“If I had not found Twilight Company, I would have died long ago. Sharing grief and grievances does us good when we face an enemy of such ebon depths. The Empire is a force unprecedented in any age, poised to end history itself. No one should confront it alone.” – Gadren
With a title like “Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company” I couldn’t help but thinking I could be getting into something awful. A book based on a video game? How good could it really be? Especially when the video game Battlefront barely has a story in the first place! I really had no expectations going into this book.
Well, you might as well just take the “Battlefront” part out of the title. It was probably just tacked on there to boost sales during the hype of the new game. This book is not an adaptation of the video game. It just happens to share the same name.
Battlefront: Twilight Company was written by Alexander Freed and was released on November 3rd of this year—two weeks before EA’s Battlefront video game came out. I picked it up a couple weeks after it was released, but once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down.
This book really emphasizes the “war” in “Star Wars.” It is a war novel. Simple as that. In a franchise named “Star Wars” you’d expect to see this kind of story told a lot more frequently. In retrospect, I regret saying in my Lost Stars review that that book was a war story, because I realize now it is kind of misleading, and after reading Twilight Company it is clear that this is the war story, and the two stories really aren’t comparable at all.
This book takes us into war through the eyes of the Sixty-First Mobile Infantry of the Rebel Alliance, otherwise known as “Twilight Company.” Though this book does tie-in to The Empire Strikes Back a little bit (based on the cover this is no surprise) it really stands on its own, with the vast majority of the book being unrelated to any of the movies. The story takes place around—and during—the time of Empire Strikes Back, with the occasional chapter that takes place years in the past to give us some extra backstory.
Our main character in this story is Hazram Namir, who along with most of the story’s main cast is a member of Twilight Company. Namir is a soldier who for most of his life has been fighting in war after war. War is all he knows, and now, after years of fighting in different armies and under various leaders, he is fighting for the Rebel Alliance. Namir isn’t fighting because he believes in the cause. He’s just fighting because it was the next army that would take him.
Along with Namir we get to meet quite a few other members of Twilight Company and see how their relationships with one another are almost familial. Though the secondary characters are not individually extremely crucial to the story, as a unit they do help move things along and bring out the feeling of comradery among the soldiers. The characters are written in such a way that you still care about them, cheering for their successes and feeling sad for their struggles and the tragedies they experience in war. My favorite of the secondary characters is a solider named Gadren, a massive four-armed Besalisk (he appears on the book cover) who truly values life and life’s little blessings, often taking brief moments while on missions to appreciate the beauty of the world around him, even amidst war. He is a wise man and a kind friend to Namir and to his fellow soldiers in Twilight Company. I always enjoyed parts of the book that had Gadren present.
There are almost no familiar faces in this book, aside from a few very brief cameos. The main characters of the Star Wars franchise are absent from this story, which really helps to immerse the reader into the lives of these soldiers. Having no familiar characters in a Star Wars novel can be either a good or bad thing. In this book it works well, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re not reading about Jedi, Sith Lords, or princesses. We’re reading about foot soldiers of a mobile infantry unit who are right in the middle of a galaxy-wide civil war. It is a side of Star Wars that we don’t get to explore very much, and it is something I would honestly like to see more of (next year’s Star Wars: Rogue One anthology movie sounds like it may be along these same lines).
Twilight Company is out doing several strike missions for the Rebel Alliance, trying to strike blows to the Empire where they think it will hurt the most. The Death Star has already been destroyed, but the rebels are busier than ever. When they aren’t receiving direct orders from the higher-ups in the Alliance, Twilight Company is left to decide their next targets and missions on its own. On many of the planets they hit, Twilight Company holds open recruitments, where they often attract many newcomers to their infantry.
The rebels find an ally in Governor Everi Chalis of Haidoral Prime, and ex-Imperial who knows how the Empire functions from the inside. She says she can tell Twilight Company how and where to strike at the Empire where it will do the most damage. She is a complicated character who remains incredibly interesting throughout the novel.
The battle and action scenes are done very well, and it’s cool to see a perspective of war that we don’t usually get to see in Star Wars. Instead of flying through the air, or in space, we’re on the ground with the infantry. Any action that takes place up in the sky is shown to us from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground. Like The Clone Wars did with the clone troopers, this book does a great job of humanizing the rebel soldiers, showing them as individuals, with personalities and things they love and people they care about. These are characters with lives and backstories. They aren’t just expendable soldiers like what we’re used to seeing in the movies (battle droids, clone troopers, stormtroopers. Who cares if they die? They’re unimportant in the movies).
We also get to see parts of the story from the perspective of the Imperials. We get to follow a female stormtrooper named Thara Nyende on the planet Sullust. The new canon is really going out of its way to introduce us to female Imperial characters, which is something we hardly ever saw in the old Expanded Universe, including in the movies and Clone Wars TV series. It is kind of cool to see, but I always saw the Empire as being a sexist entity, and this new continuity appears to be trying to show us an Empire that is actually more accepting than we were previously led to believe. I’m not sure how I feel about making the bad guys “less bad.” The Empire is evil! Regardless, I enjoy these new characters, and it is quite fun to see scenes in this story from the perspective of a stormtrooper.
I don’t want to get much more in detail than I already have (which isn’t much) because I think part of the reason I loved this book so much was that I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t have a clue what the setting of the story was going to be, who the characters were, or what was going to happen in this novel. Finding those things out on my own without hearing about it from others was a big reason why I enjoyed reading the book so much.
The book contains fun little nods and references to other works in the canon, like offhand mentions of events that happened in Star Wars Rebels, or learning that Governor Chalis once served under Count Vidian, who was the main villain of the book A New Dawn.
There isn’t much bad that I can say about this book. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything that I disliked about it. It’s not a perfect book, but it doesn’t have any glaring flaws either. It is written incredibly well and kept me interested from the first page until the end. The only bad thing I can think of is the fact that this book has no announced sequel. I would love to read another story about Twilight Company.
Overall, I really loved this book. It is by far one of the best books in the new canon so far, and it actually made me come to the conclusion that continuing to follow this new canon is worth it. While I have liked other books in the new canon (see my reviews for Lost Stars and Weapon of a Jedi) I haven’t been convinced that the new canon is “good” until now. I’ve now read enough good stories in the canon to fully accept that I actually do enjoy it, even though it’s not the old Expanded Universe that I know and love.
As a standalone work, Battlefront: Twilight Company has my highest recommendation of any story in the new canon so far. For those who are looking for something with more connections to the movies, I would read Lords of the Sith, or Lost Stars, which are my other two favorite canon novels. But even without heavy tie-ins to the movies this book is great, and I think it is partially because of the lack of connections to the films. This story works on its own and is great because of it.