When it comes to satisfying endings in the Star Wars timeline, Alexander Freed’s Victory’s Price gives Alphabet Squadron an ending that’s both bittersweet and emotionally gratifying.
Victory’s Price is the third and final novel in Freed’s Alphabet Squadron trilogy, with Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall chronicling the ragtag New Republic fighter squadron in a post-Endor galaxy. Overall, the trilogy follows the five starfighter pilots as they struggle to end the Empire’s deadly Shadow Wing TIE squadron and find their place in a galaxy that’s been consumed by war for decades.
As for Victory’s Price, the book gives Alphabet Squadron the heroic, emotional ending it deserves.
This is the story they told.
By the events of Victory’s Price, the post-Endor galactic war has continued for almost a year. The Rebels-turned-New Republic soldiers are exhausted — mentally and physically — and many are hard-pressed to find any joy in victory over an Empire they’ve been fighting for decades. That includes Alphabet Squadron, the mish-mashed group of pilots who have been tasked with hunting down and destroying the notorious Shadow Wing. And by Victory’s Price, Nath Tensent, Wyl Lark, Chass na Chadic and Kairos are grappling with their commander Yrica Quell’s shocking decision at the end of Shadow Fall.
Each pilot comes with heavy baggage, including trauma, stalled grief, anger and resentment. That baggage is explored and resolved in Victory’s Price through heart-pounding space battles and so many close calls the book felt like a roller coaster of worry over whether characters would survive to the next page. The entire trilogy is heavy on military strategy, and Freed seems to have hit his stride in Victory’s Price on turning stiff dialogue and dizzying battles into an artful narrative.
One of the best parts of this novel is the deeper exploration of General Hera Syndulla’s role and her relationship with the pilots of Alphabet Squadron. Hera is the only character in this trilogy that connects it to other Star Wars canon (Rebels), but her point of view wasn’t shown as much in Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall as it is in Victory’s Price.
It was refreshing to see how prominent a role Hera plays in the personal and team growth of Alphabet Squadron. Her relationships with Quell, Lark, Tensent, Kairos and Chadic differ so greatly, but it was immensely enjoyable to watch them flourish.
We’ve been invested in each character’s journey since day one: Quell’s ongoing moral conflict, Lark’s longing for home and growing pacifistic ideals, Chadic’s temper and fear of having no place after the war, Tensent’s path after vengeance and Kairos’s literal metamorphosis. Victory’s Price gives us some “happily ever after” vibes by the end — Quell even gets the girl — but the book and trilogy are far from a space fairytale.
Freed also hits the mark on steady but enticing pacing in Victory’s Price. There’s never really a dull moment in the novel as nearly every battle and piece of dialogue is a piece of the larger puzzle. This novel also gives more page time to the TIE pilots of Shadow Wing and the motivations of Soran Keize, Quell’s mentor when she was a part of the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing. This exploration also leads to broad, philosophical questions about post-war responsibilities that could easily apply to real-world politics and diplomacy.
Victory’s Price nails it by steering clear of the traditional “good vs. evil” storyline by breaking down the morally ambiguous conflict between the Empire and the New Republic — showing the humanity of Imperials and exposing the darker side of the New Republic’s victory.
Like the previous two novels, Victory’s Price is heavy on military strategy and dialogue and detailed narratives of space battles, which may turn off some more casual Star Wars readers. The books also don’t have a direct tie to major Star Wars characters or films aside from the many Easter egg nods and another view of the Battle of Jakku. But Victory’s Price and the trilogy overall stand apart because of all this.
The Alphabet Squadron trilogy has the best parts of Star Wars — emotionally complex characters overcoming impossible odds — with excitement, intensity and grit that set it apart. With Victory’s Price, Freed cements the series as a must-read for any Star Wars fan who wants to better understand the traumatic toll war has on those who wage it.
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