This a review of the book and audiobook for Star Wars Shadow Fall: An Alphabet Squadron Novel by Alexander Freed. The audio is read by Carol Monda. There may be minor spoilers.
In Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron, author Alexander Freed introduced a disparate group of characters brought together and teamed up for a common purpose — To find the deadly Imperial Remnant TIE fighter threat known as Shadow Wing. (You can read my review of Alphabet Squadron here.) In the second book of the Alphabet Squadron trilogy, Star Wars Shadow Fall: An Alphabet Squadron Novel, the fight against Shadow Wing continues.
After the Battle of Pandam Nai, the action shifts to the planet Troithe. New Republic forces have devised a plan to lure Shadow Wing into a trap in the hopes of defeating them once and for all, but things don’t go to plan, and the members of Alphabet Squadron are faced with challenges from within. Challenges that could pull them apart.
One thing that sets Shadow Fall apart from its predecessor is the time it devotes to exploring select characters, allowing us a chance to know them and what drives them in a way we couldn't in Alphabet Squadron. For the pilots of Alphabet Squadron, the mission was the thing and the action drove the story. In Shadow Fall, the mood is more introspective. That’s the word that stuck with me most during my reading.
Shadow Fall largely follows Yrica Quell, Chass na Chaddic, with Wyl Lark and Nath Tensent to lesser degrees. On the Imperial side, there’s Major Soran Keize, Yrica’s former commander and mentor.
Imperial defector Yrica Quell is still haunted by her involvement with the late Emperor’s contingency plan, Operation Cinder, and the death and destruction that followed. She fears what will happen if her new team discovers the truth about her. Is there really a place for her in the New Republic?
Chass na Chaddic (featured on the book cover, as Quell was on Alphabet Squadron) isn’t sure about who she is or where she really belongs. We find out about her childhood, which was a difficult one, but we also find out her inspiration is the heroic Jyn Erso, which gives us an indication of the type of person she aspires to be.
Meanwhile, Wyl Lark is testing out his leadership qualities with Alphabet Squadron, with Nath Tensent providing his support — but ready to act if Wyl makes the wrong choices for the team.
Soran Keize (the mysterious Devon from Alphabet Squadron) lost faith in the Empire after Operation Cinder, but he enjoys his current command of Shadow Wing and is bent on revenge against Alphabet Squadron — and General Hera Syndulla.
While I appreciated the closer examinations of these characters, I was looking for more about my personal standouts from book one, namely Nath Tensent and Kairos. Both are present, but sidelined a bit while focus shifts to Quell, na Chaddic, and Keize. I’m hoping the third book provides a deeper look. Although in the case of the enigmatic Kairos, maybe less is more? At any rate, the character knowledge gained in Shadow Fall will be valuable going forward.
There’s a good amount of action in Shadow Fall, but it does take a backseat to the further development of the aforementioned characters. That makes the pacing somewhat slower than I was expecting given the fairly breakneck speed of Alphabet Squadron. Looking at my review for that book, I noted I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of reading space battles. I found in this book I actually missed them! Funny how that happens.
Alexander Freed is a fine author, no question, and Shadow Fall advances the story of Alphabet Squadron in deliberate and important ways. Including an unexpected stunner to close out the book. For that reason, I'm definitely on the tenterhooks for the third installment.
I also listened to the unabridged audio presentation for Shadow Fall, read by Carol Monda. I'm still rather new to audiobooks, but I’d become accustomed to Marc Thompson’s narration of the Star Wars audios I have experienced recently. So listening to someone new took a little getting used to, although I'm sure audiobook veterans won’t have the same issue. I just need to broaden my audio horizons a bit more. It's not really a reflection on Monda's narration.
I never had the chance to listen to the audio for Alphabet Squadron, so I can’t speak to the musical cues used in that production. In Shadow Fall however, the use of music from Star Wars was pretty sparse. The music employed feels more atmospheric, and is used more to build tension in certain situations. It’s an interesting choice that left me feeling a little disconnected from that overall Star Wars-y feel, if that makes sense.
All that said, the audio quality, sound effects, and the narration combined to make an enjoyable experience.
The characters first introduced by Alexander Freed in Alphabet Squadron continue to be worthy additions to canon with Shadow Fall. While Jedi and Sith have primarily been the focus of Star Wars, we see more and more that you don't necessarily need a direct connection to the Force to be a force in the galaxy.
My ratings for the book and audiobook: 3.5/5
You can order your copy of Star Wars Shadow Fall: An Alphabet Squadron Novel from Amazon.
Thank you to Penguin Random House and Penguin Random House Audio for providing a copies of this book and audiobook for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines