Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad (Book Review) – A Fascinating Look At The Empire

Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad is a canonical Star Wars novel written by Christie Golden and it is set between the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The book serves as a prequel to the upcoming video game Star Wars: Battlefront II and focuses on the formation and early missions of Inferno Squad which is led by Iden Versio.

Iden Versio, who will be played by Janina Gavankar in the video game, is the lead character in this book and is one of a few survivors of the destruction of the Death Star. She is recruited by her father, Admiral Garrik Versio, to lead a team of elite soldiers known as Inferno Squad whose mission is to infiltrate and eliminate the last remnants of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

I have wanted to read this book since it came out in July but I was never able to find the time to read it. However, seeing as Star Wars: Battlefront II is just about to come out, I found it necessary to read this book before the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II as it will tie-in heavily to the video game. The way Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad ties-in is that it introduces us to the primary characters of the video game and gives us insight into how they came together as well as their beliefs and ideologies.

Front and Back Book Covers for Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

In reading Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, I was hoping that it would enhance my experience of playing Star Wars: Battlefront II once it is released and tell a gripping story that would expand the Star Wars universe. Additionally, having a story being told from the perspective of the Empire really interested me.

Obviously, the Empire are the bad guys but what has been great about the new canon material that has been released since 2014 is that it has been portraying the grey nature of the Star Wars universe very well. Nothing is black and white anymore and to see this continued to be explored in the form of Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad  potentially made for some great storytelling.

My Thoughts on Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad is a fantastic book that has made me well prepared for Star Wars: Battlefront II. From the very start, I was invested and I have to give a lot of praise to Christie Golden in this regard, especially as the writing in this book flows very well. Moreover, whenever a Star Wars book begins at an iconic event which in this case was the Battle of Yavin 4 and the destruction of the Death Star, this will always put me in a good mood.

Christie Golden with Kristian Harloff and Ken Napzok on Collider Jedi Council

I am always going to love it when this sort of stuff happens because it gives us different viewpoints of that event and, in turn, this enhances my future viewings of such event. This is a big reason why Lost Stars remains my favourite Star Wars book because it tells a new story set during the Original Trilogy. The main events still happen but it is told from a new point of view. Therefore, whenever I watch the films, my experience will be enhanced because I have read these books which have links to the films but are their own unique stories.

Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad does this in spades. Obviously, due to the time period it is set in, the book has a lot of references to Star Wars: A New Hope and, as I said, the beginning of the book takes place at the end of that film. However, now that we have Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad also references the events of that film. Galen Erso, the Battle of Scarif and the destruction of Jedha are important points that are referenced throughout the book and it is a source of a lot of anger for our Imperial protagonists.

Iden Versio

This is especially true for Iden Versio. I found her to be a fascinating character, especially as she was one of a handful of survivors of the Death Star. She also managed to escape from Yavin 4 during the Rebel celebration of the Death Star’s destruction which, itself, will make me watch the end of Star Wars: A New Hope in a different way. As I was reading Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, it became clear how fanatical Iden is when it comes to her loyalty to the Empire.

Janina Gavankar as Iden Versio

Certainly, this was evident as we learnt more about her past and her relationship with her father. As a child, Iden was always striving to excel and be the best she could be which, to her, seemed to be the only path to get acceptance and respect from her father. Undoubtedly, the relationship between Garrick Versio and Iden is not a typical father/daughter relationship.

Interestingly enough, it is implied that her father’s treatment of her has caused some bitterness, perhaps even hate towards him. I hope that this is explored further in Star Wars: Battlefront II. Iden’s devotion to the Empire is even more believable seeing as both her father and mother were devout Imperials. Hence, she was indoctrinated from an early age to be the same and hold the same ideologies that they did. With all of this in mind, Iden came across as a very driven individual who was determined to exact revenge on the Rebel Alliance in any way she could.

As it turned out, the way that this would be achieved would be through infiltrating the remnants of The Partisans who were formerly led by Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera. As we saw in Rogue One, his partisans have a big influence on the events that led to the destruction of the Death Star so, obviously, they would be a target for any kind of retaliation from the Empire.

Janina Gavankar as Iden Versio, Paul Blackthorne as Gideon Hask and TJ Ramani as Del Meeko

The Members of Inferno Squad Are Great Together

Iden would have to be seen to betray the Empire in order to join the Partisans and become the face of this extremist group. By doing this, Iden could destroy the group from the inside but she would not be able to do this alone. She would need the other members of Inferno Squad to make this mission successful. Gideon Hask, Del Meeko and Seyn Marana made up the rest of Inferno Squad and another great thing about Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad was the rapport between the members of this group.

