If you came out of The Last Jedi hoping to learn more about Paige or Rose Tico, Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein, is likely the book you’ll gravitate towards. While on a mission, Paige and Rose’s ship is boarded by a smaller one crewed by two people with a desperate mission. Their planet is ruled by and treated poorly by the First Order and they fear that their people might die if the New Republic doesn’t find a way to aide them. Knowing there’s little the Senate will do, General Organa tasks Cobalt Squadron with seeing while they can do… all while, elsewhere in the galaxy, Starkiller Base is rapidly approaching completion.
Cobalt Squadron is one of those books that I really wanted to and expected to love but never quite did. In the immortal words of Robin in Young Justice, I was just whelmed. Wein does a good job of introducing us not just to the Tico sisters but to some of the other members of the two bomber squadrons. After listening to the book, I have a much better feel for how the bomber crews were set up and the sort of missions they completed for the Resistance along with what sort of group the Resistance was before the horrors of Hosnian Prime. Cobalt Squadron gives both the opening scene of The Last Jedi and the Ticos so much more emotional meaning and depth that I wish I’d been able to read it prior to seeing the film as it performs a similar function to what Before the Awakening did for The Force Awakens. For the most part though, this book just never quite completely grabbed my interest and kept it.
If there’s anything that I took from this book, it would be that it’s unfortunately clear that Rose probably wasn’t going to step out of her sister’s shadow and flourish like she did in The Last Jedi without that tragic push. Paige Tico is, without a doubt, awesome and a badass who deserves far more page and screen time than she’s gotten so far. Rose basically agrees and tells us as such with her internal monologue what felt like every five minutes. The relationship between the Tico sisters feels real and grounded but also frustrating at times. At multiple times, I found myself wanting to shake Rose to tell her to stop being so self-deprecating and to recognize her own value. Yes, Rose does grow more and more confident in her abilities as the book progresses but those constant thoughts about how Paige is always so amazing and how she could never be like her grated at me after a handful of chapters.
This was also my first time listening to an audiobook for my first go-through of a novel. Initially I was intrigued because Rose Tico herself, Kelly Marie Tran, was narrating it. While the production lines up well with what one has learned to expect from other Star Wars audiobooks, I found myself underwhelmed especially so close to listening to some of the audiobook of From a Certain Point of View. It was hard to follow at times with very little variation in voices from character to character. Only one really stood out to my ear as being truly distinct. This in turn made it hard to focus in the story at times. If you’re new to audiobooks, this wouldn’t be one that I’d recommend starting with.
In the interest of fairness, I did another read-through of the book in hard copy and at the end of the day, much of my initial opinion about the book stands. Cobalt Squadron is a perfectly fine book and one that you should pick up if you want more of the Tico sisters but not one that I feel is essential reading for Star Wars fans.
A review copy of the book was provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press and a review copy of the audiobook was provided by Penguin Random House.