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Literature / Thrawn: Alliances

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Spoilers for Thrawn will be left untagged. You Have Been Warned.

Thrawn: Alliances is a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel written by Timothy Zahn, who previously authored Legends works including the original The Thrawn Trilogy that first introduced the character into the franchise, as well as the preceding novel, Thrawn, which had explained the titular character's new origins in the Continuity Reboot. Alliances is a sequel to Thrawn, in what is believed to be the New Thrawn Trilogy.

After the events of Thrawn and Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, Palpatine sends Vader and Thrawn to deal with a mysterious disturbance in the Force emanating the edge of the Unknown Regions, on the mysterious planet of Batuu.

It was released July of 2018, following the release of the Thrawn comic adaptation earlier that year. A sequel book, Thrawn: Treason, was released on July 23, 2019.

It will receive a comic book adaptation from Marvel Comics, written by Jody Houser, who also wrote the comic book adaptation of Thrawn, with the first issue set to be released in January 2024.

The novel contains the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Padmé is at quite possibly the most badass she's ever been in this novel. Not only can she hold her own in a fight, but she also demonstrates a range of skills and knowledge that puts her on equal footing with Anakin and Thrawn.
  • Adaptational Wimp: In Legends, Rukh was a master of the Stealth Hi/Bye and Offscreen Teleportation using nothing but his own skills. Here, it's repeatedly and explicitly stated that he uses a cloaking device.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted, surprisingly for Star Wars. Both Thrawn's Chiss uniform and stormtrooper armor are able to take direct blaster hits without the wearer dying.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Thrawn to Padmé: "The Separatists wished to leave the Republic. Why didn’t you simply allow them to go?" She responds that the Separatists started the war by attacking the Republic first, but the question continues to gnaw at her, especially after witnessing the collateral damage caused by destroying the Separatist operation.
  • Bittersweet Ending: For both the plot in the past and the one in the present. For the plot in the past, Anakin, Padmé, and Thrawn have successfully dealt with the Separatist threat and stopped their planned invasion, but they have left a massive amount of collateral damage in the form of a lava-spewing mine, that has completely ravaged the planet upon Thrawn's and Vader's return. For the plot in the present, the Grysk threat has been temporarily been dealt with and the captured Force-sensitive Chiss children have been returned to the Ascendancy, but the Grysks will likely return in greater numbers (attacking the Chiss Ascendancy first) and Chiss society is now teetering on the edge of civil war, as it is revealed that some Chiss may actually be assisting the Grysks with their planned invasion.
  • Call-Back: In Thrawn, Thrawn describes some threats in the Unknown Regions that the Chiss are terrified of, hence why he joined the Empire to test their strength. The book reveals what those threats were: the Grysks.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Palpatine senses a mysterious disturbance coming from the Unknown Regions (the captured Chiss children), which is why he sends Thrawn and Vader together to deal with it. Eventually, he became obsessed with another disturbance from the Unknown Regions.
    • Thrawn mentions that Force-sensitive Chiss are used as navigators, and seems surprised that Vader isn't one. In Rebels, he's ultimately defeated when Ezra guides the purrgil into sending the entire Seventh Fleet somewhere they've never returned from.
    • Chiss children lose their Force-sensitivity as they age, as the Chiss lack sufficient knowledge of the Force to train them properly. In season 4 of Rebels, part of Ezra's Shut Up, Hannibal! to Thrawn is the fact that Thrawn fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the Force, seeing it as a weapon. Which is a key part of Thrawn's downfall, as he underestimates how dangerous Ezra's empathy talents can be.
    • At the end of the book, Vader compliments the TIE Defender as an "excellent ship" and he will speak to the Emperor of it, giving his support to the project. However, Vader recommends that the TIE Defender needs to be faster, more armed and its controls simplified. Fast forward to Rebels, we see a more powerful and faster TIE Defender in the form of the TIE Defender Elite.
  • The Cameo: Thrawn mentions in the epilogue that Admiral Ar'alani, the female Chiss Admiral that welcomed Eli to the Ascendancy at the end of the previous book, is escorting the Force-sensitive Chiss children back to their families.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Anakin is so transparent about his relationship with Padme that Thrawn (who unlike everyone else they know doesn't know there's any social stigma to the relationship) doesn't even realize it's supposed to be a secret until Anakin directly denies it.
  • Child Soldier: The Force-sensitive Chiss children are being used for astronavigation. Using youths in the Chiss military could be a normal thing for them, though. According to Thrawn Chiss lose Force ability rapidly as they age, so if they didn't use children they couldn't use the technique at all.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Thrawn, who is torn between his commitments to the Empire and the Chiss, though he's adamant that the two have enough aligned goals that choosing is unnecessary. Ultimately, he's able to work the situation to avoid conclusively choosing.
  • Continuity Nod: Padmé explains to Thrawn how Ahsoka invented the Marg Sabl maneuver back in The Clone Wars episode "Storm Over Ryloth", which in itself is a Canon Immigrant of when Thrawn used it in Heir to the Empire .
