Author: Alexander Freed
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: November 3, 2015
This review contains minor spoilers.
A companion novel to one of the most anticipated video games of the year–and the first major Star Wars game in a long time–Battlefront: Twilight Company focuses on a group of Rebel soldiers fighting to restore freedom to the galaxy. They’re the troops in the trenches; the group you send in to fight bloody, drawn-out land battles because you know they’ll eventually succeed. This setup has a lot of potential, so it’s unfortunate that Twilight Company utterly fails at most of what it sets out to do.
The biggest issue with Twilight Company is the fact that there’s no central driving purpose for the first third of the book. The rebels fight battle after battle with zero context about why they’re doing so. Something, anything would’ve been better than that. There’s not even a MacGuffin. As a result, it’s hard to care about the plot. Ironically, the characters themselves begin to realize this midway through the book, leading to quotes like “if Twilight is to endure, it needs … focus. A dream. A goal.” So when Twilight’s leadership declares that they “finally have a plan” halfway through the book, readers rejoice along with the company’s soldiers. That’s not a good thing.
Things improve once Twilight Company finds themselves in the midst of the Battle of Hoth. Suddenly, there’s a reason for why they’re fighting, even if it’s one we already know from the films. It’s interesting to see the famous battle from another perspective, and the book provides a good reminder of just how dejected the Rebels are in the battle’s aftermath. It’s sometimes easy to forget just how devastating it was to their morale and resources.
Twilight finds a purpose after Hoth–greatly improving the story–but it still never quite manages to grab you. Author Alexander Freed has a tendency to spend a long time focused on the minutia of one part of a battle, only to quickly skip over the rest of it and move on to the next one. This has the effect of hopping in and out of bits and pieces of a fight, almost like you’re fast-forwarding. Also, while the final battle at the end of the book occurs in three separate locations in classic Star Wars fashion, readers only get a glimpse at what happens in one of these battles. The other two are mostly recapped in a few brief sentences and feels like a missed opportunity.
The characters in Twilight Company are decent, but most aren’t particularly memorable. Freed isn’t afraid to kill people off, and it often happens very casually or off-screen. A few times I found myself surprised that a character had been offed as quickly as they had, and I ended up re-reading a few paragraphs just to make sure I wasn’t crazy. But since it’s hard to get attached to the characters, their deaths never mean as much as the author might have intended. Sadly, cool characters like Thara Nyende and fan favorites like Nien Nunb get very little time on the page, and in the case of the former character her plot never really goes anywhere.
As you’d expect, Twilight Company includes plenty of references to The Clone Wars, Rebels, and other recent novels. And while one particular character isn’t actually in the book, his impact is stated numerous times. We also learn that at least one original clone trooper is still serving during this time period, despite Rebels indicating that the clones were retired years prior. Freed never explains who this clone is or why he’s still around long after he was in his prime.
It’s hard not to like the idea of Battlefront: Twilight Company thanks to its awesome cover, setting, and ties to the upcoming video game, so it’s disappointing that the book never reaches its full potential. In the end, nothing feels like it mattered. Twilight Company’s efforts don’t have any impact on the Rebel Alliance, nor the galaxy as a whole. This, combined with the so-so characters, easy-to-forget battles, and general lack of focus or drive for the first third of the book makes it hard to recommend Battlefront: Twilight Company to anyone but the biggest of Star Wars fans.
Advanced Review Copy (ARC) courtesy of Del Rey. All staff members can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.