Welcome to Book Reviews. In this series I will look to review any canon books that come out in the Star Wars galaxy. I am no expert in book critic or expert in writing (as you may be able to tell), so this is very much from a fan’s point of view. I will generally try to give a quick idea of what the story is about but avoid any spoilers. In each review, I will also try to point out a few “Moments in Canon” – moments that link into the wider canon and references to other canon stories – and also give my opinion if it is worth reading. Today I will be looking at Christie Golden’s Battlefront II: Inferno Squad.
Heading towards the release of the game Star Wars Battlefront II, one of the game’s big draws was the inclusion of a story mode, set to follow a new character, Iden Versio, and her team Inferno Squad. As with its predecessor, Battlefront II was announced to have a tie-in novel, Inferno Squad, which would act as a prequel and introduction to the characters we would follow in the story mode.
Set in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin (which features in the first chapter), the novel shows the creation of Inferno Squad, an elite unit of 4 Imperials. The novel shows some of their early missions and then their first real test, an undercover mission to take down the survivors of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans.
“Sir? Does this unit have a name yet?”
The faintest of smiles quirked Versio’s lips. “It does,” he replied. “It’s a promise to the rebels
“It’s called Inferno Squad.”
The novel is written from the points of view of the 4 Inferno Squad members: Iden Versio, Gideon Hask, Del Meeko and Seyn Marana, as well as their commanding officer (and Iden’s father) Garrick Versio.
It took me quite a while to get around to buying this book (I really don’t have space but couldn’t stop myself buying it eventually) so by the time I read this, I knew the characters quite well from having played the game’s story mode a couple of times, so I already knew I was invested in them. However, reading this book, I was still amazed at how much this novel expanded on the characters and brought them to life!
As well as generally having their own specialist skills, each member of the squad has a completely unique personality and though they may all be on the same mission, they all have different thoughts about it and also of the “enemies” they are undercover with. Hask came across as the Imperial zealot in the game and that is even more to the fore here. Del is a much more caring character while also having an easy-going, joking personality. Iden very much toes the line between the two, she trusts in the Empire and what they are doing, but there are moments when she will question if this is right. People may have felt that Iden and Del’s defection came out of nowhere during the game, however after having read this I feel that they were already on the path to leaving the Empire by the end of the novel. The novel also does a really good job of expanding on Iden’s relationship with her father as in the game he often acts as if she is just another person under his command until his final moments on Jakku, yet this novel shows that he is always like this with her but in moments of extreme emotion he can crack, as he did on Jakku.
The thought of any member of her team having to be mutilated in order to fulfil the mission made her uncomfortable, but Iden did understand.
Even the other characters that we come across – namely the Dreamers – feel like genuine people. They are not just terrorists, they have reasons for hating the Empire and reasons to fight, while some are clearly more willing to do anything for victory than others. The Partisans that Inferno Squad connect with most have their own reasons for becoming close to those members, from Dahna, who used to be a slave so sees herself in Seyn (who has gone undercover as a former slave), while the youngster Sadori becomes attracted to her as they are some of the youngest in the group. Hask and Staven bond over flying, while Piikow and Del bond over mechanics and other wonders. Nobody feels like they are there just because a character was needed, they are all there to serve a purpose.
I really liked the idea of the story, it makes sense that something like the Empire would have elite “fixer” squads to complete any mission required for the protection of the Empire including undercover missions. The way that everything progresses makes sense as the members of Inferno Squad have to find ways to get to the Partisans and then also need to take time to earn the trust of their fellows to progress their mission, meaning that they cannot just fly in and start shooting as we have seen from Imperials in most missions. My one small issue was the need to place Iden at the Battle of Yavin, but even this was handled well by showing that despite being a highly skilled pilot, her survival was due more to luck than anything else.
Silence, long and frightening and infused with portent hung between the two—the daughter of the admiral, the leader of the rebels.
I really enjoy Christie Golden’s Star Wars novels (she also wrote Dark Disciple) and think she has such a great writing style that blends action and inaction very well without there being any change in the quality of the writing. As the points of view changes, I sometimes found it would take me a moment to realise whose point of view we were now on, but that is always the risk when a group of characters are all in the same environment.
Should I read it?
If you played the story mode of Battlefront II and enjoyed the characters, then I highly recommend this novel. If you want stories that focus on the Force and the Jedi, you won’t find yourself drawn to this book, but there is definitely a lot to enjoy in this novel.
Moments in canon
- Iden is aware of the Rebels’ usage of the term “Buckethead” for stormtroopers
- The wider galaxy, including members of the Empire below a specific clearance, believe that Jedha was destroyed in a mining accident, which was the story Vader told Krennic
- Admiral Yularen is confirmed as having died on the Death Star during the Battle of Yavin
- Being stationed on Scarif is described as a working holiday
- Del and Gideon share a Tevraki whiskey with Lassa Rhayme on their way to join the Partisans. Lassa Rhayme also gifted Vos and Ventress the same drink after they did a job for her in Dark Disciple
- Staven remembers Jyn as a young girl presented as Saw Gerrera’s adopted daughter
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on it? Thanks for reading and May the Force be with you…