Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover

Publisher: Del Rey (Trade Paperback – 23 June 2020)

Series: Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron – Book Two

Length: 393 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Strap in and prepare yourself for some intense combat out in the black of space, as Alexander Freed returns with another exciting and compelling Star Wars novel, Star Wars: Shadow Fall.

In the wake of the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star above Endor, the once mighty Galactic Empire is on its last legs as they face a determined and continuous assault from the forces of the New Republic.  Amongst the New Republic troops fighting to end the tyranny of the Empire are the ragtag fighter group known as Alphabet Squadron.  Formed by New Republic Intelligence and serving under legendary Rebel General Hera Syndulla, Alphabet Squadron’s mission is to hunt down and destroy the elite TIE fighter pilots of the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing, known as Shadow Wing, who have been terrorising the galaxy and are one of the greatest threats to the New Republic’s success.

Following their recent victory, which saw Shadow Wing’s base destroyed and their commanding officer killed, Alphabet Squadron are assisting with the lengthy siege of the Imperial system of Cerberon.  Led by former Imperial pilot Yrica Quell, herself a deserter from Shadow Wing, the five pilots of Alphabet Squadron are finally starting to work together as a team.  However, while they are happy to help Syndulla with her latest vital campaign, the squadron is still determined to finish off the remaining members of Shadow Wing before they cause more chaos and destruction.  Working with their New Republic Intelligence handler, Caern Adan, Quell believes she may have come up with a plan to trap her former Imperial comrades.  However, Quell has severely underestimated just how ruthless Shadow Wing has become.

Quell’s former mentor and commanding officer, Imperial fighter ace Soran Keize, has returned and taken control of Shadow Wing.  Determined to keep his people alive while inflicting as much damage as possible to the New Republic, he launches an attack against the Cerberon system that manages to bypass the trap laid for him.  Scattered, the members of Alphabet Squadron must each fight their own battles throughout Cerberon as they all attempt to survive and strike back.  However, as they face their greatest challenge to date Alphabet Squadron soon begins to realise that their most dangerous threat may not be the pilots of Shadow Wing, but the terrible secrets their own leader is keeping.

Star Wars: Shadow Fall is a fantastic and impressive Star Wars novel that examines the immediate aftermath of the original Star Wars trilogy while focusing a group of complex and damaged characters.  Shadow Fall is the fifth Star Wars novel from science fiction author Alexander Freed, and it serves as the second book in his Alphabet Squadron trilogy, which started last year with Star Wars: Alphabet SquadronAlphabet Squadron was an excellent first novel in this series, thanks to its exciting story which did an amazing job introducing the reader to each of the main characters of the titular Alphabet Squadron (so called because each member flies a different model of Rebel ship, i.e. one X-Wing, one Y-Wing and so on).  Freed’s latest novel is an outstanding sequel to Alphabet Squadron which continues the amazing character arcs and war-based narrative, while also adding in some excellent new elements.  While I really enjoyed the prior novel from Freed, I personally felt that Shadow Fall was a stronger book than Alphabet Squadron and I ended up really getting into this powerful and action-packed story.

This latest book from Freed contains an epic and enjoyable character-driven war story that follows the pilots of Alphabet Squadron as they attempt to subdue the Empire once and for all.  This proves to be a rather elaborate and multifaceted narrative as Freed utilises the key members of Alphabet Squadron as point-of-view characters.  While Shadow Fall initially has all the squadron members together, each of them goes on their own adventures throughout the book, breaking it up into several distinctive storylines.  Each of these storylines is rather intriguing and emotionally charged, especially as all the characters go through their own voyages of discovery.  These storylines are all confined to the same star system and each has its own take on the war occurring throughout Cerberon, especially as Freed also features a number of chapters from the point-of-view of the novel’s main antagonist, which allows the reader to see the plans and issues surrounding Shadow Wing.  All of this helps to create a compelling and exhilarating read, particularly as Shadow Fall contains a number of exciting and well written action sequences, including a series of amazing and impressive ship to ship combat scenes.  The characters get into some unique and deadly battles throughout the course of this book, and I really loved seeing all the intense fighting out in space.  Overall, this was a fantastic story and it ended up being quite a remarkable and addictive read.

