This week saw the release of Shadow Fall, so what better time to revisit its predecessor than right now? Written by Alexander Freed and published on June 11, 2019, Alphabet Squadron tells the story of how a group of people with nowhere else to go come together to form a brand-new squadron featuring a mix of starfighters.
I absolutely fell in love with this book, and I’m really looking forward to breaking it down for you. So let’s jump right in!
What It’s About
Yrica Quell is an ex-Imperial and pilot for the 204th fighter squadron. Known as Shadow Wing, this is an elite and deadly group of TIE pilots. Because of this, Caern Adan, a New Republic intelligence officer, has his sights on ending the 204th and is setting up what he refers to as a “working group” in order to do so.
The rest of the group is made up of Nath Tensent, who Quell recruits (or thinks she recruits), Kairos (a female that is always silent, and is totally covered head to foot), Chass na Chadic and Wyl Lark (survivors of the Hellion’s Dare, a ship that is taken down by the 204th).
Yrica Quell goes through some growing pains in this book. She’s not trusted, and we find out that’s for good reason. She was present in the 204th for Operation Cinder, a plan put into effect by the Emperor to basically burn down the remnants of his Empire if he was not around to rule it. But she is making every effort to move past her Impirical days and we find out she’s actually sickened by the thought of Operation Cinder and the death and destruction it caused. This only served to frustrate me to no end, because Adan and the rest give her a very hard time but we see where her intentions lie. But I digress.
The group goes through its normal growing pains. They fail missions, they become prone to in-fighting – the normal hurdles in this type of “new squad” story. Adan proves to be a tough leader for the squad, but luckily they meet up with none other than Hera Syndulla. Now a general for the New Republic, Hera offers the rigidity and support needed to help Alphabet Squadron gel better than they had before. She also is probably the main reason Quell is able to grow into more of a leader. She challenges her and gives her advice that Quell obviously takes to heart.
The crew gets information that points to Shadow Wing being at Pandem Nai. This presents a challenge because the atmosphere at Pandem Nai is actually quite flammable. And to be sure, when the fighting breaks out, the atmosphere ignites, turning the battle into a firey mess. Quell is actually the one that inadvertently causes the flames to break out, but the battle ends up being considered a victory as the Empire is denied access to certain valuable resources, even though Shadow Wing is able to escape for the most part.
Throughout the book, we get tiny glimpses of a character named Devon, who is somewhat of a vagabond. We don’t know much about him, other than he seems to be hiding something. We also get flashbacks of Quell and Major Keize, someone she obviously looks up to. These are fleeting and seemingly disconnected, but the final chapter gives us a major reveal: Devon is actually Major Keize in hiding!
What I Thought
As I said above, I really ended up loving this novel. But truth be told, I had a couple false starts on this one. The first two chapters can be both somewhat dry and a little overwhelming. You’re meeting a lot of characters very quickly, and you’re thrown into a few different scenarios. But you need to hang in there. This is an excellent novel that really picks up after the second chapter, and I don’t think you’ll want to put it down after that.
This honestly ended up being one of my favorite books in the Disney era, closely behind the likes of Lost Stars, actually. I mentioned being so frustrated at Quell’s honest attempts to join the Republic but being so looked down upon by her peers. This only works this way because Freed writes these characters so well. I also loved the tie-ins to other parts of canon, like Hera showing up and all the mentions of Operation Cinder. It felt so connected.
There’s honestly not much more to say here. It’s an amazing book. If you haven’t read it, you should.
- The Empire is shown to be broken and scattered. Factions are fighting for power and control.
- Yrica Quell played a role in Operation Cinder and that became her main reason for defecting, although she always had planned to from the beginning (just never did).
- Hera Syndulla is a general aboard the Lodestar.
- Kairos appears to have some connection with a Jedi Temple the group finds on a moon in the Harkrova system.
- The battle at Pandem Nai looks to be a disaster, but is considered a victory.
- Nath Tensent was tasked by Adan to find out about Quell’s past, which he does. Adan uses this to dangle over Quell’s head.