Review: Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed

Posted by DarkChaplain at 1/04/2017
Among the stars and across the vast expanses of space, the Galactic Civil War rages. On the battlefields of multiple worlds in the Mid Rim, legions of ruthless stormtroopers―bent on crushing resistance to the Empire wherever it arises―are waging close and brutal combat against an armada of freedom fighters. In the streets and alleys of ravaged cities, the front-line forces of the Rebel Alliance are taking the fight to the enemy, pushing deeper into Imperial territory and grappling with the savage flesh-and-blood realities of war on the ground.

Leading the charge are the soldiers―men and women, human and nonhuman―of the Sixty-First Mobile Infantry, better known as Twilight Company. Hard-bitten, war-weary, and ferociously loyal to one another, the members of this renegade outfit doggedly survive where others perish, and defiance is their most powerful weapon against the deadliest odds. When orders come down for the rebels to fall back in the face of superior opposition numbers and firepower, Twilight reluctantly complies. Then an unlikely ally radically changes the strategic equation―and gives the Alliance’s hardest-fighting warriors a crucial chance to turn retreat into resurgence.

Orders or not, alone and outgunned but unbowed, Twilight Company locks, loads, and prepares to make its boldest maneuver―trading down-and-dirty battle in the trenches for a game-changing strike at the ultimate target: the very heart of the Empire’s military machine.
I recently finished Twilight Company, getting me one step closer to being up-to-date on New Canon Star Wars (which is still a good ways off, to be honest, thanks to all those pesky Star Wars Insider short stories and comics...). Initially I was hesitant to even read it, thanks to the Battlefront tagline which is bigger than the actual name itself. Thankfully, this is anything but a shallow video game tie-in for a plotless and bland Battlefield reskin - it is high quality military scifi instead!

The Story:
"Among the stars and across the vast expanses of space, the Galactic Civil War rages. On the battlefields of multiple worlds in the Mid Rim, legions of ruthless stormtroopers―bent on crushing resistance to the Empire wherever it arises―are waging close and brutal combat against an armada of freedom fighters. In the streets and alleys of ravaged cities, the front-line forces of the Rebel Alliance are taking the fight to the enemy, pushing deeper into Imperial territory and grappling with the savage flesh-and-blood realities of war on the ground.

Leading the charge are the soldiers―men and women, human and nonhuman―of the Sixty-First Mobile Infantry, better known as Twilight Company. Hard-bitten, war-weary, and ferociously loyal to one another, the members of this renegade outfit doggedly survive where others perish, and defiance is their most powerful weapon against the deadliest odds. When orders come down for the rebels to fall back in the face of superior opposition numbers and firepower, Twilight reluctantly complies. Then an unlikely ally radically changes the strategic equation―and gives the Alliance’s hardest-fighting warriors a crucial chance to turn retreat into resurgence.

Orders or not, alone and outgunned but unbowed, Twilight Company locks, loads, and prepares to make its boldest maneuver―trading down-and-dirty battle in the trenches for a game-changing strike at the ultimate target: the very heart of the Empire’s military machine."

The Review:
Twilight Company was a blast. It was action-packed, boots-on-the-ground Star Wars action the likes of which you rarely see. Instead of focusing on the Jedi vs Sith conflicts, this one hammered home the methods, heroism and failures of the Rebel Alliance's forward troops. This book proves that Star Wars does indeed work without big roles for lightsabers, and more focus on the wars.

To get one thing out of the way: Ignore the Battlefront logo on the cover. The only thing this novel shares with EA's Battlefield reskin is that both take you to various different locations, many of which are shared between both. You'll even see the Battle of Hoth, and more successfully than in the game at that. If the thought of a game tie-in novel turns you off (I know it almost did for me!), scratch all those thoughts and go in fresh.

The novel focuses on the Rebel Alliance's Twilight Company, a vanguard fighting force, now turned into a glorified rearguard during the retreat of other regiments. It presents us with a diverse cast featuring ex-bounty hunters, mercenaries, aliens and even teenagers and defecting imperials.
Our primary protagonist is, without a doubt, Hazram Namir, mercenary-turned-rebel, just not really because he's in it for his comrades in arms, not the lofty goals of the Rebellion's leadership. He has the ability, but not the faith, and, while generally respected, seems like the odd one out.
This leads him to connect more and more with defecting imperial governor Chalis, who joins and supports Twilight Company in her own manipulative way - resulting in an intriguing, ambiguous relationship between the two that lasts throughout almost the entire book and gives a different spin on the evils of the Empire and the righteous actions of the rebels.

