STAR WARS: LEIA, PRINCESS OF ALDERAAN - (9 out of 10) written by Claudia Gray. 416 Pages. Published by Disney-Lucasfilm Press. Available everywhere now in print, digital, and audio.
This review will contain spoilers.
Set during the 16th year of Princess Leia's life, Leia, Princess of Alderaan, offers an important view into the life of Princess Leia Organa and offers tantalizing hints at what we might come to discover in the upcoming eighth installment of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi.
It begins with a formal ceremony where Leia must challenge her parents into recognizing her right to take the throne of Alderaan. In order to do this, she must complete three challenges over the course of the next year. Leia chooses three worthy challenges and they bring her closer and closer to learning a secret about her parents she wasn't prepared to know.
For us as readers, we know that Leia's adoptive parents are involved in the formation of the Rebellion, and we know that Leia gets involved not too long after the events we'll see in the book. But watching Leia uncover these things and bumble around and make mistakes humanizes a character that I think we too often simply lionize. Princess Leia. General Leia. She's like a stone statue of (admittedly) flappable perfection, but she gets through things the right way. Watching her early defeats at trying to do good are helpful in understanding Leia as a whole.
We're also introduced to characters and locations that we're told are central to The Last Jedi. Laura Dern's character, Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo, appears as a girl about Leia's age. She speaks in riddles and has odd clothes and frequently dyes her hair. She's the Star Wars equivalent of Luna Lovegood, and makes an interesting first impression of a character we've only seen in pink robes from behind. Another thing we see is the planet of Crait, that gorgeous salt-covered mineral planet we first glimpsed in the teaser trailer for The Last Jedi. There's something up there and the ghost of Bail Organa has his influence reaching as far forward into the future as The Last Jedi. What that is, exactly, we still don't know, but presumably the movie will tell us more.
Perhaps my favorite moment in the book is during Leia's trip to Naboo and her meeting with her biological mother's royal bodyguard and advisor, Quarsh Panaka. Panaka had been elevated to the post of Moff in the region and when he sees Leia for the first time he looks as though he'd seen a ghost. This whole scene kept me on the edge of my seat and made me wonder if we'd get more like this. It was a brief detour in the book, but, emphatically, we need more things like this.
It was amazing to watch Claudia Gray weave in and out of danger with Leia, showing us just how close to disaster the galaxy hangs. Any misstep of Leia's here, or anything playing out any differently than it does, and the course of galactic events changes drastically. I loved the development of Leia as a politician, a woman of action, and her relationship with characters we know. Her scenes with Grand Moff Tarkin are nothing short of brilliant, and every interaction with her parents made me want to cry.
In a good way.
For those jumping onto this book because of Gray's treatment of Leia in Bloodline, this definitely feels more in line with Lost Stars as far as tone and content, but she's still able to weave details between both books. If I were re-reading these books over again, I would start with this book and move onto Bloodline. For those who want to know more about Leia's upbringing with the Alderaanian royalty, this book is a must read. Gray is able to capture the essence of Princess Leia as a young woman, presenting her in a way we've never seen before. It's fresh and shows a youthful vulnerability to a character we've always wondered about.
The book is equal parts emotional and action-packed and never once feels like it suffers from the lack of tension that sometimes comes with prequels. There are enough new characters and pending fatality to keep the book tense and moving forward. Although I liked Lost Stars more, I think this is a worthy entry in Star Wars and Claudia Gray has written a bad book in the universe yet.
You can buy the book now, wherever books are sold.
Note: there was a to do about the accidental inclusion of a Nazi slogan and put into the mouth of Princess Leia. "Strength Through Joy" was roughly translated from "Kraft durch Freude" in German and was used in propaganda efforts. Some were troubled to see it in the text, but author Claudia Gray and the publisher insisted that its inclusion was purely accidental.