From the beginning, we see that Iden and Gideon are already friends (well, friends in the Empire is not really a typical friendship so they are more like allies). I liked the relationship they had and there was a good deal of respect between the two. In fact, there was respect between all the members of Inferno Squad. Additionally, the blend of humour and seriousness within the group was just right and all of this meant that, going into Star Wars: Battlefront II, I now know what to expect from each group member. I look forward to seeing the journey of Inferno Squad continue in that video game.

The Dreamers Lack Morality

Most of Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad focuses on Inferno Squad infiltrating Saw Gerrera’s Partisans who are now known as the Dreamers. All the members of the Dreamers have a love for Saw Gerrera and there base is on the planet of Jeosyn. From this, we get some great tie-ins to the wider Star Wars universe. For instance, one of the main figures in the Dreamers was Staven who appeared in Rebel Rising which is another canonical Star Wars book that I have been reading recently so it was cool to see his character again.

Gideon Hask and Seyn Marana in Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

Additionally, it was fascinating to see how, in many ways, Staven is just as bad as the Empire he despises. Indeed, the tactics of Staven and the Dreamers are very extreme and the fact that they even target children is proof of how they are morally bankrupt in their aim to free the galaxy from the tyranny of the Empire. You can see why Mon Mothma sought to distance herself from Saw Gerrera and those who admired and followed him. This was evident to see in ‘In the Name of the Rebellion’ which was a recent episode of Star Wars Rebels.

Again, this shows how beautifully interconnected Star Wars is but, at the same time, the universe gets expanded and fleshed out in the process. The impact of the Dreamers on Inferno Squad is definitely fleshed out in Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad. Clearly, the Dreamers hate the Empire but what interested me was seeing how Inferno Squad was unmoved to become torn about the Empire themselves. To be that deep into this undercover mission and not question your motives proved how loyal the members of Inferno Squad were to each other and to the Empire.

The Mission’s Impact on Inferno Squad

Still, some members of Inferno Squad did become somewhat attached to individuals within the Dreamers. Del developed a nice friendship with Piikow while Seyn grew to have a romantic relationship with Sedori. This made it even more tense and intriguing once things began to unravel in a very gripping way. This all began once Inferno Squad decided to pit the Dreamers against each other and, after that, when Seyn is not able to fulfil the mission that targeted children which, in turn, led to the death of Sedori.

Lux Bonteri in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

While Seyn would not admit this, she had grown attached to Sedori and she was very affected by his death and her part in it. This leads to her making a slip which brought suspicion and accusations that she was an Imperial spy. She eventually dies because her cover was blown but her death was at the hands of Iden. Again, Iden is devoted to the Empire so it makes sense that she would have done anything to keep the mission alive, even if it meant killing a member of her team. This just added to the depth of her character and the quality of Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad as a Star Wars novel.

Who is The Mentor?

From this, Inferno Squad decides to wrap this mission up and it is here where we get a fantastic revelation that made me love this book. One member of the Dreamers was shrouded in mystery throughout Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad and he was known only as The Mentor. We learn small bits of information about The Mentor as the story of Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad progresses which includes the fact that he was around during The Clone Wars. He also comes from a prestigious family and he fought alongside Saw Gerrera and his sister, Stella.

I started putting these bits of information together and it led me to come to a thought that The Mentor was Lux Bonteri. In the end, I was proved right. Iden goes to confront him on his own after finding out about his true identity and it is here where my theory was proven right. I was so pleased that The Mentor was Lux not only because I was right, but because it is another great tie in to the wider Star Wars universe. For those of you unaware of who Lux Bonteri is, he was the senator for Onderon during The Clone Wars and he was first introduced in the animated show Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Lux Bonteri, Saw Gerrera and Stella Gerrera in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

I love it when Star Wars connects the wider universe together and to have the reveal and tie-in done in this way was great, especially as Lux’s fate was left ambiguous. Indeed, it seemed like Iden had killed him once she got everything she wanted from him. But, it is heavily implied that he lives as Iden basically admits to Del that she set her blaster to stun after a debriefing from her father.

Final Thoughts on Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

In the end, Inferno Squad ended up killing all the Dreamers instead of capturing them for interrogation which infuriated Iden. Yet, it did not worsen the bond that Iden, Del and Gideon formed between each other and they were all impacted by the mission in their own way. Overall, Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad is a great addition to the Star Wars universe.

Poster for Star Wars: Battlefront II

I am well prepared for Star Wars: Battlefront II after reading this book and I am very much attached to the characters despite their allegiance to the Empire. This itself proves how effective Christie Golden was in crafting a great story that makes you care about characters who you would normally despise due to their allegiance to a totalitarian regime.

