As an avid reader of the new Star Wars canon, I continue to be pleased with the way the universe is being expanded. Gone are the days of our heroes having to be morally justified in every act they commit. No longer is the Empire a bunch of faceless, heartless, ineffective soldiers. No, the new Star Wars Universe rebooted by Lucasfilm and powered by the deep pockets of Disney is changing our point of view of the Galactic Civil War.
Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company is the latest novel (released Nov. 3) that continues these themes and brings a new and powerful perspective to the conflict that has captured our imagination for generations. Even more fulfilling is the fact the book is the author’s (Alexander Freed) first novel. Bravo Mr. Freed! I hope he is commissioned to pen more new canon stories based on my Twilight Company experience.
Twilight Company‘s release coincided with and is considered a companion novel to the Star Wars: Battlefront video game, which was released a few weeks later. It follows the story of a handful of platoons that make up one of the Rebel Alliance’s most effective companies – both from a standpoint of winning worlds back from the Empire’s grip and covering the Rebels’ hindquarters when High Command orders a withdrawal. What transpires is a raw, gritty, and entertaining story that pits common foes but does so without the usual elements – mainly the Force.
Indeed, what we experience in this novel – which is set in the few months after the events of A New Hope – is traditional warfare (well, as traditional as it gets in a galaxy far, far away). These Rebel freedom fighters don’t have the Jedi’s ethics and honor getting in the way when the circumstances require them to act swiftly and ruthlessly. Likewise, the Empire’s forces are portrayed in a much more “realistic” light – they don’t miss every shot and aren’t bumbling around. Instead, they are effective, organized, and a real threat – mainly because of their sheer numbers.
Twilight Company introduces us to a band of new characters and doesn’t dwell on our hold heroes, meaning all of Twilight crew is expendable because the Star Wars Universe timeline doesn’t rely on their survival and could easily be killed off without ruining any sort of continuity. I’m not ashamed to admit there were certain scenes where I was probably white-knuckling my Kindle as I swiped through the pages of my advanced copy. You get to know the characters, their relationships, and their back stories that frame how they think and why they do what they do – all the while dealing with the fact they could be gone in the next paragraph.
The main character, Namir, is not your typical Star Wars hero by any stretch. He’s cynical, angry, and lost – not even sure why he is involved in the conflict sometimes. It takes a few swigs of some liquor and a conversation with an unnamed pilot (when you read it you will know who it is!) before Namir begins his path to a self-realization of what he’s fighting for. Namir’s rapport with and loyalty to his comrades helps you grow to like him despite his pessimism and you get a real “Band of Brothers” type feel as you read how Twilight Company plans and executes its missions to advance the Rebel Alliance’s cause. There are no lightsabers or Force-weilding protagonists to save the day. It’s pure will, grit, determination, and the innate power of survival that allows the soldiers to survive another day against the Empire’s tyranny.
To further expand on these themes of humanizing – if you will – the two opposing forces, we are introduced to a female stormtrooper, based on Sullust. Tharra, who is forced to balance her loyalty to her Imperial CO’s while dealing with the perception her fellow Sullustan citizens have about the Empire – and even her own father. Further cultivating the theme of the humanization of stormtroopers who aren’t just nameless, faceless, mindless grunts, we see how Tharra is fed the Imperial propaganda and how she lives in constant fear of a Rebels attack.
The story is somewhat like Claudia Gray’s YA novel Lost Stars in which our new heroes’ lives are intertwined with major events of the Original Trilogy, which I found to be extremely fulfilling. In Twilight Company, the characters are part of one of the major battles any Star Wars fans would recognize. It is not, however, the major conflict of the story and only adds to its richness so readers are able to tie this story to the ones we hold near and dear to our hearts. I refuse to spoil any part of this book in this post and won’t get into the plot until I write a much more in-depth review, but I will mention here that Twilight Company is forced to make a decision that proves to be a turning point in their lives but is not pivotal to the greater war. While that may turn some people off to digging in and enjoying Freed’s first novel, the climax of the story does anything but just fizzle out and leave you asking ‘Why should I care?'”
No, Battlefront: Twilight Company ends well and despite the ride not being like any Star Wars story you’ve ever read before, Freed provides just enough sprinkling of the Saga combined with new and compelling characters along with a captivating story that you’ll retrospectively thank the Force you decided to crack.
Alexander Freed is the author of Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Lost Suns, as well as many short stories, comic books and video games. He resides in Austin, Texas. Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company is published by LucasBooks and is 416 pages.
Advance copy provided by Netgalley (www.netgalley.com).