ast month, Timothy Zahn’s third and final book in the Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy concluded the story of Thrawn’s rise and fall among the Chiss species. Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil takes place before readers met him chronologically in Zahn’s first canon novel and effectively builds a bridge between the two trilogies.
Here is Youtini’s official recap of Lesser Evil to help you navigate and further appreciate the story in detail.
In an earlier time, Thrawn meets Thrass, a Mitth syndic, to be welcomed into the Mitth family. Thrass is impressed with some of Thrawn’s peculiar skills and is tasked with ensuring Thrawn does not get reassigned to the Stybla family, who is interested in him. In the process, Thrass realizes he genuinely cares for Thrawn.
Over the years, the bond between the two Chiss grows. They begin to work as a team. One mission in particular helps to cement their partnership, when they are asked to recover a stolen item for the Styblas. At a key point in this mission, Thrass refers to Thrawn as his brother to gain a tactical advantage.
Upon succeeding in their mission, the object they recover is revealed to be a piece of a legendary weapon, called Starflash, that the Styblas discovered in Lesser Space thousands of years before. It’s described as an energy weapon that fires into a sun to create a massive expulsion of energy, destroying everything around it. The weapon was used once before by the Chiss to defeat an alien army invading the Ascendancy. Afterwards, its existence was kept a secret from all but the Patriarchs and their senior aides who passed down the secret to each subsequent Patriarch. However, firing the weapon into Csilla’s sun caused it to weaken. This is why Csilla is ice-covered and why the Chiss have moved underground.
As thanks for Thrawn’s success, the Styblas set up a ceremony to add the honorary suffix “odo” to Thrawn’s name. At the ceremony, Mitth Patriarch Thooraki divulges that he had hoped Thrawn and Thrass would form a team after noting their complementary skill sets.Thrass and Thrawn discuss their bond and realize that, while they are not blood relatives, they do, in fact, consider each other brothers.
Years later, Thrass meets his untimely demise aboard a crashing ship, thus bringing his partnership with Thrawn to an end.
Jumping ahead in the timeline, just after the battle for the nyix mine between the Chiss families in Greater Good, Thrawn travels aboard the Springhawk to the planet Zyzek based on a hunch. There, he finds Generalirius Nakirre, leader of the Kilji Illumine, accompanied by the mysterious Jixtus, with a small force of amassed ships.
Thrawn puts out a call and, despite Jixtus’ warnings, Nakirre answers. He reveals that he seeks to spread Kilji enlightenment throughout the galaxy. When Thrawn rejects his offer of enlightenment, Nakirre vows to destroy the Chiss. Jixtus, however, warns that they must infiltrate other species before taking on the Ascendancy.
Back on Csilla, Supreme General Bak’if is summoned by the Stybla family Patriarch, Lamiov, to the headquarters for the Universal Analysis Group, or “UAG,” a group responsible for collecting, guarding, and studying alien technology. Bak’if is asked to inspect new technology that Thrawn has returned which he believes can predict when ships will exit hyperspace. Bak’if is appalled to learn that Thrawn has the Magys, an alien matriarch, in a hibernation chamber aboard the Springhawk and immediately authorizes him to return her to her home planet, Sunrise.
Elsewhere, Ar’alani and her crew return to the final Nikardun base and discover ships trying to dismantle it. Ar’alani succeeds in chasing them off and sends a boarding party to investigate.
New Mitth Patriarch Thurfian meets with Zistalmu to discuss their ongoing plans for Thrawn’s downfall. His senior aide, Thivik, grows concerned for Thurfian’s priorities.
Caretaker Thalias is approached by Thivik who gives her a message left to her by ex-Patriarch Thooraki. She isn’t told what it is–only that she will know what to do with it when the time is right.
Jixtus reveals a massive Grysk warship, the FateSpinner, to Nakirre and makes it clear that the Grysks are the masters of the Kilji rather than vice versa. He then travels to Ascendancy space and begins offering Chiss families a holo that appears to show a staged fight between the Xodlak, Dasklo, and Erighal families. He claims it is evidence of a new alliance that threatens the power balance of the Ascendancy.
