Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Unique Elements: Explores the life of young Leia Organa during the trials to be declared the crown princess of Alderaan.
Series: Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: the Last Jedi
Release Date: September 1, 2017
Number of Page: 416 Pages
MSRP: $17.99 HC / $10.99 Kindle
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Reviewed by: J.T. Hanke
Final Score: 5 Moons (out of 5)
Before she was the 19 year old princess who stole our hearts in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Leia Organa was an adopted girl who had to prove herself worthy to be a princess of Alderaan.
In order to do so, she must make oaths regarding her body, her heart, and her mind. Each of these oaths require complex steps to accomplish. For the oath of the body, she must go through the steps to scale the largest peak on Alderaan. For the oath of the heart, she must engage in humanitarian missions in areas in which Imperial “oversight” has created disasters. And for the oath of the mind, she must engage in work as a Junior Legislator in the Senate—a training field for future senators from across the galaxy.
However, as she explores the world of these oaths, she discovers secrets she could never imagine which will plunge her into the heart of the rebellion.
Gray has a way of writing story that gives a reason and an excuse for her to drill into the dynamics of her characters in a completely organic and believable way. That doesn’t mean the story isn’t important, because it really is very important—but it never forgets that stories are only important if the characters are important to us.
With that said, the story twists and turns throughout this novel are authentically Star Wars and just as authentically Leia Organa. There’s never a point at which decisions made by the main characters took me out of the story—or made me second-guess the author’s narrative. In point of fact, Gray does such an incredible job of showing the sacrifice and heroism of the people of Alderaan in this book, that it actually gives the destruction of this planet in Episode IV a completely new and powerful poignancy. (Much as her Lost Stars‘ book conversely managed to give more loss and poignancy to the Death Star explosion.)
As I mentioned in the Story section, the Star Wars Dynamics of Claudia Gray are on a whole different level. (One day, there will likely be a university class at NYU called “Gray’s Dynamics of Star Wars Characters.”) Her holistic understanding of characters and how they interact with one another and with story is both awe inspiring and utterly captivating. That is the reason she’s managed to so completely nail three different standalone Star Wars novels in just three years.
In this book, the central dynamics move in two separate trios of characters. The first group is the family group regarding the expectations of Leia with her parents, Breha Organa and Bail Organa. The games of politics that arise in this arena are unexpected to Leia but quite understandable to most of the readers, who know what sort of world would be required to forge someone like Leia—especially the Leia that Claudia Gray has already written in Bloodline. While this arc is immensely engaging and the core arc of the story, it is the second set of dynamics that I found most interesting.
This set of dynamics involves Leia’s friendship with two junior senators: Amilyn Holdo (an astrologist gymnast with wild-dyed hair) from Gatalenta and Kier Domandi (her soft-spoken yet perceptive love interest) from her home planet of Alderaan. The way in which Gray weaves an authentic tale of friendship, exploration, boundary-pushing, and trust-building between these three characters—especially in proximity to the dynamics between Leia and her parents–is what kept me most locked in.
If you really want to more fully understand the character of Princess Leia—especially in preparation for the final appearance of Leia as played by Carrie Fisher—then this book is exactly what you’ve been waiting for!
The fact that we’re dealing with a strong and powerful woman who can get into a lot of trouble for her intelligence and her passion automatically roots this within the Gothic wheelhouse—to say nothing of pre-Jedi touches of the Force or a dark and sinister mystery she must delve into.
However, the inclusion of Amilyn Holdo as Leia’s most trusted friend is especially noteworthy in the Gothic fit department. Holdo is written as a girl who is fascinated by all the things that others consider taboo, including death and pain. She dyes her hair a variety of colors—based on her moods and outfits—and is fascinated by astrology, dance, and meditation. She also is always up for whatever insanity that Leia finds herself in—especially if it’s dangerous. Not only does this create an extremely cool companion for Leia, but—if she weren’t in a galaxy far, far away—I suspect she’d be one of the regular readers of DarkestGoth Magazine.
One of the questions that’s been leveraged about LucasFilm since the Canon announcements a few years ago is whether they will really continue stories of characters found in TV, novels, and/or comics in the actual movies. While the Aftermath novel foreshadowed an extremely minor character found in Star Wars Episode VII, it seems like LPOA is forging into new territory with its in-depth exploration of Leia’s childhood friend, Amilyn Holdo. As Holdo will be played by Laura Dern in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, it would seem unlikely that an actress of her stature would be cast to play a cameo—and her character might even rise to leadership in Episode IX in the wake of Carrie Fisher’s tragic death. If so, this will be the the first novel to so fully flesh out a major new character that will be introduced in an upcoming film.
Claudia Gray is an established author that first burst on the Star Wars scene with Lost Stars, which bowled us over at DarkestGoth (and the industry in general) with just how amazingly someone could craft a tale inside of the Star Wars universe. (The fact that a book categorized as “Young Adult” contained all this just proves that the “Young Adult” descriptor needs to be majorly re-examined and most likely overhauled.) However, Gray continues to prove that she’s THE most talented writer in Star Wars canon with a third straight hit in as many years! (That statement is made all the more accurate now that Timothy Zahn—the erstwhile godfather of Legends material—had a much more divisively released novel in his Canon rebirth novel, Thrawn.)
LucasFilm desperately needs to clone this woman and give her charge of all writing in Star Wars—everywhere.
In addition to the great work by the author, the amazing work on the audio book from new voice actress, Saskia Maarleveld, deserves to be highlighted. She manages to pull you into the wonderful prose of Gray in an incredible manner, which is especially impressive due to her newness to audio book narration.
Story: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Dynamics: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Gothic Fit: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Final Score (not an average): 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)