by Hunter Llenos, Reporter and Columnist
Sixteen-year-old Princess Leia Organa faces the most challenging task of her life so far: proving herself in the areas of body, mind, and heart to be formally named heir to the throne of Alderaan. She’s taking rigorous survival courses, practicing politics, and spearheading relief missions to worlds under Imperial control. But Leia has worries beyond her claim to the crown. Her parents, Breha and Bail, aren’t acting like themselves lately; they are distant and preoccupied, seemingly more concerned with throwing dinner parties for their allies in the Senate than they are with their own daughter. Determined to uncover her parents’ secrets, Leia starts down an increasingly dangerous path that puts her right under the watchful eye of the Empire. And when Leia discovers what her parents and their allies are planning behind closed doors, she finds herself facing what seems like an impossible choice: dedicate herself to the people of Alderaan including the man she loves, or to the galaxy at large, which is in desperate need of a rebel hero…
For a character as iconic and memorable as Princess Leia Organa, Claudia Gray has shed a fresh yet, familiar light on the once young Space princess of Alderaan, and with the passing of everyones beloved Carrie Fisher this novel helps those who are long fans of the series, to spend some time with the Princess at a time before A New Hope. When we see our Princess at the age of sixteen, the empire is nearing completion of the death star, and the rebellion consists of only pockets throughout the galaxy. We see in this time period, the rise of the rebellion close to the perspective of its most prominent leaders like Mon Mothma, and Bail Organa as they forge alliances unbeknownst to the empire with worlds that see clearly, the heavy hand of the Emperor, as we also see all the misdealings that come with forming a galactic wide revolution, although, as much as we love the “wars” in “Star Wars” this book tells the story of a young Princess who was adopted at birth, but loved by her parents and the people she would one day represent (poor Alderaan).
- One thing to understand in Claudia Grays telling, is that it’s a story about a real family and how they connect with each other through a time of sacrifice. As Leia is busy with her royal challenges that are ritual for a princess of Alderaan to complete, for the body she has to climb the top of one of the tallest mountains on Alderaan, but she sees that her mother is busy bookkeeping and constantly planning banquets, and her father preoccupied with his duties as viceroy. Never, growing up had Leia felt this space between them; feeling for the first time, truly alone.
This feeling brings Leia to care desperately about proving herself to her parents and her people which encourages her to choose her first mission of heart, offering aid to the people of Wobani who are greatly impoverished and in need of medicine, at no fault other than the empire. Upon arriving to Wobani she finally sees for the first time what the empire is capable of, a land once flourishing with farmland and creatures of the like, has now been muddied and trampled on leaving no green lush lands. As she starts to unload the supplies of food and medicine she sees the Wobani people running desperately toward her. Seeing the state they were in gives Leia a feeling of despair, and knows that her efforts won’t be enough, until she gets an idea to transport as many Wobanis as she could off world. Needing permission from an imperial officer, she is given a straight answer, “no”. To where Leia chooses to abide by the rules, but finds herself a loophole.
Having fooled the officer, Leia and her ship full of refugees head back to Alderaan. Upon landing they are greeted by the Queen herself who happily greets the Wobanis, but asks to speak to her daughter alone. Leia learns that her actions have not only put her people in jeopardy, but has made the people of Wobani worse off. The empire doesn’t take light of being tricked, Breha explains to her daughter. Leia’s spine shivers at the thought of her actions putting the people of Wobani in even more danger. Leia regretting her actions has yet to realize that the empire is now drawing their attention toward Alderaan, Grand Moff Tarkin in particular, being the most suspicious.
War is coming and change is undoubtedly happening, but Leia now faces two choices, to protect the home she so cherishes or to put her home at risk for the greater good of the galaxy.
Claudia plays with the fact that we already know Alderaan’s fate by presenting Leia with the two choices that collide with each other, offering for great character development for Leia, as she is also presented with Kier Domadi, a handsome boy who is sympathetic to her situation as a Princess, and takes the role as her unspoken boyfriend. While this may seem unexpected to some fans, I take delight in knowing there was someone before the scoundrel. While it also gives us a great scene between mother and daughter about the experience between the opposite sex’s, Breha saying to Leia how she wished her little girl had met a scoundrel before finding herself the perfect match. A scene that will stick with me for as long as there is Star Wars.
Claudia Gray has written two books in the Star Wars canon: Bloodline and Lost Stars. Bloodline was her first take on the character of Leia (phenomenally I should say). In Leia Princess of Alderaan, Claudia has shown her experience with the character while also presenting us with a pre-war Leia, giving the hardcore fans a glimpse into the origin of her kick ass attitude. When it comes to the world building, Claudia has again brought us, not only to a galaxy far far away, but to the beautiful and peaceful world of Alderaan.(poor poor Alderaan). The way Claudia has laid out this story, and given a voice to the people of Alderaan, brings even more depth to the events that transpire in A New Hope. The destruction of Alderaan at the hands of Grand Moff Tarkin, and Leia as witness is an even more harrowing moment, strengthening Leia’s resolve, from a young Princess to the general she is today.
While there are some connecting threads to The Last Jedi, they are few, including Amilyn Holdo who is part of Leia’s group in the challenges of body mind and heart. She too does the challenges, being the eccentric one, always coloring her hair a different color each time she’s introduced in the book. We also get to see Crait, the salt planet that’s introduced in The Last Jedi. A touching scene between father and daughter occurs deep within the mines.
Amongst other worlds we are reintroduced to Emperor Palpatine’s home world of Naboo, where the current queen is presiding over menial tasks under the hand of the empire leaving her virtually powerless but when the two royals meet each other they come to see their common ground when it comes to the empire. They see how the Empire has manipulated the great names and houses in the galaxy, and how the nobles, have sacrificed their political power, but together the two royals find that they are empowered by their names and heritage, that there is still some sway from the noble houses and families. An effort to gain some ground was planned as the two went to speak with Moff Panaka while he was relaxing at his cabin. A scene in which the Moff sees a striking resemblance with the former queen Padme Amidala and Princess Leia, transpires, that makes the hairs on your arm stand up. As they are leaving, the two of them are both surprised by an explosion from behind them coming from the Moffs cabin. Leia, shocked by the sight and the fact that another mistake may have been caused by her naivety she rushes home as quickly as she can. Where she learns, eventually, of the ruthless tactics by insurgents lead by Saw Gerrera.
That’s right! Saw Gerrera from Rogue one, also appearing on Star Wars Rebels, almost blew the Princess up into big chunks. That could qualify him to be put on the same list of irredeemables like Kylo Ren, at least in my book. Then again, it would have prevented Kylo’s birth, who would know?
There are so many good Star Wars moments that are littered in this story, that it all goes to show how Claudia Gray is a true fan of the franchise and how deeply rooted she is to the deeper themes in Star Wars, to the political manipulation of power, to relationships made deeper in times of great tribulation. To finding hope in a galaxy where there is short supply. As George once said, “Star Wars is like poetry.” And Claudia has written her verse and I look forward to reading more of what she has to offer this vast galaxy.
In short, this was an excellent book that I would recommend for any Star Wars fan, Including non hardcore fans of Leia, if there are any.
Rating: 8.5/10 – Amazing