[WARNING: This review is mostly spoiler-free but does give some hints as to the action contained in Alexander Freed’s Shadow Fall.] Last year around this time Star Wars author Alexander Freed introduced us to Alphabet Squadron. The novel of the same name followed Imperial defector Yrica Quell as she tried to establish a new life as a pilot for New Republic Intelligence. Together with a rag-tag squadron of mismatched fighters, she takes the battle to her former squadron of Shadow Wing. Her story continues in the follow-up novel, Shadow Fall.

Shadow Fall; Alphabet Squadron
Image: Lucasfilm Ltd./Penguin Random House

Freed once again displays his mastery of the ugly side Star Wars. His first foray into Star Wars storytelling, Battlefront: Twilight Company, illustrated the gritty and harsh reality of the Galactic Civil War from a soldier’s perspective. Alphabet Squadron continued in that vein. As we know, Yrica Quell was a reluctant defector, leaving the Empire only at the direction of her former commander Soran Keize. The secret of her involvement in Operation: Cinder, however, still looms over her in Shadow Fall, as Alphabet Squadron looks to lure Shadow Wing into a trap and end them once and for all.

Shadow Fall shows the ugly side of Star Wars

Shadow Fall; Alphabet Squadron
Soran Keize returns to lead Shadow Wing in Star Wars: Shadow Fall.
(Image: Lucasfilm Ltd./ Penguin Random House)

This time around, the storytelling shifts its main focus from Quell to two other members of Alphabet Squadron, Chass Na Chadic and Wyle Lark. Each character must dig deep within themselves as their true character is tested by the events of Shadow Fall. Lark takes on a new role as Chadic finds herself struggling for survival…. All the while Quell wrestles with her personal demons, her superior Caern Adan, and the consequences of her actions.

Adding to the drama of this compelling series is Shadow Wing’s returned commander Soran Keize. His goal? Elevate Shadow Wing back to its former glory and give it new purpose. Keize is a nuanced and relatable villain, giving Shadow Fall a remarkably personal feel.

Star Wars Squadrons
Could this show four of the five ships of Alphabet Squadron in the new game Star Wars Squadrons? (Image: Lucasfilm Ltd./EA)

The second Alphabet Squadron installment weaves a rich tapestry of character development, action, and emotion. The landscapes and locales are detailed and easily imaginable, as are the relationships and interactions Freed presents between its characters. In telling a story of battle-weary soldiers fighting a seemingly endless war, from their perspective, Alexander Freed makes you feel as if you’re part of the narrative. The twists, turns, and surprises, however, are what make Shadow Fall exceptional.

Star Wars: Shadow Fall arrives in bookstores June 23. Stay tuned here to That Hashtag Show for our full review (with spoilers) in the coming days.