Probably the closest to a grimdark Star Wars book I’ve read.
Set shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi, the Empire is in collapse, fragmenting, but orders have been put in place for ‘Operation Cinder’ which tells Imperial forces to start destroying planets. Some dedicated units are doing this, and it’s one of these ‘Shadow Wing’, that the New Republic forces have put together a random unit to try to stop.
A strange book but so intriguing. It some ways it is quite cliched. Like you have the former enemy who defected (Quell), the slightly older ruthless rogue that everyone loves (Nath), the idealist who wants to go home (Wyl), the younger rebel who just doesn’t care (Chass), the big bulky silent type with secrets (Kairos), and of course their taciturn boss (Adan) and his reformed torture droid (IT-O). And it does start with how the gang all came together, all in their own random X-Wings, Y-Wings etc which gives the book its name.
But what is not cliched is how it continues to explore how damaged and messed up everyone is. There is of course a bond formed between them, but with so many secrets and trauma shared by everyone there is always an edge. There are no real happy endings. The war should be over but it looks to be going on forever. Yes the Emperor and Darth Vader were killed, along with a lot of ships and personnel but there it is a big galaxy and not every planet is opening up its arms for the rebels. There is still a very large Imperial Army out there with orders to raze planets. And it doesn’t let up. In fact with one of the revelations towards the end it in some ways gets worse. Took me a few days really to cop how big that particular revelation was.
This is a definitely more a Rogue One book than the usual Star Wars book. It will not be to everyone’s taste. There are some cool battles and stuff but it’s dark and it’s gritty and no-one (apart from Wyl maybe) is even close to being a hero. There are also a few POV’s from the Imperial side of things which might have been even better if there had been more of them. As I said, not a typical Star Wars book, but if you want to know what it was really like in the immediate aftermath of the original trilogy from the ordinary rebel POV then this is definitely the book for you. Very curious to where it will go in the next books.
4.5 stars rounded down