One of the big things that I liked about Shadow Fall was the way that it continued to explore the turbulent period of Star Wars history that follows in the immediate aftermath of the death of the Emperor.  This period within the Star Wars universe has so much potential for great fiction and I feel that Freed does an outstanding job utilising it within his novels and showing off the battles that occurred.  There is a real gritty and dark feeling to this book, as both sides are involved in a lengthy and bitter conflict.  I really liked the darker and more desperate conflict that Freed portrays throughout this book, as both sides get pushed into some corners as they battle throughout the system.  This turned out to be an excellent setting and I really found it fascinating to see this vision of the post Return of the Jedi universe, especially as there was no instant victory for the Rebels as the movies suggest.  I look forward to seeing more of the war as the Alphabet Squadron series progresses and it will be interesting to see what battles and scenarios occur in the final book.

Readers interested in checking this series out do not need to have too much knowledge about the Star Wars extended universe; a general knowledge of the movie franchise should suffice.  However, like all pieces of tie-in fiction, those readers who are familiar with the more obscure bits of the fandom’s lore and history will get a lot more out of these books than casual readers.  I would also strongly suggest that people who want to read Shadow Fall should go back first and try Alphabet Squadron, as this will allow readers to get a better idea of the various characters and their histories and ensure that their actions have greater impact.  However, if you are determined to start here, I felt that Freed made Shadow Fall pretty accessible, summarising certain key events from the prior book and also providing some wider background information about the Star Wars universe during the period the novel is set.

One of the reasons that this story is so impactful and enjoyable is that Freed has anchored his narrative on the memorable and flawed characters that are Alphabet Squadron.  Thanks to the author’s use of multiple character viewpoints, the reader gets an in-depth understanding of all the key characters and their various story arcs and development.  A large amount of the book’s plot continues to focus on the leader of Alphabet Squadron and X-Wing pilot, Yrica Quell.  Quell is a former Imperial pilot and member of Shadow Wing, who defected after the end of the war, claiming that she attempted to stop her squadron from implementing Operation Cinder, a series of genocides ordered by the Emperor in the event of his death.  However, it was revealed at the end of Alphabet Squadron that she was actually a willing participant in Operation Cinder and only defected because her commanding officer, Soran Keize, ordered her to leave.  Quell is still haunted by her actions and is attempting to find redemption by working for the New Republic to hunt down her old squadron, while at the same time being blackmailed by her handler, Caern Adan, who is keeping the information about her crimes secret.  There are several great scenes throughout this book that deal with Quell’s guilt and fear of being found out as she attempts to come to terms with all she has done and tries to become the good person everyone believes she is.  However, chaotic events towards the middle of the book undo some of her progress and force her to really look deep into herself.  Quell easily has the best character arc entire book and her entire dramatic storyline is extremely well-written and emotionally rich.  It looks like Freed is taking this character in some interesting directions and it will get see what happens next.  I also enjoyed certain LGBT+ inclusions surrounding Quell (and some other characters), and it always great to see more of that added into the Star Wars universe.

Several other members of Alphabet Squadron get their own fascinating storylines and character arcs.  First up you have Wyl Lark, the team’s young A-wing fighter pilot, who is still shaken after his encounters with Shadow Wing during the first book.  Lark is a complicated character within this novel, as due to the past trauma he has started to experience some real weariness at all the fighting.  He also bears some inner conflict thanks to his past interaction with an unnamed member of Shadow Wing, who he knows only as Blink (due to the condition of their TIE fighter in the first book), which has made him believe that the Imperials are more human than most New Republic fighters believe.  This makes him act out in some odd ways, potentially endangering himself and others.  Regardless, Lark also takes on a big leadership role within this book as he finds himself in charge of a mixed force of New Republic soldiers and pilots who he must rally together to stop the machinations of Shadow Wing.  This forces him to make some tough decisions and results in some excellent character development, which is probably going to become a key part of the next entry in the series.

