Dark Allies is another great book in the Star Trek: New Frontier series. I've mentioned this is my favorite series in the Star Trek novelverse and it's up there with my favorite series of books all round. The books are funny, adventurous, entertaining, moving, serious, and ridiculous all in one. The premise of the books is the U.S.S Excalibur, led by eccentric military genius Mackenzie Calhoun, and populated by a band of misfits has been sent into the former Thallonian Empire on a mission of peace. Accompanied by the former Prince of Thallonia, Si Cwan, they have run into numerous races who want to tear the region apart as well as those who want to exploit the former empire's resources. Oh and a gigantic flaming space bird that hatched out of a planet.
It's that kind of series.
Dark Allies follows Captain Calhoun being approached by the dangerous religious cult, the Redeemers, which have waged a genocidal war of conversion across the Thallonian Sector. Apparently, a kind of monstrous space-blob called the Black Mass is threatening the Redeemer's homeworld. The Redeemers, having no idea how to defeat it, believe their worst enemy might have a better shot. Captain Calhoun is not persuaded by simple humanitarian concerns so the Redeemer's Overlord also takes an innocent planet hostage.
The soap opera elements of the series, which I love almost as much as the adventure, are in full form as well. Captain Calhoun has reunited with his estranged Han Solo-esque son, Xyon, who is also courting Princess Kalinda of the Thallonian Empire. It's a match which infuriates her brother but Si Cwan doesn't have a planet anymore so he has little room to complain. Xyon isn't quite sure of his willingness to settle down even for a girl he's fallen in love with. Even Captain Calhoun and Shelby's relationship is on the rocks as they run into a position where they have to choose their careers or each other.
I complained about the previous volume having too much focus on side-characters as well as a lack of space action for, well, a Star Trek novel. This one picks up the pace a great deal and has a lot of focus on our main characters. We get more insight into Captain Calhoun, Shelby, and what kind of forces drive them both. This is in addition to picking up the plots from the previous volume. Despite being, basically, two teenagers in love, I also found myself warming to Kalinda and Xyon's relationship. Watching Si Cwan try to sabotage their relationship using reverse psychology irritated the hell out of me, because teenagers are stupid enough to fall for that sort of thing.
The Redeemers are somewhat silly villains, which is part of their charm but they're hard to take seriously even though they threaten billions of lives. Basically, if you want to imagine them then you should start with Ewok Sith Lords. If that causes you to pause then you have roughly the same reaction many people have to their race in-universe. The Black Mass, by contrast, is a perfectly serviceable Star Trek monster and while Captain Picard would have tried to save it, I'm quite glad Captain Calhoun is not so sentimental.
While she only plays a small role in the book, I'm also fond of the character Kat Mueller who is the XO of the Excalibur. Peter David spotted a rather glaring plot hole in the Star Trek series which is, "Wait, who is in charge of the ship when everyone else is asleep" and added a night shift. Kat is a wonderful character, more or less what you'd get if you combined Ronda Rousey with Misato Katsuragi and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her.
This is a fun book like the majority of the Star Trek: New Frontier series and should be picked up by fans who already love it. I also love the ending of the book. Now THAT is how you do a cliffhanger.