To continue my re-read through the Thrawn trilogy to prep for reading the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy, I read Thrawn: Treason this week. It's a great book! We get to reunite with characters from the first book, learn more about the Chiss, get more Rebels references and read through it like a mystery novel as Thrawn tries to crack the code on something plaguing the Death Star- excuse me, project Stardust's production schedule. It's a pretty interesting read and a great cap to the first Thrawn trilogy.
Spoilers ahead for Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn!
The mystery plot of the book was really intriguing. Thrawn is tasked with eliminating a mynock-adjacent species called grallocs that have been stopping shipments for the mysterious "Stardust" project. The task is more a political power play than anything else, as Tarkin facilitates a deal where if Thrawn solves the problem in a week, then Director Krennic has to lose some of his Stardust funding in favor of Thrawn's TIE Defender project. While hunting grallocs, Thrawn uncovers a pattern and unearths a conspiracy involving enemies of the Chiss Ascendancy, pirates and a deal with an Imperial Grand Admiral. It's fascinating to watch Thrawn (with the help of the Chiss Ascendancy members that he reunites with, Admiral Ara'lani and his friend Eli Vanto) figure out the patterns and slowly uncover the truths in the tangled web of conspiracy. It's a little too complicated to explain it all in a concise way, but it's fun to read and you get to figure it out with the characters.
We also got to learn a lot more about the Chiss in this book. We got to meet some of the young Force-sensitive navigators who Thrawn talked about in the last book, and one particular young woman who has kept her abilities long past the usual very young age that they fade for other navigators. I loved meeting Admiral Ara'lani, she's a very cool character and it's interesting to see her switch between being the cool, calculating admiral of the Ascendancy to kind and maternal when they rescue a scared young Chiss girl and comfort her.
I loved getting to reunite with Eli in this book too, since we didn't see him at all in the last one. His presence as he arrives with the Chiss Ascendancy to team up with Thrawn's Imperial forces is met with question by most, including Krennic's Assistant Director who he assigned to watch Thrawn solve the gralloc problem, but Eli proves himself to be useful and capable with his knack for finding patterns and the strategic thinking that he learned from Thrawn. Eli is a really likable character who is compassionate and wants to do the right thing, even is his allegiances are a little misguided. I liked his relationships with the navigators and his loyalty to both Thrawn and the Ascendancy, even if he can get frustrated with cultural and language differences, and it was nice to see him again and get a little more of his relationship with Thrawn.
I loved getting more of Commodore Faro as well. She's a great character, and seeing her growth from not being able to really understand Thrawn in the first novel to being extremely loyal to him and able to create his plans with him, and when he gives her a set of instructions to follow against an enemy that he predicts perfectly, she is not only able to execute it flawlessly with nearly full comprehension of the reasoning behind each step, but modify it to make it even better than Thrawn's initial plan. Throughout the book she feels some amount of upset upon hearing that Thrawn recommended against a promotion for her, only to find out at the end that Thrawn recommended against it because he recommended her for a higher promotion to command her own fleet. The promotion is granted and well-deserved for this character, though I'm sad she won't work with Thrawn anymore and we won't get to see as much of that interesting master-apprentice relationship
My favorite part of the book is when Thrawn calls out a fellow grand admiral for treason against the Empire and while Thrawn is on the enemy ship, he has already left Faro the instructions for a step-by-step plan, outlining everything that the grand admiral will do. He studied the music that the grand admiral composed, conducted and played in order to make his assessment, and it is spot on. Not only is Faro able to execute it brilliantly as the other admiral does exactly what Thrawn predicted he'd do, but the battle also goes without a single casualty, as Thrawn promised. It's a really compelling scene to read through, and I think it really captures what makes Thrawn so great.