I love Thrawn: Alliances! It's definitely my favorite of the first Thrawn trilogy, and I really like how it jumps through the different points in the timeline yet still focuses on the same two main characters. It's a really entertaining read that really, really draws me in, and I love how Timothy Zahn depicts some characters that we're already familiar with outside of his Thrawn books.
Spoilers ahead for Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn!
I adore the way that Timothy Zarhn wrote Anakin/Vader and Padmé. Reading the parts with Anakin really felt like I was watching The Clone Wars in some ways, he had the determination and attitude of Anakin down pat for sure, along with the sadness and baggage that he carries. I also thought he nailed Padmé, he really captures her kindness and competence with determination that easily rival's Anakin. I think that Zahn wrote her perspective really well, getting in her inner thoughts felt almost identical to the way that authors like E. K. Johnston write her, and I love that cohesive across different books and authors.
And of course, there's Vader. It can feel a little odd to read from Vader's perspective sometimes because of how frequently he plays the dark, mysterious role, but it was really well done here. You could really feel his quiet rage through the pages, and the repressed sadness. It's always sad when he refers to Anakin in his internal monologue as simply "The Jedi" and describes him as an entirely different entity from himself. Vader is a very tragic character who also acts as a brilliant executor of the Empire's will and fearsome leader with no patience for incompetence or hints of disloyalty, and Zahn captures both of these aspects really well at the same time.
Thrawn and Commander Faro are two of Zahn's original characters in the story of course, and obviously he writes them very well. It's always fascinating to watch Thrawn work through the tactics of his enemies and always manage to stay one step ahead of them, even when it appears that he is a step behind he never really is. What I also like about this book is the increase in focus on Commander Faro. She appears later in the first Thrawn novel, and doesn't have that large of a part. However here, it's clear that she's filled the role of Thrawn's protege now that Eli is with the Chiss Ascendancy, and I liked to see her start to build up her own tactical skills in this book and follow along with Thrawn's plans and the reasoning behind them by the end of the book, when she once marveled at Eli's ability to do so in the previous book. Her character development is very interesting, and I did really love the moments where we read from her perspective- especially when she makes fairly humorous comments over the fearsome presence of Darth Vader.
As I mentioned before, I really like the twin storylines of the book. They entangle together, as both Anakin, Padmé and Thrawn as well as Vader and Thrawn are trekking into similar regions of space even all those years apart. This gives Thrawn opportunity to confirm Vader's identity to himself, and Vader some opportunity to reminisce on Anakin's life- though he resists. We also see how the stories entangle themselves, as during the story in The Clone Wars era the secret project the Separatists were working on (lightsaber proof armor) used materials that could be linked to the people of the Unknown Regions that Thrawn and Vader battle in the Imperial era. We also learn a little more about the Chiss Ascendancy, specifically that they use Force sensitive children to navigate through dangerous parts of the Unknown Regions since they have a gift of foresight and can steer their ships from danger, which I thought was really cool.
Finally, a planet prominently featured in both stories is Batuu. I don't have much to say, because we don't particularly learn anything new about Batuu here, it's a jumping point to get to the planet where the real conflict is but it made me miss Galaxy's Edge so I just wanted to mention it.