Roscu, of the Clarr family, is one such Chiss approached by Jixtus. She presents the holo to her Patriarch and is ordered to further investigate.
The Expansionary Defense Fleet is placed on high alert due to Jixtus’ appearance, and ships are mobilized to better protect the Ascendancy
Che’ri begins having nightmares about the destruction of Sunrise…despite having never seen the planet. Thalias and Thrawn grow concerned that the Magys is somehow communicating with her from within her hibernation chamber.
The Springhawk travels to Rappac and happens upon Kilji forces about to clash with a Nikardun ship. Thrawn provokes the Kiljis and defeats them, but one ship escapes. It’s revealed that Uingali, Thrawn’s Paccian ally, is commanding the Nikardun ship, which he took over in service of his own people. In the aftermath of the skirmish, the Chiss notice a single escape pod that was launched and capture it. Aboard, they find none other than Qilori of Uandulon, who had been navigating for the Kiljis under orders from Jixtus. Thrawn forces Qilori use his hyperspace abilities to follow the escaped Kilji ship.
Thrawn hatches a plan with Uingali aboard the Nikardun ship and sends the Springhawk back to the Ascendancy. He intends to provoke an attack by Jixtus that will convince the Aristocra to fight back, but he does not wish to incriminate his entire crew.
Shortly thereafter, acting Captain Samakro is alerted that the Springhawk is lost. He confronts Thalias who reveals that Che’ri was secretly following Thrawn to Sunrise rather than returning to the Ascendancy as ordered. She is so terrified by the visions the Magys is sending her that Samakro obliges.
Around the Ascendancy, skirmishes begin breaking out between families. Roscu’s Clarr ship is ambushed by what appear to be other Chiss ships, but the attackers self-destruct when they are defeated.
Ar’alani, Bak’if, and Ziinda (formerly known as Lakinda) realize that aliens must be counterfeiting Chiss ships in an effort to incite conflict. They realize the Nikardun base may have been responsible. However, Roscu is convinced her family’s biggest rivals, the Dasklo, are responsible, and begins touring their worlds, looking for evidence. Bak’if sends Ziinda to prevent conflict from breaking out between the two families.
Thrawn, aboard the Nikardun ship, arrives at Sunrise to find the escaped Kilji ship alongside a Grysk ship. A battle ensues and Thrawn and the Paccosh are able to chase off the Grysks. They are also able to gather some intel from the Kilji ship before it is destroyed. The Springhawk arrives, but Thrawn quickly sends them back to the Ascendancy with their new intel.
Ar’Alani meets with Yiv the Benevolent in a Chiss prison deep underground. She convinces him that he was betrayed by Jixtus. Yiv agrees to give up all the information he has on Jixtus and the Grysks, but only in return for exile.
In her attempt to incriminate the Dasklos, Roscu is nearly killed by a Grysk missile launcher disguised as an asteroid, however Ziinda is able to save her.
Roscu is scalded by her Patriarch for failing to expose the Dasklos and reveals that he has made moves to empower the Clarr family. Roscu discovers a huge fleet of alien warships and realizes that her family is working with Jixtus. After a narrow escape, she realizes that her family is headed toward ruin.
Back on Sunrise, Thrawn successfully takes over the Grysk mining colony. He surmises that Sunrise’s true prize was not the nyix, but rather the Magys due to her ability to “touch the Beyond.” He believes Jixtus hoped to use her ability to help win wars.
Qilori reports Thrawn’s actions to Jixtus who believes Thrawn is trying to use the Magys for the Chiss.
Using the information she received from Thooraki, Thalias visits a secret facility called the Seekers’ Shadehouse where sky-walkers are trained. She hopes to get answers from its director, Borika, about Che’ri’s connection to the Magys. Though Borika attempts to brush off questions, Thalias eventually reveals that she knows Borika is actually Thrawn’s sister. Borika tells Thalias about a process called “fading,” the intentional erasure of all of a sky-walker’s memories that is performed to keep them under better control by the Chiss military. Before Thalias can learn more, she is urgently ordered back to the Springhawk. She tries to convince Borika to come along to meet Thrawn, but is refused.
