The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Thrawn: Ascendancy – Lesser Evil

By George Bate

It’s fitting that, in the 30th anniversary of Timothy Zahn’s groundbreaking Heir to the Empire, the acclaimed author caps off another Thrawn trilogy in characteristically epic fashion. Thrawn Ascendancy – Lesser Evil sees the titular character’s origins within the Chiss Ascendancy draw to a close picking up after the events of its predecessor Greater Good. The book centers on the conflict between the Chiss Ascendancy and the villainous Jixtus, an intriguing character first introduced at the end of Chaos Rising.

Lesser Evil triumphs in the same manner Chaos Rising and Greater Good triumphed – telling a Star Wars story with (mostly) entirely new characters in an entirely unexplored sect of the galaxy. This novel territory made Chaos Rising a bit of challenge to get into, but, come this third installment, Zahn has managed to craft a story that feels so distinct from the Star Wars stories we’re used to experiencing.

Zahn’s novel also follows its predecessors in spinning a tale filled to the brim with political intrigue. Greater Good focused on a mysterious and insidious enemy’s attempts to tear the Chiss Ascendancy apart from the inside, and Lesser Evil continues this theme. This time around, Jixtus teams up with a sect of religious zealots called Kilji. Meanwhile, Thrawn’s moves on this intricate chessboard are detailed through the eyes of those closest to him. Needless to say, following the political back-and-forth is by far the best aspect of Lesser Evil.

Lesser Evil’s take on Thrawn continues an interesting trend for the Ascendancy trilogy. Thrawn, as depicted in the original 1990s novels and in Star Wars Rebels, is a clear-cut villain. Complex, yes, but still a villain. The Thrawn depicted here is secretive and slightly distanced from the reader, yet is definitely more of an anti-hero than a villain. The depiction of Thrawn as an anti-hero feels somewhat discrepant from the villain we love to hate later on in canon, especially considering that it appears Thrawn will make his live-action debut as a big bad guy sooner rather than later. Lesser Evil overcomes this potential pitfall, however, by feeling so distant (both in chronology and geography) from other adventures of Thrawn. This is still very much an origin story that is allowed some liberty as the events of Star Wars: Thrawn have not kicked into gear yet.


Lesser Evil is a more than satisfying conclusion to Timothy Zahn’s latest Thrawn trilogy. Zahn intelligently weaves together the political threads of a fairly complex and foreign story, while continuing to shed light on the infamous Chiss leader. Although the titular character’s portrayal as an anti-hero still makes him seem a little too different from the character we eventually see in canon, Lesser Evil succeeds in telling a story that feels refreshingly distant from the Star Wars universe we’re used to seeing.

Images courtesy of Del Rey Books

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