War isn’t glamorous. War isn’t fun. War isn’t something that everyone survives. Several years after the destruction of the first Death Star, the galaxy definitely remains at war. Out today, Battlefront: Twilight Company follows the eponymous Rebel Alliance company as they fight the Empire on fronts that Alliance leaders have likely only heard of in briefings. Star Wars veteran Alexander Freed doesn’t pull any punches in his first novel as he takes readers to the front lines of the galactic war.
Comparisons are going to be nigh impossible to avoid between this book and Republic Commando: Hard Contact from Legends. Both are inspired by popular video games but focus on their own characters and tell their own story. These aren’t novelizations. They’re companions. And they’re both war novels. Twilight Company works for me because it hit all the right notes that Hard Contact did a decade ago and reinforces that war isn’t pretty and that people are going to die. That’s really where the comparisons should stop though because the scale of the books is different.
Twilight Company follows Sergeant Hazram Namir, a soldier who really only knows the fighting way of life. He’s someone who purposely tries to not recall the name of Twilight Company’s dead communications specialist. He’s a survivor. Most of what he’s known in life has been war. The Rebel Alliance is just another army. Following someone who doesn’t fight because he’s a true believer throws an interesting spin on a story we already know. Despite the lack of a warm and fuzzy Namir, Twilight Company is still very much a book about found family. It may not be the sort of found family that Star Wars readers are used to but these are people who take care of each other in fairly terrible situations.
Perhaps what I found myself missing the most from this book was the Dramatis Personae which was such a hallmark of the Legends books for the last ten years. While the main six or so were easy to recall, I found myself having to flip back through the pages more than a few times to remind myself who Twitch or Charmer were. That is not to say that Freed did a poor job of establishing his characters but rather to reinforce how large the cast is; something that makes sense for a book about a company and not a squad. This does, however, lead into something that I really liked about the book. Freed doesn’t treat his male and female characters differently and neither do his characters. Everyone who is willing to fight the Empire is treated as being capable and they are evaluated upon their contributions to Twilight Company and not upon their gender. Speaking of which, the book features a diverse bunch of characters when it comes to gender, race, and species; continuing in the fine tradition that the new canon is establishing.
The characters who all really worked for me were, interestingly enough, the four main female characters and all did so for vastly different reasons. Brand is probably the most obvious of the four. She fits the strong and silent archetype but she’s also a woman of color. And a sniper. And used to be a bounty hunter. (Make sure you check out Janine Spendlove’s Insider story with her backstory that comes out on Thursday!) Brand is also the one who offers Namir her opinion when she deems it necessary, something that works nicely in comparison to Governor Everi Chalis. The Imperial governor of Haidoral is more than just another tally mark in the column of interesting female Imperials. She’s a fully-fleshed out character who keeps Namir and readers alike guessing as to her true intentions. That should hardly be surprising though with someone who’s not only very smart but who also learned from Count Vidian.
Both the aforementioned women are middle-aged (another area where Freed writes plenty of diversity!) but the two younger characters are no less engaging. I took a particular liking to Roach, a 16 year old former spice junky who joins Twilight Company after their campaign on Hairdoral Prime. She’s not a prodigy with a blaster or a strategic genius. She’s just a kid who wants a fresh start and to fight the Empire. Roach isn’t special because of destiny. Roach is special because she finds a place for herself in a galaxy that doesn’t want her to succeed. And as for the final fascinating woman in these books, Thara Nyande? It’s better for you to experience her for yourself but let’s just say that woman really needs a hug.
The unfortunate part of writing spoiler free reviews is that there are so many fantastic, stand out moments in the book that simply can’t be mentioned. I’m impressed with how much Freed was able to fit into this novel. Despite there being battle scenes aplenty, (and what else would you expect from something with ‘Battlefront’ in its title?) they don’t feel repetitive or dragged out. Ironically enough, the action itself avoids falling into the video game trap that has claimed so many other authors. Freed makes you feel like you’re a member of Twilight Company right alongside Namir, Brand, Gadren, and all of the rest.
So did I enjoy this book? Hell yes I did! Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I can but hope that we’ll not only get to see more of these characters but also more Star Wars novels from Alexander Freed.
Thank you to Del Rey for providing me with an advanced copy of the book for review purposes.