As more fights between families break out across the Ascendancy, the Expansionary Defense Fleet forces are recalled to Naporar.
Thrawn goes to the UAG and alerts Lamiov and Bak’if to Jixtus’s plan. He requests access to alien technology to help him stop him. Thrawn then sends word to his most trusted colleagues, imploring them to rendezvous with him rather than return to Naporar. Ar’alani, Ziinda, and even Roscu answer the call.
Thalias and Samakro go to Thurfian in an attempt to get aid for Thrawn, but Thurfian refuses. Understanding the severity of the situation, Thalias pulls out a concealed weapon and threatens Thurfian to get what Thrawn needs.
The Circle of Unity—a gathering of the Nine Ruling Family’s Patriarchs—takes place. Thurfian convinces the Patriarchs to send forces to Sunrise to bring Thrawn back for judgement.
The Magys escalates her tactics and entirely takes over Che’ri’s body to speak through her. She predicts a horrible battle which can only be won if she uses Che’ri as a conduit to see the future. Samakro threatens to bombard Sunrise and the Magys relents.
Qilori returns to Jixtus to guide the amassed Grysk fleet to Sunrise for the final battle. However, upon arriving, they discover the Chiss fleet floating dead in space.
Jixtus believes to have found the aftermath of the Ascendancy trying to apprehend Thrawn. He reaches Thrawn on the comms, who tells Nakirre that the entire Kilji Killhorde has been eliminated by the Pataatus. Nakirre blames Jixtus and tries to attack him, but Jixtus kills him. When he does, all the Kilji vassals on the ship collapse. Suddenly, the entire Chiss fleet comes back to life in a maneuver they had been practicing for days. Thrawn offers Jixtus a chance to surrender, but Jixtus instead takes an escape pod to the FateSpinner, leaving Qilori alone on the dead Kilji ship.
A tremendous battle commences. The Chiss employ a gravity well generator that Thrawn took from the UAG to manipulate the movements of ships, but Jixtus is able to figure it out and stop them.
In a key moment, Vak Combine and Garwian Unity fighters suddenly appear from an asteroid cluster nearby where they had been lying in wait. They help turn the tide of the battle in favor of the Chiss.
Jixtus realizes the battle is lost and attempts to escape the system, but Qilori moves to stop him. He commands the Kilji vassals back to attention and declares himself their new master. He orders the ship to fire on the FateSpinner with all its power.
The FateSpinner is disabled and Jixtus is defeated. He offers a final threat against Thrawn and the whole of the Chiss Ascendancy, but then all the Grysk ships self-destruct.
In the aftermath of the battle, the main characters find themselves acclimating to a new normal. Roscu has become a figurehead for the disgraced Clarr family. Thalias and Che’ri return to the Seeker’s Shadehouse with Borika in an attempt to understand her connection to the Magys. Samakro is promoted to senior captain and given back command of the Springhawk.
A tribunal is held and Thrawn is sentenced for what are considered crimes against the Ascendancy, including unprovoked attacks and military alliances with other alien species. He loses his position in the Expansionary Defense Fleet as well as his status as a merit adoptive in the Mitth family. He is then sentenced to exile on an uninhabited world to spend the rest of his days.
Afterwards, Bak’if reveals that Thrawn’s fate was actually his idea. While he knew exile would appease the Aristocra and spare the remainder of the involved Chiss, it was also a plan to allow Thrawn to continue his fight against the Chiss. While Thrawn will be cut off from the Ascendancy, he will have the opportunity to seek out General Skywalker in the new Galactic Empire where he can continue working on understanding, and eventually overcoming, the Grysk threat.
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This book recap was written by Charles Hanckel and edited by Meg Dowell.