rilogies have long comprised the bedrock of the Star Wars universe. Filmmakers and authors tend to thrive within the constraints of a three-book structure as it mirrors the three acts found in the majority of landmark entertainment.
As an audience, we have also adapted to this structure throughout the years. Through that evolution, we have come to expect certain benchmarks.
Falling in love with our heroes in book one.
Witnessing the rising darkness and possible defeat in book two.
And then there’s book three...the triumph over evil and the continuation of the journey.
Victory’s Price acts as the final chapter of Alexander Freed’s Alphabet Squadron narrative, and as such, provides a wonderfully satisfying conclusion to the stories of Yrica, Wyl, Chass, Nath, and the eternally mysterious Kairos. Displaying his particular brand of highly technical descriptors with unforgiving, emotional character work, Freed cements himself firmly as a key architect of this era of Star Wars storytelling.
Freed’s initial decision to center his trilogy around a squadron of original characters may be among the most brazen and risky challenges Canon has offered thus far, but as you finish the final tear-stained page of Victory’s Price, there will be no doubt in your mind that the gamble paid off.
Keeping in line with its predecessors, Victory’s Price begins its journey at a fairly delicate pace. This is not a novel that is concerned with screaming violently from plot point to plot point, but rather a story that demands your attention. While some of our team found this pacing slightly arduous in comparison to more recent Canon entries, Freed’s delicate intentionality is undeniable.
This is the end of a tale years in the making, and you are meant to know every part of it. Certain chapters feature Alphabet’s thrilling heroics across the skies of planets old and new, and others will spend their pages focusing on the nuance contained within the horrors of war.
Because, at its core, that’s what Alphabet Squadron has provided since the start. A look at the Galactic Civil War’s conclusion through a lens free of glory or sheen. War is hell. War means death. And every page brings our characters closer to the thing they desire most...the end.
Shadow Fall’s conclusion reset the lines of loyalty within Alphabet Squadron’s main cast, and Victory’s Price picks up that baton almost instantaneously. Yrica Quell, fresh off a desertion of her squad in favor of a return to the malevolent Shadow Wing, finds herself once more in the company of her commander and mentor, Soran Keize. Quell and Keize’s relationship occupies the majority of her early narrative in Victory’s Price as she attempts to understand the true motives of the man who told her to run before assuming the life of Devon.
Regardless of those motives, however, his intentions are clear from the first chapter that takes us behind enemy lines. Operation Cinder must continue, and the only ones who can stop it are…
Well. Do they need an introduction?
The remaining members of Alphabet Squadron burst onto the scene as a battered crew in search of renewed purpose.
Wyl Lark, the boy who soared through the skies of Home, now assumes the role of a Rebellion leader on the cusp of victory.
Nath Tensent, the former pirate and traitor to nearly every alliance he ever made, must come to terms with the responsibility he feels for those who look up to him as a hero; a responsibility he has evaded throughout his life.
Chass na Chadic, who blasted through the galaxy to the beat of every drum she could get her hands on, now finds herself yearning for the comfort of a cult that once seemed her prison.
And Kairos…well Kairos is Kairos. Or is she even that anymore?
Freed’s continual focus on the inner struggles of Alphabet’s members remains constant alongside the New Republic’s overall mission to take down Shadow Wing. The novel’s own three act structure follows three distinct missions, and the conflict lies not only in the possibility of Shadow Wing’s destruction or victory, but also in the question of the resolve of our heroes.
How far can they be pushed? Does loyalty truly have a limit? What is the price of victory?
I had to do it once, didn’t I?
While all of these questions and evolutions admittedly take quite a while to develop through the book’s many chapters, the immediacy of the book’s final act cannot be understated. Whenever authors are able to tap directly into the larger story of the galaxy, there appears to be a special gear unlocked for them to access, and once Freed makes that shift, it feels as though the reader has been given a stim directly to the heart.
As vague as the above descriptions may be, they are in service to a story that demands attention, demands intentionality, and rewards the reader with stakes, purpose, and satisfaction worthy of the promise that was made years ago in the first entry.
Since our review of the first Alphabet Squadron two years ago, we have never shied away from the fact that the strength of the series lies in its characters. Ask five Alphabet readers who their favorite squad member is, and you can easily get five different answers.
