- Author: Claudia Gray
- 409 pages
- Published in 2017
- Placement in Timeline: A few years before A New Hope
What It’s About
Sixteen-year-old Leia, Princess of Alderaan, has just gone through her Day of Demand, a ceremony in which she announces her readiness to become the heir and crown princess through three challenges: Challenge of the Body, Challenge of the Mind, and Challenge of the Heart. Her Challenge of the Body will be to climb to the summit of Appenza Peak; her Challenge of the Mind will consist of her work in the Apprentice Legislature; and her Challenge of the heart will be through various charitable works and missions of mercy to planets in need.
It ought to be one of the best days of her young life, but she’s disappointed: her parents, Bail and Breha Organa, seem to have forgotten her. Over the past six months, they’ve grown distant, and don’t seem to have much time for her. She wonders what she’s done to push them away.
To prepare for her Challenge of the Body, she takes part in a pathfinding course with other fellow members of the Apprentice Legislature, including Amilyn Holdo, and a young man from Alderaan named Kier Domadi. Amilyn is a bit–well, odd, but has a surprising way of solving problems others can’t. Kier is handsome and takes an interest in Leia, and she’s not sure how to feel about him at first.
Her first few mercy missions don’t go exactly as she plans–though she’s no fan of the Empire, she finds out just how heartless it truly is when it comes to dealing with different worlds, and her anger is aroused. Her experience in the Apprentice Legislature proves much the same, and she’s hell-bent on doing something to change things, and also to make her parents proud of her.
During the course of her missions, odd clues lead her to Crait–and her father, Bail Organa, on a secret base there. He has to come clean to her–to a certain point–about his and her mother’s involvement in the budding Rebellion. Leia is excited and wants to help, but Bail forbids her from becoming involved. This doesn’t stop her from doing her own research into matters and doing what she can to help, which leads to tense and angry confrontations with her parents.
In the meantime, she’s coming to understand Amilyn Holdo’s quirkiness, and is trying to sort out her feelings for Kier. Both of her friends become involved in the secret, and Leia comes to understand the extreme danger for all of them.
If it seems I’m favoring books by Claudia Gray lately, you’re probably right. She’s a great writer whose stories and characters I’m interested in and love. She’s written both this novel about young Leia, and Bloodline, about older Leia just before the events of The Force Awakens. You won’t find someone who understands the character of Leia more than her, in my opinion.
This is another SW book targeted for the YA audience, I believe, and has the usual tropes of the genre: a coming of age story for a young woman, involving finding her strengths, overcoming obstacles, navigating parental relationships, and finding a little romance. I don’t usually read YA novels, but the Star Wars universe is different–they’re about characters in the universe I love and want to know more about.
Because we know older Leia so well, it’s wonderful to go back to her youth and watch her come into her own. I loved seeing her relationship with her parents and getting to know them a bit more, especially her mother, Breha, because we see so little of her elsewhere. Bail, too, had his own sort of arc in the story, both in accepting that any Rebellion against the Empire would necessarily come to blood; and of allowing his daughter to take part in it.
We see some familiar faces in the story, too: Governor Tarkin makes a few appearances, as well as Quarsh Panaka, who was Queen Amidala’s personal guard in the prequels. He’s now an Imperial Governor on Naboo, and Leia at one point interviews him on one of her mercy missions. (Leia is understandably mystified as to why Bail is so furious that she went to Naboo and talked to him; Panaka even seemed to recognize her mother in her).
And then of course, there’s Alderaan itself (poor, doomed Alderaan!), a kind of utopia, a peaceful planet where no one suffers and whose people love their Queen and her viceroy. It’s symbolic, of course, that Alderaan suffers the fate it does at the height of Imperial power. But it’s so poignant when Leia thinks:
My parents. My friends. My world. These are the things the Empire can never take away.
But we know better. (Wahhh!!)
If you’re a fan of Leia Organa, this is a book you must read.
Rating: 4 out of 5 lightsabers