Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron (Book)
Cobbled together from an eclectic assortment of pilots and starfighters, the five members of Alphabet are tasked by New Republic general Hera Syndulla herself. Like Yrica, each is a talented pilot struggling to find their place in a changing galaxy. Their mission: to track down and destroy the mysterious Shadow Wing, a lethal force of TIE fighters exacting bloody, reckless vengeance in the twilight of their reign.
The newly formed unit embodies the heart and soul of the Rebellion: ragtag, resourceful, scrappy, and emboldened by their most audacious victory in decades. But going from underdog rebels to celebrated heroes isn’t as easy as it seems, and their inner demons threaten them as much as their enemies among the stars. The wayward warriors of Alphabet Squadron will have to learn to fly together if they want to protect the new era of peace they’ve fought so hard to achieve.
The latest Star Wars novel brings us back to the period of time following the defeat of the Empire in Return of the Jedi. Bringing in new characters and an old friend, the story that unfolds is both riveting and emotional. Come inside to check out my full review.
Alexander Freed has written some of my favorite Star Wars novels in the new Canon (and even the old Legends books). Battlefront: Twilight Company was way more than a simple video game tie-in, and his Rogue One novel is one of the best movie adaptations I’ve read. With Alphabet Squadron, he’s free to tell a brand new story with a motley crew of characters that are fairly easy to fall in love with...But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The nascent New Republic is still struggling for legitimacy following the defeat of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. As various Imperial warlords take control of various sectors throughout the galaxy, a New Republic Intelligence officer forms a new squadron to help root out one of the Empire’s most dangerous starfighter contingents: Shadow Wing.
Leading the squadron is Yrica Quell, one of many Imperial defectors seeking a new lease on life in the changing galaxy. The former Shadow Wing pilot is still adjusting to life out of the Empire and desperate to prove herself trustworthy. Her connections to the infamous fighter squadron is the main reason she’s recruited by Caern Adan, even though he knows she’s harboring a secret that could potentially throw all of his plans out of whack.
Under a variety of circumstances (which I won’t delve into because of spoilers), a ragtag group of pilots find themselves adopted onto the team:
Kairos - U-wing
Nath Tensent - Y-Wing
Wyl Lark - A-Wing
Chas no Chadic - B-Wing
Their variety of starfighters earns them the name of Alphabet Squadron, but each of them brings their own trauma and motives to the team. Quell has her hands full just trying to get them to operate as a single unit. Thankfully an old friend (for fans) is around to help give Quell some advice on leading a group of people who don’t exactly mesh: Hera Syndulla.
The Rebels veteran is now a New Republic general heading up a task force trying to recover planets still under Imperial control, while opening up clogged hyperspace pathways. Of course, her journey puts her up against Shadow Wing, which gives Alphabet Squadron the chance to fulfill their mission.
Things aren’t cut and dry, however, and there are a number of side missions they must embark on, including espionage, a surprising trip to an old Jedi Temple, and all manner of space fighting action. The end result is a Star Wars novel packed to the gills with action and character moments that will keep you turning the pages until it’s over. To avoid spoilers, I won’t delve much more into the story itself, but there’s a lot to enjoy for fans.
Strength of Character
As with Freed’s previous Star Wars books, the defining element that sticks with me most are the incredible characters he creates. Despite featuring (mostly) all new characters, there’s almost an immediate kinship with them. They’re instantly engaging and from the moment they appear in their first pages I wanted to know more. I have no idea how Freed does it, but something about these characters gives you a sense of history and realism (even if they’re aliens) behind their words and actions.
Alphabet Squadron’s true strength as a novel comes from these characters and their interactions. Despite them all coming from vastly different backgrounds, with at least a couple hiding ulterior motives, it’s easy to get sucked into their personal experiences and struggles on an emotional level. Hell, at one point I found myself empathizing with a DROID...not even a regular droid, a damn reprogrammed TORTURE DROID.
It’s an impressive feat and this strong connection to the characters lends the book’s overall story more emotional gravitas. The action sequences, of which there are plenty, have more impact and I found myself worrying about their fate far more than usual. The story itself is engaging, and features more than enough mystery to keep you guessing until the final pages...But I can’t help but feel it would come off a tad lifeless if the character moments weren’t so powerful throughout the book.
Old School Action
From the outset, it’s clear that Alphabet Squadron would serve as something of a love letter to the old Rogue Squadron books. The old novels chronicled the adventures of the most famous fighter squadron in the galaxy as they dealt with Imperial holdouts and personal drama...sound familiar?
Somehow, it’s a dynamic the New Canon hasn’t touched until now, but Alphabet Squadron does it proud. It does share quite a few similarities with the old Rogue Squadron novels, though long time fans will likely find it has more in common with Aaron Allston’s Wraith Squadron follow-up series.
The action sequences are beautifully composed and paint a stunning picture of space dogfights. Even though some things get fairly technical when it comes to the fighter tactics and technology being used, the action is easy to follow without confusing you. If you’ve been longing for more space fighting action with the Rogue/Wraith Squadron feel, Alphabet Squadron does a phenomenal job.
While the comparisons put the book in excellent company, don’t let that fool you. Alphabet Squadron stands strong on its own, forging a new path that’s just as engaging. By the time I finished up, I immediately wanted to know what happens next with these characters. I’m eager for more of their stories and brand of action Freed has brought to the table here.
It’s the first in a trilogy, but still manages to tell a story that feels self-contained. There are hints of things to come, but it doesn’t leave you hanging either. Even if you skip out on the rest of the upcoming trilogy (which seems crazy considering how good this book is), you’ll still be able to enjoy Alphabet Squadron for the story it tells.