Not an easy task.
Freed’s mastery of character unsurprisingly continues in Victory’s Price by continuing the natural evolution of each protagonist’s personal journey. Rather than concerning himself with the likeability or universal acceptance of each character’s choices, Freed concerns himself with the decisions that each pilot needs to make on their journey to their own conclusion.
This decision, while perhaps sounding casual and sensical, surely contains the possibility of ostracizing readers at various points throughout Victory’s Price. On our review team, alone, certain decisions rang hollow for some while bringing tears to others, and that disparity speaks to a quality not continuously found in heroes of myth and legend.
Alphabet Squadron contains some of the most authentic, flawed, and rounded characters Star Wars has ever seen, and Victory’s Price showcases them to the highest degree. These are not fairytale knights who bound after dragons and fables.
They are warriors. They are leaders. They are tired. They need rest.
Chief among these leaders, however, is not a member of the titular squadron, but rather General Hera Syndulla, who shines brighter in this entry than in any previous Alphabet title. Hera’s larger role not only feeds the addiction of those fans who eagerly await for any content related to Star Wars: Rebels, but also allows the audience to view Alphabet Squadron from an entirely different point of view.
Because Hera is a general. And a rebel. And a mother. And a friend. A veteran of countless wartime engagements, Hera’s viewpoint throughout Victory’s Price links Alphabet’s personal struggles to the larger Star Wars universe in a way hinted at throughout Shadow Fall but never quite fulfilled until this final installment.
In a series full of original journeys, something a little more familiar could have felt drastically out of place, but imagining this story without Hera simply does not compute. It never would.
Alongside the conclusion of the stories seeded around the campfire in the first Alphabet Squadron is the tale of Soran Keize, our reigning MVP from the previous novel. Keize rises even higher in the ranks of all time Imperial characters in Victory’s Price by displaying a leader who appears driven by the most anti-Imperial of all directives: compassion.
While his actions throughout the book are continuously vile and destructive, Freed’s writing of Keize never allows us to discount his purpose or his rationalizations. Just as Quell is constantly plagued by questions of her mentor’s intentions, so too are we as readers intrigued by the endgame of such a masterful tactician.
Freed’s dedication to treat his characters with almost brutal honesty gifts Price a level of reality that almost feels untouched in other Star Wars novels. We have watched these characters discover their strengths, weaknesses, and very natures throughout the course of this trilogy, and Victory’s Price holds nothing back as it gives them an ending they deserve.
Victory’s Price is an important Star Wars book.
An odd phrase, isn’t it? But after finishing the final page, importance perhaps encompasses the weight of this book and trilogy better than any other compliment due to the unique way Freed handles the issues his story presents. Oftentimes we will laud novels based on their original use of technological, mythological, or even geographical concepts in Star Wars. But the originality in Victory’s Price is found in the way Freed deals with the horrors of war.
Without spoiling too many larger plot points of the book, Victory’s Price includes some galactic events that are already familiar to its readers. These events have been featured in other Star Wars media through the lens of other storytellers, and while those stories have been wonderful, Victory’s Price handles its set pieces from the viewpoint of soldiers who have been thrown about for far too long...and they’ve never been this close to breaking.
Yes, we love it when X-Wings blow up TIE Fighters, but Wyl reminds us there are people in those cockpits.
Yes, we love the image of a character breaking their bonds, but Kairos reminds us about the unintended costs our actions hold.
Yes, we love the adrenaline of a mission on the edge of success, but how quickly could that victory turn to crushing defeat?
Star Wars is, at its heart, a fantasy story in space. There are wizards, there is magic, there is good, and there is evil. And yet, Victory’s Price never lets us forget that there are real people behind the controls of every ship and on the bridge of every destroyer that wish for nothing more than to sleep without the ghosts of the dead waiting behind their eyelids.
It is this unfiltered look at the toll exacted on the pawns of war that sets Victory’s Price apart in the Canon of Star Wars. The stories that we witness throughout the trilogy are undeniably important to the greater narrative of the galaxy, but the stories we learn from the players inside the game may be even more important to our daily lives.
Developing a distinct style of Star Wars writing is not an easy feat for any author. With a universe so rich and characters so beloved, it can be difficult to balance the voice of the writer with the pressures of the fictional galaxy, and occasionally, writers tend to dissolve behind the weight of the intellectual property.
