We’re in the eye of the storm when it comes to live-action and animated Star Wars content right now, but one venue where the beloved space-opera franchise certainly isn’t taking a break is in the publishing world. Between the near-weekly ongoing Star Wars comics, the recently launched multi-platform initiative The High Republic, and a seemingly continuous stream of novels and reference books focused on A Galaxy Far Far Away, the printed page is the place to be for Star Wars fans seeking exciting new material in early 2021.

A terrific example of this is Star Wars: Victory’s Price – An Alphabet Squadron Novel (releasing one week from today on Tuesday, March 2), the concluding chapter in a thrilling new trilogy told over three years by the extremely talented author Alexander Freed, who got his start in video games before penning the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story novelization and the Star Wars: Battlefront – Twilight Company tie-in. Victory’s Price follows 2019’s Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron and its first sequel Star Wars: Shadow Fall – An Alphabet Squadron Novel, which came out last year, in telling the story of a ragtag group of New Republic pilots intent on tracking down and putting a stop to a deadly Imperial fighter wing led by the villainous mass-murderer Colonel Soran Keize. Following through on Lucasfilm’s current commitment to interconnectivity, the series also contains story and character links to Marvel’s Star Wars: TIE Fighter comic book miniseries and last fall’s Star Wars: Squadrons video game.

The 2017 video game "Star Wars: Battlefront II" also dealt with Operation: Cinder.

The 2017 video game "Star Wars: Battlefront II" also dealt with Operation: Cinder.

Star Wars: Victory’s Price – An Alphabet Squadron Novel picks up with Keize having rededicated himself and the 204th (also known as Shadow Wing) to the genocidal campaign called “Operation: Cinder”– a contingency plan concocted by Emperor Palpatine to wipe out Imperial factions who didn’t live up to his lofty expectations or remain loyal to him after his own death, not to mention eliminate all sentient life from the planets on which they reside. Former deserter Yrica Quell, having been ousted as the leader of Alphabet Squadron, has returned to Keize’s side as his advisor, though it’s made clear early on in the novel that she’s functioning among Shadow Wing with her own covert ulterior motives. Meanwhile, the remaining members of Alphabet Squadron– namely the idealistic Wyl Lark, rogue Nath Tensent, and spunky Chass na Chadic– continue to serve under General Hera Syndulla as they hunt for Shadow Wing with the intent on bringing Operation: Cinder to a permanent end, even if that means assisting planetary governments still ostensibly loyal to the now-flailing Galactic Empire in the year after the Battle of Endor.

The Emperor's Messenger (left) plays a key role in this story's unraveling mystery.

The Emperor's Messenger (left) plays a key role in this story's unraveling mystery.

Freed continues several of the most interesting threads from the previous Alphabet Squadron novel Shadow Fall, including Keize’s obsession with the haunting droid presence known as the Emperor’s Messenger and its mysterious mission– a storyline that culminates in one of Victory’s Price’s two major climaxes, the other being (of course) a big space battle with potentially galaxy-threatening consequences (this particular one happens to satisfyingly overlap with author Chuck Wendig’s 2017 current-canon novel Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End). Speaking of space battles, anyone who counts themself a fan of this frequently utilized Star Wars trope is going to find plenty to like about this novel, as a good two-thirds of its hefty almost-400 pages is spent either preparing for or engaging in combat among the stars. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing (far from it, especially considering one would absolutely expect a book with this title to be action-heavy), but as someone who personally prefers my Star Wars storytelling to be somewhat more plot-driven, I occasionally found myself fighting the urge to zone out during the lengthier battle sequences. That said, I honestly believe Alexander Freed has done the best job of pretty much any Star Wars author in capturing the feel of interstellar conflict in prose form– a very tricky prospect indeed considering this long-running franchise’s roots in heavily edited, fast-paced, visual effects-reliant filmmaking.

Victory’s Price also has a lot to say about the subtleties of warfare, the gray areas between good and evil, the pros and cons of pacifism, and (perhaps primarily) the role of veterans from both sides in post-war society. There are certainly arguments to be made that Soran Keize’s ultimate goal is a noble one, as his final allegiance lies not with the Empire itself but with the soldiers and other collaborators who served the Imperial government over its less than three decades in existence. We also get inside the head of Hera Syndulla quite a bit more here than we have in the previous two novels: we learn additional information about her state of mind and motives at this point in the timeline and get some tantalizing callbacks to her time as a rebel pilot and her current desires for her family once the war does finally come to an end. But the core of the story still revolves around Quell, Keize, and the Alphabet Squadron pilots, each of whom are facing intriguing and challenging personal struggles of their own. These are all interesting, complex characters Freed has created, and I’d love to see the ones who survive continue on in some form in the Star Wars universe wherever possible. In the end, Victory’s Price probably isn’t my favorite novel in the Alphabet Squadron trilogy (I think that honor fittingly goes to the eerily atmospheric second installment Shadow Fall) but it’s still undeniably worth picking up for adult Star Wars fans looking to get their space-battle fix with familiar friends flying A-wing, B-wing, U-wing, X-wing, and Y-Wing starfighters.

Star Wars: Victory’s Price – An Alphabet Squadron Novel by Alexander Freed will be released next Tuesday, March 2, but is available for pre-order right now.