Grand Admiral Thrawn returns in a new Star Wars novel - and this time he’s bringing Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker along for the ride. First introduced as a villain in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire by author Timothy Zahn - though that book along with many others were taken out of continuity when Disney acquired Lucasfilm - the fan-favorite villain has since made a return to canon.
While he was a major force in the Empire in both the original and new continuities, Thrawn spent relatively little time in the company of Emperor Palpatine’s other major lieutenant, Darth Vader. In Zahn’s new novel, Thrawn: Alliances, the blue-skinned military strategist finds himself working with the Dark Lord of the Sith. It also reveals that the two have an unusual history together, having met some time before Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Vader.
Lucasfilm has now released the cover art for the new book, featuring a stern Thrawn standing just in front of a shadowy Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. It’s a striking image accompanied by a short excerpt from the novel and audio book detailing an awkward first conversation between the cerebral Chiss and impetuous (former) Jedi. Anakin has journeyed deep into space on a personal question, and from the outset, it’s clear that Thrawn knows much more than he’s letting on. Take a look:
Anakin may be a central character to the saga, but as the cover art reinforces, this is Thrawn’s book. The character’s first appearance kicked off a wave of in-continuity Star Wars novels that helped form what was then called the Star Wars Extended Universe. Disney may have relegated those works to out-of-continuity Legends, but they clearly saw the appeal of the character. Thrawn first returned as the primary villain of the third and fourth seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels. There he retained much of Zahn’s original characterization, proving an intelligent and dangerous foe for the early Rebellion.
By contrast, Anakin Skywalker has been a character as long as Star Wars has been around, though Christensen’s specific interpretation didn’t win over many fans. The character was better received in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Darth Vader continues to enjoy massive popularity, but there hasn’t been much clamor for the adventures of young Anakin. Considering their very different personalities and philosophies, teaming these two could be very promising.
From the movies to the books, Disney seems intent on exploring the many nooks and crannies of the Star Wars universe under their guidance. Bringing recognized characters like Thrawn back in is a smart move, especially with Zahn returning to the helm. Of course, many fans are still hopeful for a live-action appearance from the Grand Admiral, but in the meantime at least they can treat themselves to new stories featuring one of the galaxies greatest villains.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019