As Namir gets more and more involved in the decision-making for Twilight Company's future, and governor Chalis offers the rebel leaders extensive inside information on the Empire's inner workings and infrastructure, things get ever more murky and Twilight Company becomes a priority target for the imperial antagonists. These come in the form of Prelate Verge, an ambitious, Palpatine-worshipping youth, and Tabor Seitaron, a veteran captain returned to duty alongside Verge. The two hunt Twilight Company to eliminate Chalis, but cause quite some chaos for the Rebellion as a whole.
I found Seitaron to be almost sympathetic; he seemed to be dismayed at being pulled back from his almost-retirement and comfortable teaching career at the academy, and still had qualms about extreme measures, whereas Verge was despicable by design. It was a cool pairing for the antagonist slot.

But the stars of it all are Twilight Company's soldiers, and the entire company itself. While Namir is the character we can connect with the easiest, seeing flashes of his way to become a rebel and following his rise through the ranks, his struggles and relationships, the rest of his squad and beyond added so much color and genuine humanity to the book, it was a pleasure to read, if not for the tragedies engulfing the group.
Early in the novel, Namir and co recruit a teenage girl for the rebels, who claims the name 'Roach' for herself, and, while a rookie, earns her keep alongside Namir's veterans. I found Roach to be among my favorite characters in the book, adding some humor and life to the downward spiral of the Rebellion. The Besalisk-alien Gadren, ever the believer and positive sod, balances the more cynical outlooks of Namir and others, and the ex-bounty hunter Brand adds a layer of professionalism and stealth to the group, often offering judgement to Namir.

The cast expands further out from Namir's own squad, of course, up to the higher echelons of the company, and I thought that things worked exceptionally well, all considered. Twilight Company felt like a coherent force with its own bonds, its haunts, and brotherhood despite their differences. They're loyal to one another and to the cause, resulting in plenty of dramatic scenes and tragic events. Alexander Freed really hit a homerun with making this book more about the grounded battles and real people within the war machine than the more esoteric aspects of the setting.

The individual missions of Twilight Company are just as diverse as the cast - taking you to jungle planets, mining colonies, or even boarding actions and, most notably maybe, the Battle of Hoth. The latter was a blast, and offered an entirely different experience than what we've seen before through the movies. We're in for a bunch of cameos and twists, and I felt that, if Freed had chosen to, this could have been easily the climax of the entire book. But instead it kept going for just as long again after this disastrous battle for the Rebel Alliance.
Things take a nosedive here, for all involved. We know that from the movies, of course, but it is something else entirely to actually see the affected troops and get a new perspective on Vader's hunt for the boy Skywalker and the senior staff of the rebellion. There's even glimpses of Snowspeeders ensnaring AT-ATs!

Looking back at it a couple of weeks after having read this, I still have a vivid memory of key scenes from the book, and the characters involved. It really is a top candidate for my favorite Canon novel I've read so far. It brings the familiar Original Trilogy setting to its pages while offering a fresh new spin, with plenty of intriguing characters coming and going. I'd love to read more about Namir and Chalis before long, and loved reading more about events that had an obvious impact on the victories of the Rebel Alliance in the movies while happening off-screen.

Twilight Company demonstrates the spirit of the Rebel Alliance, the inherent hope, the attrition, the desperation, but also the life and tragic martyrdom, to the point where I didn't want to put the book down. The plot is so packed of exciting content, I thought I got more out of it than I paid for.
It was amazing to see some more ambiguity introduced to the Rebel Alliance vs Galactic Empire dynamic, seeing even a regular Stormtrooper's perspective on the rebel terrorists in the process.
Freed manages to get you thinking about the moral grey areas the rebels have to dip into to achieve freedom from the Empire, and does so with expertly written characters.
The novel lives by its characters, and I'm pleased to say that Alexander Freed nailed them. From their actions in the mess halls to their battlefield heroics, or the funeral rites within the company, the cast felt alive and satisfying.

If you're a bit tired of lightsaber fights and want to see something different set during the Original Trilogy, then this is probably the book you're looking for.

Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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