Star Wars: Allegiance
Author: Timothy Zahn
Published By: The Ballentine Publishing Company
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I heard about the new Star Wars books that were being published to fill in gaps in the Expanded Universe timeline, I was ecstatic. This is what fans of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels had been begging for. I expected that the novels produced would fill in gaps in the timeline after Return of the Jedi. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a new Star Wars novel was hitting book stores that would take place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Add to this news the fact that it was written by one of my favorite Star Wars authors, and you knew that I was going to purchase this book the minute it was released to the public.
Star Wars: Allegiance, by Timothy Zahn, takes place shortly after the successful destruction of the first Death Star. Luke Skywalker, now permanently a part of the Rebellion, has vowed to aid Princess Leia in her endeavors to overthrow the evil Empire. However, the future is a tad less certain for his friends, smuggler Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca. Since the Death Starís destruction, Han has found himself talked into numerous Rebel Alliance missions, yet he has refused to commit himself to a permanent role within the Rebellion. This lack of commitment frustrates Leia to no end, especially since she has no clear idea why Hanís ďjoining upĒ has become so important to her.
All she does know is that a very important meeting is being called between high ranking members of the Rebel Alliance in the Shelsha Sector and Leia has been called upon to attend. She wishes very much that she could enlist the aide of Han and Luke in her trip to Shelsha Sector; however, the two have been sent on another equally important mission. It would seem that a group of rather organized pirates have been targeting Rebel shipments. Han and Luke have been sent to gather information regarding these pirates and discover their hidden agenda.
Little do they know that the pirates have also gained the attention of two very powerful entities Ė The Emperorís Hand and The Hand of Judgment. The Hand of Judgment consists of five stormtroopers who have deserted the Empire after one of their members killed an Imperial Security Bureau agent. Believing that the Empire they first signed up with is no longer protecting its citizens, the members of The Hand of Judgment have vowed to carry on what they feel should be the Empireís mission. They donít see themselves as Rebels, just a new segment of the Empire that hasnít been touched by greed or corruption.
The Emperorís Hand is a character created by author Timothy Zahn many years ago named Mara Jade. In this novel, 19-year-old Mara Jade is a relatively new agent of the Empire. She has excelled in her specialized training under the watchful eye of Emperor Palpatine. Believing in the good intentions of the Empire, Mara Jade has sworn to protect its leader and everything the Empire stands for. When Emperor Palpatine sends Mara on an errand to root out corruption within his ranks, Mara Jade stumbles upon the same group of pirates that Han and Luke are seeking information about and that the Hand of Judgment has sworn to take down.
Star Wars: Allegiance is, simply put, terrific! As always, Timothy Zahn completely captured my attention with his descriptive and thoroughly enjoyable writing talent. I loved reading the early adventures of Mara Jade, my favorite Expanded Universe character. In this novel, we continue to learn that although Mara Jade was an agent of the Empire, she never really fell to the Dark Side of the Force. She may have been duped into believing that Emperor Palpatine was a caring leader with good intentions, however, she always had a set of morals that she stood by, regardless of the anger and aggression that being the Emperorís Hand brought out in her.
Allegiance also gives us some insight into Lukeís life after the death of Ben Kenobi. Readers watch Luke begin to trust in the Force more and more with the guidance of the spirit of the fallen Kenobi. He may not understand just how the Force works, but Luke is beginning to realize how trusting in it can save his life and the life of his comrades. Readers are also treated to a new view of Princess Leia. We always knew she was a scrapper, willing to go into danger in the name of the Rebel Alliance, but in Allegiance, we are treated to Leiaís introduction to undercover work as she is forced to hide in plain sight after her whereabouts are discovered by the Empire. And the tension between Leia and Han is as present as ever throughout this novel making readers aware that the feelings Han and Leia expressed for each other in The Empire Strikes Back had a much earlier starting point.
The Hand of Judgment, the newest characters to be introduced to the Expanded Universe, are extremely likeable. Readers will discover that not every stormtrooper believed in the casual slaughter of citizens that had long been a staple of the Empire. Some of these elite troopers truly believed that they were defenders of a good cause until the senseless murders of innocent people turned them against their leaders. The fact that the members of The Hand of Judgment still felt that they had a duty to the citizens of the Empire even after they had abandoned their military positions shows the intrinsic good within these troopers that makes them our heroes.
Star Wars: Allegiance was an incredibly enjoyable read. So enjoyable, in fact, that I completed the novel in just a couple of days' time and couldnít wait to tell all the Star Wars fans out there about it. Run to your nearest book store and buy it today! You wonít be disappointed!
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