There comes a time, when everything comes together. Much like the exploding seismic charges Jango Fett released on Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack of the Clones. The literal sound around the explosion was sucked in and then a violent audible boom wrecked all around it. Except in my case it was an explosion of joy, sadness, anger, and serenity. That was how my emotions were as I read the Leia, Princess of Alderaan. Having been emerged in the new canon stories, for the last few years it has become an increasing sublime experience. Especially, when it comes to the writing of Claudia Gray. Claudia Gray knows how to craft a wonderful and engaging story that allows characters to feel genuine. Below is my review of her new young Adult novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan.
Going into this novel felt like the beginning sequence of the movie version of Grease, where Danny and Sandy are having the time of their lives on the beach during summer vacation. The future is unknown, and they may not see each other again. Yet, they take the time to just enjoy their time together. Everything is background noise. For Leia’s character in the beginning of Leia, Princess of Alderaan, she was like the inverse of Sandy and Danny. There was still the threat of a growing rebellion off in the distance, oppression taking place from planet to planet, and the constant anxieties of going from childhood into adulthood. However, everyone closest to her had become distant, and she was too clever to stay background noise.
The framing of this novel was to convey the key moment in Leia’s life, where she declares in her society her right to eventually usurp her Mother Breha Organa as Queen of Alderaan. Yet one does not simply go from Princess to Queen on Alderaan. One must go through three trials of the mind, body, and soul. How Leia tackles these challenges affirms and expands what we know of her character. In addition, this is a Leia that has never sent anyone off on a mission that could lead to their demise. She is not in the Rebellion. She doesn’t know anyone that is, unlike the Leia seen in A New Hope. This novel is Leia going into a new world so to speak. From a Princess to a leader.
What really stood out to me in Leia, Princess of Alderaan was the connections to the past, present, and future of Star Wars. Gray did such a stellar job at incorporating each era in a way that felt right. Like putting together that one puzzle piece that was missing all these years that we did not know existed. The biggest of those puzzle pieces was Leia’s adoptive parents Bail and Breha Organa (Breha especially). What we become is influenced a lot by those around us. Much was the case, with Leia and her relationship to her parents. Through Gray’s writing I could feel the strain Leia felt as she was on the outside looking in, because up until this novel, she had no knowledge of her parent’s involvement, with resisting the Empire. Like being caught in a nightmare, with everyone you care about always looking away and slamming the door just as you got close.
One thing about this novel is it made me want to watch again all the Star Wars movies. The biggest one being A New Hope (second being The Phantom Menace). Everything has changed on how I look at that movie, because of Claudia Gray (in a good way)! It is hard to describe the feeling on what Gray has done to all the pre existing characters by adding a new layer to them. Tarkin and Leia’s interaction together? Deepened by the seeds Leia, Princess of Alderaan sows. The destruction of Alderaan? Gut wrenching as my investment in that world has increased to moon sized interest. Mon Mothma? We may not see her in A New Hope, but in Rogue One it is felt the relationship she had with Bail Organa, which one can infer trickles down to her relationship to Leia.
On top of the movies being so connected to the Leia, Princess of Alderaan novel, Claudia Gray has down such a magnificent job of building toward her Journey to The Force Awakens novel Bloodline set about six years before The Force Awakens. Bloodline as of this writing is still my favorite Star Wars novel. Leia, Princess of Alderaan has tucked inside it’s box of easter eggs, so many connections and surprises that hit me so hard. I revisited Bloodline before reading Leia, Princess of Alderaan, so it was all so fresh in my head. Both books create such synergy that only Gray could do. If you really enjoyed reading Bloodline and have not read Leia, Princess of Alderaan, then let me say this: What Bloodline did to The Force Awakens, Leia, Princess of Alderaan does to A New Hope.
The beauty of this story is it can be read anytime in your reading order, but I do have a suggested placement. It is part of the Journey to The Last Jedi, but I would place it before the season two episode “The Siege of Lothal” of Star Wars Rebels TV show. This allows time to progress, when we see Leia in Leia, Princess of Alderaan and her guest appearance in the episode “A Princess on Lothal.” The reason will become clear once you read the novel.
To get the most out of this novel, I suggest the following stories beforehand:
First is Ahsoka by EK Johnston. Set a year after the terrible destruction of the Jedi Order, and the restructuring of the Republic into a Galactic Empire comes a tale of a former Jedi making her way through life after everyone she knew was gone. This story does a great job of reintroducing the character Ahsoka Tano since she was chronologically last seen in the TV series The Clone Wars. If you have not seen The Clone Wars TV Show, the story does reference it a lot, but it is still a great story! Bail Organa appears in this story.
Second is The Rise of the Empire paperback/eBook bundle. It includes short story “Mercy Mission” by Melissa Scott, novel Tarkin by James Luceno, short story “Bottleneck” by John Jackson Miller, novel A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, and short story “The Levers of Power” by Jason Fry. Everything aside from “The Levers of Power” is set before Star Wars Rebels, and does a wonderful job of setting the stage during the time the Empire is beginning to tighten its grip across the stars. In addition, the Tarkin novel introduces Wilhuff Tarkin to new audiences.
Third is the complete first season of Star Wars Rebels. The show focuses on a single rebel cell causing trouble, for the Empire on the planet Lothal. After a while certain important figures in Star Wars fandom take interest in the activities of Lothal. Most importantly Bail Organa and Wilhuff Tarkin. If you skipped the Tarkin novel, the Tarkin episodes in Rebels cut straight to the point of his villainess. Heads will roll, as newcomers learn how far Tarkin will go to win a war. It is also a shorter season than the other seasons of Star Wars Rebels. If you want to experience the complete first season I wrote a guide here.
Leia, Princess of Alderaan was a wonderful novel to read. Claudia Gray knows her stuff, and added again to the lore of Star Wars in such a sublime way. It is amazing that Claudia Gray is able to take characters we already know from their on screen performances, and expand on the inferences and back stories in a genuine way. My heart is full of joy, sadness, and more to the events in this story. This novel works so well to so many focuses in the Star Wars fandom. From the prequels, to the original trilogy, to the sequels, and expanded materials. Leia, Princess of Alderaan is currently available in physical and audible format, wherever books are sold. (My wife bought me a copy of the book the day before Force Friday II as an anniversary gift.) 😉