“I was thinking about Leia’s twins. Thinking about how I’m going to have to train them some day . . . They’re going to be strong in the Force, and with that strength comes responsibility. How do I teach them that? How do I teach them wisdom and compassion and how not to abuse their power?” – Luke Skywalker
The Last Command is the final installment in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. Many Star Wars fans still consider this trilogy to be the best that Star Wars literature has to offer, even today, nearly 25 years after The Last Command was released. And it’s not hard to see why.
Timothy Zahn brought new life to the then-dormant Star Wars franchise, introducing us to extremely fun and interesting new characters, and bringing back our old favorite characters for their continued adventures. On top of that, Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy actually felt like reading a trilogy of Star Wars films. Before this trilogy, there were a few other Star Wars novels out there, but none of them took themselves as seriously as this trilogy did, and none of them quite nailed that Star Wars feeling like Zahn was able to.
The Last Command takes place a few months after its predecessor, Dark Force Rising. The whole cast from the first two books make their return in this one, plus, a couple of new characters! Jacen and Jaina Solo make their first ever appearance in Star Wars media a few chapters into the book, after Leia gives birth to them. The twins don’t have much of a role in the novel, since they’re newborns, and can’t really do or say anything. But still. Jacen and Jaina are two of my favorite Star Wars characters of all time. They might actually be my favorites. So I was happy to see them come into the world like this.
The greatest thing about this third part to Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy is the character development we see. More than the actual events that are occurring in the novel, I found myself so invested in the characters in this book, especially Mara Jade. Mara’s inner turmoil is in full-force this time, as she once again has to decide whether to help Luke Skywalker–the man she wants dead more than anything–or to kill him. To me, this book is Mara’s story, and I was thrilled by that, because like Jacen and Jaina Solo, Mara Jade is one of my favorite Star Wars characters of all time. Getting to know what she’s thinking, and seeing the decisions she makes with those thoughts in the back of her head, was my favorite thing about this book. So much so, that I was actually disappointed whenever I got to chapters that focused on other characters instead of her.
Seeing Leia–and especially Han–trying to adjust to being parents is fun. We don’t get a whole lot of this in the novel–because the twins are being taken care of by Leia’s helper, Winter–but it is nice when we do. Leia is in the middle of the action a bit more in this story, which I appreciate. She is very in-tune with the Force which is always fun to see, even though she feels very inadequate when it comes to anything Jedi-related. Luke, now an uncle, realizes that he will eventually have to train Jacen and Jaina in the ways of the Jedi. He is afraid, he doesn’t think he can do it. How can he teach them not to abuse their power? Although he has taught Leia some of what he knows, he worries about the responsibility of training her children.
Thrawn himself is essentially the same character we’re already familiar with from the first two books. His growth isn’t as significant. We know what we need to know about him. He is still just as much of threat, and just as much of a tactical genius as he has always been. His relationship with the insane Joruus C’baoth has become strained and C’baoth’s power has grown substantially. Like Thrawn, C’baoth thinks he is the rightful heir to the Empire, and with his rapidly-growing Force abilities he is now a serious threat to Thrawn.
Joruus C’baoth has become terrifying by this book. Not only is he substantially more powerful than we’ve seen him before, but he is also more insane than ever, which makes for a pretty frightening combination. My one gripe with this story is that C’baoth seems too powerful. He is doing things that Emperor Palpatine could never do. Though never stated explicitly in the text, it feels like C’baoth is significantly more powerful than Palpatine, which just doesn’t sit well with me, but, it is something that I’ll let pass because overall this book is very, very good.
There were a lot of details that I found fun in this book. Little things like how Rogue Squadron flies in “Porkins’ Formation.” The novel states that the original construction facility of the Death Star was located at Horuz. In the new canon, the original Death Star construction location was Geonosis. On that same line of thought, this book, like the first two books in the series, gets a lot of things wrong about the Clone Wars. Mostly dates. Timothy Zahn didn’t have the luxury of the prequel films, the Clone Wars animated series, or the many, many books, comics, and video games that later went on the flesh out the Clone Wars. Zahn just had to guess what the Clone Wars were like. Luckily, he doesn’t get too specific, so nothing he writes is too jarring. Mostly, the dates are just off. In Zahn’s vision, the Clone Wars happened much further in the past than George Lucas eventually revealed it to.
There were other little things too. In my review of Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu I pointed out how weird it was that Lando–and so many other characters in that novel–smoked cigarettes so often. Cigarettes. Well, in The Last Command, there is a character named Niles Ferrier who smokes cigarras. Which sounds a little more Star Warsy than “cigarettes,” but not really.
There is a character named General Bel Iblis who tells Leia that they’re “about to give the Stardust plan its first try, if you want to come and watch.” The Stardust plan? Like, the plans to the Death Star, that were code-named “Stardust” in Rogue One? No, it’s something completely different and unrelated. But I found it interesting that a plan named “Stardust” existed in Star Wars 23 years prior to the release of Rogue One.
Without giving anything away, The Last Command is a great book. Easily one of my favorite Star Wars novels that I have read. It is a great conclusion to the Thrawn Trilogy and a great setup for the direction the Expanded Universe takes after this book. This was a great trilogy that I definitely recommend to every Star Wars fan, and The Last Command is my favorite book in the series. Not only did Timothy Zahn write a great trilogy of Star Wars novels, but he completely revitalized the Star Wars franchise while doing so.
If you’re interested in Star Wars books at all, read the Thrawn Trilogy. It’s some of the best there is to offer.