thrawn not being aware that Leia is in any way related to Vader.
    • Thrawn is mentioned as being part human to explain his being a Human Alien other than skin color and glowing eyes. However, this was presently speculation by Han — that he was "at least, not entirely" human — not necessarily as the definitive truth. It would still be used later on, with the Emperor falsifying his records to say he was of mixed blood to try and explain why he made an apparent nonhuman a Grand Admiral, despite his xenophobic policies. (Thrawn was just too good not to use in that position, and being part human would mitigate some of the disagreement of the other Grand Admirals). It also helps that Thrawn was one of the earliest Human Alien characters in the series; when the book first came out the setting was notable for avoiding it, with even the most humanoid species having at least one really weird feature (such as the head-tails of Twi'leks). Later Legends material established the concept of Near-Humans, Human Subspecies descended from ancient human colonies, which include Thrawn's species.
    • Zahn based his description of Talon Karrde on the character of Avon from Blake's 7, who was clean-shaven. Thus, there was no mention of Karrde having facial hair. However over time the depictions of Karrde have given him beards and/or mustaches (possibly because, rightly or wrongly, artists suspected that Karrde was something of an Author Avatar).
    • Zahn's view of stormtroopers comes from the original meaning of the word, referring to elite soldiers. The deployment of stormtrooper squads is treated like a significant display of force and the potential squandering of a precious resource, a sharp contrast to how they are treated as generic mooks in pretty much all other Star Wars media. The term seemed to be come into use originally because of its link to the Nazis. (Since the later Lucasfilm era and the Great Mouse Adjustment, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the Solo film have somewhat vindicated this portrayal. In Clone Wars, the troopers, obvious forerunners of the stormtroopers, really are elite soldiers; and in Solo the "mudtroopers" on Mimban are not actual stormtroopers but part of the Imperial Army. Default stormtroopers, however, are little more effective than they ever were, at least against heroes.) Later entries by Zahn would relegate most of that reputation to elites like the Royal Guard, but he still portrays the image of stormtroopers in their armor as still distinctly unsettling as reminder of the Empire's tyranny to people in the Republic even after the war ends.
    • With the limited number of Jedi and other Force users in the movies at that point, a lot of C'baoth's portrayal as a Jedi had to be created from whole cloth. Some discrepancies, like his use of Force Lightning, can be excused by Luke not knowing enough about being a Jedi to see the problem. Others, like the fact that the records claimed C'baoth started his Jedi training when he was in his twenties, are more difficult to handwave.
    • The very concept of "Dark Jedi", as the Sith did not exist yet. There's a throwaway line about how Vader and his Dark Jedi hunted down the remaining Jedi, when the prequels and later Legends material would establish that Vader was a Sith. The concept of Dark Jedi remained in use in some later Legends works as a catch-all term for Dark Side Force-users who weren't formally affiliated with a specific tradition, but fell out of favor over time due to being fairly ill-defined.
    • Zahn's implication that Jedi Masters like C'baoth and Yoda did not employ lightsabers (Yoda's battle with a Dark Jedi on Dagobah is described as "a full-scale Force war"), as the only two Jedi Masters featured in the movies, Yoda and the Emperor, didn't use the iconic weapon (Old Ben was not, at the time, identified as a Master) and instead relied entirely upon the Force.
    • When C'baoth dies, his body explodes in an energy of blue fire just like Palpatine’s body did. The implication of C'baoth’s death is that all dark side masters explode when they die. This never happens again.
    • For that matter, there's Luke's status as a Jedi. By the end of Return of the Jedi, there's pretty much no doubt that Luke is a full-fledged Jedi Knight, and even more so five years later when this trilogy takes place; yet he is still plagued by doubts and insecurities, particularly over his ability to train new Jedi, and he himself is still learning. Come the next major Star Wars story, Dark Empire, Luke has eliminated all his doubts and promoted himself to Jedi Master — even though, in Dark Force Rising, he actually scoffs at the notion that C'baoth had done essentially the same thing. (Later, in Hand of Thrawn, Mara Jade actually rips Luke a new one for presuming to declare himself "a Jedi Master with less than ten years on the job.")
    • Winter states that "Targeter" was only one of her many Rebellion-era codenames, and she used it for only a few weeks, on one planet, before abandoning it when that particular Rebel cell was attacked and dissolved. However, since she never specifies what any of the other codenames were, she's referred to as Targeter in many stories that take place during the war, including X-Wing Rogue Squadron and Zahn's own Star Wars: Allegiance.
    • Cloaking shields in Star Wars were generally unknown save that small ships were believed to be unable to use them. Zahn described them as being impractical for another reason: they created a double-blind effect. You couldn't see or detect a cloaked ship, but they couldn't see or detect anything beyond the cloaking effect, either. Then the prequels and Clone Wars came along and some ships were described as having cloaking shields that didn't have this effect. The Legends continuity would explain that these were two different kinds of cloaking tech, with the one that wasn't double-blind being much more expensive and relying on very rare and delicate materials. With the Legends continuity now non-canon, there is no discrepancy.
    • When discussing the Katana fleet, Dark Force Rising mentions that the Dreadnought-class heavy cruisers that make it up where the backbone of the Old Republic's fleets until the rise of the Empire, where they were displaced by the new and more powerful Star Destroyers. In later years, however, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and The Clone Wars all depicted the Old Republic's navy as already relying primarily on an early model of Star Destroyer, the Venator-class, by the time the Clone Wars began, which makes up the majority of Republic warships seen on-screen, while no cruisers appear. Later guidebooks attempt to reconcile this by stating the the Star Destroyers were reserved for clone crews and the most loyal officers, while the Dreadnought-class made up the bulk of planetary defense fleets.
    • When the books were written, canon information on the Clone Wars was limited a single line by Obi-Wan in A New Hope, which established that they happened, clones were involved, at least some Jedi fought in them, and not much else. The dominant assumption was that they were wars against clones, and this colors the mentions made of them in the novels — Pellaeon reminisces about his experiences battling clones in the first novel, for instance.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Inverted when the Wookie ambassador has a speech impediment that keeps him from speaking the native Wookie language, but allows him to speak Galactic Basic. He notes that Chewbacca is this trope played straight.
  • Emotionless Girl:
    • Winter.
    • Mara goes back and forth between this and very emotional, depending on the topic at hand. Karrde, like someone poking at a loose tooth, takes careful note of her Berserk Buttons: the pre-Endor Empire, the late Emperor, Luke Skywalker...
  • The Empire: Obviously, though it's slowly but surely beginning its transition into The Remnant before Thrawn takes command.
  • Enhance Button: How the New Republic figures out Thrawn's cloak scheme, with the rare acknowledgement that zooming in makes things blurrier and hard to read.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • Mara's view of constantly being forced to work with Luke.
    • The smugglers ultimately team up with each other and the New Republic after an Imperial raid on a meeting of several major smugglers which was actually masterminded by Niles Ferrier so he could get closer to the major smugglers. Thrawn does not approve, having specifically ordered his troops to leave the meeting alone to avoid exactly this outcome.
  • Engineered Public Confession: How Leia and Karrde reveal Fey'lya's selfishness to the military officers he's duped.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: For all of Thrawn's reputation of Awesomeness by Analysis, he does make a major miscalculation with a logical-yet-incorrect conclusion in the second book regarding Khabarakh's whereabouts during the month since the first book. Most of what goes wrong for Thrawn later on is a result of this error snowballing into disaster. The most plausible explanation for this error was that Thrawn didn't know that Leia and Luke were in fact Vader's children. Without that key piece of information, drawing the proper conclusion would've been all but impossible. However, later EU authors have had trouble deciding whether that fact was common knowledge or not.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Thrawn gets multiple throughout the trilogy.
      • Firstly in the opening pages of Heir to the Empire when the Chimaera is attacked by four Rebel assault frigates and three squadrons of X-wings. Pellaeon thinks those odds are badly in the Republic's favor and prepares to retreat, but Thrawn displays his art-derived tactical genius and defeats them. Besides this, it also establishes that Thrawn represents the turn of the tide for the Empire and they are no longer in decline and running from fights.
      • The second is when he arrives at Karrde's base in a trio of shuttles. Karrde automatically assumes Thrawn to be in the center shuttle, only for the Grand Admiral to emerge from the one on the right. Karrde takes it as a sign that Thrawn is not a predictable man.
      • He gets still another one when Luke escapes from his Star Destroyer in an X-Wing and Thrawn goes to confront the tractor beam operator whose job it was to catch him. Previously in the trilogy, Thrawn had had another officer killed in a very similar instance, and so Pellaeon's assumption is that Thrawn will again pull a Vader Special and the hapless officer will be punished severely or worse. Instead, there follows a question and answer session where the officer demonstrates that he did everything he could to catch the X-Wing and even had some outside-the-box thinking in trying to overcome Luke's countermeasures against the tractor beam the Star Destroyer had been using. Convinced that the officer did did everything that could be expected of him and more, Thrawn actually promotes him on the spot. The difference is that in the first instance, the officer tries to throw his superior under the bus by claiming he didn't give him proper training, while in this case the officer fesses up to everything he did and took responsibility, establishing that Thrawn's action come from a harsh but fair discipline and not a capricious temper.
    • Mara gets one when Karrde invites her to an opulent business dinner, without telling her anything about it in advance. She adapts to the unusual situation instantly, and Karrde reflects that he should have known the unusual setting wouldn't throw her off-balance. When he discusses making her his second in command, he can see she's immediately suspicious that the offer is a smoke screen for some "more personal request or demand." Once she's assured the offer is legitimate, she warns Karrde that if he gives her that kind of power, she will use it, and launches into a thorough discussion of the organization's shortcomings and plans to rectify them.
    • Karrde gets his first one in that same scene. Not only carefully gauging Mara's ability to take the role he's offering, but him noting the handful of topics guaranteed to get an emotional reaction from her. He also offers to assist Pellaeon in obtaining ysalamiri, free of charge... when Mara asks what Karrde and organization get out of it, Karrde states that he gets to have his people watching the Imperials from the moment they land to the moment they take off, and to have another trusted associate, Aves, around who knows how to ask the right questions, and possibly figure out why the Empire wants them (since harvesting a mass of ysalamiri is rather overkill just to deal with Luke Skywalker). This shows that Karrde is savvy, intelligent, and values information and intelligence above everything else.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • Leia has three over the course of the books—figuring out the secret of Delta Source based on watching a cleaning droid, working out how Thrawn's impossibly rapid cloning works from a chance remark by Mara and realizing just how badly (or, more precisely, for how long) the Empire has been exploiting the Noghri and how she can prove it. The first two are in The Last Command; the third is in Dark Force Rising.
    • Han gets two in the Battle of Sluis Van, realizing what the Empire is doing with mole miners (and sharing the second with Lando in realizing how they can stop them).
    • Zahn seems to love this trope. Just about all the main characters get at least one, and Thrawn's whole MO is invoking this trope.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Joruus C'baoth. Unusually for this trope Thrawn is very much aware of the dangers of using the insane Dark Jedi and takes precautions, as well as long-term plans to dispose of and replace C'baoth. They nearly work, too.