Star Wars: Thrawn (Book Review) – A Great Origin Story

Star Wars: Thrawn is a canonical Star Wars novel published by Del Rey Books and written by Timothy Zahn. This book takes place before his introduction in Star Wars Rebels but in the period between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope. The story focuses on the discovery of Thrawn and his rise to power in the Empire alongside his aid; Ensign Eli Vanto.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Star Wars: Thrawn

I have been highly anticipating this novel ever since it was announced that Thrawn would be returning to the Star Wars universe in this new Expanded Universe. My excitement was enhanced because this book would be written by Timothy Zahn who is a notable figure in the Star Wars franchise. Indeed, Zahn was the author who created the character of Grand Admiral Thrawn in the old Expanded Universe. Thrawn was the central character in Zahn’s critically acclaimed Heir to Empire Trilogy and he quickly became a fan-favourite.

But, most of the material in the old Expanded Universe were re-branded as Legends and were no longer canon after Lucasfilm redefined Star Wars continuity in 2014. This included Zahn’s Trilogy and, consequently, Thrawn. Consequently, Star Wars fans were unsure whether Thrawn would return as a character in the new Expanded Universe. However, at Star Wars Celebration 2016, it was announced that this book would be released in April 2017. This announcement came alongside the news that Grand Admiral Thrawn would be re-introduced into the Star Wars franchise in Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels.

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While I knew how revered Thrawn was by Star Wars fans, I never had an affinity with that character. This is because I never read any material from the old Expanded Universe. However, I have read a lot of the material from the new canon that Lucasfilm has released since 2014. On the whole, I have been impressed from what I have read and watched in this new Expanded Universe.

Moreover, if you have read my reviews of the episodes in Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, you know that Thrawn is one of my favourite things about Rebels. I love how suave, confident, methodical and calculating the character is. Thus, I was fascinated to learn about how Thrawn became part of the Empire in this novel and I had a lot of faith in Zahn to meet my lofty expectations.

My Thoughts on Star Wars: Thrawn

Star-Wars-Rebels-Season-3-Through-Imperial-Eyes-Thrawn

Overall, Star Wars: Thrawn gave me everything I wanted. I loved the fact that we got to delve into the mind of Thrawn. It was brilliant to see how he meticulously studies everyone he meets in terms of there mannerisms, body language and tone. It was also fascinating to learn more about his philosophy on warfare, his love of art and the loyalty he has to his race; the Chiss. This added more layers to a character that already has a lot of depth and it expanded on what we saw from Thrawn in Season 3 of Rebels. In fact, certain tactics that we saw from Thrawn in Rebels are in this book which was a nice tie-in.

Furthermore, I liked Thrawn’s relationship with Eli Vanto. Eli starts out as Thrawn’s aide but he quickly develops into a protégée. Eli learns about the art of warfare from Thrawn and Thrawn learns from Eli too. Indeed, Thrawn lacks political nous and he relies on Eli to guide him through the pitfalls of the Empire. Thrawn also has Governor Arihnda Pryce as an ‘ally’ to school him in political matters.

Pryce’s Backstory and Thrawn’s Motives

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Arihnda Pryce is also a character in Star Wars Rebels and, like Thrawn, we also see her rise to power in this book. We get to know more about Pryce’s backstory and we see how far she is willing to go in her quest for power. This was good to see and it was also cool to see Colonel Wullf Yularin appear in this book. He too is a very influential presence and factor in Thrawn’s rise to power. Still, while Pryce and Yularin are necessary to allow Thrawn to rise through the ranks in the Empire, Thrawn does not fully commit himself to the Empire.

Throughout Star Wars: Thrawn, we piece together what Thrawn’s true intentions are. While he seemingly pledges his allegiance to the Empire and the Emperor, he is loyal to the Chiss and the Chiss Ascendancy above all else. Essentially,  Thrawn sees the Empire as a tool to safeguard the Chiss from unknown threats in the galaxy. This was a fascinating revelation and I hope it is developed in future stories in the Star Wars universe.

Overall, Star Wars: Thrawn is another fine addition to the new narrative that Lucasfilm is telling in the Star Wars universe. While a very dense book, it is a much easier read than a similarly dense book in Star Wars: Tarkin. Yet, Star Wars: Thrawn is not my favourite canonical book. It does not reach the same level of quality as Lost Stars or Star Wars: Bloodline do. Still, it is a great read, a great character study of both Thrawn and Pryce and it leaves me excited for Season 4 of Star Wars Rebels.