Review: Alphabet Squadron (Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron #1) by Alexander Freed

Rating: 6.5/10

Synopsis

The first novel in a new trilogy starring veteran New Republic pilots!

On the verge of victory in a brutal war, five New Republic pilots transform from hunted to hunters in this epic Star Wars adventure. Set after Return of the Jedi, Alphabet Squadron follows a unique team, each flying a different class of starfighter as they struggle to end their war once and for all.

The Emperor is dead. His final weapon has been destroyed. The Imperial Army is in disarray. In the aftermath, Yrica Quell is just one of thousands of defectors from her former cause living in a deserters’ shantytown—until she is selected to join Alphabet Squadron.

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.

Part of a Marvel and Del Rey crossover event, Alphabet Squadron is the counterpart to Marvel’s TIE Fighter miniseries, which follows the exploits of Shadow Wing as they scheme to thwart the New Republic.

Review

Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio, the author, and the narrator for a listening copy of Alphabet Squadron (Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron #1) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this LC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

Alphabet Squadron is an intriguing story with plenty of spectacular dogfights and space battles, but falters when it comes to engaging the reader with its new set of characters and setting a consistent pace. I definitely recommend checking it out if you have been keeping up with the new canon as it does bring some new grittiness and darkness to the Star Wars universe, but temper expectations for the first book in a planned trilogy.

The synopsis hooked me when it came to finding my next read as it had been a hot minute since I last read a novel in the Star Wars ever-expanding universe. Sure, the Republic has always seemed like a pretty scrounged together bunch, but the fact that a defector was going to be leading a squadron to hunt down her former comrades: count me in! This leads to several epic fight scenes and a hook-line-sinker conclusion, but somewhat paper-thin backstories and some very grey characters (which is honestly needed in a series where 90ish% is black/white).

I think being dropped directly into the action at the start is a good and bad thing. For one, you are automatically engaged with what is going on in the story, but you are also given no context into who these new characters really are. You are left with tales of the past and current predicaments to piece together a unit of cobbled together flyers who you are meant to stick around with for three (3) books. I’ve seen this before, and it can work, but it unfortunately didn’t this time around.

This was my first Alexander Freed novel, and though I wasn’t completely enamored or shouting from the rooftops about the story taking place, I do see myself continuing the Alphabet Squadron series, taking a stab at his novelization of Rogue One, and joining the ranks of the Sixty-First Mobile Infantry in Twighlight Company (Star Wars: Battlefront #1). There is enough here to keep even the average Star Wars fan entertained, and I am definitely looking forward to more from this ragtag group of pilots and starfighters.

Lastly, I want to give a shoutout to the narrator, Saskia Maarleveld. While she has been a fixture in audiobook narration for years, having recorded over 160 of them, this is the first time I have heard her voice an entire novel. She did a fantastic job bringing these characters to life, especially Quell as she was the major fixture, but the rest of the squadron, too. Much like the Star Wars audiobooks done by Marc Thompson, all of the sound effects and music additions are a continued bonus to the overall production.

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