The book also focuses on Chass na Chadic, the pilot of the squadron’s B-Wing.  Chass is also an emotional mess throughout the book, which causes her to act out in an aggressive and reckless manner.  However, Chass’s difficulties are a result of her own addiction to combat and danger and her worries about what she is going to do after the war.  Chass also has a rather intriguing storyline that sees her forced to seek shelter with a growing cult after she is shot down.  This only adds to her emotional confusion as, while this organisation has some very valid points about the war, Chass has her own problematic history with cults which severely colours her opinions.  A fourth member of Alphabet Squadron who also gets a fair bit of attention is Y-Wing pilot Nath Tensent.  Nath gets a little less use than Quell, Lark and Chass in this book, and rather than getting his own individual storyline he ends up being more of a supporting character to the other members of Alphabet Squadron.  I liked how Nath, after getting the revenge he desired in the first book, started taking on more of a mentor role within the team and he ends up being the glue that keeps them somewhat together.  His experience, easygoing manner and ability to socialise with everyone really helps to balance out the team, and I think it was good decision from Freed to have at least one point-of-view protagonist not be an emotional wreck.  I have to admit that I really liked seeing all of these complex and damaged protagonists and their various storylines and development became a powerful part of the book’s story.

Aside from these main four members, Shadow Fall also features several other great New Republic characters.  This includes the fifth and final member of Alphabet Squadron, Kairos, the mysterious scarred alien pilot of the team’s U-Wing.  Kairos does not get a lot of use throughout this book and is barely seen or mentioned after the first 100 pages.  Despite this, there are a few minor reveals about her shrouded past, and I can only hope that we find out a lot more about her in the final book.  There is actually a lot more of a focus on the supporting character of Caern Adan, the New Republic Intelligence officer who has been leading the hunt for Shadow Wing, as well as his companion, IT-O, a former Imperial torture droid turned therapist.  I found Caern’s use within Shadow Fall to be rather compelling, especially after he was portrayed as such a despicable and self-serving character in the first novel.  Freed dives into this Caern’s background in this novel and shows how he became the harsh, calculating person you met in Alphabet Squadron, as well as exploring his history with IT-O and Kairos.  This examination into his past, as well as his present-day adventures with Quell, helps generate a bit of sympathy for him and he ends up becoming a bit of a tragic character as a result.  I was also really glad to see more of New Republic General Hera Syndulla, who fans would know as one of the main protagonists of the Star Wars Rebels animated television show.  Hera was a great character on the show and in recent years she has been featured as a key Rebel commander in the expanded fiction (with her ship, Ghost, having brief cameos in two separate live action Star Wars movies).  I am always happy to learn more about Hera’s story post-Star Wars Rebels, especially as she has a great role as the wise overall commander throughout this book, and Star Wars Rebels fans will get sad in one or two places, such as when she wistfully asks if anyone has a Jedi hidden away.  Overall, these were some great supporting characters and I enjoyed Freed’s focus on them.

In addition to all the members of the Alphabet Squadron and the various New Republic supporting characters, Shadow Fall is also a tale of Imperial pilot Soran Keize.  After spending most of the first book trying to forget his past and exploring the post Imperial galaxy, Soran returns to claim his place as leader of Shadow Wing.  Soran is another compelling character who ends up serving as an alternate point-of-view character for roughly a third of the book.  I always love it when authors show the story from the antagonist’s perspective, and this ended up working incredibly well in this novel.  Not only do we get to see Soran’s complex motivations for returning to his wing and restarting the fight with the New Republic, but through his eyes we also get a better idea of how the Imperial remnant is fighting and surviving at this point of the war.  Freed adds some real desperation to the Imperial characters as they start to deal with the fact that they are going to lose the war, and there are some interesting discussions about the Imperial pilots having to change tactics, as they no longer have access to the vast resources they were previously used to.  Despite his at times merciless tactics, Soran’s viewpoint really helps to humanise the Imperial antagonists and, in many ways, they are mirrors to the New Republic characters, as both teams are fighting for their ideals and beliefs.  That being said, none of the Imperial characters aside from Soran popped out to me, and I had a hard time really caring about them in any way or remembering who they were.  Still, it was great to get more of an Imperial viewpoint in this novel, and I look forward to seeing what happens to them in the final entry in the Alphabet Squadron series.

Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed is another outstanding and enjoyable Star Wars novel that serves as an exceptional sequel to last year’s Alphabet SquadronShadow Fall is an extremely captivating and addictive read, especially as Freed features an amazing action-packed story, fun Star Wars elements and some incredibly complex and compelling characters whose damaged personalities and scarred pasts really stick in the reader’s minds.  I had an awesome time reading Shadow Fall and I cannot wait to see how Freed finishes off this darker Star Wars series.