Let it never be said that Alexander Freed suffers from that problem. Rounding out a trilogy in which he wrote every word of every book, Freed has established himself not only in the ways listed above, but also as a Star Wars writer with a prose style that is immediately recognizable and wholly his own.
Our previous reviews of Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall delved deeply into the technical prowess Freed displays throughout his books. While that technicality is immediately noticeable from the beginning of Victory’s Price (a stark stylistic shift if you’ve gotten used to our recent High Republic offerings), this finale focuses even more on Freed’s command of poetry.
Despite the horrific circumstances in which his characters exist, Freed never misses an opportunity to add linguistic beauty to a scene. Whether it’s infusing a conversation with an added layer of introspective evaluation or allowing a character to languidly wade into their thoughts during a period of silence, Freed fills every moment with a reminder that the possibility of poetry lives in every moment.
The choice to scatter these colorful descriptions throughout the book also adds to the sense of finality the characters appear to feel as the novel crawls toward its conclusion. No longer are they attempting to suss out the mysteries merely on the surface of their circumstances. That was Book One. We’re past that, and so are they.
They have lived lives.
They have known sorrow.
They have evolved past the point of simple judgement and have earned every word that Freed places upon their souls.
Does this added level of depth create a somewhat slower pace? Does it add perhaps a few extra pages to the end of a couple of chapters? Perhaps. But if the tradeoff for that added length is the moments of soul-piercing beauty for characters we’ve followed for years...it’s not really much of a decision, is it?
Star Wars needs writers who see the universe from every possible angle, and with the conclusion of the Alphabet Squadron trilogy, we know for certain that Alexander Freed will always grasp beauty from the jaws of sorrow. That’s a galaxy I can’t wait to explore for years to come.
To call Victory’s Price “entertaining” proves to be an odd sort of disservice.
That says nothing to the books that have earned that moniker before, however. Entertainment value is incredibly important -- it’s why we have this category in the first place. But when I remember the images and experiences of Victory’s Price in the future, entertaining won’t be among the first ten words that come to mind.
Now is this book thrilling? Absolutely. Was I on the edge of my seat? Without a doubt. Did the epic finale shoot me full of adrenaline as I made my way through the masterfully crafted and sublimely produced audiobook? A resounding yes.
But for a book that features a not-insignificant amount of explosions and gunfire, the ending of Victory’s Price does not fill you with the entertaining energy that will make you want to sprint around your apartment. It demands your attention and respect even after the final page is read, and to call the book merely entertaining, while potentially accurate, somehow falls short of the impact of the story’s end.
Nonetheless, for the sake of this review and in line with the review structure we’ve created at Youtini, Victory’s Price absolutely meets and exceeds the bar of Star Wars literary entertainment. There are surely moments that will elicit cheers just as there are those that will welcome tears. The explosions of starships resonate just as vibrant as the whispers of those soon to be lost forever. And at the end of the day, the immense satisfaction of the novel’s conclusion will undoubtedly intensify the strongest emotions you’ve felt since cracking open Alphabet Squadron.
Well. He did it. With Victory’s Price, Alexander Freed concludes the Alphabet Squadron trilogy with grace, intensity, and a style all his own. The themes presented in the first novel about the horrors of war and the true cost of freedom twist along every page, leaving the reader with ideas sure to be mulled over for years to come.
That ability also cements Victory’s Price as one of the more important books to grace the Star Wars shelves in quite some time. The lessons it imparts are not mysterious enigmas of far off civilizations; they are battles we fight amongst ourselves every single day.
Can we forgive those who have wronged us?
Is redemption always an option?
What is the true meaning of strength in the face of adversity?
When so much bad has happened, how can we believe there will finally be a night to rest?
It may be hard to remember the days when the Alphabet Squadron trilogy was first announced. How could a trio of books with a silly sounding name possibly fill the gap in our hearts so many have felt since the departure of Rogue Squadron?
But then we fell in love with Wyl.
We evolved with Kairos.
We understood Soran.
And Yrica...Yrica taught us who we’ve been, who we are, and who we can be.
Alexander Freed's Victory’s Price is available now.
This was the story he told.