In being on of my most anticipated books to read in a long while, I was a bit disappointed with Zahn's return to Star Wars. But only at first. With that being said, this work is far superior to any Non-Timothy Zahn Star Wars books around. So why would I be even mildly disappointed with it? I had to read through 75% of this novel before I could honestly say I became interested in it. However, you must consider my adult case of A.D.D. also added to that.
However, there is one factor one must consider - this was originally one book but had to be split into two due to size. And after you read the next one, you will realize the story in Specter of the Past is the perfect setup for the following novel.
This book had a plot that was far more involved than your average Star Wars novel. It involves an Imperial Moff, a Major, and a Con artist that create a fantastical illusion of power. They time this illusion (not to be mentioned here) just as the New Republic almost rips in half over a Bothan scandal of the past.
As with Zahn's original trilogy: this book thrived less on the force - but more on the politics of the New Republic. And yes, even if you are a fan of the force, it is still a major factor.
Lastly, this book obviously lacked Grand Admiral Thrawn. While the new enemies were decent, they are no comparison to Thrawn himself. Also, Admiral - formerly Captain - Pellaeon has matured quite a bit from the original sidekick that he was before. And he is no longer the enemy...
Overall, a well thought-out book, but it does lack a climax on it's own (aside from a minor space battle). As Yoda once said "Patience, you must learn." Because once you read the concluding book, Vision of the Future, you will QUICKLY forget about any disappointment you had with this book.