WWW Wednesday – 29 July 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio (Trade Paperback)

Demon in White Cover 1

Demon in White is the third book in the epic Sun Eater science fiction series, following on from Empire of Silence and Howling Dark.  I am a massive fan of this series and I have been really enjoying the elaborate and detailed overarching narrative that Ruocchio has come up with.  I only just started this behemoth of a book, but so far it is proving to be rather good, with some interesting developments for the protagonist.  I think that this is going to turn into an amazing read and I am looking forward to getting through it.

 
World of Warcraft: Shadows Rising by Madeleine Roux (Audiobook)

Shadows Rising Cover

The latest World of Warcraft expanded universe novel, Shadows Rising, which ties into the upcoming Shadowland expansion and works to bridge the gaps between the previous expansion and this new one.  I have not made too much progress with this audiobook so far, but I think it is going to turn out to be an excellent fantasy adventure.

What did you recently finish reading?

Star WarsShadow Fall by Alexander Freed (Trade Paperback)

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover

I am hoping to get a review for this book up soon.

Star WarsDoctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn (Audio Drama)

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover


Queen of Storms
by Raymond E. Feist (Hardcover)

Queen of Storms Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Execution by S. J. Parris (Trade Paperback)

Execution Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 22 July 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Star WarsShadow Fall by Alexander Freed (Trade Paperback)

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover

The sequel to last year’s Alphabet Squadron, Shadow Fall is another fantastic Star Wars novel that sees two rival groups of pilots face off following the fall of the Empire.  I have made a fair amount of progress with this book and so far I am really enjoying it.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn (Audio Drama)

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

It looks like I’m doing a bit of a Star Wars double feature this week, but there was no way I could resist this new Star Wars audio drama about one of my favourite characters Doctor Aphra.  Featuring a full cast of impressive narrators, this Doctor Aphra audio drama retells the events of the Darth Vader (2015) series where Aphra was introduced and tells it from her perspective.  I am about half an hour in at the moment and I am loving this fun and entertaining audio presentation, which is perfectly capturing the character’s wild and exciting personality.

What did you recently finish reading?

Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham (Trade Paperback)

Finding Eadie Cover


The Gates of Athens
by Conn Iggulden (Trade Paperback)

The Gates of Athens Cover

I’m hoping to get a review for this book up tonight.


Kill Switch
 by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Kill Switch Cover

I am also hoping to write a review about this book today, will have to see how I go.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio (Trade Paperback)

Demon in White Cover 1

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 15 July 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham (Trade Paperback)

Finding Eadie Cover


Kill Switch
by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Kill Switch Cover

I was in the mood for a fun thriller this week, so I decided to check out the eighth book in the always dependable Joe Ledger series, Kill Switch.  This is another fun and exciting entry in this great series, and I am making some fantastic progress with it so far.  I should finish Kill Switch off in the next few days at this rate, and I am looking forward to seeing how the complex story turns out.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde (Trade Paperback)

The Constant Rabbit Cover


Star Trek: Agents of Influence
 by Dayton Ward (Audiobook)

Agents of Influence Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Star WarsShadow Fall by Alexander Freed (Trade Paperback)

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 12 July 2020

It has been a bit of a slow month book-wise for me, but I have still received several amazing books to read and review, so I thought I would take the time to highlight them in a book haul post.  While the books have been few, they are actually a pretty impressive collection of novels, and represent some of the top novels of 2020.  I have been  looking forward to a number of these books for a while, and several have recently appeared on my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2020 list and my Winter TBR list.  Each of these books sounds really amazing and I cannot wait to get through all of them.

 

Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution Cover

A horror book about Sasquatches written by the author of World War Z, yes please!  I have already read and reviewed this book and it is pretty damn good.

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit Cover

The Constant Rabbit is a fun and unique new novel that I am currently reading.  Fforde has always come up with some amusing and memorable books (such as his 2018 release, Early Risers), and this new one is pretty crazy, featuring anthropomorphised rabbits in an alternate version of Great Britain.

Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover

The sequel to last years Alphabet Squadron, Shadow Fall looks set to be another action-packed and impressive Star Wars novels that sets two rival groups of pilots against each other.  Guaranteed to be a fun and exciting blast, this should be a great one to check out.

