After finishing Alphabet Squadron, I jumped right into Shadow Fall. And man, was it intense!
Quick review without spoilers: Shadow Fall follows the aftermath of the book Alphabet Squadron. We see the fragile bonds of our crew strain even more than they ever did initially, watch them struggle in a battle even more intense than the previous ones we saw, and really see each character brought down to a low point before they can claw themselves back up. We learn more about every character, and they learn more about each other, and it's as tense as Star Wars gets. Shadow Fall is a great sequel to Alphabet Squadron, and really cements my view that it's a must-read trilogy, even if I haven't read the last book yet.
Read on for spoilers for Shadow Fall: An Alphabet Squadron Novel by Alexander Freed.
Like I said in my review of Alphabet Squadron, there really is too much to cover for me to give a full, thorough plot summary. The basics you need to know are that Alphabet Squadron and the other New Republic teams they work with are trying to capture a city planet in turmoil due to the large amount of Imperial loyalists at odds with rebels. They set a trap to try and lure Shadow Wing out (while Hera is away with Vanguard Squadron for the video game Squadrons) so they can destroy the dangerous squad once and for all, but the trap doesn't work and Shadow Wing goes for a direct assault, leading to a mutual near-destruction and an all-out war. The New Republic gets the upper hand at a grave cost, but Shadow Wing is able to limp away, damaged themselves.
I think the biggest personal conflict in this story is definitely the squadron learning the truth about Yrica. She told them that she tried to stop Operation Cinder and fled to the New Republic when she failed, but the truth was that she willingly participated in it, destroying an entire planet. Her secret is revealed when Caern Adan, the intelligence officer who put together Alphabet Squadron in the first book, is captured. He had rigged a transmission to go out revealing her secret in the event of his death or capture, presumably as insurance against Yrica, but he's really apologetic about it. Her squadmates confront her, furious (except Nath, who didn't care) and don't let her fly with them when the battle comes. The confrontation is really emotional, especially with Chass. We know from the first book that Chass
For much of the book, our heroes are separated. Kairos was injured, and stuck in a bacta tank to heal, so she's really out of action after fairly early on in the book- though she does reveal herself at the very end to be alive, and ready to fight when action returns. Wyl and Nath are able to work together through the whole book, fortunately, directing what remains of the New Republic forces against the remnants of Shadow Wing.
Chass, however, gets stranded in space when her B-Wing runs out of fuel, leaving her stranded in the debris field. She's taken in by a local cult, and we learn more about her background- specifically, that her mother joined a cult when she was young and pulled her in, which leads to Chass having a strong distaste for any group she deems to cult-like. Chass's hero worship of Jyn Erso of Rogue One is further explored, as Chass compares her own life and sacrifices to the one that Jyn led. Ultimately, Chass's character was so interesting to read about, especially because she was so isolated for much of the book, meaning we got to be with her as she explored her own thoughts and feelings.
Another isolated character was Yrica. Yrica steals an old freighter to fly in the battle after her squadron (and astromech) refuse her access to her X-Wing. The freighter happens to also be carrying Adan and IT-O, the torture droid turned therapist. Yrica uses the freighter to destroy Shadow Wing's escape vessel, ruining their plans and keeping them on the planet longer than they anticipated. However in the process, she strands herself, Adan and IT-O on a moon hurtling towards a black hole. They have to struggle and fight their injuries in order to survive, and they eventually find a secret ship stashed away- unfortunately, Yrica is denied access. The place the ship is stowed keeps showing her past memories of her life, and she spends much of her time alone grappling with her past and future, especially as she believes her future with the New Republic to be over thanks to the truth about her involvement in Operation Cinder getting out. She works through these thoughts with IT-O... but IT-O being damaged, starts to revert back to his old ways as a torture droid, and attacks Yrica. She has to destroy him, and later, Adan also dies after succumbing to his injuries. Truly alone, Yrica finally pushes through to get to the ship and flies away... returning to the only life she knew, going back to her old mentor and Shadow Wing on the last page of the book. It's frustrating to see a character I love do something like that (and I say that as a big Tam Ryvora fan, so I have experience), and literally made me bang the book against my head, but it's also so crazy it makes me even more excited to read Victory's Price!
There's of course a lot more to this book. While Hera isn't in this one as much as she was in the first, she still stole the show for me with every mention of her name. We also learned a little bit about Kairos, though not nearly enough. Just that she is so close to Caern Adan because they escaped an Imperial prison camp years ago, and that's how Adan came to get IT-O. Overall, a thrilling sequel to Alphabet Squadron that just makes me ecstatic that I get to read Victory's Price right away!