Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan - Review
Where does one start retracing the nucleation point of greatness? Throughout her on-screen portrayals in the Original Trilogy, Star Wars Rebels and the Sequel Trilogy, there is hardly a shortage of adjectives to describe the character of Leia Organa; courageous, empathetic, generous, intuitive, persistent, resourceful, and other qualities that are the building blocks of a legend. While Leia is mostly identified as a Rebel leader and fighter, the real essence of Leia can be found in the words of Lor San Tekka, “Oh, the General? To me, she’s a royalty”. Without a doubt, Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan serves as a nucleation point for Leia’s place in the pantheon of Star Wars heroes while staying true to the spirit of Leia’s royalty lineage.
The Trials of a Princess
Having Claudia Gray to write this novel might be the best thing that has happened to Leia in Star Wars’ canon. While Gray’s version of Leia in Star Wars: Bloodline had Leia at the helm of the New Republic, this coming-of-age novel focuses on a 16-years old Leia. Her innocence, youthfulness, and aspirations for a better galaxy shine throughout the pages of Leia, Princess of Alderaan as she embarks on the challenges of the Day of Demand. In order to be installed as the heir to the throne of Alderaan, Leia must face the challenges of the mind, heart, and body. Alas, while Leia is more than prepared to prove herself worthy, there is still one unexpected challenge for which she didn’t sign up for, which is the widening gap between her and her adoptive parents, Bail Organa and Breha Organa.
All in the Family
The unfolding drama of the Organa royal family household in the novel is the key element that separates itself from the many iterations of Leia that we have seen so far. Leia’s uncertainties in navigating the cold shoulders from her parents were poignantly expressed as we get to see the vulnerable side of Leia. While Leia is planting her foot forward as a budding senator and a game changer in the galaxy-wide political theatre, she still leaves her other foot behind in the familiar shelter of her parent’s care and the palace. Gray’s dedication to adhere to this theme throughout the pages strengthens the emotional tone of this novel which highly contrasted the political mood of Star Wars: Bloodline. Leia’s constant manner in the seeking of approval from her parents and her parents’ dedication to shielding Leia against the worst of the galaxy make the parent-daughter relationship feels authentic and alive.
Additionally, the novel wouldn’t strike as many emotional chords as possible without the characters of Bail and Breha, the Viceroy and Queen of Alderaan, respectively. If there is anyone who can strike the fine balance between the responsibilities of a monarch, a parent to a headstrong child and serving a government while secretly planning a rebellion against them, it’s got to be Bail and Breha. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could pull the trick while blindfolded and without breaking a stride!
First Love, Friends, and Mentor
Leia’s stint in the Apprentice Legislature opens the doors for a handful of personalities to enter teenage Leia’s life. Chief of them is another Alderaanian counterpart, Kier Domadi who gradually becomes the center of Leia’s thoughts and actions. They say that you will never forget your first love, and I am certain that the same law applies to Leia. The friendship between Leia and Amilyn Holdo, known for her kamikaze stunt in The Last Jedi, takes its roots in this novel. In the black, white and grey ambiance throughout the pages, coming across the outlandish appearances and metaphors of Amilyn can feel like a sudden shift in the sombreness of the narrative, but they are still welcomed nonetheless. Mon Mothma is a pillar of strength for Leia whenever Leia clambers for support that she hardly gets from her parents. As per Mothma’s signature moves, her wisdom and guidance on Leia’s quest to find her place in the Rebellion are integral in shaping the Leia that will topple the Empire and subsequently lead the New Republic and Resistance many years later.
The Inevitable Collision
Let’s be honest. There is only so much you can snoop under the Empire’s nose before you are caught, particularly one when you are conspiring against the regime. Leia is not an exception. While her intention for the greater good is commendable, it also becomes a double-edged sword for herself, Alderaan and the nascent Rebellion as her remarkable talent for humanitarian causes magnifies her person under the Empire’s watchful eyes. We all know how massive and complex the Empire can be, but Gray did a great job by personifying the whole Empire into one of the most inquisitive Star Wars characters ever, Grand Moff Tarkin. Leia’s ingenuity in a humanitarian mission backfires in a way that caught Tarkin’s attention which marks the beginning of their deceitful relationship, which leads to a philosophical argument that follows Leia everywhere in the novel; self-preservation against the greater good. What is the price to liberate the whole galaxy from the Empire? Is it worth to put Alderaan, its people and their way of life at risk in return for the galaxy’s freedom? Would Leia go the distance to save oppressed strangers across the galaxy even if it means compromising the safety of the people that she loves?
While Leia, Princess of Alderaan is a part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi project, the young adult novel feels more like an overture to the Original Trilogy’s Leia. Her journey in this novel ties in well with Leia of the Rebellion instead of Leia of the Resistance. I can only recall two essential links between Leia, Princess of Alderaan and The Last Jedi, which are Amilyn Holdo and the salt-encrusted planet Crait.
To put it simply, Leia, Princess of Alderaan is a young adult Star Wars literature that I never knew I needed. Honestly, the only thing that made me purchased this beauty in the first place is because of Gray’s name on the cover, realizing how impressed I am with her previous work in Star Wars: Bloodline and Star Wars: Lost Stars. It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual fan of Star Wars or if Leia is the reason you’re into the fandom. You can never go wrong with Leia, Princess of Alderaan. That much I can promise!