The Gates of Athens by Conn Iggulden

The Gates of Athens Cover

The Gates of Athens is the latest novel from one of the top historical fiction authors in the world, Conn Iggulden.  I am a major fan of Iggulden’s writing (check out my review for his last book, The Falcon of Sparta), and this looks set to be one of the best historical releases of 2020.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

The Night Swim Cover

This next book is a fantastic sounding murder mystery novel from Australian author Megan Goldin, who wrote the awesome 2018 release, The Escape RoomThe Night Swim has an amazing concept behind it and I am really looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower Cover

The final entry on this list is the impressive sounding fantasy novel, The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso, a copy of which I picked up today.  I really enjoyed Caruso’s debut series, the Sword and Fire trilogy (made up of The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire), and this latest book is set in the same universe.  I think that this has a lot of potential and I am very excited for it.
That is the end of this book haul and as you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do.  I am hoping to get some great new books in the next couple of weeks, and will hopefully be able to do another book haul post soon.  Until then let me know which of the above books most interests you and I’ll try to read them first.

WWW Wednesday – 8 July 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde (Trade Paperback)

The Constant Rabbit Cover

The Constant Rabbit is the weird and entertaining new novel from bestselling author Jasper Fforde.  Fforde is an extremely clever writer who comes up with some unusual stories (such as his last release, Early Riser).  I only just started this book today, but so far it is a fun read that I am rather enjoying.


Star Trek: Agents of Influence
by Dayton Ward (Audiobook)

Agents of Influence Cover

I am still going with this Star Trek audiobook and I am hoping to finish it off in the next couple of days.  This has been a really good read so far, and I cannot wait to see where the rest of the story goes.


What did you recently finish reading?

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly (Trade Paperback)

Fair Warning Cover

Out of Time by David Klass (Trade Paperback)

Out of Time Cover
What do you think you’ll read next?

Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed (Trade Paperback)

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on My Winter 2020 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list the top ten books on their Winter 2020 (or Summer 2020 for those up in the Northern Hemisphere) to be read (TBR) list.

There are some rather fantastic-sounding novels coming out in the next couple of months, and I am quite excited for a number of them. Surprisingly, producing this list did not go as smoothly as some previous TBR lists that I have done. This is because several books I was hoping to include have been delayed since the last time I looked them up, presumably due to the coronavirus outbreak. While this is a little disappointing, I was still able to come up with a good list of Winter TBR books, and the entries below are some of my most anticipated releases coming out in June, July and August 2020. I have previously addressed several of these books before in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday posts, and there is also likely to be some crossover between this list and some of my previous Top Ten Tuesday lists, such as my Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020 list and my Predicted Five Star Reads list. I have also chosen to exclude any books that I have already read or have started reading (such as Stormblood by Jeremy Szal). Overall, I think I came up with quite a diverse list of books.

Honourable Mentions:

Devolution by Max Brooks – 16 June 2020

Devolution Cover


Star Wars: Shadow Fall
by Alexander Freed – 2 July 2020

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover


Out of Time
by David Klass – 21 July 2020

Out of Time Cover

Top Ten List (By Release Date):


The Obsidian Tower
by Melissa Caruso – 9 June 2020

The Obsidian Tower Cover


The Return
by Harry Sidebottom – 11 June 2020

The Return Cover


The Constant Rabbit
by Jasper Fforde – 30 June 2020

The Constant Rabbit Cover

This is a really quirky and entertaining novel that I received earlier this week, which I think could be a lot of fun to read. Jasper Fforde is an author who I have enjoyed for years, and I had a great time reading his last book, Early Riser. His latest book, The Constant Rabbit, sounds absolutely bonkers as it features anthropomorphic rabbits moving into a human town and facing prejudice in a satire of racism in the UK. I am sure I am going to laugh myself silly with this book, and it should be a really unique read.

Queen of Storms by Raymond E. Feist – 14 July 2020

Queen of Storms Cover


World of Warcraft: Shadows Rising
by Madeleine Roux – 14 July 2020

Shadows Rising Cover


Demon in White
by Christopher Ruocchio – 28 July 2020

Demon in White Cover 1


The Gates of Athens
by Conn Iggulden – 4 August 2020

The Gates of Athens Cover

Conn Iggulden is an extremely talented historical fiction author who has produced some amazing novels throughout his career, including his last book, The Falcon of Sparta. His upcoming novel, The Gate of Athens, is the first entry in his new Athenian series, which will take a look at the major wars of ancient Athens. This is probably going to be one of the best historical fiction books that I am going to read in the next few months, and I cannot wait to check it out.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 4 August 2020

