Like ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, Freed has managed to tell a wonderfully personal story for all of his characters amidst a seemingly impossible campaign.
George Lucas has often talked about how ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ has to bring the heroes to a dark place at the end, their victories from the first part almost forgotten due to the heavy losses in the second act, and that is exactly what ‘Shadow Fall’ accomplishes in spades.
Months after Alphabet Squadron’s victory at Pandem Nai, the working group, along with General Syndulla are working to liberate the planet Troithe from the Empire.
Alphabet Squadron use this as an opportunity to lure Shadow Wing into a trap but when Caern Adan is captured, a series of events occurs that splinters Alphabet Squadron, with one member taken away to a medical facility, another disgraced and on a journey of self-discovery, leaving three to pick up the pieces and fight battles both for the New Republic and within themselves.
Freed changes the spotlight in this novel, where ‘Alphabet Squadron’ focused mainly on Yrica Quell, Caern Adan and Nath Tensent, this book changes the focus to Wyl Lark and Chass Na Chadic who both have to step up in their own way once the team is split. Wyl becomes a leader, not a position he ever thought he would be in, and despite some teething problems and some mistakes, he takes to the role well. Chass has to go on her own journey of self-discovery and ends up being taken in by a local cult called ‘The Children of the Empty Sun’ before finding her way back to the fight.
Quell does go on her own journey of self-discovery and ends up on a very different path to her comrades.
We also get to spend a lot of time with Soran Keize, Yrica Quell’s former Commander in Shadow Wing who spent time away from the Empire under the alias ‘Devon’ but returned to duty after Shadow Wings defeat over Pandem Nai. He undergoes a swift rise to power through this novel and in the end is the leader of the 204th Fighter Wing. Whilst he is the main antagonist of the novel, he never comes across as evil, he’s just a man with a vendetta against the ones who shamed his people. He doesn’t fight for the Emperor’s memory, nor the fledgling Empire, but he fights for his people, which is quite a noble trait for an Imperial Officer.
Like the first book in the trilogy, Hera Syndulla plays a minor role, but spends most of the book on another mission, working with Vanguard Squadron, who are the New Republic protagonists of the upcoming game ‘Star Wars: Squadrons’. We’ve seen Hera in one of the trailers for the game so it’s safe to assume that the story for ‘Squadrons’ will take place concurrently with the events of this book. Just a little tidbit that makes me even more excited for the game. I also wonder if part of the game will actually depict part of the book. Now that would be amazing.
Once again, Alexander Freed has delivered a great story. Not bogged down with getting to know the characters and the world they are living in like the previous instalment of the trilogy, this truly feels like a strong middle chapter, much like ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and I honestly cannot wait for the third part, especially after the cliffhanger of this one. It better be out next year is all I’m saying.
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