A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY….THERE WAS A PRINCESS WHO BECAME A LEGEND.
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 thrown 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 make she loves–or the galaxy at large, which is in desperate need of a rebel hero.
Leia is a tragic character. Her entire world and family are destroyed by the Empire. She’s also an amazing character because despite all that she keeps fighting. Her son turns evil, she keeps fighting. Her husband is murdered by her son, she keeps fighting. One of her oldest and best friends sacrifices herself so that the resistance can live on, and I’m going to assume she keeps fighting. At this point it’s like Leia is the favorite whipping boy of every Star Wars writer. It’s depressing.
So let’s dive back into the backstory of this tragic character. Surely, we’ll find something happy and not horrible. Right?
Well, the book starts with Leia depressed because her parents have started blocking her out of things. They are no longer the tight family unit she’s grown up as. Being part Lois Lane she discovers through snooping that her parents are part of a rebellion that is just starting out. They resist letting her join, even though they all know it’s actually worse for her if she doesn’t. The Empire will still kill her if they find out.
While trying to convince them she can help she takes part in the Junior Legislature and comes to the realization that the Senate has even less power than she thought. That the Emperor and his lackeys have set up pretty much everything to go the way they want and even when she thinks she’s succeeding, she isn’t.
During this time she meets her fellow Alderannean (?) Kier who she ends up falling in love with. She thinks she can trust him and that they are on the same page. Kier is good, but he values Alderaan’s safety over the safety of the rest of the universe. I imagine his ghost was screaming ‘Fuck You Leia’ when Alderaan blew up. Because that’s right, Leia’s first love, the boy she gave her virginity to, was freaking killed.
I am not a fan of prequels, knowing what’s ultimately going to happen takes all the joy out of it for me, but I read this because one of the hosts of the Strong Female Characters Podcast repeatably mentioned that it was an amazing book and that it was revealed that Holdo was poly. I was excited about that, so I persevered. I kept waiting for Holdo to be in a relationship or something to clue us in, until finally I came to one little line. Leia says she’s going to stick to humanoid males and Holdo says how limiting. That was it. Seriously. I was disappointed and had hoped for so much more.
I didn’t need a sex scene, I just wanted a relationship or something more than a throwaway line that could have been easily missed. Sure we learned more about Holdo, and that was nice, but she came off as a Sci-Fi Luna Lovegood. There wasn’t much there. Occasionally, we got some insights into her character, but Leia for the most part thought she was flighty and weird. By the end of the book she was a bit more fleshed out, but I would have liked more. Like maybe a book about her life instead of a princess we already know a lot about.
The last line basically took a baseball bat and beat you upside the head with dramatic irony. Leia thinks, she’s got her family, friends, and planet. At least the Empire can’t take that away from her. It was massively eye roll inducing.
Claudia Gray is a great author, and this was very well written, but much like Solo I don’t think this book needed to be made. It took a character with a tragic story and doubled down hard. We got some glimpses into what it was like to live on Alderaan, which made the loss even worse, but honestly that was about it for me.