Harrow the Ninth Cover

Last year I was blown away by the incredible Gideon the Ninth, which was part fantasy, part science fiction, part murder mystery and 100% non-stop fun. Gideon the Ninth was easily one of my favourite debuts of 2019, and I am extremely excited to read the sequel, Harrow the Ninth. This upcoming novel seems set to continue the crazy adventures of the first book, and I am really looking forward to seeing where the story goes after Gideon the Ninth’s shocking conclusion.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – 4 August 2020

The Night Swim Cover

The Night Swim is the next intriguing release from Australian author Megan Goldin, and it looks set to be one of the most compelling mystery novels of 2020. I really enjoyed Goldin’s previous book, 2018’s The Escape Room, which I ended up reading in a single night, and I am looking forward to getting through the author’s next compelling story.

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker – 25 August 2020

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

The final book on my list is How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by bestselling fantasy author K. J. Parker. Parker is a really clever writer who has produced a huge number of impressive fantasy novels over the year. His previous book, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, was an incredible read and it was one of my favourite books of 2019. Due to how much I enjoyed his last book, and because How to Rule and Empire and Get Away with It might have some intriguing connections to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, I have extremely high hopes for this upcoming novel, and I think it is going to be absolutely amazing.

 

Well that’s my latest top ten list. I am very happy with the final list that I pulled together, especially as this is a great mixture of impressive-sounding novels. I think each of the books listed above have incredible potential, and I cannot wait to read each and every one of them. Let me know which of these books interests you the most in the comments below.

Waiting on Wednesday -2020 Star Wars Novels

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.

This week, I am in a real Star Wars headspace, probably because the final movie in the Skywalker Saga, The Rise of Skywalker, is coming out very soon. By this time tomorrow, I should have seen this movie, and I am really hoping that they finish this final trilogy on a high note (especially after The Last Jedi, which I think we can all agree had some major flaws). In the meantime, as I have just posted a review of the tie-in novel Star Wars: Force Collector, I thought that this would be a good time to look at some of the Star Wars novels that are coming in 2020.

2019 has been an outstanding year for Star Wars expanded fiction, with some great books, such as Master & Apprentice (which recently made my Top Ten Favourite Audiobook’s of 2019 list); the surprisingly enjoyable tie-in to the Galaxy’s Edge theme park area at Disneyland, Black Spire; or the other The Rise of Skywalker tie-in novel, Resistance Reborn. There have also been some excellent comic book series, from the Vader: Dark Visions limited series, to the continuations of the Star Wars (2015) and Dr Aphra series (I just finished Volume 6 of Doctor Aphra last night and it was pretty darn epic). As a result, I am constantly keeping an eye on what new pieces of Star Wars fiction are coming out in the future (as it is guaranteed that I am going to read them), and, so far, three intriguing Star Wars novels are currently set for release in the first half of 2020.

Interestingly enough, all three of these upcoming Star Wars novels are closely related to books that came out in 2019. While it would have been cool to see some sort of new or original tie-in novel come out in the first half of the year, all of these new releases are following on from some very compelling storylines in their preceding books, and should prove to be an excellent addition to the current Star Wars canon.

Queen's Peril Cover.jpg

The first of the books that I am going to feature in this article is the young adult novel, Queen’s Peril, by E. K. Johnston. This will be the third Star Wars novel from Johnston, who has previously written the amazing young adult novels, Ahsoka and Queen’s Shadow. Queen’s Peril looks like it is going to be a fascinating novel that will be closely associated with the plot of Queen’s Shadow, as the author once again focuses on Padmé Amidala and her handmaidens. However, while Queen’s Shadow followed Amidala as she became a senator for Naboo after the events of The Phantom Menace, Queen’s Peril is set before the film and will follow the character’s earlier life when she becomes Queen of Naboo. Queen’s Peril is set for release on 5 May 2020, and a detailed plot synopsis and fantastic cover are already available.

Goodreads Synopsis:

When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she adopts the name Amidala and leaves her family to the rule from the royal palace. To keep her safe and secure, she’ll need a group of skilled handmaidens who can be her assistants, confidantes, defenders, and decoys. Each girl is selected for her particular talents, but it will be up to Padmé to unite them as a group. When Naboo is invaded by forces of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her handmaidens will face the greatest test–of themselves, and of each other.