  • Evil Overlord:
    • While Joruus is otherwise a dead-on example, he sees no appeal to the idea of ruling over millions of people he'll never even meet, considering total control over people he personally interacts with on a daily basis to be the true meaning of power. Which is what happens when you work with The Empire. He changes his mind once he realizes he can personally put most of his minions under Mind Control, made even easier by the legion of clones who have near-identical minds.
    • Averted with Thrawn, who is certainly ruthless but treats his subordinates well (with the exception of those he finds unsalvageably inept). He's certainly a better man than C'baoth, Vader, or Palpatine. Later-written books still have him as very ambiguous and ruthless, but somewhat less villainous and more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist type. Outbound Flight, deliberately or not, seems to draw a parallel between him and other pawns of Darth Sidious like Anakin Skywalker—that he was a decent man of great ability who was ultimately corrupted by Palpatine's evil.
  • Evil Tainted the Place:
    • Averted when the New Republic government moves in to the Imperial Palace. They ask Luke if he can sense any remnants of the Emperor's presence but he doesn't sense anything. But there is an elaborate recording system left by the Emperor that still feeds information to Thrawn.
    • A Dark Jedi who died in a cave on Dagobah after fighting a member of Yoda's species is revealed to be the reason why said cave is so strong with the dark side of the Force.
    • Both Leia and Mara Jade feel the remnants of the Emperor's presence during their respective visits to Endor. It's not pleasant for either of them. Leia is particuarly hard hit when the Falcon travels through the exact spot where the Emperor died, and is briefly overwhelmed by the mavolent emotions she feels there. Afterwards she changes the orbit of the Falcon to keep from passing through that spot again.
  • Evil Twin: Luuke Skywalker to Luke Skywalker; literally, because he's a clone of him.
  • Exact Words:
    • How Mara manages to silence the Emperor's voice compelling her to kill Luke Skywalker: She kills his insane clone. The voice never specified which Luke Skywalker.
    • Furthermore, C'baoth has foreseen that Mara Jade will kneel before him. He means to use the Spaarti cylinders to clone her when he concludes that she's more trouble than she's worth.
      C'baoth: I have foreseen that Mara Jade will kneel before me. One Mara Jade, or another.
      • And on top of that, metaphorically speaking she does briefly kneel before him... in the process of stabbing him to death with a lightsaber.
  • Eye Lights Out: Grand Admiral Thrawn's eyes are glowing red. They stop glowing when he dies.

  • Fantastic Flora: The hallways of the New Republic's headquarters on Coruscant are lined with potted ch'hala trees with transparent bark that, when touched, flare with red ripples that move outwardly from the point of contact.
  • Fantastic Racism: If it doesn't introduce the theme into the series, it definitely makes clear that the Empire was incredibly speciesist, and Thrawn is a major exception instead to the rule. Even then, he's relegated to clearing up the Unknown Regions instead of running things closer to home... although that's later called into question. (Indeed, for someone as ruthlessly pragmatic as the Emperor, speciesism isn't particularly believable; more likely, to some, that he simply encouraged it as another means of division and control.) Ironically, Thrawn shows what could be speciesism himself in his dealings with the Noghri, though that could just be (as exemplified in later books) Chiss Cultural Posturing: while recognzing their skill and understanding important aspects of their culture, he clearly shows little interest or respect for them as people.
  • A Father to His Men: Thrawn, while not to the degree of other examples on the trope page, certainly compared to what most of the Imperial commanders show in other works. This is hammered in during the third book, after the tractor beam incident and the operator's promotion for thinking outside the box and the manual even though his idea didn't work. In fact, it's lampshaded by Zahn. The Noghri, on the other hand, have something to say about this after they find out he's been lying to them for years to manipulate them into being his Elite Mooks.
  • Fiery Redhead: Mara is outwardly pretty cool and collected, but beneath the surface is passionate and stubborn.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Luke and Mara at the end of The Last Command. Having gone through all the experiences they've shared and having the lies the Emperor constructed around Mara shattered leaves remarkably chummy, considering Mara started the books wanting nothing more than to murder Luke.
  • Flanderisation:
    • Thrawn is a very gifted tactician who is excellent at deduction. Later books by other authors treat him as being omniscient and undefeatable, despite making several clear mistakes in the books, notably underestimating the Noghri and failing to appreciate the importance Darth Vader's children would have to them. This was mocked by Zahn himself in the Hand of Thrawn books, with several aliens in the Senate who never encountered Thrawn the first time being terrified of his reputation and the main characters Lampshading that he was never that good.
    • In addition, later books flanderize him into more and more of a Noble Demon and Well-Intentioned Extremist, especially those where it's implied that his ultimate goal was to prepare the galaxy for the impending invasion of the Yuuzhan Vong; this time, Timothy Zahn actually endorses this new view, but since the Yuuzhan Vong weren't even conceived when this novel was written it is obviously an example of Canon Welding. The Thrawn of this trilogy is less Noble Demon than pragmatic villain, and seems to be trying to destroy the rebellion from a combination of Lawful Evil and for the sheer intellectual thrill, and further makes offhand and unapologetic references to committing xenocide in times past, to say nothing of his treatment of the Noghri. So while he was a very Affably Evil and disciplined villain, he was still very, very much a villain. Still, he did seem to express some remorse, in private, for destroying that particular unnamed race, though it seems less because he actually found destroying them abhorrent, and more that he was ashamed he was unable to gain the kind of insight from their art that he does from every other species. Given canon exploration in later books, it's also possible that Thrawn as he is in his trilogy is simply what happens when you take a brilliant young mind and give it to Palpatine for refinement.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Used in-universe. Thrawn has unexpectedly come calling on Talon Karrde (while Karrde is hosting Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, and trying to keep them from discovering that he's accidentally holding Luke Skywalker captive). Thrawn's visual flickers momentarily, and a few paragraphs later, Thrawn notes that he and Karrde can continue their discussion when he arrives. Karrde suddenly realizes that the flicker was the shuttle Thrawn was communicating from launching from the Chimaera, and signs off in a hurry to make sure that none of his guests, invited or otherwise, will run into each other.
  • Fooled by the Sound: In Dark Force Rising, Luke Skywalker gets his group past a guard by using the Force to make the guard think he heard a noise and look towards it, letting them sneak by while his back is turned.
  • Four-Star Badass: Perhaps surprisingly, averted with Grand Admiral Thrawn (though later books make him one). In his original appearances in this trilogy, he is a master tactician, but never portrayed as an especially hardcore fighter personally.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: A conversation with Bel Iblis establishes that Han Solo went through officer training in the Imperial Navy before becoming a smuggler. The Han Solo Trilogy would later show what happened to cause Han to leave.
  • Gambit Pileup: The Battle of Bilbringi. The New Republic tried to pull a Kansas City Shuffle on Thrawn. That failed. Someone else got shuffled, though, and made their own plans for that time. Thrawn didn't plan for that. Meanwhile, the totally unrelated Noghri rebellion breaks cover at the same time, and Thrawn's Noghri bodyguard kills him before he can recover the tactical situation.
  • Gentleman Thief: Talon Karrde is definitely a gentleman. He treats his people well, honors his debts, and holds himself to the rules of hospitality ("They've sat at our table and eaten our food. That puts them under our protection.") He's also the commander of the top smuggling group. Zahn tried to create a top smuggler who's the direct opposite of Jabba the Hutt (or, perhaps, who Han Solo might have eventually turned into if he hadn't happened to be in the Mos Eisley Cantina that particular day). He succeeded very well.
  • Gilligan Cut: After leaving Myrkr, Han sets course for a stopover at Sluis Van on the way back to Coruscant, and remarks to Luke that things are going to get busy once they arrive at Coruscant so Sluis Van will be the last peace and quiet they'll get for a while. Cut to the Imperial fleet beginning its attack on Sluis Van.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Grand Admiral Thrawn's eyes are glowing red.
  • A God Am I: "I am the Jedi Master C'baoth! The Empire, the universe is mine!"
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The backstory of the fabled Katana fleet, AKA the Dark Force of 200 Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers built by the Republic Navy before the Clone Wars. They were designed with greater automation than most warships, in an attempt to cut down the large number of crewers per ship (from over 16000 on a standard Dreadnaught to around 2000). They also used slave circuits, allowing one ship to take remote control of another in an emergency. This came back to bite them hard when a case of Space Madness broke out among the fleet, and the flagship Katana's crew made a random hyperspace jump, taking the entire fleet with them.
  • Government-Exploited Crisis: During the Clone Wars, a battle took place over the planet Honoghr and a Lucrehulk-class core ship was shot down. The ship was carrying a cargo of deadly toxins that proceeded to contaminate the planet. The Republic took great interest in the effects of the toxins and ignored the plight of the native Noghri. Darth Vader arrived some months after the war ended and the Republic became the Empire and was impressed enough with the Noghri's fighting prowess that he agreed to have the Empire restore Honoghr in return for their service. Naturally, the Empire instead kept the planet in a state of barely survivable in order to keep the Noghri indebted to it.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Although this trope is not fully embraced, the trilogy does depart from the movies' general Black-and-White Morality tone. The Anti-Villain tropes appear, and the Loveable Rogue types are no longer the only ones to qualify for Anti-Hero. Some of the people who aided the Rebellion turn out to have done so for selfish reasons, and some of those who serve the Empire are shown as Well-Intentioned Extremist or My Country, Right or Wrong types. There is no Card-Carrying Villain, and while Luke and Leia don't venture into Anti-Hero territory they are shown to have doubts and temptations.
  • Guile Hero: Han, allowing him to slot into the role of The Smart Guy when alongside his Ambadassador wife and Kung-Fu Jesus brother-in-law. Each of the three mains has elements of this, since Zahn writes all of them as being very intelligent, but Han's most prominent.
    Luke might have the Force, and Irenez might be able to climb stairs without getting winded; but [Han] would bet heavily that he could outdo both of them in sheer chicanery.
  • Guilty Until Someone Else Is Guilty: Talon Karrde is suspected of hiring Imperials that attacked a smuggler meeting because data was planted in his ship implicating him. Once Niles Ferrier says the name of the Imperial Lieutenant despite nobody mentioning it, everyone realizes that Niles was actually responsible, proving Karrde's innocence.
  • Handwave: Zahn, in the 20th Anniversary Heir to the Empire commentary, flat out admits using this at various points during the creation process.
    Zahn: Back in my physics days, we used to call this procedure 'Handwaving'. I will be using more of it as we go along.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Evil-on-evil version. In The Last Command C'baoth seizes control of the minds of all thirty-seven thousand of the Chimaera's crew, except Thrawn, Pellaeon and a few others protected by ysalamiri, and intends to take the ship to Coruscant to capture Leia's children. Thrawn might seem helpless, but he simply lectures C'baoth on how he will have to maintain that control for the days it will take to reach Coruscant and that even then, one Star Destroyer would never get through the defenses, forcing C'baoth down.
