Nothing can stop the Empire! In the immediate aftermath of the first Death Star’s destruction, a new Imperial special forces team is formed to deal with the growing threat of well-informed rebel cells. And these aren’t just any run-of-the-mill rebels – these terrorists are the direct successors to the extremist Saw Gerrera! Read on to get some insight on the exciting Battlefront II novel from Christie Golden.
I was looking forward to this novel a lot, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Christie Golden’s previous Star Wars novel, Dark Disciple, was a great read and explored the grey areas of using the dark side of the Force with good intentions. Well, Inferno Squad is similar in a way, exploring the psyche of a group of loyal Imperial soldiers, the best of the best, being taken to task and forced to join the rebellion in an attempt to tear apart a rebel cell from the inside. Main character Iden Versio, along with her squadmates Gideon Hask, Del Meeko, and Seyn Marana do the unthinkable and join a group of partisans, rebels directly involved or influenced by Saw Gerrera, and they are tested at every turn.
The novel picks up directly after the events of Rogue One and Episode IV: A New Hope. Secret plans, stolen by Jyn Erso, have made it to the hands of the rebellion and were put to use, ultimately killing millions aboard the first Death Star above Yavin IV. TIE pilot Iden Versio is caught up in the fighting but knows something isn’t right by the way the rebel ships are flying, but before she can piece everything together, the Death Star is destroyed by a single X-wing fighter. The resulting blast sends her TIE reeling on a collision course with Yavin IV’s surface, but through superior piloting skills and determination, Iden survives.
Soon after, Iden is summoned by her father, Admiral Garrick Versio. Despite their family ties, Iden does not receive much in the way of traditional recognition or outward affection from her father. They address each other by rank at all times, even in their private lives, and are both tried-and-true Imperials. Hailing from the planet Vardos, which the Admiral successfully integrated into the Empire’s expansion, the pair are desperate to strike back at the rebels who killed so many aboard the Death Star.
Enter Inferno Squad, Admiral Versio’s passion project. Iden is assigned to the newly-formed squad alongside her lifelong friend Gideon Hask, tech expert Del Meeko, and Navy Intelligence agent Seyn Marana. Their first mission is to infiltrate the wedding party of an Imperial Moff’s daughter. This information retrieval mission is a test run for the squad. They’re tasked with tracking down sensitive data without the Moff, getting in and getting out before they are noticed. Information retrieval is actually the biggest part of their missions throughout the book. The members find connections, gain the trust of their enemies, and strike when the time is right. It reads similarly to Thrawn, where they observe for a great while before executing a well thought-out plan.
Before I jump into spoilers, I’ll go over a few moments I loved in this novel that don’t spoil anything.
First off, Inferno Squad does a good job of spinning off from A New Hope without dwelling on those events. Iden’s team is hunting down a totally different group of rebels, separate from the ones who took down the Death Star, and it was refreshing in a way that this group of Imperials never talks about the main cast. It’s a big universe, so it makes sense to have Vader tracking down that group while Inferno Squad tracks down another group.
Personally, I want to see Vardos again in games, comics, or other novels. The idea that this planet is one that’s happy with its role within the Empire is very interesting. Humans there see the peace and prosperity the Empire can provide, given the right circumstances of course. And even aliens there are happy with their lot, even taking on roles such as teachers and military instructors. There was also a very interesting connection between nature and propaganda in the shin’yah trees native to Vardos. Admiral Versio recalls a folk tale in which a young woman cuts her wrists and bleeds, dying because she can’t be with the one she loves. Similarly, the trees shed their leaves and when they fall into water, a red pigment ‘bleeds’ from them. So the story goes, that woman still lives through the trees, and they stand as a symbol of sacrifice to the Empire during the events of the novel. During a moment of personal conflict in the novel, Iden collects her thoughts beneath one of these trees, which she remarks as being all but useless except as decoration.
Last but not least, the banter between squad mates is pretty good. Inferno Squad are a pretty no-nonsense bunch, but they have their moments of levity sprinkled in between their acts of espionage. The book never presents them as evil for the sake of evil, but rather on the opposite side of what is traditionally seen as the right side of Star Wars lore. The squad never justifies their actions as anything but means to an end, and from their point of view they aren’t wrong. They don’t come off as brainwashed or too stupid to see what they’re doing. Like any person, each member has complex motives, and each are tested once they start to develop connections, friendships, and relationships within the partisan cell.
