This review will contain spoilers of Leia, Princess of Alderaan
Leia, Princess of Alderaan is a story about the tenuous lines between conflicting morality, just idealism, and unconditional love. Only 16 years old, our favorite Star Wars Princess is coming of age and learning just difficult it can be to do what’s right. She struggles with her frustration over the evident rift between her and her parents while also having to prove her aptitude for making difficult decisions in difficult times. Claudia Gray, also the writer of Bloodlines featuring the older, Pre-Episode VII Princess Leia as the leading character, brings us the exciting tale of a much younger Leia at the birth of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire.
Capturing the essence of a character at different developmental points throughout their lives is no simple task. Gray manages to depict the strength that Leia has always had while creating the experiences that helped her to grow into one of the most influential leaders of the Rebel Alliance. With the introduction of Alderaanian culture and the royal proving of oneself through the challenges of the body, heart, and mind, Leia stumbles upon truths about her parents that she would have never imagined.
What I love most in this book, is the focus on Leia’s personal relationships, which due to her royal status, are mostly with her parents. Because of their secret involvement with the building of the rebel alliance, they are busy. And this isn’t “I only see you after work every day” busy. This is “Sometimes I’m gone for weeks at a time” busy, and then might glimpse you for an hour or less in between that time. This gives the young princess a longing for their attention and respect that seems at times, unattainable. The novel takes the time to create moments when she confronts both Bail and Breha, individually on this, and they are some of heartwarming times of the entire book. And that’s not all that thrives.
Leia also finds herself smitten by the handsome, loyal Kier Domadi, creating a love story that has readers wondering if Han would’ve ever had a chance, should Kier have still been around. Through her time at the Apprentice Legislature, and then more daring situations, the two come to express their deepest feelings for one another. Gray treats relationships in her writing with so much care, that as readers we really feel like we are experiencing their emotions. She accomplished this same goal in her novel Lost Stars, featuring Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, and she does it so well!
Plot wise, we can feel the book thickening with every chapter. As it progresses Leia finds herself scooting closer, and closer to real danger. With Tarkin playing the menacing antagonist, with Bail and Breha playing their cards under the table, most battles in this novel are of the mind. A game in which Tarkin, a mastermind tactician himself has strong suspicion against them, but must obtain the proof with which to vilify them. The focus on facial expression, composure and even word choice, used as tools of battle garners an intensity far more thrilling than the simple pointing of blasters. The dinner party scene, was my absolute favorite.
It's no secret that I think very highly of Leia, Princess of Alderaan, and would highly recommend to any Star Wars fan. It creates an astounding amount of context for her character and the state of things in the galaxy. Since finishing, I’ve already watched A New Hope again, and the scenes with Leia and Tarkin are that much more powerful, knowing how much they battled before reaching that point. I couldn’t help but think about the last holocall she has with him before the book ends. As far as it pertains to The Last Jedi, likely my favorite new character, Amilyn Holdo, debuted in this book. We will see her again when the film premieres in just a few short months.
Go buy this book. Read about Leia in her youth and how she joined the fight against the Empire. It is such a great tribute to the character, and also to the late Carrie Fisher. Reading this, I thought so much of Carrie and her legacy. I thank Gray so much for allowing her to live in our hearts forever, with works of art like this.