    "It's a minimum of five days to Coruscant from here," Thrawn said coldly. "Five days during which you'll have to maintain your control of the Chimaera's thirty-seven thousand crewers. Longer, of course, if you intend for them to actually fight at the end of that voyage. And if you intend for us to arrive with any support craft, that figure of thirty-seven thousand will increase rather steeply... I merely present the problems you and the Force will have to solve if you continue with this course of action. For instance, do you know where the Coruscant sector fleet is based, or the number and types of ships making it up? Have you thought about how you will neutralize Coruscant's orbital battle stations and ground-based systems? Do you know who is in command of the planet's defenses at present, and how he or she is likely to deploy the available forces? Have you considered Coruscant's energy field? Do you know how best to use the strategic and tactical capabilities of an Imperial Star Destroyer?"
  • Happily Married: Han and Leia were married at some point between Return of the Jedi and now. The work the New Republic requires of them is a strain on their relationship, but they weather it remarkably well.
  • Heel–Face Town: The planet of Abregado-Rae (or at least its main spaceport) had a reputation not unlike that of Mos Eisley. Thus it's a big surprise to Han and Lando when they find a nice, clean, peaceful place when they land there, though planetary security forces are plentiful and conspicuous. When Mara Jade visits there later, she notes the subtle but telltale signs that the peace and cleanliness is imposed from above instead of the result of a genuine desire from the citizens.
  • Hereditary Twinhood: Leia is Luke's fraternal twin sister. In The Last Command, she births twins: Jacen and Jaina.
  • Hive City: The cities of New Cov, a planet covered by dense and hostile jungles, are built in multiple layers covered by large domes. Different levels are given to distinct functions, such as housing, business or manufacturing, and movement between layers is done through systems of ramps and shafts.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Zahn introduces several sayings, which on the whole tend to be fairly quiet. The oldest trick on the list. Killing two lizards with one throw.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Leia's slow progress in the Force. To a certain extent, Mara as well, as her abilities come and go.
  • Huge Holographic Head: C'Baoth uses this through a holoterminal to talk to Thrawn, something Thrawn referred as "the Emperor's setting". Pelleon notes that the setting also amplifies facial expressions of hesitation and doubt, making the setting counterproductive without full control of yourself. For the Emperor, of course, this was not a problem; for someone as unstable as C'Baoth...
  • I Am Not Him: Thrawn repeatedly demonstrates how much different he is than Darth Vader (or most other Imperial leaders for that matter). After Ferrier trips over his plans, a visibly angry Thrawn tells Niles Ferrier that he was not Darth Vader.
    Thrawn: I am not the Lord Darth Vader, Ferrier. I do not spend my men recklessly. Nor do I take their deaths lightly.
  • I Control My Minions Through...:
    • Grand Admiral Thrawn uses Money for mercenary types, Authority on some Imperials and the Noghri, Indoctrination on clones, Fear on the Noghri and sometimes his Imperials, Sadism (sort of) with C'baoth, and for the others... Respect. He knows that it's best to be feared and loved, and put a high value on people who were both loyal and competent.
    • C'baoth uses Fear, Mind Control, and Divine Right.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Thrawn letting Mara Jade live after betraying her. It doesn't turn out well.
    • As well as anyone letting the aformentioned Niles Ferrier live. If not for him, the New Republic may have gotten the Katana Fleet in book two, and the smugglers wouldn't have been working against the Empire in book three.
    • Letting C'baoth live after the battle over Coruscant. He never does anything else for them, and Thrawn has no plans for him in the near future, not to mention the fact that he has Force-nullifying animals on-board his ship.
    • Thrawn sends C'Baoth to leave with General Covell and his handpicked best troops aboard a ship with no supervision and no ysalamiri. It does not end well for Covell. Particularly glaring because C'Baoth abused this power before... right in front of Thrawn... repeatedly!
    • Basically, while Thrawn is definitely a villain and it's hard to forget in this trilogy, his moments of stupidity are all also moments of not killing someone once they are no longer useful. Thrawn himself lampshades this, stating that he's not in the habit of throwing away resources just because he can't see an immediate use for them. If anything, Thrawn's Idiot Ball moments are all him thinking more about the long-term big picture instead of what would be most expedient right now (another way in which he's the polar opposite of Darth Vader).
      • One of the reasons Thrawn decides against having C'Baoth killed when he learned what C'Baoth had done to Covell was that he wanted time to collect proper genetic samples from the C'Baoth clone so that C'Baoth could be cloned again. However instead of another full grown clown, Thrawn planned for his new C'Baoth clone to be grown to childhood then raised at a normal rate until he became an adult. Pellaeon is visibly taken aback at the idea of having one or more young C'Baoth clones running around the galaxy. The deaths of both C'Baoth and Thrawn prevents this particular Imperial plan from going anywhere.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think:
    • In The Last Command, Fingal and Governor Staffa of Berchest have a chat after they spot Luke Skywalker poking around on the planet. Fingal asks Staffa if he thinks that Skywalker saw the special transport they were using to carry clones for the Empire and Staffa replies that of course he saw it, wondering if Fingal thought Skywalker was hanging around for his health. At this, Fingal comments "I only thought..." only to be cut off by Staffa telling him to not think, as he isn't properly equipped for it.
    • Not directly stated, but this is a major undertone between Thrawn and Niles Ferrier. The latter often screws up his assigned tasks due to his Small Name, Big Ego tendencies, and the former displays barely-concealed contempt for him. When discussing the idea to frame Karrde, Thrawn outlines a plan that minimizes Ferrier's direct involvement, while shooting down all of Ferrier's suggestions as stupid. And of course, the plan fails due to Ferrier being unable to keep his mouth shut.
  • I Lied: In Dark Force Rising, Thrawn promises Mara eight days to convince Karrde to give him the location of the Katana fleet, but instead plants a tracking device on her ship, follows her to Karrde's hideout, and abducts him for interrogation. When a furious Mara confronts him over this, he calmly replies that he changed his mind.
    Mara glared at the Admiral, her hands curled into fists, her body trembling with rage. "Eight days, Thrawn," she snarled, her voice echoing oddly through the background noises of the Chimera's vast shuttle bay. "You said eight days. You promised me eight days."
    Thrawn gazed back with a polite calmness that made her long to burn him down where he stood. "I changed my mind," he said coolly.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Niles Ferrier. Ferrier had paid off an Imperial lieutenant and his squad to attack a meeting of smugglers where Talon Karrde was trying to convince them to band together and help the New Republic against the Empire, so Ferrier could play a key role in thwarting the attack and infiltrate them more deeply. Thrawn had specifically ordered the local Imperial garrison to leave the meeting alone, knowing the smugglers would refuse Karrde and go their own ways, but after some of them are killed in the Imperial attack, the smugglers do band together. Thrawn has Ferrier plant data in Karrde's ship at the start of the next meeting, implicating Karrde as the one who hired the Imperials. The ruse falls apart when Ferrier drops the name of the Lieutenant in question without having heard anyone mention it, though beforehand the others were already starting to question the story due to Ferrier's shifty behavior.
  • Insistent Terminology: Thrawn insists on calling the New Republic "The Rebellion". Pellaeon even catches himself calling the Republic, well, the Republic in his presence one time and quickly amends it.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • In the first book, Thrawn secures the Emperor's storehouse on Wayland, which contains a working Invisibility Cloak, the bonus of a Jedi Master, and what Thrawn describes as "a small — almost trivial — bit of technology" called "Spaarti Cylinders." On the last page of the second book, Spaarti Cylinders turn out to be the Uterine Replicators of a complete and functioning cloning facility. (Luke, upon discovering this, "has a bad feeling about this.")
    • In the third book, Mara learns something very important about the man she's been ordered to kill.
    Mara: Who's this "Son of Vader" you're expecting to show up and help us?
    Ekhrikhor: ...He travels with you. You serve him, as do we.
    Mara: You don't mean... Skywalker?
    Ekhrikhor: You did not know?
  • Interservice Rivalry: Some members of the Imperial Army such as General Covell look down upon their naval counterparts, feeling them afraid to leave their ships and face real combat. Covell, wisely, keeps such opinions about his naval counterparts to himself and becomes a senior Imperial leader during Thrawn's campaign.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Prompted by a Force suggestion from Mara, Leia surrenders to the Imperial commandos attempting to kidnap her and the twins early in The Last Command. Once the shooting stops, Mara is able to come in behind the commandos and gun them down without getting herself caught in the crossfire. In fairness, Leia herself didn't attack them; if they didn't watch their backs, that's their own mistake.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Fey'lya comes across as this most of the time, although it's said that this is in part just part of the backstabbing way Bothan politics works and how it has influenced his cultural background.
    • Mara has a mild case of this in the beginning; part of her Character Development is learning to look beyond herself and think about other people.
    • C'baoth is basically an emotional unstable five-year-old, fixated on whatever catches his fancy at any given moment (through most of the trilogy, that's being able to twist and turn Luke, Leia, and her twins into his own personal puppets). While Thrawn is good at pressing the man's buttons to get him and keep him in line (mostly), C'baoth's "endgame," insofar as he actually has one, is quite literally It's All About Me.
  • I Want Them Alive!:
    • "...if possible. If not... If not, I'll understand."
    • That being said, Talon Karrde actually does need to be retaken alive as he's the only one who knows where the Katana Fleet is. It's the people breaking him out whose survival is not necessary.

  • Kansas City Shuffle: The Republic tries one on Thrawn, by quietly gathering forces to make it look like they're attacking Tangrene, when they're really going after Bilbringi. Clever plan, but it fails spectacularly because, well, it's Thrawn. However, both sides also manage to shuffle the smugglers, which helps win the day.
  • Keystone Army: Upon seeing C'baoth controlling several Imperial task forces at once, Pellaeon muses that this was how the fleet was quickly defeated in the battle of Endor after Palpatine's death, if Palpatine controlled them in the same way. Zahn says the idea was inspired by how Sauron controlled his forces in The Lord of the Rings. Thrawn had already proposed the theory in the first book, which Pellaeon refused to accept until seeing C'baoth in action.
  • Kick the Dog: Thrawn asks the Noghri maitrakh if she needs a reminder of what it means to defy The Empire. When she says no, Thrawn gives her one anyway by launching an Orbital Bombardment on Honoghr.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: For most of the trilogy, Mara is openly frustrated at the fact that she keeps needing Luke's help and thus can't kill him yet. She blames Luke for Palpatine's death, and as such wants to kill him... Of course, we all know where that ended up.
  • Knowledge Broker: Talon Karrde. Smuggler by trade, collector of information by passion. His planned contribution to the New Republic's war effort is to have the smugglers act as freelance spies (getting paid like privateers for it).
  • Know When to Fold 'Em:
    • Pellaeon was the only Imperial commander at the Battle of Endor with the presence of mind to order a retreat. Despite several higher-ranking officers still being alive at Endor, Pellaeon's order was obeyed, because those higher-ranking officers were too panicked to countermand him. When Thrawn dies, he does the same.
