Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book charts Paige and Rose Tico’s final mission together before the events of The Last Jedi…so you already know how it’s going to end…ominously. With a sense of looming tragedy. Knowing that their last goodbye really is going to be their last goodbye.
Spoilers for The Last Jedi, I guess, but Paige Tico dies at the start of the movie.
Now, had I read this before I’d seen The Last Jedi, it might have meant that death had more impact for me (I read Catalyst before I saw Rogue One, which meant that Lyra Erso’s death hit me like a ton of bricks and I was crying before anyone else in the cinema knew what was going on).
(Seriously, I cried so much during that movie that my youngest leant over in the cinema and asked me if I was okay…)
Anyway, I liked Rose Tico, and wanted more of her and her sister, and this book does give you that…but it’s incredibly hard to get into. Paige and Rose end up part of a mission delivering supplies to a First Order occupied planet. What this means in practice is a lot of lengthy runs to drop supplies that are described in detail, while we’re given little reason to care about the occupied planet or anyone on it. Which is a shame. At times Wein gets it right, and creates a real sense of tension during these runs…but at other times we feel literally nothing. There’s no sense of threat. No tension at all. Well…until she weaves in a sense of impending doom at the end.
I feel like the biggest problem this book has is the complete lack of any antagonist. The First Order exists as a largely abstract threat, just nameless and faceless TIE Fighter pilots…we have nobody to root against, just a crew to root for, and none of them are particularly fleshed out beyond Rose. We don’t even really get to know Paige, other than how she relates to Rose. She’s never allowed to exist as a character in her own right.
That said, I still enjoyed the book, and I’m aware that I’m being hypercritical, mostly because it feels like something of a missed opportunity. Hopefully we’ll get more of Rose in the future, because she was tragically underused in The Rise Of Skywalker. And maybe we’ll even get a chance to get to know Paige too.
All in all, a little disappointing, but if you do want more of the Tico sisters after the movie, it does at least go some way towards giving you that.