Star Wars: Thrawn Books – The Complete ‘Heir to the Empire’ Reading Order

Star Wars: Thrawn - The Complete Reading Order

Continuing our series of articles on Grand Admiral Thrawn, we are going to go back to the roots of the character – the very sources that introduced the famed villain into George Lucas’ Star Wars universe. Timothy Zahn is an American science-fiction that introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn to the expanded Legends universe, which ultimately led to Thrawn’s inclusion in the current canon. Although Zahn contributed to the Legends universe with more than just his Thrawn stories, the four series of novels chronicling Thrawn’s endeavors in the Galaxy are certainly his best-known and most important works. In today’s article, we are going to present you the complete and proper reading order of the Grand Admiral Thrawn books, so enjoy!

When George Lucas launched the franchise in 1977, with the movie Star Wars (later titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope for continuity reasons), no one expected that it would become one of the biggest stories of the modern area. Star Wars wasn’t initially that successful, but as the years passed, the sci-fi franchise became a cult classic, attracting generations of fans and now encompassing nine main continuity movies, video games, several TV shows, comic books, and a variety of merchandise that made George Lucas famous. The franchise is today owned by Disney, but wherever it might go after the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars will undoubtedly remain one of the pivotal parts of modern culture.

Now, let us see the answer to the main question.

The Thrawn books series – (by order of publication)

The so-called Thrawn series of novels was started by Timothy Zahn in 1991 when the first novel of The Thrawn Trilogy was published. The first three novels were published from 1991 to 1993 and were succeeded by a duology that came out in 1997 and 1998. A new trilogy was published from 2017 to 2019 and a prequel trilogy was published between 2020 and 2021. So, there is a total of nine Thrawn novels published so far, with two on the way. This is how it looks summarised:

  • Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy (1991-1993)
    • Heir to the Empire (1991); an edited and annotated edition was published in 2011.
    • Dark Force Rising (1992)
    • The Last Command (1993)
  • Star Wars: The Hand of Thrawn Duology (1997-1998)
    • Specter of the Past (1997)
    • Vision of the Future (1998)
  • Star Wars: Thrawn (2017-2019)
    • Thrawn (2017)
    • Thrawn: Alliances (2018)
    • Thrawn: Treason (2019)
  • Star Wars: The Ascendancy Trilogy (2020-2021)
    • Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising (2020)
    • Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good (2021)
    • Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil (2021)

The novels Survivor’s Quest (2004) and Outbound Flight (2005) also included Thrawn, but since he is not the main character, we are not going to include them on our list. The above list is a summary of all the Thrawn novels in the order they have been published. This reading order is as good as any other, but if you want the narrative to fit chronologically, you can check out our detailed, chronological reading guide and order in the following section.


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The Thrawn series – chronological reading order

As already noted, the Thrawn books were not published in chronological order. In fact, Zahn started off with books set after the fall of the Empire, only to revisit Thrawn’s history in the more recent books. This is why we have decided to give you the chronological reading order of these books, if you prefer to read your stories like that:

NOTE: The synopses of the books are official publishers’ summaries that are included in the novel.

Prequel stories

Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising (2020)

Thrawn ascendancy - Thrawn books

Date of Publication: September 1, 2020
Series: Thrawn Ascendancy
Timeline: 19 BBY

Discover Thrawn’s origins within the Chiss Ascendancy in the first book in an epic new Star Wars trilogy from bestselling author Timothy Zahn. Beyond the edge of the galaxy lie the Unknown Regions: chaotic, uncharted, and near impassable, possessing hidden secrets and dangers in equal measure. And nestled within their swirling chaos is the Ascendancy, home to the enigmatic Chiss and the Nine Ruling Families that lead them.

The peace of the Ascendancy, a beacon of calm and stability, is shattered after a daring attack on the Chiss capital that reveals no trace of the enemy. Baffled, the Ascendancy dispatches one of its brightest young military officers to root out the unseen assailants — a recruit born of no title but adopted into the powerful family of the Mitth and given the name Thrawn. With the might of the Expansionary Fleet at his back and aided by his comrade, Admiral Ar’alani, Thrawn begins to piece together the answers he’s looking for. But as Thrawn’s first command probes deeper into the vast stretch of space his people call the Chaos, he realizes that the mission he has been given is not what it seems. And the threat to the Ascendancy is only just beginning.

Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good (2021)


Date of Publication: April 27, 2021
Series: Thrawn Ascendancy
Timeline: c. 18 BBY

Thrawn and his allies race to save the Chiss Ascendancy from an unseen enemy in the second book in the epic Star Wars: The Ascendancy Trilogy from bestselling author Timothy Zahn. Thrawn’s latest triumph still rests newly on his shoulders. Despite leading the Chiss to victory and bringing glory to the House of Mitth, the true threat to the Ascendancy has not yet been extinguished. Their foes do not send threats or ultimatums, or mass ships on the edge of the Chaos.

Their weapons come cloaked in smiles and generosity — gifts offered freely, services granted unconditionally. Across the Ascendancy, seemingly inconsequential events could herald the doom of the Chiss. As Thrawn and the Expansionary Defense Fleet rally to uncover the enemy plot, they discover a chilling truth. Rather than invade Chiss capitals or pillage resources, this mysterious enemy strikes at the very foundation of the Ascendancy by widening the rifts between the Nine Ruling Families and Forty Great Houses below. As rivalry and suspicion sow discord among allies, each warrior must decide what matters most: the security of their family, or the survival of the Ascendancy itself.

Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil (2021)


Date of Publication: November 16, 2021
Series: Thrawn Ascendancy
Timeline: c. 18 BBY (present) / Between c. 39 BBY and 19 BBY (flashbacks)

In Timothy Zahn’s dramatic conclusion to the Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy, the future of the Chiss Ascendancy is in jeopardy. The Chiss Ascendancy has served as a hub of power, a haven of tranquility, and a lighthouse of morality for millennia. They are governed by the Nine Ruling Families, whose stability serves as a defense when faced with the Chaos of the Unknown Regions. But a crafty adversary who attacks both loyalty and trust equally has weakened that stability. Families are now divided by lines rather than by loyalties.


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The Expansionary Defense Fleet tries its best, but the Ascendancy is getting closer and closer to civil conflict. The Chiss have experience fighting. Through conflict and awful acts, some of which were long-forgotten, they attained their legendary place in Chaos. Before now. Thrawn will dive into his past and reveal the sinister mysteries of the ascent of the First Ruling Family in order to secure the future of the Ascendancy. The strength of a family’s history, however, depends on the tale that surrounds it. even if it turns out that the myth is false. Is Thrawn prepared to give up everything to ensure the Ascendancy’s salvation? the only house he has ever known included?

The Empire stories

Thrawn (2017)


Date of Publication: April 11, 2017
Series: Thrawn
Timeline: Between 13 and 11 BBY–2 BBY

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in Star Wars. From his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire, through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond, Grand Admiral Thrawn has earned an iconic status among Star Wars’ greatest villains. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious.

Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power — and infamy. After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated.

On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again — even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral — and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy— and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.

Thrawn: Alliances (2018)

Thrawn Alliances cover

Date of Publication: July 24, 2018
Series: Thrawn
Timeline: 19 BBY (Past), Between 2 BBY and 0 BBY (Present)

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader ally against a threat to the Empire in this new novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn. ‘I have sensed a disturbance in the Force’ – ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root — its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs — including the Death Star project — the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects. In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, an officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time.

One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown… and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers in a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance — neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store. Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged — by a test of their allegiance to the Empire… and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

Thrawn: Treason (2019)


Date of Publication: July 23, 2019
Series: Thrawn
Timeline: 0 BBY

Grand Admiral Thrawn faces the ultimate test of his loyalty to the Empire in this epic Star Wars novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn. ‘If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance’, such was the promise of Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting.

Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive. Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency.


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Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets. As Thrawn works to secure his place in the Imperial hierarchy, his former protégé Eli Vanto returns with a dire warning about Thrawn’s homeworld. Thrawn’s mastery of strategy must guide him through an impossible choice: duty to the Chiss Ascendancy, or fealty to the Empire he has sworn to serve. Even if the right choice means committing treason.

Post-Empire stories

Heir to the Empire (1991)


Date of Publication: May 1, 1992
Series: The Thrawn Trilogy
Timeline: 9 ABY

Here is the science fiction publishing event of the year: the exciting continuation of the legendary Star Wars saga. Picking up where the movie trilogy left off, Heir to the Empire reveals the tumultuous events that take place after the most popular series in motion-picture history — masterfully told by Hugo Award-winning author Timothy Zahn.

