Review | Star Wars: Shadow Fall

I recently finished up reading book 2 of the Alphabet Squadron trilogy from Alexander Freed. Shadow Fall is good, quite good. I think it is safe to say it is better than the eponymous first in the Alphabet Squadron series.

In this sequel novel to Mr. Freed’s planned trilogy that follows the exploits of a rag-tag band of New Republic starfighters, their titular leader Yrica Quell becomes a character worthy of the depth of some of the Star Wars greats. Without spoiling the ending, the reader will smirk pleasantly at the turn in events that propels the end of this book into the third, and final, installation of the series.

Let’s take it back though. When we left the group of 5 pilots at the end of the first book, they had been brought together, and bonded, under the exploits of a victory against the 402nd fighter wing. This dreaded TIE fighter outfit is the glue that holds much of this series together. You will remember that it was the 402nd from which Quell defected and found her way into the services of the New Republic. Under the guidance of the spy-master Adan, the heroine protagonist unites her unit of mixed starcraft pilots to deal a blow to the waning power of the Imperial fleet. This plot line transitions right into the early chapters of Shadow Fall.

However, as the sequel gets ramped up things are fraying for both sides. The 402nd fighter wing under the command of Quell’s former mentor, Soran Keize, is still reeling from their defeats. The New Republic fleet seems unable to get its act together too. With the good guys and the bad guys stitching their fleets back together, a battle over a once-grand planet ensues on Troithe, in the Cerberon system. Described thus, “Centuries earlier, Troithe had rivaled Coruscant as the Republic’s cosmopolitan jewel, its city encompassing half a globe and teeming with billions of residents,” and, “Troithe had been the sort of planet the rust worlds of the Mid Rim pretended to be…” Caern Adan has hatched a plan to lure the Imperial fleet into a trap in the Cerberon system. This ploy involved tricking them into thinking the New Republic is chasing elements of the Imps, and a tactic using a black hole.

As things progress we find that Adan’s complex strategy is flawed, and Keize is still a nemesis with plenty of tricks and a worthy ambition to restore the 402nd to glory. The juggling of good-guy/bad-guy chapter balance is handled quite well in Shadow Fall. Unlike a lot of these books, and even the previous in this series by Freed, I was never jarred between the shifts in the plot-line. In fact, throughout Shadow Fall I kept dog-earing and noting areas where the sub-plots for characters like the B-wing ace Chass na Chadic were not only improved form Alphabet Squadron, but actually stood out as highlights of the new book. Well done Mr. Freed.

The final chapters in their lead up to the climax of Shadow Fall remind a Star Wars nerd a bit of the improvement in writing found in Empire. Certainly being careful not to overstate things – this isn’t Empire – but the comparison is to show that the second is decidedly better than the first in the Alphabet Squadron series. I’m looking forward to the third and final book.

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