A Guest Book Review by Amy Wishman Nalan
(This review may contain minor spoilers)
To Me, She’s Royalty
When a young-adult Leia novel written by Claudia Gray was announced, I was as full of anticipation as the next fan. Having loved Gray’s previous Star Wars novels, I was eager to see a young Leia novel. And Claudia Gray did not disappointment. Leia: Princess of Alderaan is the Leia book fans have been wanting for decades.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan begins with Leia standing before her parents declaring her intention to someday rule Alderaan and her plan for tasks to test her heart, her body, and her mind. Her transformation and growth in each of these areas is the subject of the book. What unfolds in the story is a year in the life of Leia Organa.
First and foremost in Leia’s heart is the growing separation she senses between herself and her parents. Hurt and questioning, Leia determines to do her part to not only win back their approval, but to do her part to help those hurt and forgotten by the Empire. Committing some missteps along the way, Leia remains a strong humanitarian. Her compassion and empathy shine in this novel, and we get to see the side of Leia that could easily befriend Wicket on Endor. Leia learns to think more politically, more universally as she matures in this task.
Leia’s body is challenged by climbing a mountain and classes in orienteering and fitness provide ways for her to make friends and relationships as well as continue to grow as a leader and member of a team. We know the payoff of these skills as Leia is the face of the Rebellion in the original trilogy era and beyond.
Leia is a key member of the Apprentice Legislature, and here she gets a first-person view of the manipulations and machinations of Palpatine’s Empire. Through volunteering with her father’s senatorial office and her own political work, Leia gets a taste of the political games necessary to maintain the secrecy of her parents’ roles in the burgeoning Rebellion as well as ways to bring down the Empire while inside it.
While all of this is taking place, Leia is going through the expected throes of adolescence: first loves, making friends, feeling awkward, and forging her own identity. Balancing this deftly with the politics of a galaxy far far away, Claudia Gray puts together a solid, compelling story.
Gray’s characterizations are the strength of her work. As in Bloodline, she absolutely nails Leia’s voice. Every thought and word resonates with authenticity. Leia’s parents Bail and Breha are fleshed out meaningfully. As a mother myself, my personal favorite parts of the novel were in the interactions between Leia and her mother. This is a kind of relationship that has been grossly underrepresented in Star Wars and Gray representing it in this instance added significantly to the Leia we now know.
One fairly common complaint of the new Star Wars canon is that there is a lack of connecting threads amongst the various canon materials. (Ironically, the reverse complaint is also common, but that’s Star Wars fandom for you.) Leia: Princess of Alderaan has numerous callbacks to Gray’s previous works and novels in the new canon, in addition to the original, prequel and sequel trilogies as well as Rogue One. Each one of these connections enriched the story remarkably and never felt forced or intrusive. Some of them actual made me gasp and squeal in delight and awe. If you are reading Leia: Princess of Alderaan merely for hints at The Last Jedi you will not regret the time you invest in this story.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan significantly adds mythology of Leia in her many roles: The Princess, the Senator, the Rebel and the General. The emotional impact of the story and its characters enhances Leia in the previous films and left me eagerly anticipating more. Highly recommended.You can purchase Leia: Princess of Alderaan here. Powered by Sidelines