**Spoilers for The Alphabet Squadron trilogy**
Alexander Freed’s Alphabet Squadron trilogy follows many soldiers fighting out the last years of the Imperial occupation of the galaxy. In the background of Alphabet Squadron’s mission to take down the Imperial Shadow Wing, Hera Syndulla is running operations with many different squadrons, including Vanguard (from Star Wars: Squadrons).
Similarly, in the background of the first novel, a man named Devon Lhent is quietly living and working as a combat trainer on Mrinzebon to help a group of citizens defend themselves against local gangs. He increases his number of students and does some good within the community, even though he does not share anything about himself. Devon does not even make an appearance until a third through Alphabet Squadron, but he continues to move around after drawing unwanted attention either by helping people or crossing people.
Devon is a stranger both to the people he encounters and to readers until the last page when he is tracked down by New Republic agents. After asking the agents to let him live his life but resigning that they never will, he kills them and reveals himself to be Soran Keize, former Commander of Shadow Wing.
Unlike Devon, Soran Keize has a stronger connection to the main events of Alphabet Squadron. He is Yrica Quell’s former supervisor that tells her to defect to the New Republic after Operation: Cinder. In the last moments of Alphabet Squadron, he regrets that decision:
Less of a cowardly act and more practical, Seize cares about the people he worked with within the Empire more than he bought into the system they propagated. He tries to permit Quell to live some semblance of a life. Keize also tries to convince others to leave before taking his own advice.
However, unlike Quell, whose journey to redemption is just beginning by the end of Alphabet Squadron, Keize’s journey is over. It never really started as the former Commander was never trying to seek redemption so much as he was trying to escape justice. And when justice confronts him, he turns back to the Empire.
Keize’s unwillingness to be held accountable for any wrongdoing sends him on a different path from his former Lieutenant which ultimately leads to a confrontation. Instead of seeking redemption for himself, Keize resolves to help members of Shadow Wing and other Imperials get a chance to live in a post-Imperial galaxy. He does not return to the Empire because he believes they are righteous, he returns because he knows that the Empire will lose.
In a way, this story alone could be Soran Keize’s redemption story. In Shadow Fall, he returns after an attack on the Shadow Wing kills the current leader, Colonel Ness, and becomes the de facto leader. Once again in charge of Shadow Wing, Keize is another antagonistic force for Alphabet Squadron and Yrica Quell. But he is also a foil for her because Quell respected him as a leader. So it is not surprising that when Quell has doubts about whether her team will ever accept her, she returns to Keize at the end of Shadow Fall.
And in Victory’s Price, during their time back with Shadow Wing, Keize and Quell make a startling discovery regarding the Imperial Sentinels, droids that act as messengers for specific leaders to carry out the will of the late Palpatine. By deducing the droids had to have algorithms to choose which leaders to carry out Operation Cinder, Keize correctly deduces that these droids have access to a massive database on every Imperial. And he is right, there is a database with every infraction, and every minor or major illegality is on record in a database on Coruscant.
So instead of going to fight and die in the Battle of Jakku, Soran Keize goes to Coruscant to destroy the database. He hopes to give a chance to all the Imperials who will soon be at the mercy of the New Republic.
Soran Keize’s does find a path to redemption after death, which is not unique to Star Wars. But he does it by setting his former Lieutenant on the path in Alphabet Squadron and then, inadvertently giving her a chance to do the right thing by preventing the database from being destroyed in Victory’s Price. He is her adversary but also her ally.
Foreseeing the Imperial loss at Jakku, Keize recorded a message absolving the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing of culpability, stating that he made it so they had no choice but to follow his orders.
Even in death, she thought, Keize sought to protect his people. If he couldn’t save every Imperial soldier, he would try to save the 204th by sacrificing his reputation—sparing others New Republic justice and being remembered as a war criminal. Maybe he had believed.
And if his conviction had led him to slaughter millions, how could she hate him when her own lack of conviction had still resulted in Nacronis?
She would never know the truth of his soul, or whether her admiration for him was justified or a remnant of the Empire’s conditioning.
“I wish you’d been a better man,” she whispered to the hologram before it disappeared.
Freed, Alexander. Victory’s Price (Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron) (p. 422). Random House Publishing Group.
There are not many characters like Soran Keize in Star Wars, but he is one of the most complex Imperial leaders in canon. Keize gave up on his chance at redemption, but he helped Yrica Quell begin to achieve hers. Yrica Quell is still thinking about her former leader on the last page of the last novel of the Alphabet Squadron trilogy, and rightly so. Soran Keize is pretty unforgettable.