At the end of February, I finished the third book in the Ascendancy trilogy, Lesser Evil. What a monster of a book that was! I thought the second book was a sprawling epic, but this one really took that idea and ran with it!
The book picks up almost immediately after the end of Greater Good, and we see Jixtus almost come out into the open this time, as he brings news of a dangerous alliance between some of the Chiss families, first to the Mitth, and then to the Clarr – a calculated move, as one of those families purported to be in alliance is the Dasklo family, deadly rivals of the Clarr, and so the wedge is driven further as internecine family politics begin to take over everywhere, including the navy.
Thrawn, always above family politics and forever putting his service to the Chiss Ascendancy first, does what he thinks he needs to do in order to end what he clearly sees is an attempt to drive his species to a disastrous civil war.
I’m finding it almost impossible to adequately provide a summary of the plot here, because there’s just so much of it, so let’s cut to the chase – spoilers ahead! Thrawn gathers his allies, Ar’alani etc, to Sunrise for a final showdown against Jixtus, and initially it seems the Chiss have indeed defeated themselves. However, Thrawn uses a gravity well projector to keep the Grysk ships in-system and trap them, which allows the comparatively lighter Chiss warships to virtually destroy the aliens. The Grysks self-destruct before being caught, as they are paranoid about anybody finding out about them. However, despite the fact that Thrawn was able to devise a plan to thwart this attempt on Chiss supremacy, it is decided that he is to be exiled, and draw all of the political heat from his colleagues.
Of course, the exile is a ruse for a fact-finding mission, as Thrawn has discovered a group of Neimoidians who have entered this region of space, fleeing the fallout of the Clone Wars and the emergence of the Empire. Thrawn determines to find out more about the Empire, and on it goes, roll credits.
This was a hell of a book, and the level of political in-fighting and back-and-forth was off the charts at times, as I was trying to keep up with which families were represented on which ships, etc! Sometimes, the level of selfish idiocy in the upper echelons of the Chiss did begin to astound me, particularly the actions of the Clarr patriarch! Thurfian seems to have moderated himself a little, now that he’s the Mitth patriarch, although I have read the entire trilogy and still don’t buy the reasoning for his wanting to bring down Thrawn.
There was a whole side quest with Thalias and gaining more understanding of the sky-walker program that I found really interesting, although some of it did seem a little bit like an info-dump just before the end, like it had been planned to be peppered more throughout the trilogy as a whole, but got forgotten and had to be wedged in somewhere. It was interesting, though, and while there was a part of me that felt it an unnecessary inclusion, the fact that Thalias meets Thrawn’s sister, and she has no desire to meet him because it would be pointless as she doesn’t know who he is, I did find quite emotional. Like, that’s a genuine reaction that I could imagine someone in her position having.
On a side note, the fact that Chiss core names appear to begin with the ending of their family name, so Thurfian from Mitth, for example, I did find quite silly at times. It was more pronounced in the last book, with the Xodlak family, I suppose, but I found it interesting that, if you’re at a family gathering, everybody’s name will begin the same way. Starting with a Th- might not be so distracting as starting with a Lak- of course, but it did make me wonder if a family could ever grow so large that they might conceivably run out of names?
I loved the inclusion of the Neimoidians at the end – a throwaway mention only, but it opened up a whole vista of possibility for me! I love the idea that other species who were caught up as perpetrators of the Clone Wars, like the Muun and the Koorivar, might also be going into exile at this time, and what that might mean.
Thrawn’s exile tiles very nicely into the next Thrawn trilogy, of course, which I’ve previously read (here, here and here!) It’s also worth mentioning that the plotline of Admiral Ar’alani pursuing any possible Grysk hideouts isn’t wrapped up until this trilogy, which I thought was quite interesting, especially as I’d forgotten about it until I’d finished reading this book!
Overall, I really enjoyed this trilogy, and I think I benefited a great deal by reading them back to back as I have. If I had tried to read them when they came out, I would most likely have forgotten a lot of details, because these books are literally dripping in the small stuff. It all very much needs a close reading to get the most out of it, I would say.