I’m back with another Star Wars review! As we seem to be ending every year on a new Star Wars movie–a trend I’m very much in favor of, by the way–we are also getting new accompanying novels to lead up to the latest film. This year’s crop of stories is subtitled “Journey to The Last Jedi,” in anticipation of Episode VIII coming out this December.
The first I read is Claudia Gray’s Leia, Princess of Alderaan. Gray is the same author who wrote Lost Stars, which may be my favorite Star Wars book to date. I’m happy to say she has more than fulfilled the high expectations I have for her work.
This story shows us what Princess Leia Organa’s life was actually like on Alderaan, as a royal being primed for leadership of an entire planet. The book tackles all the responsibilities and privileges heaped on a sixteen-year-old adopted princess, before she fully understands the implications of the Rebellion and her family’s place in it. The plot opens on an ancient ceremony meant to symbolize Leia’s right to rule. She has to complete three specific challenges to prove herself worthy of Alderaan’s throne, to be undertaken within one year. We follow Leia’s actions in striving to complete these challenges, which leads to a turning point in her life thus far.
Lifelong Star Wars fans will see quickly where this is going. Leia finds out that her parents are covertly involved in the growing Rebellion against the Empire, and have been working to undermine Emperor Palpatine for years. Obviously, Leia wants to be more involved. After a few missteps and cases of overreaching her abilities, all of which are done with the best intentions and with the little information she has at the time, Leia starts to prove herself capable of much more than royal governance on her home planet.
I won’t tell you exactly what course this novel takes, or how Leia learns to balance being a public figure with aiding a covert operation, but I will say the ending is bittersweet. No matter how much she learns, and how diligently she gains the trust of her subjects and parents alike, we know already that Alderaan will be destroyed. It’s hard to watch Leia form bonds that will ultimately be torn from her in such a horrible way. It will be even harder to watch The Last Jedi knowing it will be our last Star Wars movie with this iconic Princess turned General. That said, it’s a wonderful insight into Leia as a character, uplifting, funny, and moving without delving into melodrama or retreading old ground. I recommend reading it before rewatching either Rogue One or A New Hope.