Star Wars: The Last Command is the third book in a series that has been referred to as “The Thrawn Trilogy”. The series is not considered to be cannon, which is a shame, because it is an excellent story.
I would highly recommend that people who are interested in this book take the time to read Star Wars: Heir to the Empire the first book of the trilogy and Star Wars: Dark Force Rising before beginning Star Wars: The Last Command. The entire trilogy reads like one, big, story. You will miss out on some very important information if you skipped right to the third book.
The entire series is impressive. Timothy Zahn took known characters, gave them a brand new adventure, and managed to keep them true to themselves. There are exciting space battles, political intrigue, and a lot of “thinking outside of the box”. All the loose ends from the previous two books got resolved, and I found that to be very satisfying. Some of what I put into this review might be considered to be “spoilers”. Read at your own risk.
At the beginning of this book, the New Republic has just realized that the Empire has started using clones. Of course, no one in the New Republic likes this idea. One huge concern is that the Empire has found a way to quickly grow their military and to do it faster than the New Republic could ever hope to. This is extremely bad news, especially since it means that the Empire will be able to man the ships from the Katana fleet that they took control of in a recent battle.
Another issue that the New Republic is trying to resolve is the question of who, or what, Delta Source is. They know that Delta Source is leaking important information to the Empire. I found it really interesting to watch the problem solving that the characters go through as they work though this puzzle.
They are aided by Ghent, who is a young and extremely talented computer code expert that came from Talon Karrde’s crew. Together, he, Leia, Senator Bel Ibis (who was introduced in the previous book) and Winter (Leia’s aide) try to find Delta Source without letting anyone else know what they are doing. In the end, it is Leia who discovers that answer – and it sure was an unexpected one. Whomever originally placed Delta Source (probably Emperor Palpatine, who died before the events in this trilogy take place) was brilliant. I didn’t see the solution to this problem coming.
Going back to Ghent for a moment, he’s with the New Republic in part because Mara Jade is there. She got severely injured in the previous battle, and had been rescued by Luke Skywalker. Mara Jade had extensive injuries and was in a coma for months while she recovered. When she wakes, she is shocked to learn that she is in the New Republic’s capitol building – which just so happened to be the same building used by Emperor Palpatine years ago. This matters, because Mara Jade had a connection to him.
Mara Jade is one of the most interesting characters in the series, and she really develops in this third book. She still feels very compelled to kill Luke Skywalker, despite the fact that he saved her life. The Emperor placed that command into her head shortly before he died. She spent most of her life believing that the urge to kill Luke Skywalker was something she, herself, wanted to do because he “ruined her life”.
By book three of the series, she’s starting to question that. Mara Jade opens up to Leia Organa Solo and tells her, flat out, that she wants to kill Luke Skywalker. Mara insists that she is fully intending to carry out that plan. Leia should be upset by this revelation, but instead, she accepts it. She also accepts Mara as she is, something Mara Jade did not expect. The two women don’t become best friends, but they do start to form a bond. One thing that they have in common is that each is working on developing their skills as a Jedi.
By the end of the book, Mara Jade has carried out her mission to kill Luke Skywalker, and it frees her. That may sound like a huge “spoiler”, but it’s not. How this happens, and the end result, is not something I expected at all. I didn’t see this coming until shortly before it happened. It is a brilliant solution to the difficult problem that Timothy Zahn created in this character.
I also liked that Zahn didn’t feel the need to turn Mara Jade into another character’s love interest. Over the course of the trilogy, Mara Jade goes from being an angry, frustrated, woman who lost her identity when Emperor Palpatine died, to a strong, secure, Jedi who can finally believe in herself and start trusting a few close friends. She is more than enough on her own.
The title of this book includes the words “The Last Command”. Of course, this relates to Grand Admiral Thrawn, who is still fighting the New Republic. It also relates to C’baoth, the dark Jedi who desperately wants to take control over Luke, Leia, and her newborn Jedi twins. (Over the course of book two, he decides that he wants Mara Jade as well). C’baoth and Thrawn had reluctantly been working together, but this tenuous relationship has unraveled. Part of the problem is that each man believes that he is the one in charge of the Empire.
By the end of the book, everything is resolved. Talon Karrde finally picks a side, and the reader gets a more detailed glimpse into how the smugglers “culture” functions. There is an epic battle between C’baoth and all of the main characters (Luke, Mara, Leia, Han, Lando, Chewie, Threepio, and Artoo) that results in a clear victory. The question about whether or not the Empire was growing clones is resolved – and taken care of. The unfair relationship between Thrawn and the Noghri is decisively changed, for ever.
I highly recommend “The Thawn Trilogy”. I’ve never read any Star Wars books before, but my knowledge of the characters from the movies made it really easy for me to pick up this series, understand who the characters were, and even picture them in my head as the events in the book happened. As I’ve said before, the trilogy feels like one long book with a very satisfying ending.