Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn
Review by Joshua S Hill
Set: 19 ABY
The Empire stands at the brink of total collapse. But they have saved their most heinous plan for last. First a plot is hatched that could destroy the New Republic in a bloodbath of genocide and civil war. Then comes the shocking news that Grand Admiral Thrawn—the most cunning and ruthless warlord in history—has apparently returned from the dead to lead the Empire to a long-prophesized victory. Facing incredible odds, Han and Leia begin a desperate race against time to prevent the New Republic from unraveling in the face of two inexplicable threats—one from within and one from without. Meanwhile, Luke teams up with Mara Jade, using the Force to track down a mysterious pirate ship with a crew of clones. Yet, perhaps most dangerous of all, are those who lurk in the shadows, orchestrating a dark plan that will turn the New Republic and the Empire into their playthings.
Master Star Wars storyteller Timothy Zahn returns with his Hand of Thrawn duology in Spectre of the Past, and reminds us just what good Star Wars novels look like.
Great characters such as Talon Karrde and Mara Jade are returned to the fore, as well as new ones who you just love to hate. The New Republic is thrown into chaos thanks to the Bothans, the self proclaimed heroes of the New Republic. Naturally, on the brink of having to surrender, the Empire throws its last roll of the dice into the mix, and everything suddenly hits the fan.
Halfway through the book the horrifying news is revealed, Grand Admiral Thrawn is back, but Grand Admiral Palleon doesn’t know a thing about it. Luke Skywalker is soon hot on the trail of a group of mysterious pilots who seem to be using clones, and are aided by Karrde and Mara Jade, who end up falling deeper and deeper into the chase themselves.
And naturally, Han and Leia are neck deep in it as well, trying to save the Republic as best they can while managing to keep their reputations intact, a job that doesn’t work too well early on.
Timothy Zahn is one of the reasons why I read Star Wars novels, and his continuing storyline continues in these books and really makes you live the Star Wars universe. The bad guys are real bad guys, and you love watching them get deeper into trouble. The good guys are good guys, and you are on the edge of your seat as they face trouble and hopefully get out of it.
If you’re looking for good Star Wars, this is where you should go (though wait a little while and we’ll have earlier Zahn books reviewed and why you should read those ones first).
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