This book, which takes place 5 years after Return of the Jedi, is the first in a trilogy by Timothy Zahn. As the New Republic holds a fragile foothold in control, a new threat emerges from the far side of the Galaxy. Having been posted so far away from action, Admiral Thrawn, a cunning and intelligent alien commander, begins to gather his Imperial forces for a strategic attack on the New Republic. With the aid of Captain Pealleon and his personal bodyguard Rukh, they begin to set in motion an almost unbeatable plan. They enlist the aid of a mad clone of a powerful Jedi master and use the Emperor's hidden weapons vault which he guards. Meanwhile, Luke encounters Talon Karrde and his gang of smugglers. Luke soon learns that Karrde's personal assistant, Mara Jade, hates him and wants to kill him, but will he find out why before it's too late? As the mad clone Joruus C'boath, comes out of isolation and learns about the Skywalker twins and Leia's unborn children, he decides he will train them in the ways of the Force. Basically, they will join him or die. Thus, they are both pursued across the galaxy. Also, there is a spy hidden amidst the New Republic. Who could it be?