This sounds like it is going to be a rather intriguing novel. While I would have enjoyed seeing some of the post-The Phantom Menace storylines that featured in Queen’s Shadow continued, focusing on the early days of Amidala’s reign has some great potential and I think it is going to result in an amazing story. Not only will we get to see how and why a 14-year-old girl becomes queen, and the various issues associated with that, but it looks like Johnston is going to continue to explore the unique culture of Naboo, as well as the intriguing lives of the queen’s handmaidens. Queen’s Shadow spent quite a lot of time not only showcasing the importance of the handmaidens, but also introducing the readers to these previously unnamed characters (well, unnamed in this canon). In particular, we got to know Sabé, Amidala’s decoy, who served as the secondary protagonist of the book, and we saw the close friendship she had with Amidala. I am very excited to learn more about Amidala and her handmaidens, and it will be great to see how they were initially brought together to engage in the complex game of galactic politics.

Based on the above synopsis, it looks like the book’s plot will be set over the course of a few years, as not only will it show Amidala becoming queen, but it also covers the occupation of Naboo by the Trade Federation. I reckon that this should result in a rather compelling story, and I am very interested in seeing the events that led up to the invasion of Naboo. It is also likely that we will see what happened to the various handmaidens during the course of The Phantom Menace. Some hints of this were given in Queen’s Shadow, such as the fact that one of them was tortured in an internment camp, and I am curious about what the others went through. It will also be extremely interesting to see the story of The Phantom Menace from Sabé’s point of view, especially as she spent a good part of the film disguised as Amidala.

I am hoping Johnson will expand on the intriguing story point that concluded her previous book. Queen’s Shadow ended with a flash-forward to Amidala’s funeral at the end of Revenge of the Sith and showed Sabé’s reaction to the death of her dearest friend. In this scene, Sabé expressed great scepticism towards the official Imperial story about Amidala’s death, and decides to investigate it herself. A storyline in Queen’s Peril that follows Sabé as she pokes around in the newly formed Empire trying to find the truth has some amazing potential, especially if she has to contend with Darth Vader or the Emperor. It wouldn’t be too hard to split the story into two separate periods, one of which focused the early days of Amidala’s reign, while the other followed Sabé’s investigation in the future, and it will be interesting to see what Johnston does.

I think that Queen’s Peril should prove to be a very compelling and exciting new addition to the Star Wars universe, and I am really keen to see what Johnston includes in this story. I will probably end up listening to this book’s audiobook format rather than grabbing a physical copy, and I really hope that they get Catherine Taber back to narrate the story. Taber, who voices Amidala in The Clone Wars animated series, did an outstanding job of narrating Queen’s Shadow, and it will be really cool to once again have one of the official voices of Amidala tell the story.

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover

The next book that I am going to look at is Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn, the first book in the new Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy. Chaos Rising is probably the Star Wars book I am most looking forward to in 2020, as not only is it written by my favourite Star Wars fiction author, Timothy Zahn (I literally just finished listening to one of his Star Wars books last night and it was amazing), but it contains a prequel story for one of the franchise’s best characters, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Grand Admiral Thrawn is an outstanding character who Zahn created back in the 1990s under the old Star Wars canon. One of the few alien officers in the Imperial Navy, Thrawn was portrayed as the ultimate tactical genius who was able to outthink and predict the actions of all his opponents. Thrawn was one of the few non-movie characters who exists in both the old Star Wars Legends canon and the new Disney canon, as he was reintroduced a couple of years ago as an antagonist in the Star Wars Rebels animated show. As part of this reintroduction, Zahn was contracted to write two new trilogies of Star Wars novels that focused on Thrawn. The Thrawn trilogy contained three exceptional Star Wars novels: Thrawn, Alliances and Treason, which was easily the Star Wars novel of this year. While I was kind of hoping that Zahn would shed some light on the eventual fate of Thrawn following his disappearance in the final episode of Rebels, it looks like Zahn is instead going back to explore the character’s youth.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The first book in a new trilogy set before Thrawn traveled to the Empire and became a Grand Admiral. Journey to the Unknown Regions and learn more about Thrawn’s origins and his home: The Chiss Ascendancy.

While a longer plot synopsis is probably in the works, this short blurb contains quite a lot of interesting information. In particular, it looks like dedicated Star Wars fans are going to get a brand-new origin story for this character. I am very excited to see what events formed the Thrawn we know and love, and I am curious to finally find out what he did to convince his people to infiltrate the Empire. No doubt, there will be all manner of battle and conflicts as Thrawn helps to defend his people against a bunch of alien threats, which will probably help showcase his initial tactical genius and unique way of seeing things.

