Victory’s Price: A Climactic Finale to an Exciting Ride

Alphabet Squadron: Victory’s Price
by Alexander Freed
Review by Matthew Boccia

Alexander Freed’s Alphabet Squadron trilogy concludes with Victory’s Price, the latest addition to the line of Star Wars novels filling in the gaps between the events of the films. The series has been a fantastic look at the complexities of fighting during the tail-end of a war, with characters from each side questioning their past and present decisions.

Freed doesn’t hold back from focusing on the fact that fighting from spaceships just complicates things even more- creating a disconnectedness that causes a conflict of emotions in each character. Fighting on the ground makes war intensely personal. So what about an ongoing war fought in space where you may never even see the face of your enemy? Yrica Quell is one of the best examples of this struggle because of her history with the Empire.

Her involvement with Operation Cinder was both an active decision and an emotional break with her status quo afterward. It’s a defining moment that resulted in her helping the New Republic. This makes the idea of her going back to the Empire so believable to those still a part of the remnants. The beauty of Yrica’s story arc, of course, is that she has grown as a character. She is using her past and how people view her (even in negative ways) to help the New Republic at the detriment to her own life and standing with her now ex-squadron.

Just like the two previous novels, each character has a chance to shine and display their emotional journeys throughout the story. Hera Syndulla still has a large role in this novel as a mentor and guiding force, which makes it fantastic to see her role expanded in the Star Wars lore. All of the squadron members- Chass, Kairos, Wyl and Nath-are trying to balance their job while also making sense of what they believe is a betrayal by Yrica. Having the plot unfold with the heroes not knowing the full truth is both tragic and tense, making one want to jump into the pages of the book and tell them everything so they can work as a team again. For that alone, Freed excels in creating a compelling plot.

While the first two novels dealt more with forming the squadron and then facing an opposing team, the final chapter highlights each character defining themselves. Though each of the heroes may have been defined by their trauma and pain at the start, it’s satisfying to see them break past that into a new phase of who they are. In a larger story about New Republic pilots forming a crack team to take down the remnants of the Empire, Victory’s Price is the Avengers: Endgame of the trilogy. Shadow Wing is a menacing threat that is willing to destroy and kill just for the sake of it. They encompass everything evil about the Empire, and the Alphabet Squadron is the quintessential team to embody the spirit of rebellion. Freed hits a home run with this final installment and keeps the question asked- what is the price of victory?

Victory Price cover

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Shadow Fall: A Squad Divided

This review contains minor spoilers for Star Wars: Shadow Fall, an Alphabet Squadron novel by Alexander Freed. Reader be warned!

Alphabet Squadron: Shadow Fall by Alexander M. Freed

Alphabet Squadron: Shadow Fall
By Alexander Freed

Review by Matthew Boccia

Following the events of the first novel, Alphabet Squadron, author Alexander Freed takes readers deeper into the minds of the New Republic’s secret fighter squad in Shadow Fall. The rivalry between the Alphabet Squad and the Imperial remnant’s “Shadow Wing” is at the center of the story and drives each character on their journey.

While the first novel focused on setting up the timeline, characters and circumstances, this follow up allows a more character driven entry into the series. Juggling an ensemble of characters that are completely new to readers is not an easy task. There is something refreshing about finishing that introduction and getting to know each of them individually, and this novel does just that.

As leader of the squad, Yrica Quell is probably the character readers have gotten to know the most, and yet who becomes more complex the more information is revealed. Author Alexander Freed takes a very grounded approach to the inner workings of Quell’s mental and emotional state following the events of the first novel, in addition to the course of her life that brought her to the present. While dealing with guilt, anger, fear, and a lot of denial, Quell is trying to figure out how to be a leader and check in on her team. This is incredibly difficult when she’s not taking proper care of herself, and there remains the lingering secret of her involvement with Operation Cinder still hanging above her head. It’s also noted, as she opens up to an IT-O interrogator droid, that one of the moments that shaped her was her involvement with another female who had left the Empire while Quell had stayed. While this is a moment that is pivotal in helping explain Quell’s character and adds another layer to who she is, it’s worth nothing that it’s not used as a commodity. The big reveal is that Quell was in love at all, and had decided to stay where she was under Imperial service- not who she was involved with. This not only adds a more diverse and inclusive element to the Star Wars universe, but does so seamlessly.

Chass na Chadic, known to have a love of action and a lack of trust in others also gets a deeper backstory. We discover her past involvement with a cult that seemingly said all the right things but manipulated and controlled their members. When she finds herself stranded in the middle of another cult with a member of Shadow Wing, things get very complicated. Kairos is aloof as always, hiding her true appearance, and with a determined taste for fighting. Yrica is even tasked with a heads up to check in on her team, especially the enigma Kairos. Her connection with Caern Adan is a strong one, as he is the one who recruited her, as is her fierce determination to take down Shadow Wing.

