Review: Inferno Squad

Forget hope. Forget the dream. Forget the Rebellion. Sign me up for the Empire because Inferno Squad has made a true believer out of me. (Okay so maybe I’m still really hurt by everything that happened to Alderaan BUT BESIDES THAT. THE EMPIRE.)

Listen. I understand that I’m coming into this as a biased reviewer. As many people know, I was 100% on board with this book as soon as I saw the cover at Celebration and I could not be more excited for Battlefront II. To top it off, I just spent six weeks working like crazy to build the first Iden Versio costume. So yes, I really wanted to love this book based just on the concept and my appreciation for a character we knew very little about. After reading Inferno Squad by Christie Golden, I can now assuredly say that I would follow Iden Versio into the fires of hell and back. No exaggeration.

Inferno Squad is about more than just Iden although she’s most certainly the star. It’s about the entire team: Iden Versio, Seyn Marana, Del Meeko, and Gideon Hask. The mission can’t succeed without each of their efforts and skills and neither can the book. Iden and Gideon are the old acquaintances who’ve known each other since adolescence but also have a bit of a friendly competition between them. Del’s the easy-going soldier who worked his way up through the ranks the hard way and who is a gifted engineer. And then there’s the beyond brilliant Seyn from Intelligence whose youth isn’t at all to her detriment. They’re all different but united in their dedication to the Empire. It’s fascinating to watch how the relationships between each of them evolve and will undoubtedly come into play during the game.

One relationship that particularly stood out is between Iden and her father the Admiral. (The Dadmiral, if you will.) They’re so formal at all times and Iden even thinks of being his daughter as being a “joyless task” especially as she combats routine accusations of nepotism. Those accusations couldn’t be further from the truth as the Admiral forces his naturally gifted daughter to work twice as hard for everything and never just gives her anything including command of Inferno Squad. She has to earn it and keep earning it every day. There’s no warmth between them and no angsting from Iden over it. It’s just how things are in the Versio family. Everything is for the Empire. It’s a stark contrast from some of the other father/daughter pairs we’ve seen in Star Wars.

Inferno Squad definitely excels as both a video game prequel and a book that can stand on its own. Someone with no interest in the game can still pick up the novel and enjoy the heck out of it. Ever since the new canon started, Del Rey in particular has been doing a lot to flesh out the Empire and show it as more than just the sea of white stormtroopers that the Rebellion inevitably beats. Now there are cogs within the Imperial machine who think beyond maintaining the status quo with the same old ways. Admiral Versio takes an unacknowledged page from the Rebels’ book and forms Inferno Squad to combat the arrogance that lost them the Death Star. It’s smart. It’s proven necessary as Inferno Squad moves from more traditional cleaner missions to infiltrating what’s left of the Partisans and destroying them before they can become a threat to the Empire again.

At the same time, Inferno Squad does well with more than just the mission or with our quartet of Imperials. It also succeeds with the Partisans or rather the Dreamers as they become known. Christie Golden had a tricky task with writing this book because she had to not only take the traditionally unsympathetic Imperials and make them the heroes but she had to also write an extreme Rebel branch that straddles the line between recognizable as what we traditionally consider the good guys but not so good overall that we root for them instead of Inferno Squad. It’s a tall order but Golden rises to the challenge nicely.

As I strive to keep these reviews mostly spoiler free, I won’t specify exactly which one but there was a chapter in this book that broke my heart multiple times in very rapid succession and just absolutely gutted me. Golden has a talent for being able to twist the knife because she’s made you care over the course of several hundred pages. (This will not surprise those who’ve read her previous Star Wars novels.)

Inferno Squad is one of those books that’s going to stay with me for a while and not just because Iden’s a character I connected with. It’s also one of those books that I had to struggle not to immediately reread. This book is going to be right in the front of my mind as I play through Battlefront II and see its ramifications within characters’ relationships. This makes it a must read for anyone planning on experiencing the game in the fall along with a “you should really read this” for any other fans especially those looking for a more nuanced view of the Empire.

And with that… excuse me. I need to grab my bucket and my E-11 and get back to following Iden Versio into whatever mission the Dadmiral throws at her next.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing a copy of the book for review purposes.