The second part of the trilogy picks up right where the previous one left. A minor battle is won by the good guys, but the war is far from over. Thrawn continues his relentless efforts to bring back the former glory of the Empire. This time his main problem is to find more fighter ships, thus the problem of the New Republic is to do anything to prevent him from getting any. The intrigues in the Republican Council do not make this task any easier.
The biggest discussion point would be characters. Everybody's favorite villain Thrawn suddenly loses quite a few IQ points. He was a genius in the first book whose machinations always brought the reactions from the New Republic people he expected and anticipated, but this time he makes one mistake after another allowing the good guys to turn practically hopeless situations into small victories.
Another favorite Mara Jade has all the personality of a plastic spoon, I am sorry to say. She serves her role as a generic Strong Woman kicking everybody's butt, saving desperate situations in the last moment, and being a designated badass, but this is all the praise I can give her.
On the positive side, the main heroes from the movies became more fleshed out. None of them feel exactly like their movie depiction, but as main good characters they can hold on their own.
I really like Lando who behaves like a human being. Han Solo lost his lovable rogue with a sense of humor appeal seemingly irreversibly, but his plotline is one of the most interesting in the book and his acts finally began making difference. Leia ended up in an interesting situation with equally interesting alien civilization which really gave her a chance to shine. Luke is the only guy who did not impress me much with his mostly stupid decisions. He is good with a lightsaber, I got to give it to him.
With all of the criticism above, why did I give 4 stars to the book? Because as a mindless entertainment it delivers. Even when the action involved guys protected by the plot armor I often found myself on the edge of the seat reading about a daring escape, or intense land combat. Space battles were somewhat anticlimactic, but still not boring by any means.
So if you are looking for a deep meaningful read with a lot of philosophical undertones which would make you question the very meaning of life, this book is exactly the wrong choice. If however you want to be entertained and have fun the first two books are exactly what you are looking for.