One of the other intriguing things that the synopsis hints at is additional knowledge of the protagonist’s race, the Chiss. The mysterious Chiss Ascendancy is a legendary race which exists within the unknown regions of space outside of the bounds of the Republic or the Empire. Despite seeing some of the characters in the new Thrawn novels, very little is known about the Chiss (in this canon in particular). As a result, I am looking forward to finding out more about them, including details of their culture, military and the force-sensitive children they use as navigators. It is also going to be intriguing to see the events of the main Star Wars series through this alien species eyes. Based on Thrawn’s appearance during the events of Thrawn: Alliances, which was partially set during the Clone Wars, and the fact that the character was sent to infiltrate the Empire in order to help form some sort of alliance between them and the Chiss to help fight some of the dangers lurking in the Unknown Regions (something I also hope we find out more about), we know that the Chiss were keeping an eye on the events happening in Republic/Imperial space. I imagine that the Chiss characters will have some intriguing reactions to the wars and conflicts being fought between the Jedi and the Sith, and it should prove to be a great part of the series.

Based on how much I love Zahn’s previous work and on how awesome the character of Thrawn is, there is no way that I am not going to love this novel. I have no doubt that Chaos Rising is going to be an exception book, and I am excited to see what exciting adventures and wonderful universe building is contained within. I also have to say how much I love the recently released cover of this book. The understated design is pretty cool, and it leaves a definite impression. Chaos Rising is set for release on 5 May 2020, and hopefully I will be able to get an advanced copy of it to review.

Star Wars Shadow Fall stand-in cover.jpg

The final book in this article is Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed. Shadow Fall, which currently has a release date of 23 June 2020, is the sequel to the 2019 book Alphabet Squadron, and is set to continue its action-focused story. The official cover for Shadow Fall is yet to be released, although I thought that the stand-in cover above is already really good.

Alphabet Squadron followed a small squadron of Rebel Alliance pilot, each of whom flies a different make of starfighter (e.g. one in an X-Wing, another in a Y-Wing, hence Alphabet Squadron), as the fight against the Imperial Remnant in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi. Made up of a disparate group of pilots and led by former Imperial, Yrica Quell, Alphabet Squadron explored the darker side of the galaxy following the Rebel’s victory. Alphabet Squadron was also connected to the Star Wars: Tie Fighter (2019) comic book miniseries, as the main characters of the miniseries served as the book’s antagonists. Shadow Fall will continue the adventure started in the previous book, and it looks like this time more time will be spent on the Imperial characters who make up Shadow Wing.

Goodreads Synopsis:

After their narrow victory over Shadow Wing, Alphabet Squadron is on the attack, hunting their adversaries within the Imperial Remnant. Shadow Wing is desperate for direction and leadership–and they find both in the iron will of Major Keize, their former commander and Yrica Quell’s one-time mentor. As battle lines blur, Alphabet Squadron finds itself not only fighting their resurgent foes, but their leader’s own deadly shadow.

This should prove to be another excellent piece of Star Wars fiction, and I am looking forward to the plot, which will once again focus on a number of engagements between the two rival squads of fighters. Freed showed his ability to produce amazing space battle sequences in Alphabet Squadron, and no doubt this latest book will contain many more of these as well. I am also expecting that the author will continue to focus on the strained relationships of the five members of Alphabet Squadron, as they slowly meld together as an effective team, and there is likely to be more internal politics and manipulation from their shady New Republic Intelligence handler. My initial prediction for this book is that it will end in some form of major defeat for the protagonists, similar in the ending to Empire Strikes Back, but I have nothing to back that up with. I do think that Shadow Fall is going to be another awesome book from Freed, and I look forward to all the intense action and battle sequences it will contain.

As you can see, the first half of 2020 is shaping up to have some exceptional Star Wars novels. I am very excited for all three of these books, and I reckon that they will all turn out to be fantastic reads. I am also very curious to see what other novels are released in the latter half of the year, although it is pretty much guaranteed that I will end up reviewing all of them, no matter what. Until then, I’ve got a Star Wars movie to see, here’s hoping The Rise of Skywalker lives up to expectations.