    • More notably employed by Thrawn himself when his attack on Sluis Van fails. When Pellaeon is surprised at Thrawn's order to retreat, Thrawn explains "this is a setback, Captain, nothing more."
    • Thrawn says that he refused to lead foolhardy attacks, even when ordered to by the Emperor himself... who came to agree with him after the replacement commanders failed.
    • According to Mara, this is something that set Thrawn apart from the standard Imperial commander, including the other Grand Admirals: if you're losing, go out in a blaze of glory and hurt the enemy. Thrawn, however, is willing to retreat from a losing battle. The problem is getting him to that point, which is near impossible.
  • Lady Land: Sort of; Noghri society is somewhat matriarchal, at least on the village and family level; of the dynasts (clan leaders), the only ones named are apparently male. This may be due to sheer attrition; most of the males are deployed in commando groups.
  • The Last Title: Used for the final book, The Last Command.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Thrawn, at least by this point, is not a good person: he has absolutely no qualms about betraying Mara to get to Karrde in Dark Force Rising, kidnapping someone's children and delivering them to be corrupted by an Ax-Crazy clone, and his military strategy involves growing his own slave soldiers by the thousands and throwing them at the Republic. But unlike most imperials, he's not a Card-Carrying Villain. There is also a practical reason for this in that by the time the Thrawn trilogy took place the Empire no longer had endless reserves of beings and equipment, meaning the Empire could not recklessly throw away the lives of its soldiers.
    Thrawn was respected and trusted. Thrawn used a small measure of fear, certainly: the Grand Admiral realized that fear of failure was a powerful motivating force in a military the size of the Empire. But Thrawn's ability to invoke a sense of pride in his troops was his most powerful asset. Palpatine inspired arrogance and callousness in his officers; Thrawn made his men proud to be Imperial soldiers. Thrawn's officers would have willingly died for the Grand Admiral.
  • Loveable Rogue: Talon Karrde takes over this role, with Han Solo now more of an established and respectable character.
  • MacGuffin: The oh-so-important crystal gravfield trap, that actually turns out to be technically unnecessary when Talon Karrde comes by with a critical piece of information.
  • Mage-Hunting Monster: Vornskrs, Force-sensitive wolf-like predators, react very aggressively to other Force-users, and become hyperfocused on attacking them once they sense their presence. In The Last Command, Talon Karrde makes use of this by using his two pet vornskrs to track down the Dark Jedi Joruus C'Baoth.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • C'baoth, though his insanity means he can't stay focused on his manipulations for long. When they fail, he generally falls back on Mind Rape.
    • Borsk Fey'lya as well.
    • Thrawn himself is more of The Chessmaster, but he occasionally showed tendencies of this as when he personally manipulated Mara Jade and Mazzic.
  • Maybe Ever After: At the end of the trilogy, Luke gives Mara Jade his father's lightsaber for a multitude of reasons — but mostly because he wants her to have it. She reflects that he's just given her one of the last remaining links to his past, and thinks that this is not a subtle message, and he's wasting his time. But as he's leaving, she tells him to hang on a minute — she's coming with him.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The Noghri come from the planet Honoghr. The 'g' and 'h' in that name are silent, and that quality becomes well proven.
    • Subverted with Garm Bel Iblis, perhaps because Han and Lando initially aren't sure if he's a good guy or not and there is tension in the narrative. (His name consists of the names of three evil beings in (Earth) religion and mythology—the hellhound Garm from Norse mythology, Bel being another form of Ba'al from The Bible, and Iblis is the Islamic name for Satan.)
    • Mara means "bitter", and Jade is close to "jaded," both of which describe her personality, at first anyway. A "jade" can also mean a scorned, cast-aside woman, which definitely fits her at points.
    • The Ubiqtorate, a branch of Imperial intelligence (in these books at least) has a name meant to inspire Paranoia Fuel—from 'ubiquitous', meaning 'present everywhere'.
    • The annotated version has an explanation for why the ISD Chimaera is named as it is named. In Greek mythology the chimaera was a monster considered unconquerable, at least until Bellerophon killed it; these days it's something made of disparate parts, something wildly imaginary, or something illusory.
      All of these elements went into my decision to name Thrawn's flagship the Chimaera. Disparate elements (human plus Chiss), considered imaginary (hence Thrawn's threat not taken seriously by others until Thrawn was ready to move), and unconquerable (the ship herself survives very nearly until the end of the Yuuzhan Vong war).
    • Captain Pellaeon's name is taken from Pelleas, an idealistic young knight from Arthurian lore. Pellaeon here is middle aged by Star Wars standards, about sixty, and has lost a lot of his early idealism, but gains in hope as the trilogy goes on. He loses it at the end, but subsequent books show that he's not bad people.
  • Mercurial Base: Nomad City, Nkllon; Lando's latest business venture. The city is made of huge platforms and grounded ships, sitting on top of 40 AT-AT walkers, which keep it traveling against the planet's rotation so that it is always on the shady side of the planet.
  • Military Mage: The trilogy introduces the "battle meditation" Force power, though not by that name, a battlefield-covering aura affecting the combatants' mental state. The meditating Force-user's allies are filled with confidence, clarity, and coordination. Especially powerful Force-users can also sow fear and confusion among their foes. Grand Admiral Thrawn notes the effects, and Pellaeon later compares stats after battles with and without, and measures the effect of battle meditation as giving nearly a 40% buff to every measurable category of crew performance. However, only a few Force-users are capable of effective battle meditation, and even among them most can't use it without occupying their full attention. Further, it can result in a Decapitated Army (it's speculated by Thrawn that the reason the Battle of Endor was lost so decisively after the Emperor's death is that he had been overusing it during his reign, and the loss of his presence threw the Imperial Fleet at Endor into confusion when it was removed). Thrawn comes up with a few new uses for it; among them, by stationing a cloaked ship on the inside of a planetary shield and having Joruus C'baoth use battle meditation to coordinate its fire with that of an uncloaked ship on the outside of the shield, he creates the illusion that turbolaser fire is passing right through the shield as though it weren't there.
  • Military Maverick: Thrawn's tactics tend to be somewhat inventive.
    • An example: traditional thought declared cloaking fields to be militarily useless as they interfere with the cloaked ships sensors as well as any others', preventing them from accomplishing much in battle. Thrawn comes up with no less than three methods of using them to practical effect.

      First, he uses it to hide a bunch of TIE fighters inside a freighter, causing the ship's hold to register as empty, then have the freighter show up at a Republic shipyard, making a neat Trojan Horse. Second, he uses C'baoth's Force skills to coordinate cloaked ships that have gotten through planetary shields by flying in well in advance of an attack, in order to make it look like his lasers can pierce said shields. The third, perhaps the most practical of his cloaking tricks, Thrawn got the idea to cloak a couple dozen asteroids and tractor them into orbit around Coruscant, essentially cutting the New Republic capital off from the rest of the war by forcing them to hide behind their planetary shield until the asteroids could be found and destroyed. This is especially because he has his ships fake the launching of additional asteroids, making it impossible for the New Republic to determine when they've caught them all. (The Siege is only lifted when they're able to get intelligence out of the shipyards where the asteroids were being worked on, including their exact number.)
    • Then there's the "Thrawn Pincer". Interdictors create a No Warping Zone which yoinks enemies out of hyperspace — essentially, an inverted Hyperspeed Ambush. Thrawn uses this to his advantage by re-inverting the trope: by having his backup wait just outside the battle zone and having his Interdictors aim their gravity wells in certain directions, Thrawn can order the ships in on a heading that directly intercepts said gravity wells and essentially spawn reinforcements exactly where he wants them (usually right on top of unprepared enemy ships), with far more precision than even the most skilled pilots and navigators could manage, and with a much greater safety margin as well. (Hyperspace microjumps, especially in the vicinity of planets where most battles take place, are very dangerous maneuvers.) Other characters would borrow the tactic; Admiral Ackbar perhaps puts it to most effective use it in the chronologically next book X-Wing: Isard's Revenge.
    • Thrawn not only uses Star Destroyers for Hit-and-Run Tactics, when conventional military doctrine says they should basically be mobile siege platforms, but he gathers them mere fractions of a light-year outside the target system, making a very precise hyperspace jump to their target. Pellaeon notes in his internal monologue that he and Thrawn had "a long and barely-civilized argument" over it when Thrawn first started adding it to their list of standard tactics, but after long practice the crew are actually very good at it.
    • Not only is Thrawn a military maverick, but he encourages his people to be ones as well when dealing with unexpected situations, and is known to reward those under his command who think outside the box.
  • Mind Rape: C'baoth is a very bad man. He starts off using his powers to enforce obedience through fear, but very quickly grows a taste for just hollowing out people's minds and replacing them with his own thoughts and whims.
  • Minion Manipulated into Villainy: The Noghri, who serve as the scarily competent bodyguards or assassins of Thrawn and other high-ranking Imperials, worship the late Darth Vader as the semi-divine protector of their planet, because he prevented their extinction after a major ecological catastrophe. The heroes later learn that this catastrophe was actually caused by a space battle above the planet during the Clone Wars, and that Vader manipulated the Noghri into eternal Undying Loyalty to him by then pretending he is helping them, but actually the droids sent to restore their vegetation were really poisoning it to keep the Noghri needing the Empire forever. Once they learn this due to Leia, the Noghri turn on the Imperials.
  • Mirror Match: Luke faces one at the climax of The Last Command when Joruus C'Baoth forces him into a lightsaber duel against a clone of himself.
  • Misfit Lab Rat: Karrde's top computer slicer, or hacker Zakarisz Ghent counts as one. Ghent was born a prodigy and was cracking high level Imperial codes at the age of 12 out of sheer boredom.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Grand Admiral Thrawn's eyes are glowing red. The books don't specifically say that they're undifferentiated (no irises or pupils), but visual depictions such as the comic book adaptation usually show them as such.
  • More Despicable Minion: While Thrawn is a textbook example of a Big Bad fans Love to Hate, his pet starship thief Niles Ferrier is a Smug Snake with a bad case of Spanner in the Works, Nice Job Fixing It, Villain, and other obnoxious character traits.
  • My Greatest Failure: Thrawn has a very limited collection of "real" art; most are holographic. One piece, which looks like thrashing liquid, he keeps to remind him of the one time that said art did not give him any insight into the race that made it - which he then casually adds he destroyed their home world. In the later days of the Legends continuity, it was hinted that this was the home world of General Grievous, but the full story was never told.
    Halfway across the room, one of the sculptures had not disappeared with the others. Sitting all alone in its globe of light, it slowly writhed on its pedestal like a wave in some bizarre alien ocean. "Yes," Thrawn said from behind him. "That one is indeed real."
    "It's . . . very interesting," Pellaeon managed. The sculpture was strangely hypnotic.
    "Isn't it?" Thrawn agreed, his voice sounding almost wistful. "It was my one failure, out on the Fringes. The one time when understanding a race's art gave me no insight at all into its psyche. At least not at the time. Now, I believe I'm finally beginning to understand them."
    "I'm sure that will prove useful in the future," Pellaeon offered diplomatically.
