The Alphabet Squadron trilogy has been, for me, a lesson in patience. I have not been secretive about the fact that I struggled to get through Alphabet Squadron. I found it slow and unengaging. I was able to finish it on my third try by going for the audiobook. I listened to the second book, Shadow Fall, and enjoyed it, especially because (much to my relief) it picked up the pace about halfway through. The end of Shadow Fall did have a fantastic cliffhanger, and that ending really ramped up the tension among the characters. Victory’s Price continues ratcheting up the pace with a breathtaking and break-neck paced book. It is a cat and mouse game focused on finding and stopping Shadow Wing before another Operation Cinder can be enacted, culminating in the Battle of Jakku. I was absolutely spellbound beginning to end. Bottom line, this book is worth your time, and I strongly recommend listening to this trilogy as audiobooks, as the Star Wars sound effects we know so well from the films are a fantastic addition. This review includes some spoilers, so be aware.
Victory’s Price has such a powerful emotional payoff after the set up in previous books. I was so invested in Wyl Lark, Chass na Chadic, Kairos, Nath Tensent, and Yrica Quell as characters in the Star Wars universe. By the time I was a quarter of the way through the book, I was anxiously concerned about their fates. I was more invested in Hera Syndulla and her survival than I ever had been. I turned off my audiobook at one point, looked at my roommate and said, “If they kill off Hera and Wyl Lark today I am probably going to start screaming and crying, so just don’t worry if you hear a commotion in the next hour.” TV shows like Game of Thrones have me so well trained for fictional loss that I just accepted the probability of tragedy as a given and started planning for the emotional fallout. For me, the references to Jyn Erso and Rogue One added to the emotional stakes of this book, a regular reminder of that tragic but necessary sacrifice for the survival of the Rebellion. It really concerned me that so many members of Alphabet Squadron could, and in my mind probably would, die in defense of the New Republic. Kudos to Alexander Freed for bringing that level of anxiety and investment out of me.
Most of Victory’s Price takes place during battles against the 204th (also known as Shadow Wing) and culminates in the Battle of Jakku. It is almost nonstop action, punctuated by moments of tension as Yrica works behind the scenes on the Yadeez (host to Soran Keize and the 204th) to send information to Hera and the Rebellion. Alphabet Squadron has different responsibilities since the end of Shadow Fall. Nath is working on intelligence, Wyl is training pilots, Chass is trying to find her equilibrium after her time with the cult Children of the Empty Sun, Kairos is being Kairos (hey, Alexander Freed, can we get a whole book about her, because I want to know more). After all of these transitions for our squadron, they now must fight Shadow Wing over and over again, in a game of cat and mouse across the galaxy. It is just NONSTOP.
Within these battles, there are really fantastic arcs for so many characters. Yrica, Chass and Wyl in particular have complex and emotional journeys. Yrica struggles with her actions on Nacronis and as a member of the 204th, while feeling untethered after the rejection she felt when her friends in Alphabet Squadron discovered her role during the former. Chass is equally untethered after her time in the cult, and the revelations about Yrica. Chass has walls and does not let people in very often. Her feelings of betrayal are so palpable, so strong that if she were a Jedi, I would be worried about her falling to the dark side.
Wyl Lark makes some of the biggest strides in this book. He is training pilots. He is a leader, and a good one at that, but he is clearly so, so tired. We learn that he is the last of the people from his planet, Polyneus, still serving the New Republic, which is a point of importance for Wyl. He has been homesick for the entire series, and this news gives him a lot to consider. He tries so hard to reach out to the pilots of the 204th, as a way of humanizing all of the pilots, to maybe bring some common ground. He is very aware that there will be life after the war and that fighters on both sides will have to co-exist.
Kairos, as previously stated, is Kairos. She is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. We get more information about Kairos, her people, and her past with Caern Adan and IT-O. Her physical metamorphosis throughout this book is the beginning of peeling off the layers of her as a person. Of all of the characters in the Alphabet Squadron trilogy, I find the potential in her story to be the most complex. I want to know everything. Her past, her future, all of it.
Overall, Victory’s Price was a very well done book and a satisfying conclusion to the Alphabet Squadron series. I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of substance for Nath Tensent. He was almost a background character in this final book and exhibited none of the growth that the other characters went through. This is a very small issue to have, given how fantastic the rest of the book was and the extra time we got to spend with Hera Syndulla. This book really made the series overall worth the readers’ time.