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Once the Grysk's ability to use traps and ambushes against the stormtroopers is negated by the Chiss precogs that the stormtroopers were rescuing, the Imperial forces find the resultant battle to be easy.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Implied. While explaining the Force-sensitive Chiss children to Vader, Thrawn appears briefly troubled when he says that the kids are cast aside after their Force-sensitivity fades away, as if he was remembering a personal tragedy that happened in the past. It's finally revealed in Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising that he had an older sister who disappeared to become a sky-walker when he was 3. His parents refused to talk about her. It wouldn't be until he reached command rank that he learned about sky-walkers and put the pieces together.
  • Enigmatic Minion: Thrawn to the Empire, as Vader realizes he's working towards his own hidden interests.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Vader's Stormtroopers reveal that this is part of why so few people take the TIE Defender concept seriously. The common wisdom goes that the the unconventional wing design makes it hard to maneuver, while all of that weight from the added missiles, hyperdrive, and shield systems slow it down until it's a sitting duck. They are thus quite surprised to see how utterly superior they are in action.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Averted. Vader only wants to save the the Force-sensitive Chiss children out of Pragmatic Villainy rather than moral standards, though Thrawn seems to not only get them back to the Ascendancy, but also to their homes and families. Played straight with one of Thrawn's men, Kimmund, who ensures the safety of five scared Chiss girls and tries to comfort them and thinks that Thrawn would care enough.
    • Vader, for all his many faults and sins, isn't racist. Thrawn respects him for this, as Vader's questioning Thrawn's loyalty to the Empire comes from loyalty towards Palpatine, rather than racism towards Thrawn for not being human, being one the very few Imperials to do so.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Vader and Thrawn, two ruthless Imperials, vs the Grysks, a warlike species of conquering slavers.
  • Exact Words: All of Thrawn's responses to being told Anakin Skywalker is dead.
    • Vader notes the import of this the final time they cover the subject. Thrawn has basically stated he knows Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker by referencing a conversation with Anakin as though he and Vader had it. When Vader once more insists Anakin Skywalker is dead, Thrawn replies "I know." Not "So I heard," not "So I was told." Whether Thrawn actually believes now that Anakin is dead or has accepted that Vader simply will not acknowledge his past no matter how much Thrawn pushes remains unknown.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Rukh's cloaking device has one. At one point it looks like it fails early, but then it turns out that he deliberately stopped using it so that his enemies would think he had hit the failure point, so he would regain the element of surprise when he turned it on again later.
  • Flashback: We get to see how Thrawn and Anakin met during the Clone Wars.
  • Foil: From the moment they are assigned to work together, Thrawn and Vader are immediately set up as foils to one another, with regards to their command styles. (To enforce the point, Thrawn's Sherlock Scans are formatted the same way as Vader using the Force.)
    • Thrawn is a pragmatic commander, who believes that failure can be learned from and capitalized on. He not only listens to his subordinates’ suggestions, but routinely solicits their input in order to inform his strategies, and places his trust in their ability to do what he asks of them.
    • Vader is a strictly authoritarian leader, with no tolerance for failure. If someone of higher rank gives an order, that order is to be obeyed, no matter what. Subordinates are generally not to speak unless spoken to, and, even then, such speech is generally to be limited to a simple “Yes, Sir!” unless they are asked a question, in which case, a prompt answer is expected.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: It appears to be this with Force sensitivity among the Chiss. While Thrawn says there are a handful of males, a vast majority are girls for an unknown reason.
  • He's a Friend: Padmé gets entangled with a group of local workers on Mokivj and tells them that Anakin Skywalker is her uncle and can pay ransom for her. After she has found Anakin, one of the local workers sees Thrawn, who is working with Anakin, and makes to protect Padmé, telling her to look out. She tells him "He's a friend," but the guy considers this suspect at first, given Thrawn's unusual appearance.
  • Hourglass Plot: In the flashbacks, Thrawn is completely dedicated to achieving victory and implies Anakin should sacrifice Padmé if necessary, which the latter obviously refuses to do even if it helps the Separatists. In the present, Vader is as intently focused as Thrawn ever was, while the latter now struggles to save the Force-sensitive Chiss children at the expense of imperial interests.
  • Hypocrite: Vader takes a number of pot shots at Thrawn's failure to stop the Lothal rebel cell, pointedly ignoring that Thrawn had only been brought in after his own utter failure and the loss of four Inquisitors at their hands.
  • Interquel: The book takes place between Seasons 3 and 4 of Rebels, with the events of the Battle of Atollon fresh in Thrawn's memory.
  • Man of Kryptonite: The cortosis-armored B2 battle droids, which are immune to lightsabers.
  • Meaningful Name: Younger Thrawn was surprised meeting a Jedi named Skywalker. Turns out that the Chiss call their Force sensitive navigators ‘Sky Walkers’. Later, he gives Vader the opportunity to learn the skill to become a ‘Sky Walker’.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Anakin and Padmé when they realize the cortosis ore would vastly increase the damage from the explosives meant to simply destroy the mine.
