I just finished reading the newest Star wars offering from acclaimed author Timothy Zahn. For those of you who haven't heard of/ read the book here is a brief synopsis from Starwars.com:
"In Star Wars: Allegiance, which takes place during the time between Episodes IV and V, Luke Skywalker is still new to all this Jedi business. Han Solo isn't sure how much he's willing to commit to the Rebel Alliance. Princess Leia is trying to help run the Rebellion and wondering why Han is so infuriating. The young Mara Jade is one of the most valued agents of the evil Emperor. And a team of stormtroopers goes rogue, deciding to mete out justice their own way"
It sounds good doesn't it? In fact it sounds like the second coming of Shadows of the Empire (which was a fantastic book). Unfortunately, in my opinion the book is neither.
I will preface this review with this; If you want to read a story that 1) Fleshes out important events between ANH and ESB and 2) tells a great story starring the heroes of the rebellion, then this is NOT the book for you. In fact you will be, as I was, quite dissapointed. If you want to read an in depth tale of Mara Jade and some rogue Stormtroopers you will probably really enjoy this book.
The problem with this book is not Zahn's handling of the "main" (and I use the term loosely) characters Han, Luke, and Leia. In fact he writes the characters so brilliantly that it makes it even more frustrating that they only appear for about 20% of the book. It felt as though the characters that should have been the focus of the book were relegated to supporting roles. Even more frustrating is how Zahn touches on extremely interesting ideas/relationships and doesn't go anywhere with them, such as the fact that Obi-wan is still training Luke from beyond, and Han and Leia's budding relationship.
The feeling I got after reading this book is the same feeling I got after reading Outbound Flight, Timothy Zahn wants to write a book about Mara Jade leading a group of Stormtroopers. In fact Allegiance sets the stage for him to write that very book. However, based on Alleigance Zahn is too in love with his romantacized conceptions of these characters to write a plausable tale. Throughout the book Zahn spends too much time trying to make Mara Jade a "good person who got caught up in the big bad empire while trying to do the right thing" . Quite frankly this is a hard pill to swallow for several reasons. 1) The fact that Mara could be as close to the emperor as she was and think that he was"a good man" is just ridiculous especially since we have been led to believe that she makes a career of killing his rivals. (unlike Anakin in ROTS) 2) the borderline idealistic individual we meet in allegiance doesn't match up to the cold blooded killer in Heir to the Empire. 3) the fact that someone who was trained in the darkside and practically raised by the emperor (for the purpose of being used as a weapon)would be anything less than a cold blooded killer is difficult to accept.Especially given what we saw of Darth Maul's personality (this is also unlike Anakin who was mainly trained by Obi-wan and Palpatine had to seduce to the dark side. Jade had been trained by Palaptine exclusively and during a period where Palpatine had no need to pretend to be a " good person")
The whole bit with the renegade stormtroopers is well written, if overdone. Zahn protrays the political fallout of Alderaan in a way that is both relevant and interesting at first. However, this isn't supposed to be a book solely about stormtroopers so the amount of time he allots to this plot thread is excessive to the point where you get 15 pages about these troopers Zahn made up and a page and a half about what's going on with the Rebellion. Frankly, the whole stormtropper thread got boring halfway through. Even worse, somehow Zahn manages in unbelievable fashion to have these traitors end up serving the Empire again under Mara Jade. Surprise. Surprise.
As I said earlier, Alleigance is no Shadows of the Empire. In fact this seems like it would be more in line with the Republic Commando books. Star Wars Military buffs and Mara Jade fans will probably enjoy this book, beyond that I would recommend you pass on this one.