Five members of the Imperial Stormtroopers go rogue after being ordered to massacre innocent civilians. They feel their oaths are to the Empire and its people but not necessarily the existing chain of command, so they start taking care of local thugs on their own. They have to be careful, though, as deserters flying around in a stolen ship full of Imperial war materiel are generally not seen in the most friendly light.
Leia Organa enlists eager Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca as well as reluctant Han Solo for a diplomatic mission aiming to solve some inner-Rebellion struggles. Although he sympathises with the Rebellions cause, Han is still not sure wether he wants to join full-time; his wish to be independent clashes with his attraction to the princess. Lucky for him, diversion appears as they track down a group of pirates responsible for attacks on Rebellion supply lines.
Young Emperor’s Hand Mara Jade is sent to investigate some Imperial official who might be corrupt or even treasonous. After she finishes her mission some loose ends in the politician’s money flow set her on the trail of a pirate gang she decides to follow.
Allegiance is a great novel. It starts with three apparently completely disconnected nested plot lines which soon start to intertwine. Characters help or interfere with each other without them even noticing. The way this is done is nothing but artful. Fans will enjoy the character background and especially the glimpse inside Stormtrooper helmets—turns out there are good guys after all. Together with Zahn’s usual qualities and characteristic Star Wars flair you get a very entertaining mid-length novel even non-fanatic fans should be able to enjoy.
We meet younger versions of some of Zahn’s characters, for instance Mara Jade and Vilim Disra. This gives depth to his earlier published books. Especially Mara’s younger self is interesting. For all her competence she is idealistic enough to think that massacres like the one on Teardrop are ills worth prosecuting officially; she has not yet understood Palpatine. This explains how she ends up on the “good” side later but also deepens my impression that the Emperor is not using all bad people; he rather draws decent folk into his employ and twists them.
The ending promises future stories: Mara Jade and her personal Stormtrooper unit, however illicit, on black ops missions sounds like lots of fun.