Captain’s Log, good ship Spectra. It’s been a while. My last battle against Lord Teckzt left me weakened, and the collateral damage from the battle cost me a lot of support. It took the return of several other enemies in order to awaken me to the fact that the Spectra has sat in port orbiting Eltar for far too long.
As I strode through the ship, calls of “Welcome back” echoed with my foot steps. A Sith Reviewer could get used to this. Some new faces aboard the ship; some old ones, already busy at their respective posts. Just as I’ve been battling Teckzt in different ways, the crew has been busy, upgrading the ship. Rather than operating independently, we now have a fleet behind us, and a base. Stars’ End has my back, and I for one am ready to make a move.
I glanced at the target list before Arleven could say anything. This one should have been Spoiler Free. It would have been, had I even been in the ship at the time it was published. Still, it was a good choice. A warm up mission, one that would test if I had become too jaded to continue with this job or if I was still in shape.
I dialed my second on my communicator. “Mizzee, beam me down to the planet.
Unbound Flight. Choices of One. Tatooine Ghost. Heir to the Empire. Dark Force Rising. The Last Command. The tale of Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of notoriety and nigh-omnipotent military ability. The Chiss rose from obscurity in a human-dominated Empire, and was personally promoted by the xenophobic Emperor based on his tactical skill to the highest rank in the Navy, who then sent him to combat mysterious foes in the Unknown Regions before his years-later return to wrest control of the Navy from bickering warlords and bring the fledgeling New Republic to its knees.
It wasn’t until 2011’s Choices of One that Thrawn’s great enemy in the Unknown Regions, the one whom he battled from his days as a “mere” Captain until his eventual taking over the Empire as Warlord: Nuso Esva, the leader of the “Chosen” and a chessmaster who pushed Thrawn’s tactics to their very limits, was revealed.
From Heir to the Empire, his first Star Wars novel, onward, Timothy Zahn resolved never to show a scene from Thrawn’s point of view, because he believed a viewpoint from an alien would be too difficult for readers to relate to. While a show of acceptance caused Zahn to break this “no alien POVs” rule in the new short story Crisis of Faith, he did not break his mold and give a scene from either Thrawn or Nuso Esva’s Point of View.
The reasons for this are pretty clear by the time you finish: part of Thrawn’s appeal is that Zahn writes him in almost a mystical sense, making his insights no more clear to the reader than the sensations that the Jedi receive from the Force. This could be seen as a cop-out, and in some ways it is, but it helps build up the legend of the Grand Admiral and even adds some tension to the story, even if it makes it harder and harder to see Thawn as mortal and fallible. Hubris, after all, is supposed to be Thrawn’s downfall, and hubris can only strike once and be believable.
Hubris can strike more than one person in a lifetime, however, and I don’t think readers of Choices of One will be too surprised to hear that it has it out for Nuso Esva. Crisis of Faith can best be described as a follow up to Choices, leaving Mara and Pellaeon out of the story and focusing on Thrawn and Parck on one hand (with Baron Fel and Stel from Hand of Thrawn on hand to provide familiar faces for fans) and the arachnid Trevik, attendant to the Queen of the Quesoth (sounds like a species of demon, doesn’t it?), who provides the same look at Nuso Esva that Parck does at Thrawn; similar to Pellaeon in the Thrawn Trilogy or Car’das in Outbound Flight, these characters provide a less mystical being to look at the unreadable tacticians in scenes that are missing only a dejarik board.
Another thing Crisis of Faith does is show us what Choices of One told us. We know all about how Nuso Esva is supposed to operate and why the civilizations that throw him off choose Thrawn over him. Here, we get to see it in action, and I think it makes the whole Thrawn mythos over six novels stronger for it (I can’t speak on any other short stories or video games myself, though).
While I wouldn’t recommend an owner of Heir to the Empire go out and buy the 20th Anniversary Edition just for the sake of the short story at the end, if you were hinging your decision on the quality of Crisis of Faith and are looking forward to reading more about Thrawn’s victories and history rather than about Jorus, Joruus or the myriad others in Thrawn’s mythos, then give this a try.
- ‘Star Wars: Heir to the Empire’ at 20: An EW tribute, plus author Timothy Zahn on Mara Jade and whether Thrawn could’ve won at Endor (shelf-life.ew.com)
- eBook Review: Star Wars Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition (geardiary.com)