In the spring of 1977, a film called Star Wars was released — and a cultural phenomenon was born. Its epic story, about a young man named Luke Skywalker, whose destiny was to save the galaxy from conquest, caught the imaginations of millions and broke all box-office records. Today Star Wars and its sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, are acknowledged as the most popular series in movie history, and rank among the top ten films of all time. The three Star Wars films form a spectacular saga of bold imagination and high adventure. But the stories of its characters did not end there.


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Now for the first time, Lucasfilm Ltd., producer of the Star Wars movies, has authorized the continuation of this beloved story. In an astounding three-book cycle, Timothy Zahn continues the tale of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and the other characters made world famous by Star Wars, as he brilliantly expands upon George Lucas’s stunning vision, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. ” Heir to the Empire begins five years after the end of Return of the Jedi: the Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and driven the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet back into barely a quarter of the territory that they once controlled.

Leia and Han are married and have shouldered heavy burdens in the government of the new Republic. And Luke Skywalker is the first in a hoped-for new line of Jedi Knights. But thousands of light-years away, where a few skirmishes are still taking place, the last of the Emperor’s warlords has taken command of the remains of the Imperial fleet. He has made two vital discoveries that could destroy the fragile new Republic — built with such cost to the Rebel Alliance. The tale that emerges is a towering epic of action, invention, mystery, and spectacle on a galactic scale — in short, a story that is worthy of the name Star Wars.

Dark Force Rising (1992)


Date of Publication: May 1, 1992
Series: The Thrawn Trilogy
Timeline: 9 ABY

The number-one New York Times bestselling Heir to the Empire was the publishing event of the year, the first novel to continue the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo, beyond the events of the most popular trilogy in movie history. Now comes Dark Force Rising, the second volume of a three-book cycle authorized by Lucasfilm Ltd. and written by Hugo Award-winning author Timothy Zahn.

Five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the fragile Republic that was born with the defeat of Darth Vader, the Emperor, and the infamous Death Star stands threatened from within and without. The dying Empire’s most cunning and ruthless warlord — Grand Admiral Thrawn — has taken command of the remnants of the Imperial fleet and launched a massive campaign aimed at the Republic’s destruction. With the aid of unimaginable weapons long hidden away by the Emperor on a backwater planet, Thrawn plans to turn the tide of the battle, overwhelm the New Republic, and impose his iron rule throughout the galaxy.

Meanwhile, dissension and personal ambition threaten to tear the Republic apart. As Princess Leia — pregnant with Jedi twins — risks her life to bring a proud and lethal alien race into an alliance with the Republic, Han and Lando Calrissian race against time to find proof of treason inside the highest Republic Council — only to discover instead a ghostly fleet of warships that could bring doom to their friends and victory to their enemies. But most dangerous of all is a new Dark Jedi, risen from the ashes of a shrouded past, consumed by bitterness … and thoroughly, utterly insane.

Now he schemes to use his awesome mastery of the Force to summon young Skywalker, allay his misgivings, cunningly enthrall him, and ultimately corrupt him to the Dark Side. A tale of brilliant spectacle, startling revelations, and tumultuous action, Dark Force Rising moves with the speed of light across a dazzling epic landscape of galactic proportions, from world to world, from adventure to adventure, as Good and Evil clash across the vastness of space ‘a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ….’

The Last Command (1993)


Date of Publication: April 1, 1993
Series: The Thrawn Trilogy
Timeline: 9 ABY

Heir to the Empire was a number-one New York Times bestseller and the science-fiction publishing event of the year. Dark Force Rising continued the gripping new adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and the other heroes of the most popular trilogy in movie history. Now the saga concludes with The Last Command, the climactic volume of a three-book cycle authorized by Lucasfilm Ltd. and written by Hugo Award-winning author Timothy Zahn.

It is five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The fragile New Republic reels from the attacks of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has not only rallied the remaining Imperial forces but has driven the rebels back with an abominable new technology: clone soldiers. Hopes are dim as Thrawn mounts a final siege against the Republic. While Han and Chewbacca struggle to form a wary alliance of smugglers in a last-ditch attack against the Empire, Leia keeps the Alliance together and prepares for the birth of her Jedi twins. But the Empire has too many ships and too many clones to combat.


