Sometimes happy moments are spurred from sorrow. It is easy to let the anxieties of the world pull at the strings of the soul until it can feel impossible to hem. Having family nearby could help reinforce the seams, or they could be the ones pulling the strings apart. In the middle grade novel Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein the Tico Sisters are more the former. Below is my review of the novel.
Going into Cobalt Squadron I had already watched The Last Jedi movie. This gave me knowledge where the story of Rose and Paige Tico was going. In addition, I chose to listen to the audiobook, because Kelly Marie Tran (actor that portrayed Rose Tico in The Last Jedi) narrated. My enjoyment of having Ashley Eckstein narrate the Ahsoka novel by E. K. Johnston, and Janina Gavankar narrate the Battlefront II: Inferno Squad novel by Christie Golden took my enjoyment of those stories to a new level. This novel by Elizabeth Wein was no exception. I first read her work, when she wrote the short story “Change of Heart” in the From a Certain Point of View novel (review found here).
The story of Cobalt Squadron introduced how the Tico sisters joined Leia Organa’s Resistance against the First Order, the bomber ships they flew on, and set the stage to how they fit into the story of The Last Jedi. I enjoyed how the dynamic of the Tico sisters was presented in a genuine way. They both played off each other’s strengths, with the rest of Cobalt Squadron’s crew. Rose has separation anxiety from being torn from her homeworld, so it felt right that she leaned on her sister. The use of self reflection as the fate of a similar world to the one Rose and Paige had to abandon was handled well. Rose is an engineer, and this novel gave her her chance to shine in the tech she created to make the Resistance ships invisible on scanners. Rose also got to adapt what she had made throughout the novel, as engineers are always making small adjusts to obtain maximum effort.
Speaking of maximum effort… Before seeing The Last Jedi, the director Rian Johnson suggested people watch 12 O’Clock High. What he ultimately pulled from that movie into The Last Jedi was most likely the dynamic between Poe Dameron, Vice Admiral Holdo, and General Leia Organa. However, I kept thinking back to the bomber missions from 12 O’Clock High, while going through Cobalt Squadron.
What affected me most is how sweet the Tico sisters were. They had the spirit like Leia Organa did as the galaxy was spiraling into darkness. When Rose Tico was swept up in her anxieties, Paige Tico was there to cheer her up in a way only an older sister could. She did not try to fix Rose. No, Paige was more like a lighthouse in a storm, offering her sister patience and understanding. Rose in turn would pay her sister back in kindness.
The pacing of the novel worked out well in this smaller type of story. The hard part in writing a middle grade novel is the fight against page length. The missions Cobalt Squadron went on was able to keep the story going, without feeling rushed. Since this was a Journey to The Last Jedi story, Wein included pieces of the movie sprinkled throughout the novel. Having seen the movie, I knew where the characters were heading, so I could pick out the connective tissues in Cobalt Squadron. This left me more invested in the characters of Paige and Rose Tico. It is the little moments in life that can shape the future. This was so true in Cobalt Squadron.
I do want to point out how much this story blends into the movie The Last Jedi. My second viewing was after finishing Cobalt Squadron, and it only enhancement my appreciation to both stories! The biggest connection is it sets up the beginning first act of the movie, and expands on Rose Tico’s character. Not that it makes it required reading to understand Rose, because Rian Johnson and Kelly Marie Tran did a wonderful job at bringing Rose Tico to life. What I am getting at is I could relate to her more after knowing both stories.
What is wonderful about any Star Wars story is that they can be read as a self-contained story, or viewed in a collection of stories. How we look at Luke in A New Hope after watching Return of the Jedi (or vice versa) is a different perspective, than simply just watching one of the movies. The same can be said of Cobalt Squadron, where it is wonderful by itself. However, there are a few stories that add to this narrative. Before diving into this novel, I do recommend the following stories:
Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray: Set 16 years after the Galactic Empire is established. What this novel does is show us how Leia decided to join the Rebellion and it introduces the character Amilyn Holdo, who appears in the movie The Last Jedi. (Review here)
“Inbrief” by Janine K. Spendlove: Set around the time of the events of A New Hope is the short story of how Brand was recruited into the Rebellion. This story is bundled in the paperback edition of the novel Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed, or can be found in the digital Star Wars 2016 Del Rey Sampler. (Review here)
Bloodline by Claudia Gray: Set about five years before The Force Awakens. What this novel does is show what led Leia Organa to form the Resistance, and sets the political stage of the sequel trilogy era.
Moving Target by Jason Fry and Cecil Castellucci: Set some time between before The Force Awakens. In this novel Leia recounts a time in her past after the events of Empire Strikes Back, and what it means to do her duty. In addition, this story echoes into the cost of war, which plays into Rose’s story in The Last Jedi.
Poe Dameron comic by Charles Soule, Phil Noto, Angel Unzueta, and more!: Set shortly before the events of The Force Awakens is an ongoing story about how Poe Dameron got to meeting Lor San Tekka on Jakku. What we gain is so much world building of the state of the Resistance, and how different it is to the Rebel Alliance.
Overall, I found Cobalt Squadron by Elizabeth Wein to be a must read to fans of The Last Jedi and the Tico sisters. Wein has crafted a story that feels like a wonderful prologue to The Last Jedi. The choice to have Kelly Marie Tran voice the audiobook was well worth the price of admission. The character growth of Paige and Rose Tico felt like a natural progression of where they begin in The Last Jedi. This is a story I hope everyone reads as the humanity of the characters shine through. The Tico sisters were so good to each other in Cobalt Squadron, with their hope and positivity just bursting to all around them. Let us know your thoughts about the novel on Twitter @UnmistakablySW or Franklin Taylor @SpearXXI