    "I doubt it," Thrawn said, in that same wistful voice. "I wound up destroying their world."
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the second and third books stealing spaceships and "fixing" things seem to be the only skills Ferrier has.
    • Given his increasingly antagonistic relationship with Thrawn, Karrde has it in mind to unite the smugglers against the Empire, so he gathers some smuggler chiefs for a meeting. It's going poorly, but then an Imperial detachment attacks, convincing the smugglers to unite after all. The attack was organized by Niles Ferrier, as a way to convince Karrde to trust him when he helps to foil the raid. He thinks this will put him in Thrawn's good graces, but Thrawn had explicitly ordered the meeting left alone—he knew the smugglers would not go along with Karrde's idea without prompting. To say Thrawn is pissed is an Under Statement.
    • Later on Thrawn tries to salvage the situation. When Thrawn sends Ferrier back in to frame Karrde for the attack, Ferrier's I Never Said It Was Poison slip-up only unites the smugglers even more firmly against the Empire, contributing meaningfully to Thrawn's later defeat.
    • In general, Thrawns actions, while well-thought out, tend to cause coincidences that harm him quite often. His surprise visit on Myrkr resolves a stuck situation between Karrde and Solo/Calrissian and forces the former to side with the Republic, his insistence to leave his troops there indirectly causes the heroes to be at Sluis Van to foil his attack, his capture of Khabarakh gives Leia the time and opportunity to figure out the scheme of the Empire on Honoghr when she was about to call the mission a failure, his assassination squad keeps Mara long enough on Coruscant to reveal her knowledge about Wayland, and his provocation of C'baoth caused a delay, that allowed the Falcon to leave for the planet while they still could.. He may be a genius, but the Force is clearly not with him.
  • No Endor Holocaust:
    • Harshly averted with the planet Honoghr, which was utterly decimated during a battle in orbit due to destroyed ships crashing into the surface, stray fire, and toxic chemicals being dumped into the atmosphere. And this was just with regular ships; there was no Death Star involved. Honoghr's disaster was deliberately exacerbated by the Empire, who made the restoration slow enough to keep the Noghri in perpetual service. Even after the Noghri discover this and begin a proper clean-up, Luke and Khabarakh suspect that it's too late for the planet to be saved.
    • Despite Honoghr, the trope is played straight with the titular planet of Endor. Leia stops by to meet a contact at one point, yet no mention of any damage to the moon. (The books note, with the above scenario, that it's mostly Clone Wars era ships that had a lot of toxic chemicals that could ruin an environment if a ship crashed. That said the primary argument regarding the classic Endor holocaust argument is the sheer size of the Death Star and the debris resultant from its destruction.) In orbit around the moon, of course, is a bit of a different story, and for a different reason...
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Thrawn. A Four-Star Badass Magnificent Bastard who is much more dangerous commanding his troops than personally leading them. Some of the later novels which elaborate on Thrawn's backstory, however, reveal that his abilities in personal combat are nothing to sneeze at either, at least when he was younger. He simply doesn't have any need to stroke his ego by putting himself in personal combat when there's no strategic benefit to it, and none of the original three heroes ever meet Thrawn face-to-face; the best Han and Leia ever get are glimpses at a distance, and Luke doesn't interact with him at all (when he was re-introduced to the Disney continuity, he was made into a formidable close combat opponent, training against combat droids and able to defeat other characters who are skillful melee fighters. Even so, he does not seek out such battles).
  • Noodle Implements: The elements of Thrawn's plan (which he describes as a jigsaw puzzle) seem like this to anyone who doesn't know it, including Pellaeon and the reader. For example, how does 1) raiding New Republic supply lines, 2) stealing fifty mole miners, 3) acquiring a cloaking shield and 4) the (then) mysterious Spaarti cylinders come together help him defeat the New Republic? By forcing the New Republic to convert some of their warships to lightly crewed freighters to take up the needed freight capacity, then using the cloaking shield to deliver the mole miners into the shipyard where the lightly crewed converted warships are, using the mole miners to drill into the ships to insert stormtroopers to take them over, and then (if the plan hadn't been foiled) converting the ships back into full warships and crewing them with Spaarti clones.
  • Not His Sled: An in-universe example when Khabarakh is recounting the first contact between the Noghri and the Empire to Leia, describing how some of the primitive Noghri warriors attacked Darth Vader's landing party of stormtroopers. Leia attempts to finish the story herself, grimly concluding that the Noghri were ruthlessly slaughtered- and is subsequently shocked to hear that the Noghri instead killed many of Vader's party with minimal losses, forcing Vader himself to join the conflict and defeat them. She's also quite terrified to realise the Noghri are that good at killing.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Kardde repeatedly insists he is not on the New Republic's side, and any help he gives them is purely for the money he will make doing so. Leia, remembering Han making similar statements, is amused.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: On two separate occasions, C-3PO attempts to pass on important information to Han but Han keeps shushing him. The second time, when he finally gets his message out, Han complains that he should have said so sooner.

  • Obi-Wan Moment: The Trope Namer himself gives one to Luke as his spirit fades into the Force forever.
    Luke: Then I am alone. I am the last of the Jedi.
    Ben: Not the last of the old. The first of the new.
  • Oh, Crap!: There are any number of these in the trilogy; but in Heir To The Empire, when Luke topples a stone arch onto a group of Imperials, we get this priceless gem:
    The stormtroopers' expressions were hidden by their masks; but the look of sudden horror on the Major's face said it for all of them.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Heir to the Empire suggests that Lando losing the radar dish atop the Falcon while flying it through the Death Star II is one of these, though at least with some justification:
    Han: At least the sensor dish is still there.
    Lando: You're never going to let that go, are you?
    Han: You said, "not a scratch".
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Thrawn's full name, Mitth'raw'nuruodo, will not be established until Vision of the Future. Outbound Flight explains that, among the Chiss, using the "core name" (i.e. Thrawn) is considered familiar (like calling an Anglophone by their first name, or addressing a Japanese person without using an honorific), but he started allowing Jorj Car'das to call him by it because Car'das couldn't pronounce his full name correctly; by the time he joined the Imperial Navy it had become a habit with non-Chiss.
  • Our Clones Are Different: Grand Admiral Thrawn uses Spaarti cylinders recovered from an Imperial tech cache on Wayland to create cloned soldiers to bolster Imperial numbers. It's explained that, due to a quirk of the Force, clones that are grown to adulthood too fast (less than a standard year) tend to go insane, which Thrawn solves by importing Force-negating creatures called ysalamiri from Myrkr. Luke Skywalker perceives the resulting clone troops as producing a sort of buzzing in his Force perception.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: When Thrawn kills the tractor beam operator. Even factoring in such things as Thrawn's brutal treatment of the Noghri, and the fact that he felt the operator was incompetent it seems unlikely that Thrawn would waste a resource like that. (He could have been reassigned as Cannon Fodder.) It should be noted that the entire sequence of events which lead to his death was a result of a cameo contest at a convention, and the fans voted that the character should die, so Zahn didn't really have a choice.
  • Override Command: Emperor Palpatine had all of his military computers equipped with hardwired back door access codes so that he - and his top agents - couldn’t be locked out of his own ships. Mara Jade, having formerly been one of those agents, knows those codes and uses them to help her and Luke rescue Talon Karrde from the detention cells of Thrawn’s flagship. She knows that Thrawn can’t have removed those codes but is concerned that he may have set flags on them if they are used. He didn’t, but when he figures that Karrde’s rescuers must have used the computer, he denies them access to it by shutting it down entirely.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Han at least once hangs a lampshade on the fact that, having started as essentially a simple smuggler, he kind of pales in comparison to his wife and brother-in-law.
  • Overt Operative: Zigzagged. During one covert meeting, Wedge Antilles is brought along as backup; the other party quickly spots this and remarks on it. That Page and his commandos are also present, however, goes completely unnoticed.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: Han, of all people, in The Last Command. He's nervous and fluttery around Leia who, after hours of labor, would really like to just have this done with by now.
  • The Paralyzer:
    • Zahn introduces the Stokhli Spray Stick, an unconventional weapon which can both stun people and also allow one to play at being Spider-Man. The Noghri use it when trying to capture a pregnant Leia because the stun setting on normal Star Wars blasters have a better than fifty-fifty shot of inducing a miscarriage and Thrawn wants the kids alive.
    • The conventional stun-setting blasters appear in "The Last Command" when the Imperials can't use the kill setting for fear of hitting the nearby cloning equipment. Lando and Chewie have fewer compunctions.
  • Paranoia Fuel: invoked
    • In-Universe, used as a weapon by Thrawn when he forces Coruscant to cut itself off with its planetary shield by putting cloaked asteroids in orbit. He uses trickery to make it look like he launched many times more than he actually did—so the New Republic has no way of knowing how many asteroids there really are or if they've accounted for them all.
    • While it's more debatable how deliberate it was on Thrawn's part, people in the New Republic government suspect each other of being Delta Source, Thrawn's source of information on Coruscant, and so don't trust each other. It turns out Delta Source was an automated pre-existing listening system, so nobody was a traitor.
    • Invoked. Several characters make points of how Thrawn actually relies just as much on Paranoia Fuel as his own cunning. While legitimately brilliant, he wins many of his victories largely because people start to overestimate him and think he's planned for everything.
  • Paranoia Gambit: In The Last Command, Thrawn captures one of Karrde's would-be allies and tells him... the truth. Or at least just enough of the truth, such as how Thrawn didn't order the attack on Karrde and co earlier in the book. Then he lets the man go, knowing his mistrust of Talon will do the legwork for him. Would've worked if Niles Ferrier hadn't screwed up.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: C'baoth is powerful enough in direct physical combat, but not a game breaker ... but his mental superpowers that can mind-control tens of thousands of people at once over lightyears of distance soundly qualify him as this.
  • Perspective Magic:
    • Thrawn uses several of his cloaked ships in conjunction with the Chimaera to pull this off as one of his "superweapons." The cloaked vessels were in a direct line between the Chimaera and its target, just below the planet's shields, firing when the former's lasers hit said shields. To the defenders, it looks as though the Chimaera's lasers went straight through. Thrawn carefully chooses the places where he uses this trick, only targeting planets where he expects the locals to be so astonished by the "impossible" attack that they'll surrender without taking the time to analyze what's happening.
    • When an ally of Karrde manages to escape one of those worlds after Thrawn pulls his trick, with a video recording of the attack, it proves to be an extremely valuable piece of information to sell to the New Republic, because the video's resolution is high enough to make out a slight gap in the laser beam.
  • Polluted Wasteland: Honoghr, the result of a Clone wars era cruiser crash-landing on it and venting fuel and coolant everywhere. (It's stated that modern starships are much less likely to Chernobylize a planet when they crash.) The Empire then took steps to keep it that way so they could keep the natives as Battle Thralls.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Mara is wounded at the end of "Dark Force Rising" and spends a month recovering, during which time she misses out on what Thrawn is doing. Winter fills her in one his new victories, but fails to mention he's using clones—the source of which Mara would know. Mara only finds out about the clones after Thrawn has discredited her in the Republic's eyes using a Xanatos Gambit, setting up the prison break and our-heroes-stand-alone endgame of "The Last Command".note 
    • When Mara reveals to Luke that she wants him dead for killing the Emperor, Luke privately notes that he's only indirectly responsible for the Emperor's death, but decides it's probably a bad idea to argue over semantics, especially considering the situation they're in. It's only when they revisit the topic two books later that Luke learns that Mara meant it entirely literally, as the result of a fake vision in which he and Vader simultaneously attacked the Emperor.
