A Complete Timeline Of Events From The Original Thrawn Trilogy, 'Heir to the Empire'

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2014, the company drew a line in the sand and nearly everything that came before the purchase was relegated to Star Wars Legends status. This meant that the absolutely brilliant trilogy by Timothy Zahn, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command, was no longer considered canon pertaining to the six original films and The Clone Wars

That said, some fan-favorite stories and characters like Mara Jade, and her interactions with her future husband, Luke Skywalker, are lost as they no longer fit into Disney's desired narrative. One leading aspect of Zahn's work that made the jump into canon via Star Wars Rebels was Grand Admiral Thrawn, and he's shaping up to be the big bad of the live-action television series, Ahsoka, on Disney+. 

While Heir to the Empire may be in Legends territory, that doesn't make it any less popular among fans. This list details the story's timeline, so consider it a primer of sorts – that said, if you have the time, you should definitely read Zahn's work. It's iconic and some of the best Star Wars content that's ever been published, and that's saying something!


  • The Trilogy Is Set Five Years After ‘Return of the Jedi’ While The New Republic Is Handling The Remnants Of The Empire

    The Trilogy Is Set Five Years After ‘Return of the Jedi’ While The New Republic Is Handling The Remnants Of The Empire
    Photo: Del Rey

    Heir to the Empire is set in 9 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin), five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Emperor is dead, Darth Vader is no more, and the Empire is all but defeated. The Imperial remnants control only around 25% of the territory once held by the Empire, and they're on their last legs.

    The New Republic is building itself as Luke Skywalker works to restore the Jedi Order, but in the far reaches of the Unknown Regions, one man remains. As the New Republic tackles the Imperial remnants in minor skirmishes, Grand Admiral Thrawn steps in and takes command of the fleet, and he's an incredibly capable tactician.

  • Grand Admiral Thrawn Was Introduced As A New Antagonist Who Hailed From The Unknown Regions

    Grand Admiral Thrawn Was Introduced As A New Antagonist Who Hailed From The Unknown Regions
    Photo: Star Wars Rebels / Disney XD

    Thrawn was in the Unknown Regions on a mapping mission when the Emperor fell, and the Imperial remnants largely fractured under minor warlords. Thrawn fought against some of these and other warlords vying for power given the vacuum left by the Empire's fall, and before long, he built a strong force intent on retaking the galaxy.

    I am Grand Admiral Thrawn. I have been away, but now I have returned. I know some of what has occurred. You will fill in the details of the rest when I come aboard. Rejoice, Captain, for the Empire will rise again.

    Thrawn took some time before reintroducing himself to the Imperial remnants, but he brought a fleet from the Unknown Regions when he did. Thrawn's return sparked infighting within the various Moffs still loyal to the Empire. While the Grand Admiral's return suggested a powerful enemy was intent on dominating the galaxy, few knew his true mission.

  • Thrawn And The Imperial Remnant Sought Out A Secret Cloning Facility Of Palpatine’s On The Planet Wayland

    Thrawn And The Imperial Remnant Sought Out A Secret Cloning Facility Of Palpatine’s On The Planet Wayland
    Photo: Star Wars: The Bad Batch / Disney+

    Thrawn's plan to retake the galaxy was complex and required the use of equipment the Emperor stashed away in a storehouse. The Grand Admiral spent a year locating the storehouse, which was finally discovered in Mount Tantiss on Wayland. This is the same location used in The Bad Batch for Imperial cloning efforts following the destruction of Kaminoan cloning operations.

    Of course, that's canon, but back in Legends, the storehouse in Mount Tantiss proved very useful for Thrawn, who sought its 20,000 cloning vats, among other things. He planned to clone an army quickly, but to do so without resulting in clone madness, a condition resulting from rapid growth; he had to dig into his tool bag.

    Years earlier, Thrawn discovered that a lizard species, the Ysalamiri, could repel the Force via a bubble. Thrawn used this ability to circumvent the onset of clone madness, making it possible for him to grow his army in weeks instead of decades. When Thrawn found the facility on Wayland, it was guarded by Joruss C'baoth, a clone of a Jedi Master who died as a result of Thrawn's actions. 

    Despite this, Thrawn convinced him to join his cause, promising to deliver Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo, and her unborn twins so he could train them as his apprentices.

  • Mara Jade Was The Emperor’s Hand And Personal Assassin

    One of the most fascinating characters introduced in Heir to the Empire is Mara Jade, the Emperor's Hand. From birth, Mara was raised to serve the Emperor and kill for him, and over time, her connection to the Force made her incredibly powerful. She was trained alongside the Imperial Royal Guard and became a particularly effective assassin.

    Mara became involved with the conflict in the galaxy following the destruction of the first Death Star. She was tasked with finding any Jedi who survived the Jedi Purge and served her master well. She killed Rebels and Imperials whenever her master asked, and her final order from Palpatine was to kill Luke Skywalker.

  • Joruus C’baoth Was A Cloned Jedi Master Who Wanted To Capture And Train Luke And Leia

    Joruus C’baoth Was A Cloned Jedi Master Who Wanted To Capture And Train Luke And Leia
    Photo: Del Ray

    Jedi Master Joruus C'baoth was killed when Thrawn bombarded his vessel, but that wasn't the last of him. Thrawn found the Jedi once more, protecting the cloning facility on Wayland. Of course, it wasn't the real Joruss C'baoth (note the lack of an additional “u”) – he was a clone, and he'd gone mad a long time ago. 

    As the facility guardian, Joruus stood in Thrawn's way and agreed to work with him after being promised Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo, and her unborn children. He planned to train them as his apprentices and transition them to the dark side of the Force so he could take over the galaxy himself.

    Both Joruus and Thrawn planned to betray one another, and at one point, Thrawn nearly captured Luke. He had no intention of handing him over and sought Leia at the same time. She was bound for Kashyyyk aboard the Lady Luck and planned to take refuge with the Wookiees. Ultimately, Thrawn's plan failed, and Luke and Leia avoided capture.

  • Thrawn Launched A Massive Campaign Against The New Republic, But Rogue Squadron, Han, And Lando Held Them Off

    Thrawn Launched A Massive Campaign Against The New Republic, But Rogue Squadron, Han, And Lando Held Them Off
    Photo: Lucasarts

    With his cloning facility up and running, Thrawn encountered a problem: plenty of clones but not enough ships. This left him searching for vessels, and while he put a bounty out for others to locate ships he could purchase, he settled on stealing as many as he could from the New Republic shipyards on Sluis Van.

    To do this, Thrawn procured mole miners from Lando Calrissian, and upon arriving at the shipyards, he deployed them. The mole miners bore into the hulls of numerous ships and took control of them. As this happened, Rogue Squadron, Han Solo, and Lando fought off Thrawn's TIE fighter squadron.

    Thrawn controlled 39 warships and was about to take more, but Lando had other plans. He used a remote to transmit control codes to the mole miners, resulting in their plasma jets turning on. This destroyed much of the captured ships' vital systems, rendering them inoperable, and in the end, Thrawn only managed to steal a single ship.