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The Republic’s only hope lies in sending a small force, led by Luke, into the very stronghold that houses Thrawn’s terrible cloning machines. There a final danger awaits. The Dark Jedi C’baoth schemes in his secret fortress, directing the battle against the rebels, nursing his insanity, and building his strength to finish what he had already started — the destruction of Luke Skywalker. An odyssey of fast-paced action, stunning revelation, and final confrontation, The Last Command spans a galaxy in flames — a tale that will conclude in this third and last installment as Good and Evil battle a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …. ‘

Specter of the Past (1997)

Specter of the Past cover

Date of Publication: November 3, 1997
Series: The Hand of Thrawn
Timeline: 19 ABY

From Hugo Award-winning author Timothy Zahn, whose unprecedented bestselling trilogy continued the saga of George Lucas’ blockbuster films and became a landmark in the history of science fiction publishing, comes Specter of the Past, the first in the epic two-volume series The Hand of Thrawn. Now Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo must battle to safeguard the fledgling New Republic from a dead Imperial warlord — and from itself.

Once the unquestioned master of countless solar systems, the Empire is tottering on the brink of total collapse. Once commanding an invincible armada of Star Destroyers, its fleet has been reduced to a skeleton force. Day by day, neutral systems are rushing to join the New Republic coalition. But with the end of the war in sight, the New Republic has fallen victim to its own success. An unwieldy alliance of races and traditions, the confederation now finds itself riven by age-old animosities. Princess Leia struggles against all odds to hold the New Republic together. But she has powerful enemies. An ambitious Moff Disra leads a conspiracy to divide the uneasy coalition with an ingenious plot to blame the Bothans for a heinous crime that could lead to genocide and civil war.

At the same time, Luke Skywalker, along with Lando Calrissian and Talon Karrde, pursues a mysterious group of pirate ships whose crews consist of clones. And then comes the most startling news of all: Grand Admiral Thrawn — believed to be dead for ten years — is reported alive. The most cunning and ruthless warlord in Imperial history has seemingly returned to lead the Empire to triumph. As Han and Leia try to prevent the unraveling of the New Republic in the face of this fearful and inexplicable threat from the past, Luke sets out to track down the rogue pirate ships.

To do so, he will team up with Mara Jade, with whom he will share his growing mastery of the force and the ever-present threat of the dark side. All the while, lurking in the shadows is the enigmatic Major Tierce, a disciple of Emperor Palpatine, sharing his long-dead master’s lust for power, schooled in the devious stratagems of Thrawn himself, and armed with his own dark plans for the New Republic and the Empire.

Vision of the Future (1998)


Date of Publication: September 1, 1998
Series: The Hand of Thrawn
Timeline: 19 ABY

Vision of the Future is the second book in the epic two-volume series The Hand of Thrawn from Timothy Zahn, the bestselling, Hugo Award-winning author of the original landmark trilogy based on George Lucas’s legendary Star Wars films. Now the story begun in Specter of the Past comes to an explosive conclusion as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo are thrust into the middle of impending civil war — and discover the shocking truth behind the rumored resurrection of the dead Admiral Thrawn.

For a beleaguered Empire, desperate times call for desperate measures. Sowing discord among the fragile coalition of the New Republic, remnants of the once powerful Empire make one last play for victory. Having implicated the Bothans in the genocide of the Caamasi, they now plan an attack on Han and Leia that is also blamed on the Bothans. If they are successful, the New Republic will be torn asunder. To prevent inevitable disaster, Luke, Leia, Han, and their friends must prove the Bothans innocent and reveal the Empire’s treachery.


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But time is running out. The cunning Major Tierce has joined with the ambitious Moff Disra in the Empire’s master plan. At its heart lies the most elaborate con of all: the rumor that the legendary Grand Admiral Thrawn, long believed dead, has returned to lead the Empire to a prophesied triumph. The news of Thrawn’s return is already rallying Imperial forces against the New Republic. As Leia travels to a secret rendezvous with an Imperial commander who claims to want peace, Han and Lando Calrissian journey into enemy territory to learn the truth of Caamas’s destruction.

Meanwhile, Luke and Mara Jade infiltrate a hidden fortress where Thrawn’s most fanatical followers await his call to arms. And Talon Karrde returns to his underworld past and a brutal crime lord whose knowledge may save the Republic. But it is the truth about Thrawn that is most important. In his hands — alive or dead — rests the fate of the New Republic. Vision of the Future is the magnificent finale to one of the most suspenseful, action-packed, and thought-provoking Star Wars stories yet. It is a masterful re-creation that captures the magic and adventure of the greatest science fiction saga of all time.

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