Star Wars Book Review: Battlefront – Twilight Company
By Alexander Freed
This is how you do a military book. While ‘Lost Stars’ muddled around and followed two extras that had no impact on the galaxy (with the exception of crashing a Star Destroyer) ‘Twilight Company’ follows soldiers that fight and die for the cause. The book is primarily focused upon one squad in the company, but the book also explores the Imperial perspective as the campaign pushes forward. This was a refreshing shift from the abysmal ‘Lost Stars’ and it is superior in every way that matters to a fan of Star Wars.
There are many aspects of this story that feel right in line with the ‘X-Wing’ books of the Legends continuity. The majority of the book is told from the point of view of a squad leader named Namir as his squad battles across different planets. The book begins with the withdrawal from various planets as the Empire counterattacks after the destruction of the first Death Star. This leads into the introduction of Challis, an Imperial defector, who trades information for her life. This intel is used to hit Imperial posts as things move toward the assault on Hoth. After the battle of Hoth, Twilight Company starts a new campaign that ends on Sullust, a planet from the Battlefront game.
The characters are a little mixed. This is a military book there are several characters that fall into the basic military tropes. Like any military movie you will have your Joker, Dallas, and Tiny archetypes, but the characters that get the focus are far deeper than the general soldiers who appear to fill out the ranks. Namir first appears as the hardened sergeant as the story goes you learn more about him and sympathize with the challenges he is presented with. He has had a hard life and losing friends over the years has not made him any easier to get along with, but that’s what makes his journey so interesting. Chalis on the other hand seems like a pampered Imperial governor, but as her story continues you learn about her history. While it may be difficult to agree with all her choices the book is written in a way where you can understand her perspective. On the Imperial side you have Verge and Captain Tabor. Verge is a great mix of zealot and cold blooded killer. He is the kind of guy who cannot fight for himself, but will use every advantage granted to him by the Emperor. Tabor, on the other hand, is the real threat being an experienced soldier ant tactician. You learn more about Tabor than Verge, to a point that seeing a Tabor backstory novel or comic would actually be welcomed.
Some of the standout side characters include Gadrin, Brand, Roach, and Varrah. Gadrin is an alien warrior who functions as the theosophical conscious of the team. He is the strong and wise giant that everyone turns to when dealing with difficult issues. Brand is the former bounty hunter turned rebel solider who tends to be the most brutal member of the team. While she is not explored as much as some of the other squad members she does have some great and memorable scenes. Roach is part of the ‘fresh meat’ that joins early in the book. She has her own issues and works well as a means of filling in the gaps about the squad that the veterans already know. Finally, there is Varrah a human living on Sullust who is also a stormtrooper. She helps humanize the enemy and adds an alternate point of view during the siege of Sullust. Each of the side characters are interesting and since they are all soldiers they are all vulnerable during the battles.
The writing is great. The characters are interesting and relatable which makes for some great tension when you aren’t sure if someone will survive a battle. It really feels like anyone could die and as the battles continue many characters do die on both sides. The battles get a little abridged in how they are told, but many of the battles are set around holding a position or long term patrols which do not need as deep a description as some of the space battles in other stories. The base assaults and urban combat are better described and very intense. It would have been nice to have a bit more of the stormtrooper point of view, but this was a book about rebel soldiers so it makes sense that there wasn’t too much of an Imperial focus. When back at the base the troops have some great conversations and some fun character interactions. Everyone feels real and the lighter moments with the troops that contrast with the battles really make this a great read.
‘Twilight Company’ does tie into a few parts of the bigger universe, but does quite a bit to establish a whole other section of the galaxy. There is a segment of the book based around Hoth and a few minor Star Wars characters show up like Nien Nunb, but for the most part the troops are separated from the rest of the movie aspects. They are not being praised by Akbar or going to a party with Princess Leia this book has no Mary Sue type events. This is a fairly realistic military story that covers a brutal and important campaign that helps establish a new rebel battalion. While this may be a tie-in to a video game, but it doesn’t feel like it. This feels like a military book that was later labeled as a Battlefront book and not a Battlefront book from inception.
This book helped renew my faith in Star Wars books. While the junior novels were great and the comics are a fun ride the novels have had some weak entries recently. ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Lost Stars’ were both very difficult reads. When I saw that there was a Battlefront tie-in book my expectations were low. However, within the first four chapters I was fully absorbed into the book. The characters are great, the storytelling is compelling, and it doesn’t pander by shoving in an unnecessary amount of cameos to push the story forward. I loved the ‘X-Wing’ books because you got to know the squadron and while the movie characters were there they were not the focal point. The Star Wars universe is huge and it doesn’t feel right to have serendipitous meetings, unless it is somehow connected to the Force. ‘Twilight Company’ is easily in my top three books of the new canon and might just be my new number one. If you like more ‘wars’ in your Star Wars then this book is a must read.