    • How long Honoghr has been a desolate wasteland isn't clarified thanks to some near misses in communication between the maitrakh and Leia. The maitrakh mentions Khabarakh is her "thirdson" which Leia assumes to be third born son when it really means the son of her son's son, or great-grandson. More subtly, Chewie expresses that the decontamination of Honoghr looks like it's been progressing for about eight years, with Leia noting that places the initial disaster well within the war against the Empire. But he obviously says this in Shyriiwook which the maitrakh can't understand so she takes Leia's admission the Empire probably isn't delaying the cleansing of the land at face value.
  • Posthumous Character: The Emperor and Vader are quite dead, but both cast long shadows across the trilogy. A tiny part of the Emperor seems to survive in Mara, frequently telling her that YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER (in revenge, it turns out, for Vader's Heel–Face Turn).
  • Power Nullifier: The ysalamiri. Due to evolving alongside the Force-utilizing vornskr predators, they create "bubbles" where the Force "ceases to exist." Interestingly enough, they are rarely used for this application; instead, Thrawn needed them for his super-fast cloning process.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • Thrawn, very much so.
    • Also C'baoth, at least at first. He doesn't care for ruling a galaxy of strangers; he'll settle for a city where he can take a hands-on approach.
  • Precision Crash: Luke visits Dagobah in his X-Wing to see if there's anything useful left at Yoda's house, and recalls how his sensors mysteriously all went blank the first time he went there (during The Empire Strikes Back). He then wonders if Yoda didn't do that with the Force so he could direct him to the right location himself.
  • Pregnant Badass: Leia. She's pregnant with twins Jacen and Jaina through most of the trilogy and delivers them midway through The Last Command, and meanwhile fights off multiple kidnapping attempts, improves her skill with the Force, and talks the entire Noghri species into a Heel–Race Turn.
  • Prized Possession Giveaway: In the final scene, Luke Skywalker gives his father's lightsaber to Mara Jade.
  • Professional Killers: Amongst other duties Mara Jade acted as the Emperor's personal assassin, while the Noghri are an entire species of hitmen/bodyguards.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: The second tractor beam operator in Book 3 benefits from this. Skywalker had gotten away, yes, but not for lack of trying; and Thrawn liked the operator's problem-solving skills and his taking responsibility. Contrast the first operator in Book 1, who had screwed up something he should have known and tried to pin the blame on someone else.
  • Prophecy Twist: Twice, both centered around Mara:
    • The Emperor's final orders to her: You will kill Luke Skywalker. And she does—or rather, Luuke Skywalker, the clone.
    • C'baoth's assertion that she will kneel before him. Once again, she does—in order to better align her lightsaber for the killing blow.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Noghri and the Wookiees. Khabarakh and Chewbacca eventually get along very well due to the similarities in their cultures.
  • Psychic Strangle: After Thrawn uses Mara to find Karrde, she tries to kill him with a Force choke. It doesn't work properly due to her lack of training (and the fact that her powers have been unreliable ever since the Emperor's death) and he's more confused by it than injured.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Compared to the Imperials from the movies, and to the Imperials written by just about every other Expanded Universe author, Zahn's Imperials really aren't that bad. They're...people, who happen to be the enemies of our heroes, and who do things our heroes wouldn't do.
  • Pungeon Master: Through Talon Karrde, Timothy Zahn is one. The names of Karrde's ships (Wild Karrde, Lastri's Ort, Starry Ice, Etherway, Amanda Follow, and Dawn Beat) are all clever puns and/or wordplay, and Zahn himself couldn't resist adding in a few puns (like the slave circuit "beckon call" a pun on the term "beck and call," which is exactly what it puts your ship on).
  • Pyrrhic Victory:
    • Sure, the Republic stopped Thrawn's plan to steal several dozen capital warships, but considering that the warships were crippled in the process, the Empire didn't have too much to complain about...
      • That exact argument is made in-universe, though in fact Thrawn did consider it a setback for the Empire, albeit a minor one. Had his plan worked, he would've gotten exactly twice as much out of it, taking the ships out of the New Republic's fleet and adding them to his own. The setback delayed his plans for a month or so, however, and it wasn't until he secured the Katana fleet at the end of the next book that he was able to fully implement them.
    • Later, the Republic stopped the Empire from capturing the entire Katana fleet, in the process taking out a Star Destroyer with relatively few losses of their own... but the Empire got almost all of the fleet despite the New Republic's efforts. Only about fourteen ships remained of the nearly two hundred that they started with. Plus the six Katana Dreadnoughts that Bel Iblis had acquired years earlier.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Averted with the Katana fleet. When it's rediscovered, many of the ships have serious problems with their engines and weapons systems, and it's noted that they'll need a major overhaul before they're ready to put into service.
  • Ramming Always Works: In Dark Force Rising the Imperial Star Destroyer Peremptory is destroyed when a remote-controlled Katana Fleet Dreadnaught rams her.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Thrawn, especially when compared to the likes of Vader. He believes in cultivating loyalty rather than fear in his underlings and frowns upon Vader's excessive use of You Have Failed Me. However, that does not stop him from invoking the trope himself at times.
    • Thrawn's contrast with Vader is exemplified with the two tractor beam incidents; the first time Thrawn orders the tractor officer executed for knowing about the Rebel's ability to break tractor locks, but doing nothing to counter it. Later, he commends an officer for trying something to counter a different tractor-lock tactic, since no one has been able to defeat that particular countermeasure and so there simply is no appropriate response in the training manual. The key difference is that the first tractor beam operator tried to claim he'd never been trained for such a circumstance when such training is in the standard package, while the second was confronted with a tactic no one had ever found a way around and tried something new to defeat it—and unlike the first operator, took full responsibility for his failure. In a case of outside-the-box-thinking (and taking responsibility) versus poor conventional thinking (and it's-not-my-fault), Thrawn promoted the ingenious officer and executed the buck-passer.
  • Reclaimed by Nature: When Luke returns to Yoda’s home in search of anything that would help him train Leia, he discovers that this trope has occurred in the five years since he’s been there, as there is virtually nothing of the house or any of Yoda’s possessions left. Growing up on a desert planet, where an abandoned structure will last for a long time relatively intact, it didn’t occur to him what would happen to the same structure after only a few years in a swamp.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Grand Admiral Thrawn's eyes are glowing red.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Captain Brandei of the Judicator gets this a bit after the Peremptory is destroyed in front of him at the end of the second book. Thrawn realises this in time and is able to talk him down before it causes problems.
  • Retcon: Leia briefly hides out on Kashyyyk in the first book, and acts as if it's her first time ever seeing the planet. Because, as we all know, The Star Wars Holiday Special never happened...
  • Rewatch Bonus: Rereading the series with the knowledge of what Delta Sourcenote  is allows the reader to understand some of Thrawn's seemingly inexplicable insights, cringe when characters unknowingly deliver secret information directly to his ears, and realize just how close he comes to learning things that could win him the war right then. For example, Luke stops himself one word away from revealing that he spent time on Honoghr, which is all Thrawn would need to halt the Noghri betrayal in its tracks.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The Noghri were still a primitive people when they first encountered the forces of the Empire (led by Darth Vader), but attacked them when they met. Leia is shocked (and scared) to hear that, until Vader himself joined the fray, the Noghri were winning easily, her reaction akin to "crap, these guys are that good?!"
  • Sacred Hospitality: When you are a guest of Talon Karrde, you are a guest of Talon Karrde. The same goes for the Noghri.
  • Sarcasm Mode: "Thank you, Ferrier. Your approval means so very much to me."
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale:
    • Averted as much as is possible for Star Wars: realizing that the galaxy has over a million inhabited worlds, Zahn (unlike some other Star Wars Legends writers) doesn't recycle locations from the films without good reason. And at those times when the heroes know they need to find something on an unfamiliar world, they don't act like knowing what planet it's on will make things easy. Planets are big.
    • He also realize that a light-year is an enormous distance; when Luke's X-Wing is determined to be somewhere within a light-year of Thrawn's Star Destroyer, Thrawn hires mercenaries to find it since it would take too long to search for themselves. Just because hyperdrive allows traveling along such a distance very rapidly doesn't mean that finding a 40-foot ship in a cubic light year is an easy prospect.
    • Zahn also employs a notable Retcon to correct one particularly egregious instance of this trope from the original series. When Luke returns to Dagobah to search the old site of Yoda's hut, he finds (to his surprise) that he has absolutely no problem landing on the planet this time, and wonders if he originally crashed on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back because Yoda intentionally pulled his X-Wing to the surface with the Force. For confused fans, this finally explains how Luke managed to "accidentally" stumble upon Yoda's dwelling when he had never even been to Dagobah before: Yoda sensed his presence and guided him there.
    • Played straight in the numbers of ships aspect, which was apparent in the original trilogy. For the size of the galaxy, the 200 ship strong Katana Dreadnaught-class Heavy Cruiser fleet should barely be considered a picket force, much less one that could turn the tables in a galaxy-spanning war. Later sources clarify that at this point, the Republic and the Empire are almost perfectly matched in terms of materiel. The Katana fleet might not be much, but it's just enough to free up some other ships that are needed elsewhere, which will gradually lead to a snowballing effect and an insurmountable advantage. Also, while bringing roughly 180 of the Katana fleet ships into his service did allow Thrawn to go more heavily on the offensive, it didn't decisively change the balance of power. Just tipped the scales slightly in the Empire's favor.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Dark Force RisingHarrison Ford is about to shoot you while Mark Hamill is about to lightsaber you.
  • Second-Hand Storytelling: Something very strange happened on Wayland between the Emperor's last visit and Thrawn's arrival there. A gestating clone of Jorus C'Baoth (why was he being grown?) broke free from his restraints, fought and killed the Dark Side user that the Emperor left to guard the facility and took it over. Zahn's notes in the annotated 20th Anniversary Edition dispel the fan-theory that Joruus actually was the guardian of the mountain, and forgot it (and Outbound Flight makes it very likely that Joruus didn't even have much "clone madness", since his behavior was very similar to that of the real Jorus C'Baoth, if more erratic and unpredictable). He also implies that the guardian of the mountain was actually a Sith, and not a specially-trained Force-user like Mara Jade. Unfortunately no more clues to what happened are ever offered.
    My original reasoning is just what's laid out here: that whomever Palpatine had left to guard his storehouse had been killed by Joruus C'baoth when he somehow stumbled on the place.
    To my mild surprise, speculation quickly arose that C'baoth was the original guardian, and it was merely because of his insanity that he thought that he'd killed someone else and taken his place.
