T

hrawn fans have a lot to look forward to in the near future. Alongside his name drop in the second season of The Mandalorian, our favorite blue Chiss returns in his newest Canon trilogy, Thrawn Ascendancy

Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising Cover
Image Credit: Del Rey

The series kicked off in 2020 with Chaos Rising, and April sees the release of its sequel Greater Good with the third and final installment, Lesser Evil, coming later this year. As we prepare to dive back into the Unknown Regions, let’s get a quick refresher on the story so far.

A lot happens in Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising. A lot. While detailing the rise of Thrawn within the Chiss Ascendancy, Chaos Rising introduces a significant amount of lore and societal intricacies surrounding his home beyond the Unknown Regions. The Ascendancy exists outside Wild Space in a dangerous region of twisted hyperspace lanes formed by a chain reaction of supernovas. This “Chaos,” as the Chiss call it, can be navigated by individuals who are gifted and trained in seeing safe pathways through it. 

The Chiss employ their own navigators, called skywalkers, but prefer to keep their mystical third sight a secret from other societies and instead utilize members of the Navigator’s Guild while on certain missions. We also learn that the Ascendancy is ruled by nine families comprised of natural-born members and those who have been adopted for personal or political reasons.

Chaos Rising alternates between memory and present-day narratives. Through these memory portions we learn of Thrawn’s early life and adoption into the Mitth family. In his rise to prominence, Thrawn makes a somewhat controversial name for himself as his dispassionate logic tends to injure the pride of certain individuals within the system. His actions ultimately culminate in losing command of his ship, the Springhawk.

The book opens in the present with a mysterious attack on the Chiss capital city. The Ascendancy reluctantly turns to Thrawn for help in discovering the identity of the unknown assailant. Aided by his long-time supporter, Admiral Ar’alani, Thrawn regains control of the Springhawk in order to launch his investigation. 

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Che’ri, a young skywalker, and her caretaker (and former skywalker), Thalias, who serve to help Thrawn navigate the Chaos with Che'ri's gift of third sight. 

The surrounding civilizations remain mostly isolated in the Chaos and maintain a tenuous relationship with the Chiss. After aiding Admiral Ar'alani in an attack on the Paataatus, Thrawn encounters the Paccosh and discovers that their homeworld, Rapacc, was conquered by the Nikardun Destiny. He ultimately learns that the Nikardun are behind the Chiss capital assault and succeeds in capturing one of their ships. 

However, in an act of brazen loyalty, the Nikardun crew kill themselves with a type of nerve gas rather than face capture. 

As the Springhawk undergoes repairs, Che’ri and Thalias are assigned to Ar’alani’s ship, the Vigilant, which is to escort a Chiss ambassador on a diplomatic mission to Urch. The mission goes awry when Thrawn realizes the Nikardun have already conquered Urch, and he comes to suspect that the Lioain Regime has joined the Nikardun as allies.

Thrawn believes that the Nikardun's forces now include the Paccosh and the Lioaion Regime, and he questions if the Vak Combine has also pledged their loyalty. Assuming the guise of an art historian, he boards a Garwian freighter headed for the Vak homeworld, Primea, to investigate their allegiance. 

The Navigator on board turns out to be Qilori, a member of the Navigator’s Guild, whom Thrawn met on a previous mission. Qilori, playing both sides of the conflict, is on his way to report to the Nikardun leader, Yiv the Benevolent, and decides to facilitate an introduction between Yiv and the undercover Chiss.

Yiv proves a worthy rival to Thrawn’s own intellect. The two engage in a verbal dance, prodding each other with subtext for information and motives. Thrawn leads Yiv to believe that Thalias is a family hostage, a trait of Chiss society he fabricates in order to manipulate the Nikardun conqueror. 

When Thrawn is detained on Primea, Admiral Ar’alani scrambles to plan an extraction. She finds her hands tied, however, thanks to both a Chiss mandate ruling out pre-emptive strikes as well as an order to retrieve Thrawn only if the Vaks willingly turn him over. Thrawn manages to commandeer a Vak ship and escape to the Vigilant just as the Lioaoins open fire on Admiral Ar’alani. 

Thrawn deduces that Yiv is relying on the Lioaions to destroy the Vigilant in order to sidestep any Ascendancy retaliation on his own Nikardun forces. He further concludes that Yiv wants to conquer the Vak Combine but is first courting them as allies.

Naturally, Thrawn wishes to learn more about the Nikardun’s alliances and strategies. He proposes to General Ba’kif a mission to explore the surrounding worlds and gather information on the Destiny. During his travels, Thalias requests to the take the Trials in order to become a Trial-born member of the Mitth family. 

In these chapters, we also witness the cross-over between Chaos Rising and Thrawn: Alliances in Thrawn’s encounter with Anakin Skywalker. After helping Anakin search for a missing ship belonging to a Republic senator named Padmé, Thrawn secures an advanced shield technology from the planet Mokivj. 

Thrawn: Alliances Cover
Image Credit: Del Rey

At this point, the Nikardun Destiny is preparing to welcome the Vak Combine as allies. However, having studied their culture’s art on Primea, Thrawn believes there is a chance the Combine might side with the Chiss against the Nikardun. He sends Thalias and Che’ri to return the stolen Vak fighter in an act of goodwill, and Yiv seizes the opportunity to capture the two, still believing Thalias to be Thrawn’s family hostage. This act outrages the Ascendancy, who orders Thrawn to rescue the skywalkers. 

Yiv demands Thrawn exchange himself for the captives and has Qilori transport Thrawn to Primea alone. As Thrawn makes his way to meet Yiv, Admiral Ar’alani arrives with the Chiss fleet and engages the Nikardun forces. The Vak fleet watches from a neutral position until a Nikardun commander fires on one of their vessels, causing the Combine to turn on the Destiny. Thrawn points out Yiv’s mistake in assuming the Vak’s loyalty and explains that the Vak consider an attack on an individual as an assault on their society at large. 

Thrawn disables Yiv before crashing his freighter to save Thalias and Che’ri. Thalias enacts the final part of Thrawn’s plan by unleashing the Nikardun’s own nerve gas on her captors.

With the Nikardun threat neutralized, we learn that a mysterious figure named Jixtus has been observing the Destiny’s conquest and is readying his own plans against the Chiss Ascendancy.

Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good
Image Credit: Del Rey

Whew! We told you a lot happened in Chaos Rising. Now that you’re all caught up, head over to our Discord and join the hype for Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good, releasing April 27, 2021.

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Michael Hilton is a time traveler from the future who’s come back to warn us of the impending literary apocalypse. A Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy author, he writes to stave off the coming wasteland of soulless fiction. One day his Wikipedia page will describe his warnings as “mildly prophetic” and “wildly exaggerated.” He is the author of the Bobby Robot series, a number of short stories, and publishes The Weekly Geek on michaelhiltonbooks.com. He lives on Earth but is thinking about moving soon.