Timothy Zahn is generally hailed as started the rebirth of the Star Wars Extended Universe and the first author in the publishing juggernaut that is Star Wars tie in fiction. The cause: his original Thrawn trilogy: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command. While this trilogy is considered a high point in Star Wars fiction and I accept that it is notable for the influence it has had, I thought it was decent enough but nothing which made me jump up and get excited about Star Wars.
Karen Traviss, Matthew Stover, Michael Stackpole, and Aaron Allston, on the other hand...they get me excited to read Star Wars fiction.
So, I was surprised that The Hand of Thrawn duology sucked me in so well. These are two novels which are less focused that the original Thrawn novels and there are side plots a plenty about this new threat to the New Republic. This time it really does feel like the Republic could fall apart in Civil War, unlike other threats to the New Republic. And then there is the rumor the Grand Admiral Thrawn is back.
Over some 1200 pages and two novels Zahn lets the main characters learn more about the threat and work to stop it as well as discover whether or not Thrawn is truly back (he died in The Last Command).
But for all the pages spent, the ending was rushed. How you rush an ending after 1200 pages is beyond me, but then Tad Williams did the same thing in his epic fantasy Memory, Sorrow, Thorn, and that was after nearly 3000 pages. That's not quite fair, Tad spent a long time building towards that ending...I think I'm just bitter because of the pure disappointment that ending was.
Back to Zahn: The Hand of Thrawn begins to set up things we will likely learn more about in the New Jedi Order, but I believe that I read somewhere that the unknown enemy is not the Vong of the NJO, but rather the enemy of the Dark Nest trilogy.
Either way, I enjoyed Hand of Thrawn far more than I did the original Thrawn Trilogy. The storyline about the Caamas document was far more compelling than Thrawn trying to kill the New Republic.