Melissa Villy discovers more about Rose and Paige Tico as she joins them on a mission to fight the First Order in Elizabeth Wein’s novel
In this middle grade novel from the lead up to The Last Jedi, Rose and Paige Tico lead the Resistance bombers of Cobalt and Crimson squadrons on a relief mission to help the citizens of the First Order occupied Atterra Bravo.
While on a mission to acquire information on what the First Order is doing in the Atterra System, a daring pilot flies into the open bomb bay doors of Paige and Rose’s ship, Hammer. The pilot, Reeve Panzoro, and his passenger Casca plead with the Hammer’s crew for help to free their volcanic and acidic planet from the control of the First Order before they all die of dehydration. General Organa tasks the Tico sisters with leading a mission to help them become independent. The Tico sisters and their crewmates face danger, suspense, and peril as they try to help the resistance fighters of this unique planet in their fight for freedom.
Add a Bit of the Past
Throughout the book, we learn a bit about Rose and Paige’s homeworld of Hays Minor, how they lived with their family, what they did there, and how they got their pendants. The knowledge of the pendants’ origin makes Paige clutching hers before she dies and Rose’s attachment to hers in The Last Jedi all the more meaningful. They aren’t just matching pendants, they were gifts from their parents before leaving home and fit together to make the symbol for their home system.
In addition to General Organa’s brief appearance, there is also a brief appearance by Vice Admiral Holdo. The new characters of freedom fighter Casca Panzoro and squadron commander Fossil round out the leadership positions we see. All four are older women, a move that reflects what fans have been clamoring to see by showing proper representation of women of all ages as part of the wider Star Wars story.
Wein is herself a pilot and according to a blurb in the back of the book, got to fly a Lancaster Bomber as research. Her knowledge of flight, specifically WWII bomber flights, really shows here as she describes the flight of Hammer and how a bomber and its crew operate. She describes the battles with the TIE fighters in believable detail that kept me on the edge of my seat to see who would make it. Of course, even though I knew it would eventually happen, when one bomber didn’t I gasped out loud in shock. The name of one of the Cobalt bombers, Belle, made me think of the real life WWII bomber Memphis Belle which was one of the first USAF bomber to complete 25 combat missions with its crew intact, and I wonder if that was intentional. If so, I wonder how many of the other bombers names pay homage to real bombers.
My only issue with the novel is that sometimes Rose speaks in a rather young voice. I was questioning how old she and Paige were supposed to be, and since their ages are not given on Wookieepedia, it made it hard to determine. However, since the target audience for this book is children ages 8 and up, it should not be a problem with them. There were also some parts of the writing style that I felt didn’t match up with what I’ve previously read from Wein, specifically facts that were repeated one too many times, but again this is for a younger audience and it shouldn’t be an issue from their perspective.
Black, Red, and Shades of Grey
Elizabeth Wein is a young adult novelist best known for the New York Times Bestselling Code Name Verity and its companion novel Rose Under Fire, which have received numerous awards in the UK and the US. Both books feature female pilots in the Air Transport Auxiliary during WWII who face harrowing situations with courage and determination.
Phil Noto is an illustrator for the Marvel Poe Dameron and Chewbacca comics and has also provided the artwork for all previous Star Wars middle grade novels. I really enjoy his artwork that is interspersed throughout each novel rendered in black, red, and shades of grey. There is also a line drawing of the bomber at the start of every chapter printed on red paper. My only wish is that this one had more than two two page spreads. I seem to recall the other novels having more pictures. I really would have liked one of Rose and Paige together besides the cover, or one of Casca and Reeve.
All in all, I think this one is a great book for those wanting to learn a little more about Rose and Paige and the bomber squadrons. The audiobook is read by Kelly Marie Tran, which would be a delight to listen to. It is on a reading level for children in late elementary school or early middle school, although all ages with an interest in this type of story can enjoy it.