    Such speculation is wrong, of course.
    I think. . .
  • Secret Government Warehouse: Mount Tantiss is one of these. Although he does know what specific artifacts he expects to find there, Wayland’s existence is so secret that it took Thrawn (one of Palpatine’s most trusted officers) five years after the Emperor’s death to figure out where it was located.
  • Self-Induced Allergic Reaction: Mara Jade's plan for hiding Luke from the Imperial patrols on Myrkr.
  • Sherlock Scan: Thrawn does this with art, deducing facts not about the artist, but their entire culture. This even works for specific individuals... by studying art a specific person collects (Karrde/Bel Iblis) or has made (Ackbar), Thrawn can deduce how that person will respond to various tactics.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Karrde's pet vornskrs Sturm and Drang are named after Sturm und Drang, a German literary style of the 18th century.
    • Luke's new love interest is a feisty red-haired woman with the initials "M.J.", and her first and last name are both just one letter off from "Mary Jane". Sounds familiar...
  • The Siege: Thrawn besieges Coruscant with cloaked asteroids.
  • Silent Antagonist: The only noise Luuke makes is a scream of rage when he gets a face full of exploding screen. Mainly because C'Baoth hasn't left any mind for anything more complex.
  • Sleazy Politician: Senator Fey'lya is not literally a traitor (he isn't paid by the Empire), but overlooks no chance to pursue his own interests, even if by doing so he damages the broader interests of the Republic.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Mara turns out to be an unknowing case of this. As the Emperor's Hand, she believed herself his top agent, equal in power to Vader himself. Thrawn reveals that there were other Hands, all of whom Palpatine manipulated into believing they were his only one. While Thrawn is perhaps overly dismissive of Mara's position — she still has secret command codes to access any computer system on any Imperial ship, including the one she's on right that second — Mara herself is unquestionably not the indispensible one-of-a-kind asset she assumed herself to be.
  • The Smart Guy: Han absolutely takes on this role in the trilogy. Luke is the Jedi Knight, Leia is following in his footsteps and showing that she's her father's daughter as well as the diplomat who may be holding the Republic together through force of will... but Han, instead of being Overshadowed by Awesome, is generally the one giving the orders to Skywalkers because he's the one with all the plans. (That being said, Han mentions that most men he'd known would be offended by a wife who could outsmart them, when he, after she figures out a way to confirm they're talking to who they think they are, wouldn't have it any other way.)
  • Smug Snake: Niles Ferrier and Borsk Fey'lya.
  • Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness: Thrawn is considered a pitch-perfect example of exactly how to write a "High"-scale villain believably, to the point that the books are often recommended to new writers for study of the character; Thrawn isn't invincible, he does eventually lose, and is occasionally out-maneuvered, but the books do an excellent job of making him a credible, competent threat without resorting to a lot of the narrative traps that high-effectiveness villains sometimes fall into, and the reader can easily buy into the fantasy of his victory being a real possibility.
  • Space Is Noisy: One battle depicts the roar of A-wing engines as so incredibly loud that Wedge can hear them "even through the tenuous gases of interplanetary space."
  • Spanner in the Works: In The Last Command, the New Republic tries a double bluff to make the Empire think they're going after the crystal gravfield trap at Tangrene when they're actually going after the one at Bilbringi. Thrawn sees through it, and would have beat the Republic forces at Bilbringi... except the Republic accidentally succeeded in fooling Karrde's Smugglers' Alliance, who think because the Republic is going to Tangrene, they can try for the one at Bilbringi (as Karrde points out, if the Republic is willing to stage a major military operation to capture a crystal gravfield trap, they'd surely also be willing to buy one for a huge pile of credits), and they end up in a position where they can open up a second front in the battle.
  • Spy Ship: At one point, smuggler and information broker Talon Karrde is discreetly informed by an ally that the ally's ships will attack the Imperial shipyard at Bilbringi. In order to spy on the resulting chaos, Karrde arranges for his ships to take on a legitimate shipping contract to deliver parts to Bilbringi (a ruse which he uses several times, equally often for spying or sabotage). While there, they also happen to record a mysterious but trivial detail that ultimately proves highly valuable to the New Republic (specifically, they get a chance to count all the cloaked asteroids).
  • Stealth in Space: Averted, and pretty well. The "cloaking shield" Thrawn gets his hands on has accurate limitations (the people inside it are just as blind as the ones outside it), so he's forced to use it to 1) hide things inside a ship; 2) find other ways of flying ships; or 3) attach it to things that don't involve guided flight. Because he's a Grand Admiral, he gets significant mileage from all three.
    • It's also discussed that even if one could fly blind from inside a cloaking shield, the engine emissions would still be detectable by anyone who was looking for them. Never shown, though, because Thrawn knows this just as well as Ackbar does.
    • Other uses are played equally realistically (as befitting Zahn's history with relatively-hard military SF). "Static-damping" doesn't hide a ship from sensors, but does prevent another ship from reading what's inside, while letting the scanning ship know there's static-damping messing with their sensor readings. Karrde observes Thrawn's attack on his deserted Myrkr base from behind an asteroid, which Mara notes as being one of The Oldest Tricks in the Book. And Thrawn indeed does know they're there, since it's the only suitable cover for thousands of kilometers, and he knows that above all else Karrde craves knowledge, and the knowledge of what Thrawn might learn from Karrde's base is too valuable to pass up. "Sensor-stealth modes" are given a handwave, but are implied to require either extreme distance, hiding behind another inert object, or both to be effective.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The vornskrs, at least where Luke Skywalker is involved. As it turns out, they're a species of predator that hunts through the Force, which is speculated to be the reason why ysalamiri evolved their ability to "push back" the Force. Even through the ysalamiri's Force-negation, Luke stands out so much that they can't help but try to hunt him. Karrde utilizes this trait to help him and Leia find Luke in Mount Tantiss during the climactic battle, and Mara takes advantage of their distraction to move in close to C'baoth so she can kill him.
  • Swords to Plowshares: Since the New Republic is not engaged in much active combat, and trade is struggling, they take several dozen capital ships, remove a bunch of equipment to make more space, and use them to haul cargo. Unfortunately, since it wouldn't be hard to convert them back, they're a prime target for theft by the ascendant Grand Admiral Thrawn.

  • Tactful Translation: When C-3P0 is telling some Noghri the story of the Rebellion, Leia hopes he remembered to alter the story a bit to remove as much of Vader's villainy as possible, or at least make him out to be a victim of the Emperor's manipulations. The reason being that the Noghri see Darth Vader as their Crystal Dragon Jesus; they wouldn't take very well being told he was a ruthless mass-murderer.
  • Take That!: The entire premise of Thrawn's command style and overarching strategy is this to the Empire of the original film trilogy. Whereas Tarkin, Vader, and the Emperor relied on overwhelming force and Awesome, but Impractical superweapons to accomplish their goals, Thrawn utilizes only conventional technology (even the cloaking shield isn't some lost tech, just not used because of known practical considerations in the use of cloaking technology), preferring to win his battles with superior tactics and training. Even his flagship is just a typical Imperial Star Destroyer. Of course, because he's Thrawn, this is no handicap at all.
  • Taking You with Me: The Emperor's final revenge on Vader for killing him is to instruct Mara, YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Garm Bel Iblis spends years fighting a private war against the Empire rather than joining the Rebel Alliance because of a personal grudge against Mon Mothma, before reluctantly joining the New Republic. The teeth unclench when she unbends enough to ask him, personally, to help. Also, Mara asking Luke for help when she tries to rescue Karrde off the Chimaera.
  • Title Drop: Played With. In The Last Command, Pellaeon muses about how at the end of Dark Force Rising C'baoth declared himself "the true heir to the Empire." The phrase Dark Force Rising is never spoken, but the Katana fleet Dreadnoughts are often referred to by the "Dark Force" nickname. Finally, after Mara Jade kills the evil clone Luuke Skywalker, the narration notes that she's "finally fulfilled the Emperor's last command."
  • Too Clever by Half: Thrawn slips into this at times. Several of his mistakes actually come from assuming his enemies are smarter than they are, and that they are making moves against him that in reality they didn't even think of. Possibly the best example is when he concludes that Leia took the Millenium Falcon to Endor in search of something from the wreckage of the second Death Star for information that she believes the Emperor may have had with him when he died, like the location of the Mount Tantiss cloning facility. Leia and the New Republic had no idea Mount Tantiss even existed, let alone that it was critical to Thrawn's plans and that they really should be looking for it. She simply chose Endor as a rendezvous point because it's a remote yet well-known location. In The Last Command, Wedge subtly lampshades this by noting that overestimating your opponents can be just as dangerous as underestimating them, and Thrawn's ultimate downfall is basically the result of several unrelated over- and underestimations of his opponents all coming to a head simultaneously.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Thrawn torturing the location of the Katana Fleet out of Karrde doesn't work, although Karrde says it's just because Thrawn was still on the food-and-sleep-deprivation phase when Luke and Mara break him out. When Thrawn gets his hands on a second person with information on the fleet's location, he doesn't even bother with attempting to torture the man—he just bribes him.
  • Tsundere: Mara Jade. Somewhat troubling when her tsun-tsun side mainly consists of wanting to literally kill Luke.
  • Tuckerization: Garm Bel Iblis's lieutenants were named by Zahn after people he admired. The 20th Anniversary edition's annotations reveals that there are dozens of these friend names tucked into place names and company names as well as character names.
  • Tyke-Bomb: Mara was adopted and secretly raised by Palpatine himself. Not surprisingly, when Palpatine showed her an image of Luke and Vader killing him...
  • The Unpronounceable: Played with, in Heir Han says the Imperials have attacked three star systems—"Bpfassh and two unpronounceable ones".
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Jacen and Jaina.
  • Untranslated Catchphrase: Leia is the Mal'ary'ush. The Noghri who recognizes her as such immediately clarifies, saying that she is the daughter and heir of the Lord Darth Vader. Later it's clarified further to mean that she is heir to his authority and power. Supplemental material reveals that the word actually means "Heir of the Savior".
  • Updated Re-release: An annotated hardcover for Heir to the Empire was released on its 20th Anniversary, but none for the other two books. The trilogy was rereleased with brand new covers in late 2016.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Galactic Empire has been reduced to a quarter of its former territory at the beginning of the trilogy. (For a sense of just how much money the Empire poured into their war machine, only five years after Endor are the Empire and the New Republic roughly evenly gunned.) Of course this is before Thrawn comes along.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Thrawn has one (at least for him—it probably wouldn't count as one for a less-controlled villain) when he gets hit by a whole bunch of things he didn't see coming at once. He regains his composure within moments—but those few moments were all that Rukh needed...
    • C'baoth has a more traditional one after Mara kills the Luke clone, albeit one where he passes into Tranquil Fury instead of another hissyfit.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: In a callback to the trash compactor scene from A New Hope, Luke heads into one and as the walls close in he hopes that Mara, who is controlling the trash compactor and previously stated her desire to kill him, won't let her hatred overcome her. She stops the walls a meter apart, and he rock-chimneys up and saves her boss.