Wyl Lark and Nath Tensent remain on the heels of Shadow Wing, measuring out a plan of taking them on the ground before they can get their ships in air. Both struggle with learning how to lead, and the uncertainty of the fates of their teammates who they lose contact with as the story progresses. Their struggle is a fantastic look at a journey from angry recruit to determined (albeit unwilling) leader. War is not without losses, and the author does a wonderful job of putting the reader in the heads of each character and how they are viewing everything around them: wins, losses, death, uncertainty.

Freed also gives an insight into the enemy, giving readers the viewpoint of Soran Keize, who is helping lead Shadow Wing. Hearing a villain’s perspective on events is always interesting, but even more so when it comes to war. On the one hand, the reader can almost understand why they feel the way they do, but it falls apart when set against the atrocities their side
has committed. Yet, it still feels genuine not a caricature of a “bad guy.” While reading the thoughts inside Soran’s head, it’s easy to feel like this is a real person in the world.

Shadow Fall is a perfect follow up in the Alphabet Squadron series and follows the tradition of Star Wars sequels. The characters are seperated, in dire circumstances, and the villains are hitting back as hard as they can. If Alphabet Squadron was a taste of the world being created, then this novel is the main course. With characters who feel like people that have crossed your path in real life, Shadow Fall will have you questioning the same complexities of life that they do, and coming out even stronger for it.

Click here to learn how to buy a copy of Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander freed!

Review: Star Wars: A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Cordova

Cover of A Crash of Fate

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate
Author: Zoraida Cordova

By Matthew Boccia

Zoraida Cordova’s new novel Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate is one of those rare moments where something that was originally meant just to promote another product far exceeds expectations. Set on the planet of Batuu, with most of the action taking place at Black Spire Outpost, A Crash of Fate serves as a deeper dive into the themed land Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland in California and Hollywood Studios, Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

While the book is classified as a young adult novel, the story is a great way to get a more grounded look at the events happening in the Star Wars universe- particularly during the time of the sequel trilogy. The novel focuses on Izzy and Jules, childhood best friends who are quickly separated when Izzy was six years old and flown off planet by her parents, only to find her way back thirteen years later. Jules, on the other hand, stayed behind on his family’s farm, finding work at the outpost, and as our insight to this new world.

In many ways, Izzy is very much like the reader. We are familiar with the type of world Batuu displays itself as, but seeing as how she left it at such an early age, she is unfamiliar with all the inner workings of the outpost. She is also represented as a Latinx  character, her full name being Izzy Garsea, and described as having golden-brown skin. This is a great addition to the lineup of diverse characters in the universe, especially to have her be front and center in a Star Wars novel. Jules (Jules) Rakab works as the reader’s insight into how those living in Batuu view the rest of the galaxy and everything happening within it. There are some major players in Black Spire Outpost that tie into the themed land at Disneyland. Oga, the crime boss who runs the cantina is someone to be feared and respected in Batuu. All business dealings go through her, and she makes it clear that she is on nobody’s side but her own in the ongoing war. Dok Ondar runs the antiquities shop and is always searching for more rare artifacts. This is also where we find Jules working thirteen years later.

Izzy, on the other hand, grew up to learn to only depend on herself, while Jules stayed behind and knows Black Spire Outpost like the back of his hand, as well as everyone in it. When fate brings them back into each other’s lives, Jules is forced to revisit his feelings for Izzy that never truly left. However, it’s Izzy who has the biggest arc to traverse, as this new adventure must teach her how to block out the voice of her mother and an independent smuggler’s life, and learn to rely on community and let herself be loved. While not a foreign concept to the Star Wars universe (I’m looking at you Han Solo) – what makes this novel so special is not the themes that run through it. What truly sets it apart is that it takes place on a smaller scale. None of these characters are heroes of the rebellion or villains of the First Order. Most of the action takes place planet side at the outpost, and there’s only passing references to belief in what people have been calling “the force.” This is very much a story about people overcoming themselves and forming connections with others.

That being said, A Crash of Fate stretches beyond the genre of YA novel and is accessible to anyone who has a love for the Star Wars universe. While it enriches the experience of visiting the theme park, it also paints a vivid picture of the planet General Leia sends her Resistance spy, Vi Moradi to, whose story is found in the novel Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah Dawson. It comes as no surprise as to why Leia would choose Batuu as a starting point to rebuild the Resistance once you begin to explore the world through Izzy and Jules. Is it a love story? Yes. However it’s also so much more than that. It’s about becoming part of something bigger than ourselves and allowing fate to show us that life has a way of forming connections between us no matter how far we may fly of what we may have lost.

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