Book Review | Star Wars: Victory’s Price (Alphabet Squadron)
In Star Wars Victory’s Price Freed really has a finger on the pulse of how the Star Wars galaxy works technologically. I award this book a solid A
STAR WARS: VICTORY’S PRICE is the third and final book in Alexander Freed’s popular Alphabet Squadron trilogy. Yet, unlike the other two, this one seems to have finally caught its stride as an interesting and exciting adventure. The first two books were subpar. And even with my excellent memory, recalling the plot in its entirely alludes me. Victory’s Price takes up right where Shadow Fall left off. So if you remember Shadow Fall‘s ending (which I do), you will feel caught up.
Star Wars: Victory’s Price | Alexander Freed
The New Republic is regrouping and discussing how to end the war (its 5 ABY) once and for all. Soran Kieze (the main bad-guy) has returned to lead the elusive Shadow Wing squadron. And his former protegee turned Rebel, re-turned Imperial Yrica Quell is also on board. Realistically, the war is “over” yet it still drags on with no clear end in sight. Most wars in the real world, do not always have a definitive end anymore. Coruscant still remains under Imperial control which is a BIG problem. Since the famous ecumenopolis (giant city-planet) is the center of the galaxy’s structure.
General Hera Syndulla continues to worry about Shadow Wing as they are a wild card and need to be neutralized. Among Imperials, they are efficient compared to the laughable incompetence of most Imperial pilots and soldiers. Soran Kieze is continuing Operation: Cinder to destroy worlds that have “betrayed” the Empire. His fleet is a patchwork, hodgepodge of ships. And while he does show some empathy to his people, the fact that he is killing whole planets in the name of the Empire earns him a special place in Chaos in my book.
Yrica and Soran love to chat about matters. And after Yrica was captured and put in a New Republic prison camp; she can’t help but feel that while the Empire was not always just. The New Republic appears to be no better. This re-iterates Episode’s III statement, “heroes on both sides, but evil is everywhere.” If the New Republic wants to set an example for fair treatment, they lest not copy their “evil” predecessor.
Believe it or not, the Empire is also fighting the Empire. As Shadow Wing has determined that many Imperial worlds are “traitors” who need to be expunged. One of my favorite characters on the side of the “good guys” is the Theelian pilot, Chass na Chadic. Chass is extremely fiery and edgy and is not afraid to punch you in the face or tell you to screw off. I like her spirit, even though I probably would not want to get on her bad side. Hera Syndulla is also a great character because she is a natural-born leader. And it’s fun to see how much she had grown as a general from her time in Star Wars Rebels.
Yrica’s betrayal was shocking. But this book gives us a pretty easy-to-understand reason why she did this. Her involvement in the first Operation: Cinder has been blown. And despite their dubious actions, I don’t think the New Republic wants someone who committed genocide in their ranks. The mysterious U-wing pilot, Kairos continues to perplex me, as she talks very little, and even when she does; it’s hard to follow her thinking. Quite an odd bird.
The other two New Republic characters Wyl Lark and Nath Tensent, are pretty boring as far as I am concerned. And Freed’s written interactions with them were pointless. Yet, they are important characters, so it’s important to try and follow their dialogue. Another realistic thing that Alexander Freed nails, is the way the New Republic engages Shadow Wing. They chase them, engage them, they escape and the New Republic follows. Shadow Wing is on a path of destruction and the militant interactions remind me of island hopping tactics from World War II.
This book really created its own story away from the main narrative of the original trilogy. But Alexander is indeed a fan, and there is an exchange between Wyl saying how he observed Luke Skywalker burning his father’s armor after the Battle of Endor. You never know who’s watching you. I enjoyed this little anecdote because I always love to see “regular” characters perceiving the Original Trilogy “Legend” characters. As indeed Luke Skywalker is a legend among the Rebellion at this point. Shadow Wing and Alphabet Squadron are eager as beavers to destroy one another, but like the Christmas Truce of World War I; they occasionally interact over comm and have a strange kinship with each other. Again, very human and realistic.
When it comes to pilots, Soran Kieze is second to none and I really enjoyed how he was such a tactical and expert pilot. I always assumed, flying a warfighter was essentially suicide. Yet Kieze can stay alive indefinitely and take down any other pilot who comes his way. Yrica goes on a mission for him to determine how Palpatine‘s messengers knew which Imperials to ask to commit Cinder. Which is essentially Order 67. There is a crazy complex algorithm involved and one of the components is midi-chlorian counts. Cool! Palpatine really does think of everything.
Freed’s writing is very enjoyable to read, and I love the metaphor of radiation waves being akin to waves from the sea, and the ships as boats. Really nice. Freed is also never-ending with his parallels to the real world, and depicts Kairos as being experimented on by Imperials in the prison camps. Like Mengler did to Jews during the Holocaust. Another great theme is religion. Chass found it in the last book and struggles to accept and embrace it. As the teachings of the Children of the Empty Sun reverberate in her head. Does Chass perhaps have OCD? Religion has always been a big theme in Star Wars, and in such a big galaxy, there are many options besides the Jedi and the Force.
The book builds up to the final confrontation between the Empire and fledging Republic. The Battle of Jakku. An awesome space and land battle that effectively ends the war. Shadow Wing knows it can turn the tide of the battle. And while this may seem silly; we have seen time and time again, how lethal this group is so you don’t think it’s surprising when you read it. Soran’s main objective, however, is not to win the war. He intelligently assesses that the Empire is in a destined lose-lose situation. And he determines that the only way to have justice and peace for his soldiers is to erase evidence of their involvement with the Empire. It brings the question.
If you are complacent in an “evil” force or organization but play only a minor role; should you be punished? The knee-jerk reaction answer is undoubtedly yes. But if you peel away the layers, lots of soldiers on the “dark side” were just regular people following orders.
Also, sometimes in the inverse, violence should be stood up to and rejected, even if it disappoints your friends and comrades; which readers will see with Wyl Lark. The only thing that made me sad is that Chas almost wants to die in battle. As she feels that after the war; there is nothing substantial for her. War veterans in the real world face this obstacle all the time, as the government often overlooks their service and sacrifice and gives them bum deals. Yet, there are also opportunists like Nath Tensent, whose desire to live to fight another day, borders on cowardice.
All in all, this was a terrific book and a great way to end a decent series. Patty Jenkins has a tough act to follow with her future Star-pilot-based movie. And the title “Star Wars: Victory’s Price” truly epitomizes the story. My ONLY complaint is that Freed divided this book into 4 parts, and I feel it should have only been 3. The first 3 were quite long, and 4 were essentially the size of an epilogue and did not need to exist. It was boring and dragged out the ending, which could have easily been wrapped up at the end of 3. I guess Freed desired to tie up LITERALLY all the loose ends, so this trilogy would have no ambiguity left in its wake.
As a final note, I must say, Freed really has a finger on the pulse of how the Star Wars galaxy works technologically. All the great feats of science and engineering are well in the rear-view mirror; achieved by ancient races that have long since vanished. Their amazing handiwork appears across all 3 stories as mere relics. With the “modern” characters having as much as a clue as to how they work as a Neanderthal would have with an iPhone. Star Wars is an old setting and everything that would be new is really ancient. I award this book a solid A. And it would be an A+ if not for the drag of a prolonged ending; which really irritated me at the end. Regardless, hats off to Freed, and let’s hope he gets another entry in the canon someday.
Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed is published by Del Rey/Del Rey UK and is available to buy NOW!
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!