Jordan’s Spoiler Review of Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad
Author Christie Golden is no stranger when it comes to the Star Wars universe. She has been a part of the Star Wars family of authors for the last eight years, beginning with Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi – Omen, which was followed by two more books in that series. Two years ago, she joined the ranks of authors in the new Star Wars canon under Disney ownership with her novel Dark Disciple, a superbly written tale that adapted what would have been an eight-episode arc in the seventh season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an arc that never came to fruition on screen due to the show’s cancellation in 2013.
Golden is also no stranger when it comes to media tie-ins, having written several novels for the Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Assassin’s Creed franchises among others, resulting in her being awarded the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers Faust Award. Needless to say, the prequel novel to EA Dice’s upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront II video game has been placed in very capable hands, and those hands have crafted what is, in my opinion, one of the best Star Wars novels to date.
So what’s the verdict on Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad? Is it my favorite Star Wars novel? Well….it very well might be. “Hold the holoprojector!” you say. “Better than Thrawn? Bloodline? Lords of the Sith?!” Well….not necessarily. Allow me a moment to clarify.
There are some great Star Wars novels out there, and about five or so that I would consider to even be phenomenal. Does this book dethrone any of these books to take the top spot as the best Star Wars novel ever written? Although it is indeed very well-written, I wouldn’t give it the title of “best Star Wars novel”, but like I said, it might be my own personal favorite. And here’s why….the “Imperial perspective”.
Don’t underestimate the power of a story that flips your preconceived notions upside down and lets you see the world (albeit a fictional world) through a fresh set of eyes. Up until recently, most Star Wars characters were pretty much black and white when it comes to morality, largely due to how they have been presented to us on screen. No one questions the wickedness of the Emperor or the heroism of Luke Skywalker. Good and bad, light and dark. The path was clear and obvious.
However, lately, the creators of Star Wars decided to shake things up a little, giving us new characters like Ciena Ree and Rae Sloane while also reintroducing Grand Admiral Thrawn, all characters that should be considered villains by association with the Empire, but who are undoubtedly the heroes of their own stories. As readers, we have been able to see the galaxy from their perspective and begin to understand that not every Imperial is inherently evil, and not every rebel always holds the moral high ground – as we’ve seen with characters like Cassian Andor and Saw Gerrera.
But no one has done it better than Christie Golden with her development of the characters in Inferno Squad. Iden Versio and her band of elite soldiers are Imperial through and through. There is never any question where their loyalties lie and what their motives are. But at the same time, although some of the things they have to do in the book stray off of that high road of morality, Golden never makes you question the fact that they are heroes. They are loyal to their cause, and you can’t help but understand why they stand where they do in this conflict, and to root for them along the way, despite your previous understanding that the Empire is the enemy.
But what is an enemy? Does the word “enemy” necessarily carry with it the notion of that person being evil? This story does a fantastic job illuminating the fact that there are always gray areas. Sometimes, one’s duty conflicts with the views of another, and that’s exactly what happens in this novel. In the story, Inferno Squad has to infiltrate a group of rebel partisans, and during their stint with the rebels, they come to know some of the individuals in the group quite well – begin to care for them in fact. But in the end, when duty calls, personal feelings must be cast aside in service to the Empire. This is the struggle at the very core of Inferno Squad. Sometimes, you can be wrong and right at the same time. There are heroes and villains on both sides in any large scale conflict. War is tragic. With it comes the loss of life and the lives that could have been.
In different circumstances, it’s clear that the friendships the squad develops with the partisans while undercover could have been genuine lifelong relationships. The things they shared in common, the passions, the dreams. But war changes everything. When it comes down to it, the rebels are the enemy, and despite the light that shines forth from some of the individuals in the group, Iden’s team can never forget who and what they are and what threat they pose to the Empire. The enemy must be stopped. The enemy must be destroyed.
One of the things that surprised me about Inferno Squad was the presentation of the partisan rebels. Although they have redeeming qualities, they are very much the villains of this book. Like I said – perspective. To the Imperials, this band of insurgents are nothing more than terrorists – a view that the reader comes to understand clearly in many portions of the book. Suicide bombings, the murder of innocent life, there sometimes seems to be no end to the lengths the partisans are willing to go to strike the Empire where it hurts, and the real world comparisons you can’t help but make in these moments does a lot in altering your perspective. Make no mistake, the Alliance to Restore the Republic is starkly contrasted against the partisans due to their adherence to common morality. The Imperials even understand the difference between the two. But this book really drives home the reasons why the Alliance parted with Saw Gerrera years ago. His methods are just too extreme.