  • Mythology Gag: Padme explaining the Marg Sabl maneuver to Thrawn, who notes it would be particularly effective against those who can't handle the concept of an attack coming from everywhere at once. Thrawn's Establishing Character Moment in The Thrawn Trilogy involved using the Marg Sabl to obliterate an Elomin task force, whose species' psychological weakness was exactly that.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Played for Drama. When Thrawn blatantly (for him) states that he knows Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, Vader once again denies it. Thrawn seems to accept it now, and Vader goes on to state "We will never speak of him again. You will never speak of him again."
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: For once, the Emperor does not pull You Have Failed Me on Thrawn for not capturing the rebel leaders, as he couldn't have done much against the Bendu. Palpatine doesn't make a habit of being reasonable, so whatever he wants Thrawn alive for must be important.
  • Pet the Dog: Two from Vader:
    • He lets the Force-sensitive Chiss children be, even though Palpatine would be interested in that.
    • He also gives his support to Thrawn's TIE Defender project by: first, giving some recommendations for it by making the ship faster, simpler to control (explicitely citing that most of Imperial pilots are not as skilled as Skerris) and more powerful and second, by personnaly speaking in favor of it to the Emperor. It helps that he had piloted one during the events of the book.
  • Puberty Superpower: Inverted. Since the Chiss have no way of teaching their people to use the Force, their ability to use it fades over time, so the only Force-sensitive Chiss are children.
  • Remember the New Guy?: At the point in Rebels that this is set (between seasons 3 and 4) Rukh had not yet appeared, and he gets no mention in the previous book (which ends immediately before the start of season 3) either. He's part of Thrawn's crew in this with no explanation, and even Vader knows who he is.
  • Resolved Noodle Incident: Thrawn's encounter with Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, which was mentioned in the previous book, forms the basis of this novel's flashback subplot.
  • The Reveal:
    • The disturbance in the Force that Palpatine felt was a group of young Force-sensitive Chiss girls captured by the Grysks.
    • The large scar across Mokivj was caused by Anakin, Padmé and Thrawn themselves after their effort to destroy the Separatist cortosis mine, which ended up releasing large amounts of lava. Though to be fair, the plan was Anakin's, while Padmé and Thrawn were opposed to it. The reaction of the explosives to the cortosis took all of them by surprise, however.
    • The bartender Vader and Thrawn interrogate in the present isn't the same man as the bartender from Anakin, Padme and Thrawn's mission in the past; it's LebJau, whose home and livelihood were ruined by the aforementioned destruction of the cortosis mine. He's understandably still very bitter about it two decades later.
    • There are double agents in Chiss society who are assisting the Grysks in their efforts to destroy the Chiss Ascendancy and the Empire.
    • The Grysks were the ones who assisted the Separatists in creating the cortosis droids and armor on Mokivj. And all of this was in turn planned by Palpatine himself, in an effort to make Order 66 more effective.
  • Schrödinger's Canon:
    • Cortosis, a lightsaber-resistant material from Legends, returns.
    • "Instinctive Astrogation," a Force power from West End Games' Star Wars d6 game and used by Luke Skywalker in The Thrawn Trilogy, reappears. it's the method by which the Chiss navigate the notoriously dangerous Unknown Regions, and Thrawn manages to teach Vader the technique.
  • Shout-Out: The concept of psionically gifted individuals equipped to navigate spaceships through hyperspace because Hyperspace Is a Scary Place is lifted straight out of that other Space Opera setting with a galaxy-spanning empire, as well as the one it inspired.
  • Stealth Insult: Upon meeting Anakin, Thrawn asks to confirm if he is a Jedi. Anakin answers that he thought it was an obvious observation, to which Thrawn explains that the Chiss are familiar with the stories of Jedi and Sith, but Sith are reputed to be clever and capable warriors.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • Vader and Thrawn aren't friends. Thrawn objects to Vader's support of the Death Star project, while Vader thinks little of Thrawn after his failure on Atollon. Yet both are assigned to work with each other on the mission that Palpatine is sending them on. The subordinates of both figures aren't particularly thrilled about the alliance either, such as Commodore Faro, who's used to Thrawn accepting her willingness to question his choices and is scared into absolute compliance in the presence of Vader (who views questioning orders as a sign of insubordination or incompetence).
    • In the brief time they worked together in the past, Thrawn and Padmé displayed this due to his rather off-putting behavior and temporary abandonment of her and Anakin.
  • Tempting Fate: Palpatine dismisses Kanan Jarrus as a threat. In the latter half of season 4 of Rebels, Kanan's sacrifice cripples the TIE Defender project and Kanan in the form of Dume warns Ezra about Palpatine's plans to control time and space, leading to Ezra thwarting them.
  • That Man Is Dead: Vader refuses to even think the name "Anakin Skywalker", only referring to his old identity as "The Jedi".
  • Villainous Friendship: One develops between Thrawn and Vader, though it's tense and initially one-sided. Thrawn knows who Vader really is and has a deep respect for him, whereas Vader is dismissive of Thrawn for his recent failure. Over time, Vader comes to respect Thrawn as much as he's capable.
  • Villain Protagonist: Vader and Thrawn, who head into the Unknown Regions on the Emperor's orders to face a disturbance he felt.