BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Before the Clone Wars fully erupt, the Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth wishes to lead an expedition (called Outbound Flight) beyond the Republic’s borders and explore the unknown reaches of space, but Darth Sidious wishes that mission to fail. Meanwhile, we meet a new alien race (Chiss Ascendancy) with a charismatic and capable officer named Thrawn, and he finds himself crossing paths with Outbound Flight.
PROS: We learn about Thrawn and his background in the uncharted territories.
CONS: It had to include Obi-wan and Anakin in the story when it could have progressed fine without them.
BOTTOM LINE: The book really helps to round out some of the story elements in his previous Thrawn books, and is a solid Star Wars book.
This novel takes place in the time of the Republic between The Phantom Menance and Attack of the Clones, and involves at least two distinct threads that intertwine very well at the end. At many times, I wondered exactly how the events occuring inside the Republic would ever come into conflict with those in the Unknown Territories. Mr. Zahn does a great job of weaving those together in a fashion that was not completely expected. He also managed to get some foreshadowing in for the New Jedi Order series of books that take place after the Empire falls. (I am reminded by a Bloom County comic where the discussion of foreshadowing represents quality literature :))
The writing style is very fluid and flows well. The battle scenes are written to feel fast paced and exciting – much like you would expect in the Star Wars universe. The characters are well done with emphasis put upon C’baoth and the younger Thrawn. It is very hard to not feel some amount of respect or even appreciation of Thrawn, and while I realize later in this universe he will be the antagonist – he is a likable character.
Now even given all this praise, I was slightly dismayed to see that both Anakin and Obi-Wan had to be included in the book. They offer some conflict with the C’baoth character, but that role could have been offered by another character and I believe it would have worked better. Combine this with the lack of closure on at least two characters (not including the folks who are covered in Survivor’s Quest), and I felt the book let me down somewhat.
In conclusion, the book is pretty good, and if you are a Star Wars fan-person or really enjoyed the earlier Thrawn books, this is a must read.