Star Wars: Shadow Fall No-spoiler Review

Star Wars: Shadow Fall is the second novel released in Alexander Freed’s trilogy following Alphabet Squadron’s feud with the elite Imperial 204th “Shadow Wing”. This novel feels very similar to Alexander Freed’s first novel in the Star Wars Canon, Battlefront: Twilight Company in that it follows lesser-known characters’ grueling battles in the war against the Empire. If you are looking for a novel about your favorite Star Wars characters, or lightsaber battles between Jedi and Sith, this probably isn’t the novel for you. However, pick this novel up if you want to explore the moral ambiguity of war within a Star Wars context, or experience larger-scale strategy and tactics between New Republic and Imperial forces.

The novel is set not long after Star Wars; Alphabet Squadron, months after “Operation Cinder”, but still preceding the final Battle of Jakku. Aptly named, Alphabet Squadron is a New Republic Intelligence starfighter squadron consisting of an X-wing, A-wing, B-wing, Y-wing, and U-wing (and for part of the novel they even pick up a vintage V-wing for a time). After a particularly destructive encounter with the 204th over Pandem Nai, Yrica Quell collaborates with General Hera Syndulla (yes that Hera Syndulla) to set a trap to eliminate the threat of Shadow Wing for good. 

But like every good plan, much of it goes out the window a few minutes after first contact. Revelations about Quell’s previous involvement with Operation Cinder, along with several other unfortunate events effectively fracture Alphabet Squadron. True to form being the middle of a trilogy, our heroes experience significant setbacks and the novel ends with a significant amount of uncertainty. But it definitely sets the stage for the final novel, which I suspect will climax with a final confrontation at the Battle of Jakku. 

One of the original allures of the trilogy for me was the concept of all of my favorite starfighters forming a single, unique unit. While it was thrilling in the first novel to see these fighters work together, the squadron fighting as a whole was basically non-existent in Shadow Fall. Not only that, Freed makes it hard to imagine how the whole squadron will come back together to fight in the final novel. Perhaps this is a tactic to deliver the unexpected, but for me it was a bit of a let-down. That being said, the events and battles of the novel are certainly interesting and set the stage for an epic showdown in the final novel. Similar to the first novel, Freed does a great job of not holding back punches when diving into the brutality, spontaneity, and chaos of war. 

When Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron was released, I was sorely disappointed that its release didn’t correspond with a new video game focused exclusively on dogfighting in the Star Wars universe (reboot of Rogue Squadron anyone?). There is a precedent, since Freed’s previous novel Battlefront preceded the release of the Battlefront video game series. However, even though there seems to be no explicit relationship, the upcoming video game Star Wars: Squadrons fits the bill perfectly! Whether or not the game includes any of the epic battles featured in this trilogy, I will certainly be envisioning myself as Wyl Lark in the maneuverable A-wing, or “Blink” executing precision maneuvers as part of the elite 204th TIE Fighter Wing. 

Star Wars: Shadow Fall is definitely a worthy read for all Star Wars fans. This trilogy is most suited for those interested in epic starfighter battles, strategy and tactics in war, and those who want to experience a degree of “realism” within the space fantasy. 

Post Script:

Short rant ahead, don’t read if you don’t want to know one of the hardest-to-defend mistakes in Star Wars. 

I consider myself a Star Wars apologist, defending what others might consider plot holes with cleverly created explanations using Star Wars mechanics and terminology. However, one of the mistakes Lucas made with Star Wars that I have no way of defending was the naming of the Rebel Alliance starships. You see, the T-65 “X-wing” starfighter resembles an “X” when its attack foils are extended and the RZ-1 “A-wing” starfighter resembles an “A”. But… this visual resemblance uses the Latin Alphabet. But the writing system in Star Wars is Aurubesh, which is very different and does not carry the same visual resemblance. There is no reason to name the starfighters after a writing system that is non-existent in the Star Wars Universe. Doh! This novel adds salt to the wound by naming the squadron with all the different starfighters “Alphabet Squadron”, acknowledging further that the naming convention relies on the visual resemblance of letters in the Latin Alphabet. While there’s no side-stepping this error, I’m still a huge fan!

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