Alderaan comes to life, vibrant and precious like never before, in Claudia Gray’s new young-adult novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan.
Just in time to be obliterated by the Empire’s Death Star.
But Leia doesn’t take us to that dark day, though it walks us through the peaceful planet’s last days as a bastion of Rebel hopes and dreams that takes up arms reluctantly, only after exhausting the power of what its voice alone can accomplish against Emperor Palpatine’s totalitarianism.
The hardcover became available Sept. 1, or “Force Friday II,” along with a lot of other merchandise tied to the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi, coming to theaters Dec. 15.
As part of the “Journey to” series of books and comics leading up to The Last Jedi, Leia: Princess of Alderaan does its fair share to introduce elements from that movie. Here we first see Crait, a world that has the distinction of being the first Rebel Alliance base — or, at least, the first one Leia learns about. In fact, it is on this red-soiled world covered in blinding white salt that Leia first discovers the existence of the Rebellion and her father’s part in it. In Episode VIII, the planet becomes a haven for the Resistance and apparently the site of a battle between Leia’s ragtag group and the fearsome First Order, heirs to the Empire.
The novel also introduces us to Amilyn Holdo, a vice admiral with the Resistance in Episode VIII (played by Laura Dern) who has so far been shrouded in mystery, although we know that she apparently clashes with Poe Dameron in the film. Young Amilyn is Star Wars’ version of the Harry Potter universe’s Luna Lovegood — a free-spirited, away-with-the-fairies counterpoint to the serious-minded Leia who helps the Alderaanian princess solve puzzles and see unexpected paths on more than one occasion. She’s fun without beyond too cloying, and it will be interesting to see if the character retains those qualities after years of galactic civil war and, presumably, loss.
Leia’s first love is also explored, a slow-boiling relationship with a fellow apprentice senator and Alderaanian, even as she slowly but firmly insinuates herself into her parents’ unprecedented Rebellion. Here there are echoes of her birth mother, Senator Padme Amidala’s playful exchanges with dashing young Jedi Anaking Skywalker, in the early days of their forbidden romance — along with hints that Leia’s heart is waiting for more of a scoundrel than a politician at her side.
Like her much loved Star Wars tales Lost Stars and Bloodline, Gray’s latest is a character-driven page-turner that employs the many familiar trappings of Star Wars as effectively as any author ever has, but doesn’t rely on them to draw the reader in and keep them enthralled.