Star Wars The Last Jedi: Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein

The Blurb On The Back:

Meet the new heroes of The Last Jedi

The evil First Order threatens the galaxy, and only General Leia Organa’s brave Resistance stands in their way.  When the peaceful world Atterra Bravo is under attack, their crack bomber group Cobalt Squadron is called on to help.  Rose and Paige Tico – refugees from the First Order’s devastation, now fighting for freedom with Cobalt Squadron – must devise a daring plan to help the people of Atterra Bravo right under the enemy’s nose.  But will the sisters’ actions save the planet – or lead to all-out war?  A thrilling adventure featuring new heroes from the blockbuster Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s shortly before STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.  Rose and Paige Tico are sisters from Hays Minor (an ice planet in permanent twilight twinned with Hays Major in the Otomok System, which fell to the First Order and resulted in the pair becoming refugees).  Now they work together on the Hammer, a bomber in Cobalt Squadron – part of General Leia Organa’s Resistance and gathering information on the crimes committed by the First Order – where Paige is a gunner and pilot and Rose a technician.

When Leia receives word that the twin planets of Atterra Alpha and Atterra Bravo are being blockaded by the First Order, she sends the Hammer to investigate.  There Paige, Rose and their fellow crewmembers Finch and Nix find a planet in desperate straits with two of its inhabitants – Casca Panzoro and her grandson Reeve – having a horrific story to share and badly needing the help of the Resistance.  Leia wants to help but doing so risks agitating the fragile piece of the New Republic and drawing the ire of the First Order.  It’s the Tico sisters who come up with a possible solution but carrying it out involves a daring plan that will take them right under the noses of the First Order’s ships and put their lives at risk …

Elizabeth Wein’s tie-in STAR WARS novel for children aged 10+ (illustrated by Phil Noto) is a weirdly flat and dull affair that lacks any kind of tension and does little to flesh out Rose Tico’s character (or her sister, Paige) and which lacked the spectacle or the action that the STAR WARS canon expects such that I was left very disappointed.

It’s difficult to review this book without including spoilers for STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI but to be honest, I can’t see anyone wanting to read this book unless they have seen that film because the big draw of the book is learning more about Rose and her sister Paige (who is little more than a cameo in the film).  And I think this is why the book is such a disappointment because the relationship between the sisters is pretty superficial here, breaking down into one of need and protection and where the affection seems very forced and artificial (for example the sisters constantly feel the need to use each other’s names in the dialogue, as if they don’t know who they are).  It doesn’t help that the characters of Nix, Finch, Casca and Reeve are underdeveloped to the point of being names on the page and there’s an awful lot of “as you know” dialogue, which deadens the pace and increases the sense of artificiality.

The world building in the book is also weirdly flat with life in the bomber lacking much of a sense of the cramped conditions or tension as they carry out their missions.  Part of the reason for this is because the timing of the mission as against THE LAST JEDI means that Rose and Paige’s fates are never in doubt, which means that the outcome of the mission is never really in doubt either but it doesn’t help that there isn’t much seen of the First Order here beyond a couple of scenes aimed at showing how generically evil they are.

I did enjoy the Leia cameo and there was a lot of potential with the Cobalt Squadron’s commander Fossil (who I would like to see more of in other books) but ultimately this book is all a bit of a let down and to be honest (and much as it pains me to say it as I really love Wein’s historical YA novels), I think that STAR WARS fans would be better served by looking elsewhere.

STAR WARS: COBALT SQUADRON was released in the United Kingdom on 15th December 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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