Pete’s Review: Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company

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On sale November 3rd is Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company. Borrowing its title from the soon to be released EA game, Star Wars Battlefront, this novel takes fans into the front lines of the Galactic Civil War.

Twilight Company is the debut novel by Alexander Freed, who has previously written for video games as well as comic books.

The novel opens with a flashback chapter set 13 years after the Clone Wars and then jumps forward nine years to what amounts to present day in the novel. Each chapter begins with a location and a time frame, helping readers to orient where they are in the story. This is beneficial as it allows Freed to jump around in the timeline to flesh out back story and events.

In terms of feel, this is a different novel tone than we have gotten in a while. In some ways this reminds me  of the more popular Star Wars war stories, like Karen Traviss’ Republic Commando series, Michael Reeves and Steve Perry’s MedStar Duology, and Timothy Zahn’s Hand of Judgement books.

In other ways this novel reminds me of Gareth Edwards’ description of the tone of his upcoming film, Star Wars: Rogue One; Edwards has emphasized that it is a war film and that “It’s about the fact that god’s not coming to save us, and we’re on our own.”

In Twilight Company it is clear that the Force-using gods aren’t coming to save anyone and our characters know it. The central character of the novel is Sgt. Hazram Namir. To say Namir is cynical would be like saying battle droids are dumb or Hutts are slightly overweight. Namir is an enigmatic character, loyal, extremely competent and talented in war. In other ways he is extremely naive, rudderless, and weary.

The various characters of Twilight Company pass in and out of Namir’s orbit through the course of the book. I won’t attempt to list them all but some of the ones that I really enjoyed were Howl, Gadren, Brand, and Roach. Howl as the captain of Twilight Company remains slightly mysterious and appears to be operating on a near mystical plane of thought to Namir. Gadren is just a very cool concept, whose physical monstrousness is not reflected in his wisdom and kindness (at least to his squadmates). Brand, a former bounty hunter serves as a sniper for Twilight Company, has an interesting friendship with Namir. Finally Roach, the “fresh meat” character that we see join Twilight Company, has a unique introduction and is a pleasant addition to any scene she is in.

Though he is not part of Twilight Company, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the new canon Nien-aissance continues as Nien Nunb makes an appearance in the novel. (This dude gets around.)

As much as I enjoy what Freed did with the Rebels of Twilight Company, where this novel shines in terms of characters is the Imperials: Everi Chalis, Governor of Haidoral Prime; Prelate Verge, member of Imperial Ruling Council; SP-475, female human stormtrooper from Sullust; and Tabor Seitaron, Captain of the Star Destroyer, Herald.

SP-475, aka Thara Nyende, is a female stormtrooper who is from and is stationed on Sullust. Part of the local garrison, she is a proud servant of the Empire and believes in what she is doing. She is good-hearted and tries to find a balance between helping locals and doing her duty. As the situation on Sullust escalates she buys into the Imperial propaganda that the Rebels are forcing the Empire’s actions. Thara is an interesting character because she represents some of the best parts of the Empire. Her story is also important because it helps set up things that will pay off in the climax of the novel. Oh, and she is a female stormtrooper, so that is pretty neat as well.

Captain Tabor Seitaron is an old war horse plucked from the halls of academia by Prelate Verge to help on his mission. Seitaron is a reluctant–but very effective–military commander. In some ways he has strong parallels with Thara in that they seem to be honorable and generally good people working within the machine that is the Empire. Seitaron’s age and attitude is a nice contrast to Verge.

Prelate Verge is an extremely fun character–brilliant, violent, petulant. Pardon a Game of Thrones reference but he appears to have the mind of Tywin Lannister and the temperament of Joffrey. He represents a new generation of Imperials, ones born and raised under the Empire, not under the Republic. He also represents the new aristocracy that has arisen within the Imperial Court. In terms of real world associations, a seemingly unavoidable comparison would be to the Nazi’s Hitler Youth. Verge is a brilliant–but borderline insane–zealot. He also makes me think a bit about Jason Fry’s Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy and what the Imperials in that book have planned for youth and future generations.

Everi Chalis was an absolute revelation in this book. A protegé of Count Vidian, she is the Governor of Haidoral Prime, an emissary to the Imperial Ruling Council and former head of the Imperial Department of Military Research. Chalis is a walking expert on the Imperial war machine. Troop levels, resources, production, politics, etc., Chalis has all the facts and figures but in addition she is able to make coherent sense of it all in her head. As such she is an extremely valuable potential asset to both the Empire and Rebellion. Her value is perhaps only eclipsed by her own opinion of herself.

For a first time novelist I thought Freed did an extremely good job balancing plot and character development and in doing so created some truly memorable characters.

There is a lot of fighting in this book but there is also a lot of talking. Namir may be the protagonist but he doesn’t often get the best of these conversations. Namir and Chalis make a very interesting pair of characters that play off each other through the course of the story.

As you can guess by the cover of the novel the book takes us to the Battle of Hoth, but it also takes us to numerous worlds across the galaxy, some old and some new. We also spend a lot of time aboard Twilight’s ship, Thunderstrike. The end of the novel features an action sequence that may be the most unique and frankly awesome that I have read in Star Wars in a long time.

There is a cynicism and subversiveness to the storytelling in Twilight Company that really makes you question if the meat grinder that is the Galactic Civil War will ever be impacted by the actions of the Rebels, or if their blood is simply oil for the unending turning of the gears of war.

If you like military fiction or military sci-fi fiction then I think you will really enjoy this  book. Don’t expect lightsabers or fancy snubfighter battles, but set your expectations accordingly and enjoy a damn good ride.

 

A contributor to MakingStarWars.net, Pete is also the co-host of the Rebels Report Podcast and editor of RebelsReport.com. Pete has a midi-chlorian count roughly equivalent to Tallisibeth Enwandung-Esterhazy.