  • The Watson: Pellaeon. Done positively, in that Thrawn respects his second and would not have an idiot in such a position. And just like the original Watson, Pellaeon sometimes thinks or notices something Thrawn doesn't, or comes up with a new idea, which Thrawn finds very handy.
    Thrawn: "I have no qualms about accepting a useful idea merely because it wasn't my own."
    • Fully intentional on Zahn's part. The 20th Anniversary annotations note that he made the conscious decision to only use humans as viewpoint characters, because he felt that lending the necessary "alienness" to alien or droid characters would hurt the narrative. Thus, we only see Thrawn through Pellaeon's eyes, and are left to marvel at his intellect and reasoning skills just as Pellaeon does. And, of course, there are subtle hints (paid off in Hand of Thrawn) that Thrawn was grooming Pellaeon to succeed him, by constantly giving him chances to puzzle out what Thrawn is doing and why, as well as wanting someone with a different frame of reference as his right hand to challenge Thrawn's ideas to make sure they held up.
  • We Have Reserves: Averted in that Thrawn values his men's lives and does not waste them. He refused orders from the Emperor himself when he felt that carrying out an attack order would be a waste of ships and men. This consideration, however, does not extend to the Noghri, who he'll sacrifice blithely... though even then, he only sacrifices them when he's certain they have a legitimate chance of success.
    • This is actually played with when Thrawn gets his cloning cylinders up and running, as he can use this trope to soften the blow for conquered worlds and, consequently, decrease the chance and severity of future resistance by stating that he will not need to institute a draft for the newly conquered world (thanks to the fact that, because he has clones, he has all the soldiers he'll ever need).
    • A major plot point, especially in the first book, is that both sides are actually suffering a critical manpower shortage. The Empire is having to rely on half-trained conscripts even on the bridge of their flagship, while the Republic is leaning on dangerous levels of automation.
  • Wham Line: A few examples. One is where the Noghri maitrakh reveals to Leia that "thirdson" does not mean "third-born son" but "great-grandson", revealing that the Noghri have deliberately been kept in, at best, indentured servitude by the Empire for generations.
  • What Could Have Been: In-Universe examples:
    • Pellaeon wonders how the Battle of Endor would have turned out if Thrawn had been in command. Considering how close the actual Battle of Endor was and how brilliant Thrawn is, the answer would almost certainly have been "so long, Rebel scum." A later book has Thrawn and the Emperor explicitly discussing the latter's plans for Endor shortly before the Battle of Hoth. Thrawn quickly picks up on the Emperor's ploy to leave Endor's shield generator lightly defended as a lure for the Rebels, and warns him about the possibility of the locals siding with the Rebels. The Emperor, of course, dismisses the primitives as posing no threat.
    • During Luke's trip to Dagobah in Heir. While in the Dark Side Cave, Luke experiences a vision of the Battle of the Great Pit of Carkoon. He sees what would have happened if Mara had managed to board the Sail Barge.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the Katana fleet? note 
  • White Shirt of Death: Thrawn's death, with the blood from his stab wound staining the jacket of his white admiral's uniform. This prompts his last words: "But... it was so artistically done."
  • Wicked Cultured: Thrawn, so very much. Hell, he weaponized it.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Joruus C'baoth.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Despite not being that important of a character in the first book, C'baoth is featured the most prominently on the cover, while Thrawn is given a very small space in the corner. While not quite the standard use of the trope since C'baoth was a new character, the publishers were probably going for "hey, look! a Jedi!". Oddly enough, even though it is in the later two books where the majority of his arc takes place, he gets much less cover space on the final book and isn't even on the cover of the second. (Except for the Hungarian cover which prominently features the Grand Admiral... but not C'baoth!) The 2016 covers similarly show Thrawn prominently with no C'baoth.
  • Worshipped for Great Deeds: The Noghri see Darth Vader as a figure of reverence, both for his immense skill in combat, and because he's the face of the Empire that saved them after a great disaster. This becomes a Spanner in the Works for Thrawn, since this reverence transfers to his daughter.
  • Worthless Currency: A Rodian attempts to pay a Barabel with New Imperial scrip, which can't be spent anywhere except on Imperial worlds.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: There's a big plot hole where Darth Vader was involved in a plot-critical event 44 years before the present day of the story. Luke and Leia, at this stage, cannot be any older than 28, meaning Anakin Skywalker would have had to have been Darth Vader sixteen years before his children were born. While this preceded the release of the prequel trilogy which obsoleted a lot of what Timothy Zahn had based his writing on (particularly the nature of the Clone Wars and the fall of the Old Republic), he apparently just didn't consider the ramifications of the plot point on the family timeline (never mind that this meant Vader would presumably have had to have been a Dark Jedi for at least 16 years before being crippled and turned into a cyborg).
  • Xanatos Gambit:
    • Thrawn successfully runs so many of these that he gets the protagonists chasing their own tails trying to avoid stepping into the next one. He pretty much defines the trope in an aside to Pellaeon, patiently explaining why they're considering attacking a world which the New Republic prizes greatly—but not yet.
      "When we're finally ready to draw the Coruscant sector fleet into ambush, Mrisst will be the perfect lure to use. If they come out to meet us, we'll defeat them then and there. And if they somehow sense the trap and refuse to engage, we'll have our forward base. Either way, the Empire will triumph."
    • A despairing Lando, trying to get something out of a paranoid Admiral Drayson, tells him:
      "We all agree Thrawn's a brilliant tactician. But we can't assume that everything that happens in the galaxy is part of some grand, all-encompassing scheme that he's dreamed up."
      • Played with right back, as the retort is that even if this isn't part of Thrawn's plans, he'll certainly work it in if learns of it (through his information tap in the New Republic government center.)
    • A particularly apt example of the trope is when Thrawn sends commandoes to capture Leia's children, but briefs them that if they fail, they should falsely implicate Mara Jade as an Imperial spy in order to prevent her giving her knowledge to the Republic. Pellaeon considers this order defeatist and admits he wouldn't have come up with it himself, but it turns out to serve Thrawn's purposes well.
    • Thrawn does much the same in the first book when he plans to capture Luke while he's en route to see C'baoth, but realises that if the capture fails, Luke might be suspicious that the Empire knew he was coming. So Thrawn sets up a fake ambush of a freighter so it looks as though Luke was just unlucky enough to hit the No Warping Zone intended for that. And it works: Luke does manage to escape, but doesn't realise C'baoth is working with the Empire.
      • It does fail in one respect: C'baoth figures that Thrawn was trying to alter their deal. This is a major factor in splintering their alliance.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess / Gambit Pileup:
    • Karrde desperately trying to keep Han and Lando from finding Luke and vice versa, and then trying to keep all three hidden from Thrawn while still not letting them become aware of each other.
    • The raid for the CGT at the end of the trilogy had the Empire, Republic, and the fringe trying to outwit each other. Then it all came down to the main characters' battle with C'baoth on the other side of the galaxy triggering a completely unrelated Noghri plot.
  • You Are Too Late: Not quite as dramatic a reveal as usual for this trope, with no ticking clock or imminent explosion, but the Republic scrambles against time to find the Katana fleet before Thrawn, and engages in a vicious battle when a Star Destroyer arrives to stop them, but once it is over they discover that Thrawn had already discovered the fleet hours, if not days ago, and has already claimed ninety percent of the fleet.
  • You Have Failed Me: Done straight in the first book, then subverted in the third.
    • The first was a Blofeld Ploy, but it's not capricious - the situation is ambiguous, and Thrawn explains why he considered the Mook to be the one at fault. He was checking if the Mook was badly trained, or just an idiot who can't take blame. When he confirmed it was the latter, he had the mook killed, and had the trainer prepare a replacement. Efficiency went up afterward.
    • The second time, the situation was similar, but the mook had shown quick thinking and inventiveness, even if he'd failed. Instead of killing him, Thrawn promoted him and told him to work on solving the problem that had beaten them. (He did.)
    • Further, the first was a situation whose solution was known, while the second hadn't been solved by anyone yet. The second officer also took responsibility for their failure. The first (a conscript, who might have been resentful of having to serve) tried to pin the blame on the superior officer who trained him. (The officer, for his part, claims he tries to treat conscripts and volunteers equally, and admitted he couldn't remember specifically putting the crewman through that training situation, though it was definitely part of standard training packages.) One speculates whether he would have kept his head, if not his post, if he'd just admitted his mistake; Thrawn doesn't punish failure with summary execution. To Thrawn, doing this the way Vader and Palpatine did is stupid because killing failures leads to less innovation, and people fight more effectively when their leader inspires them.
      • To be more clear, he doesn't punish failure, he punishes fault. And trying to make your superior officer look bad in front of his superior to deflect blame from your own laxness in failing to Read the Freaking Manual is a capital fault. As he eloquently explains:
        Thrawn: Do you know the difference between an error and a mistake, ensign? [...] Anyone can make an error. It only becomes a mistake when you refuse to correct it.
    • His reactions based on hypothetical scenarios so as to flesh out what Thrawn is actually punishing - failure to act in the best interests of duty and position (so, incompetence):
      - First Book: Fails to follow proper procedure, tries to blame superior officer - death
      - Third Book: Follows proper procedure, notices it doesn't work (or else there is no proper procedure to follow), tries something different - promotion for obeying the spirit of the order as well as the letter and showing initiative
      - First hypothetical: Fails to follow proper procedure, accepts responsibility - demotion or re-training
      - Second hypothetical: Follows proper procedure - nothing (he did everything required)
      - Third hypothetical: No proper procedure to follow, hesitates to act as a result, accepts responsibility - admonishment but no further disciplinary measures
      - Fourth hypothetical: Fails to follow proper procedure, tries something different because he knows proper procedure wouldn't work - public dressing down for not following orders; but no other effect (perhaps he might be taken aside to develop the new system "on the sly")
      • It's likely to note that Vader would likely have killed all of them for failing (at least, if they'd failed to capture Luke).
    • There's also the commander of the Bilbringi shipyards, who clearly expects to be on the receiving end of this trope after some smugglers blow up a nearly-completed Star Destroyer. Instead, Thrawn gives him until the Chimaera leaves the system to design and implement a new security system to prevent such a thing from happening again, at which point he'll make his decision. Thrawn notes that this particular officer is quite competent, but simply has a tendency to get complacent... a tendency which, for the moment at least, he should be cured of. (This one actually doesn't pan out too well for him. In the finale, Bilbringi is infiltrated by the nascent Smugglers' Alliance, though it's not known if they would have been so successful without a full-scale Republic assault happening.)
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Well, not shame per se, but Leia is initially thrown for a loop when she finds out that the Noghri revere her as the daughter of Darth Vader. Of course, it lasts about half a second before she starts furiously strategizing how to work this to her advantage because, well, it's Leia.
    The whole thing was rapidly becoming unreal... but one fact already stood out. The alien prostrating himself before her was prepared to treat her as royalty.
    And she knew how to behave like royalty.

But it was so artistically done.

Alternative Title(s): Heir To The Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command