The Alliance doesn’t get a free pass either though. Although they are not the loose cannon that the partisans are, their numbers are greater, and they have already shown what they are capable of when they destroyed the thousands of lives on the Death Star. Ultimately, that is why I love this book. It completely alters the viewing lens through which you see the Empire and the Rebellion. You come to adore these Imperial heroes, and you understand their loyalty and, at times, their hatred of the Rebellion. For example, Iden was raised on the planet Vardos, a planet that gladly embraced the Empire from day one. Her father is an Imperial Admiral, a high-ranking officer in the Imperial Security Bureau, and her mother is an artist who makes a career on creating Imperial propaganda. Gideon, Iden’s best friend, lost his parents on his homeworld of Kuat from a terrorist attack by a group of rebels while they were working at the shipyards. As Charles Soule points out in the most recent issue of Poe Dameron, there are always two stories in war…until someone wins, then there’s only one.
While this book is excellent, I want to also point out that it isn’t perfect, and there were a couple of things I didn’t love about it – like the silly side plot about these ancient stone-crystal machines that they find on the planet Jeosyn, the location of the partisan base. But this doesn’t largely factor in to the main plot so in the end, it’s not too distracting. There is also a character known as the “Mentor” working with the partisans, whom we discover is a figure of some importance, but whose true identity is not revealed until the end of the book.
Although I liked the eventual reveal, I felt that Golden gave one too many hints early on about who he was, and I saw it coming a mile away. Maybe this was her intention, but I felt that if she had kept some things a little closer to the vest, the reveal could have had a little more impact. Clone Wars fans will figure out his identity just about from the get go, and readers who are not familiar with the Clone Wars will have no idea who he is anyway. But when all is said and done, these are very minor gripes when held up against a novel that has some of the best character development I’ve ever read in a Star Wars book along with an emotionally captivating and compelling story of feelings versus duty.
Readers may be surprised a little bit regarding the scale of this story as well. It’s more about espionage and small scale skirmishes than all-out warfare and big action set pieces like we’ve seen on display in the upcoming game trailer. So go in to this prequel expecting something more along the lines of a spy thriller than a war story, and rest assured that you’ll probably get your fix on that as the story continues in Battlefront II this November.
Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad is available wherever books are sold, and I strongly recommend you check it out for yourself. The audiobook is also available and is narrated by Janina Gavankar, the actress playing Iden Versio in the game.
Top Ten Spoilers and Interesting Plot Points:
- Iden Versio was stationed on the Death Star when the rebels attacked from Yavin IV. She fends off the rebels in her TIE fighter before the station is destroyed and she crash lands on the fourth moon of Yavin.
- Iden’s father is Garrick Versio, a prominent Admiral with the Imperial Security Bureau.
- Iden’s best friend and fellow squad mate, Gideon Hask, was orphaned at the age of ten when his parents were killed during a rebel terrorist attack on Kuat.
- Del Meeko, the squad’s most veteran member, was stationed at Scarif previously as a shoretrooper, but was relocated prior to the rebel attack on the archive facility.
- Readers of Beth Revis’ Rebel Rising will recognize Staven, the leader of the Dreamers, as a man who worked with Jyn Erso and Saw Gerrera as one of Saw’s Partisans.
- Readers may remember the pirate leader Lassa Rhayme, a Pantoran woman who was first introduced in Golden’s novel Dark Disciple. In Inferno Squad, she is a supplier for Staven’s group.
- The squad infiltrates the Dreamers in an attempt to discover who is supplying them their intel. The source of the intel turned out to be the daughter of a rebel known only as the “Mentor”, whom we discover is the former senator of Onderon, Lux Bonteri – a man who once fought alongside Saw and Steela Gerrera and the Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano during the Clone Wars.
- The squad eventually loses one of their own, Seyn Marana, when she is made by the partisans as a spy. Iden is forced to kill her in the heat of the moment as Seyn lunges at her, giving Iden the opportunity to solidify her place among the rebels with that last act of sacrifice.
- Even though the squad became close with some of the rebels, in the end they remain loyal to the Empire, executing the remnants of Saw’s Partisans down to the last man.
- Iden, however, out of respect for Lux Bonteri, only stuns him before obtaining the data chip he was carrying. She is disheartened to find that all the other rebels were killed by her other squad mates.
We know some of our readers are just not into reading novels but still want to know what happens in the story. If you find yourself in that boat, head on over to the Cantina for a detailed plot summary of Inferno Squad. Happy reading Star Wars fans!
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.