Writing a Star Wars Prequel is no small task, as George Lucas discovered. Not only do you have to reverse-engineer a story and the characters involved, but you have to deal with the backstories the fans have created for themselves, to fill the void. This is why, I believe, my generation hated The Phantom Menace, The Attack of Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Okay, Attack of the Clones was badly edited and the cool new Special Effects did overwhelm the story. I still liked it for what it was, because that’s how I enjoy such a wide variety of stories in the first place. STAR WARS ATTACK OF THE CLONES novel on Amazon
In any case, Claudia Gray had a tall order to fill. She needed to write an origin story for the iconic, legendary Princess Leia. Not only that, it needed to stand up to a Young Adult audience. Leia is only 19 at the start of New Hope. Go back any further and she’s firmly in YA territory. Some Science Fiction readers still think they’ll get cooties from girls, while others believe girls don’t like Science Fiction. Not so much as a few years ago, thank goodness.
Claudia delivers fantastically on all counts, and I have a hard time loving most Star Wars novels. (Psst, I loved the ones by Timothy Zahn but it’s been a decade or so.)
Leia has grown up a pampered, protected princess on a world ruled by her mother, the wise Queen Breha of Alderaan, while her father serves as Viceroy, a senator representing their world in the Imperial Senate. She was doted on and adored, though a little lonely for friends her own age. She knows she’s adopted, but doesn’t really think about it much.
Things have changed. Mom and Dad have become busy with silly parties and such, and after all those years of teaching her about duty and hard work, and how they must do everything legal to alleviate the suffering brought on by Emperor Palpatine’s regime.
Now Leia’s turned 16, she can assert herself back into her parents’ lives on the Day of Demand, when she proclaims her intention to become the next queen. Well, okay, that was kind of brief and her parents are back to their parties and not wanting to talk about it. Of course, Leia’s not going to let it go at that. If you’ve seen the movies, you know what kind of girl she is and pretty soon she’s stumbling into trouble on her quest to fulfill her challenges and help people as a junior member of the senate.
No doubt the Force had something to do with Leia stumbling upon questionable activities by her parents, possible organized rebellion, and the Empire’s more horrific activities. But, Leia’s the kind to go out and make sure things get done and that often entails finding things out and figuring out why things are the way they are.
One of Leia’s stumblings run her smack-dab into her father (that’d be her adopted father, Bail Organa) on a planet he’s not supposed to be on. Now there’s a lot of ‘splainin’ to do and Mom and Dad are understandably reluctant to involve their teenage daughter in something dangerous.
Especially since she’s actually Darth Vader’s biological offspring and nobody knows it. Well, almost nobody.
Okay, so Leia promises to be a good little princess, kinda, and she’s off on another mission, this time to a moon of the planet Naboo.
Sound familiar? STAR WARS QUEEN’S SHADOW on Amazon
The new Queen of Naboo is just a puppet ruler, and about Leia’s age. She lends Leia a dress and they go off to see why things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be for a group of miners. In the process, they meet up with a dude named Panaka, the Moff (imperial leader) of the area. Does that name ring a bell?
Moff Panaka sees Leia in a queen’s dress and looks ready to puke out porgs because, well, he used to work for her birthmother.
Leia’s got no idea, of course, and is kinda ‘Huh?’ when he asks her about being adopted and such.
Panaka’s not exactly a sell-out to the Empire, but he’s definitely a guy who’s lost his moral compass. He’s going to tell the Emperor about Princess Leia’s origins. But, then, he’s blown up and we don’t know if he actually got the chance.
Did I mention Leia has a crush on cute boy?
Anyway, now Mom and Dad are really freaked out, and understandably so. In addition to the usual terrifying threats to one’s teenage daughter, she’s also, well, you know. They adamantly limit her activities to certain star systems and forbid her to speak of things she knows after a lifetime of otherwise honesty. Lives are at stake, she learns that in the most disturbing ways.
When at last Leia attends one of her parents’ frivolous parties, she discovers they’re anything but. And she wonders if that boy, Kier, can be trusted. She’s made several deadly mistakes, but she’s a girl as driven as the woman she will become. Leia knows she needs powerful allies and we know she knows how to organize them.
Leia Princess of Alderaan is an enjoyable read, even if you’re not into Star Wars that much. It’s not what I’d call Science Fiction, but rather Space Opera. It’s Fantasy, very much like you’ll read set here on this planet or even Middle Earth. But, Fantasy just the same.
The heroine could have easily fallen flat, but Claudia managed to reverse-engineer Princess Leia back into her teens in a believable way. True, Leia doesn’t attend high school and hang out with her besties, but not all teenage girls do that in real life either. There’s no ridiculous attempt to make Leia more like the average American teenager. Everything you see in the woman Leia you see in the girl, only not as a refined. Very believable and relatable stuff.
I highly recommend you read this book soon, hopefully before watching the new movie due out this month. I’m betting it’ll enhance your appreciation of this legendary heroine.
If you haven’t already, check out the final trailer- Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker
May the Force Be With You.
P.S. Check out this YouTube video to the lady who originally brought Princess Leia to life- Tribute to Carrie Fisher