******Now, onto SPOILERS. If you have not yet read Battlefront II: Inferno Squad and would like to without having critical information prematurely divulged. . .******
Inferno Squad’s second mission is where the story picks up, and spends the rest of its time with the reader. Iden and company, one by one, are swept into the partisan cell known as the Dreamers. Del and Gideon take on false names and act as brothers who join freely. Seyn takes a beating and shows up in drab garb, playing the part of an escaped slave. And Iden falsely outs herself as a traitor to the Empire, so horrified by the destruction of Alderaan that she turns her back on her own government and her father.
The squad must again retrieve information, this time to prevent future disasters such as the Death Star from ever happening again. The Dreamers are their highest priority, as they are descended from a rebel cell directly responsible for the space station’s demise. This cell is lead by a human male named Staven, and guided to its targets by a mysterious figure known only as The Mentor. There are also many different alien species that make up the ranks, including a Twi’lek, a family of Kage warriors, and a tech-junkie Chadra-Fan. The group works just like a real-life family, with its own disagreements on taking Imperial targets as well as differing opinions of the methods used by the late Saw Gerrera.
What’s best about this novel is that every character has a distinct voice, whether they’re talking about an upcoming mission, someone else in the group acting fishy, or picking up side hobbies like piloting and tinkering with tech. Every character has something to do and a reason to be there, and the novel shines with so many different opinions and thoughts. Many characters begin to doubt one another as Inferno Squad members sew their discord into the rebels, and it shows how they’re able to expertly manipulate them into a total loss of trust.
From their integration into the Dreamers onward, Inferno Squad are totally separated from Imperial command. Their daily lives and missions with the rebellion become totally different, and each member of the squad deals with it differently. Each develops friendships, or something like them – you can never tell with spies – and they’re all challenged to stay undercover. It’s a very interesting what-if situation – how deep would you get into your enemy’s mission if it meant saving the things you’d truly sacrifice everything for?
Not only is the story an interesting ethical experiment, it also ties in nicely with other novels as well as Rogue One. While I haven’t read Rebel Rising yet, Staven appears in both novels. Jyn Erso is mentioned a few times, though never by name – but you’ll know when they’re talking about her if you’ve seen the film. There aren’t many heavy implications in terms of lore, certainly nothing as big as meeting Luke Skywalker (See the Battlefront II trailer) but there’s plenty to connect the dots with. The Empire’s order to hunt down surviving Alderaanians is mentioned, as are the battles at Jedha and Scarif, and the Corvus is introduced. The Corvus is the Raider Class Corvette that Inferno Squad travels in, and will likely play a greater role in Battlefront II.
The biggest spoiler of all – I almost don’t want to talk about it because I know some of you naughty meatbags read reviews and watch spoilers on YouTube before reading the book – has to be the revelation of who The Mentor truly is. After dropping several hints at Saw Gerrera’s past, his sister Steela’s death, and working alongside both the Separatist Alliance and the Republic during the Clone Wars, ti is revealed that The Mentor is none-other-than Lux Bonteri. One of the original rebels trained by Ahsoka, Anakin, and Obi Wan during the Clone Wars TV series finally gets a new canon entry! After losing Steela and Ahsoka during the Clone Wars, he eventually married an Imperial woman and took on the role of stepfather to her daughter. For years, he was offered chances to turn himself in, but instead used those chances to coordinate rebel attacks. In the end, Iden takes it upon herself to take him out, but it’s noticed after the fact that her blaster was on the stun setting. Could Lux turn up again in the future? I was hoping we would have seen him in Rogue One, considering his friend Saw was in it, but here’s hoping we get another good story anyway!
Battlefront II: Inferno Squad is an interesting novel. Since it’s a tie-in to the upcoming game, you’ll want to give it a read to have a complete picture going into the new story campaign. I would also recommend this novel if you enjoy the type of ethical quandaries I mentioned above, and if you also enjoyed Dark Disciple. Is the novel absolutely essential? Probably not, but it was a fun read that I tore through pretty quickly. I have to say I couldn’t put it down, and the connections that were developing between the Imperial and rebel characters kept me guessing and hungry to see what would happen.
Thanks for reading! Until next time, my heroes on both sides.
-Supreme Leader David