Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Cobalt Squadron (Book)
Rose Tico, the breakout new character from The Last Jedi, gets her own adventure (along with her sister Paige) in the latest tie-in novel from Disney Publishing. With great character work, and a fast pace, Cobalt Squadron engages despite a weaker plot. Come inside to check out my full review.
The Last Jedi has arrived in theaters and given fans a new character to cheer for in Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico. Moreso, the film opens with a surprisingly emotional sacrifice from Rose’s sister Paige, which essentially sets the tone for her character throughout the film. While the movie didn’t give us much backstory for the sisters in the film, Elizabeth Wein’s young adult book gives us a better look into their history together.
The book takes place just before and during the events of The Force Awakens, leading right up to the evacuation of D’qar that The Last Jedi starts with. Essentially you get to see what the bombers were doing during the battle of Starkiller base, and why they didn’t show up until Episode V III.
What’s supposed to be a simple recon mission to the twin planets of Alterra Alpha/Bravo sees the Resistance pick up a pair of desperate stowaways with a tale of First Order oppression. The pair are seeking help from the Republic to save their people who are suffering under a First Order occupation/blockade. General Leia agrees to help as much as she’s able, and sends her two bomber squadrons to aid in delivering much needed supplies. Rose’s role as an engineer, who’s developed a unique technology to help mask their ships from enemy detection makes her role in the plan invaluable, and Paige’s gunnery skills in the StarFortress bombers certainly comes in handy when trouble shows up.
Not everything goes according to plan and the First Order forces them to change their approach, while still ensuring the successful supply deliveries. Of course, this is all an abbreviated synopsis for the book, and I don’t want to delve too deep into spoiler territory.
The Tico sisters play a pivotal role (understandably) throughout the story, offering up plenty of moments for readers to get to know them better. Here we get to understand the deep connection they share, not just because they are sisters, but because of a shared passion and trauma. We get a chance to more thoroughly understand why Rose hates the First Order so much in The Last Jedi, and the home she lost because of them.
Wein does an excellent job in writing these characters, infusing the story with plenty of optimism and hope. Every character moment rings true feeling entirely natural without coming off as forced. This allows for a deeper connection to the characters and will only enhance their appearance in the film. The writing is solid and the character work is great, but the books’ biggest issue is the overall narrative. While it’s an interesting glimpse at a smaller operation within the Resistance, the lack of any major conflict/antagonist robs it tension.
The story runs up, literally, to the start of The Last Jedi (including a neat cameo from Vice Admiral Holdo). While that’s a neat way to show how it’s all connected, I fear that’s also where the aforementioned problem comes from. There’s not enough time in the narrative to give them more conflict. Sure, they encounter the First Order and suffer some losses/setbacks, but it’s all very impersonal. There’s no direct connection to the bad guys to give the confrontations a more emotional impact.
Again, this isn’t to say that Cobalt Squadron is bad. On the contrary it’s a surprisingly quick read, and the dynamic between the sisters is what drives you to keep saying, “just one more page.” The lack of a stronger driving conflict, however, keeps it from being all that it can be.
Great Character Work Makes Up For a Weaker Narrative
Elizabeth Wein gives Rose and Paige more depth in Cobalt Squadron, and her solid writing makes the character work shine through. It’s a quick read that not only expands on Rose’s backstory, but manages to enhance her story in The Last Jedi itself. It’s a bummer then that the overall story is missing out on any real conflict for readers to get into. Regardless it’s still a quick read, but may not be something you come back to more than once.