I love all the X-Wing books. I especially love the Wraith Squadron trilogy by Aaron Allston. While Corran Horn remains one of my favorite Expanded Universe characters, I have a deep and abiding love for Garik “Face” Loran. (This will not come as a shock to people who regularly listen to the podcast.) However, there is so much more to this series than this one exceptional character. Allston took the wonderful setup given to him by Michael Stackpole and ran with it, but wasn’t afraid to put his signature touches on the trilogy. To that end, fans of the Expanded Universe received a plot worthy of Star Wars and engaging characters who jump off the page and keep bringing you back for more.
Wraith Squadron is the first novel in Allston’s trilogy. It starts off where The Bacta War left off, with the two Rogue Squadrons participating in a ceremony on Coruscant. Wedge’s experiences in the Battle of Coruscant and Battle of Thyferra convince him to start a new squadron, one that could undertake both space and ground missions. Wedge leaves Rogue Squadron in Tycho Celchu’s command to start his new hybrid unit, bringing along eternal funnyman Wes Janson as his Executive Officer. The scenes where Wedge and Wes choose the squadron’s pilots—all wash-outs and misfits, at Wedge’s request—are hilarious, and let the reader know right off the bat that the Wraith books are some of the funniest in the EU. (Lieutenant Kettch, I’m looking at you.)
That’s not to say nothing serious happens in this book. The Wraiths set up camp at Folor Base, training and getting to know one another. Of course, things cannot remain simple for the Wraiths, and Admiral Trigit and his forces soon attack the base. The Wraiths escape and, in an impressive move orchestrated by the squadron’s mechanic, set out to pursue the admiral, who has been working with Warlord Zsinj. They come upon a modified Corellian corvette named Night Caller, take over the vessel, and Face impersonates the deceased Captain Darillian, to hilarious results.
And along the way, there are character deaths that rip out your heart. (This is true of the rest of the series, just as a friendly warning!)
The biggest strength of the Wraith books—and there are many—are the characters. They are diverse, flawed, and grow throughout the series. We meet Myn Donos, who lost his entire squadron to an Imperial ambush and is somewhat…unstable. We meet Kell Tainer, whose father tried to abandon his squadron and was subsequently shot down by Janson. We meet Tyria Sarkin, a Force sensitive Antarian Ranger who just isn’t good enough to be a Jedi. Oh yeah, she’s got some anger issues, too. We meet Voort “Piggy” saBinring, a scientifically-altered Gamorrean who’s smarter than most humans. And we can’t forget the villains, including Warlord Zsinj, Admiral Trigit, and Gara Petothel (keep her in mind for later books).
Oh, and of course, there’s Face and Ton Phanan, whose bromance makes the reader both laugh and cry. I seriously cannot say enough about these two characters, and definitely cannot do them justice in a short review. Just—go read the book. Now.
EFFECT ON THE EU:
Like the Rogue Squadron arc, the Wraith trilogy introduces several important characters. Tyria still shows up in the Legacy era, along with her son. Kell Tainer will be making appearances in both Mercy Kill and Scoundrels. Many of the other Wraiths also have roles in Mercy Kill, Allston’s new Wraith book due out August 7 (and the reason for this summer-long retrospective).
The trilogy has less of an effect on the galaxy than the Rogue Squadron arc, but that’s not to say they should be skipped. Warlord Zsinj is a great villain (more on him in later books) and gets most of his depth from Allston, rather than his original appearance in The Courtship of Princess Leia. And Allson continues Stackpole’s fantastic job of giving life to Wedge Antilles, along with successfully chronicling his desire to not be a general. Fans of Han Solo should also visit this series.
The Wraith books can be read as part of the larger X-Wing series, or on their own in preparation for Mercy Kill. I definitely recommend taking the time to at least read the three Wraith books before Mercy Kill is released. You won’t regret it.
Next time, we revisit Iron Fist. And cry. And cry some more.