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Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi Leia, Princess of Alderaan (Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi) Hardcover – September 1, 2017
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About the Author
Claudia Gray is the author of Star Wars: Bloodline and Defy the Stars, as well as the Firebird series, the Evernight series and the Spellcaster series. She has worked as a lawyer, a journalist, a disc jockery, and a particularly ineffective waitress. Her lifelong interests include old houses, classic movies, vintage style, and history. She lives in New Orleans. Find her at claudiagray.com, facebook.com/authorclaudiagray, and @claudiagray.
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This book is set about 3-4 years before A New Hope when Leia is 16, and undergoing the trials to be named the heir to Alderaan. The back cover claims it contains clues to the new movie The Last Jedi. It really has no clues, more like tie-ins, such as how she met Laura Dern's character and learned of the base on the planet Crait. It is really the story of how she learned about and became involved with the Rebellion. The book also has the most in-depth look at her parents. Of course, her father Bail has shown up since the prequel movies in the canon material, but this book really established who he was and his thoughts on the Rebellion more than any of the other books, shows, and movies have.
Given when it was set, the book includes, or at least mentions many things that would bear out in the original trilogy. For example we learn about the mercy missions that Vader refers to when he captures her ship in A New Hope, we see how she met Tarkin, and of course, the Emperor is referred to a lot. There is no mention or inclusion of Darth Vader in the book. There is also a great tie back to a character from the prequels that occurs putting Leia in danger that she is not even remotely aware of. And, Artoo and Threepio make an appearance as well.
Overall the book does a great job of making Leia not quite the character she was in A New Hope but showing how much of that person was within her. We get hints to that yes, she is force sensitive even if she is not aware of it, and as I said above there are several nice tie-ins to the original movies, the prequels, and the current trilogy. It also leaves open the possibility of another novel (whether another young-adult main storyline adjacent novel or even main storyline novel) set before A New Hope to flesh out her backstory even more. Even though it is a young-adult book, it is written well enough and tells a good enough story that it can easily be enjoyed by adults. I highly recommend it.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2014 and effectively rebooted the canon, allowing for a complete narrative overhaaul of the novel line, I was pretty psyched. For years, I had longed to jump into the Star Wars novels, but had always found the sheer size of the EU’s canon simply to be too overwhelming. A fresh restart allowed me the opportunity to jump in from the beginning, and ever since the release of the first new-canon novel “A New Dawn,” in August 2014, I’ve more or less read everything that’s been published.
The downside to reading every “Star Wars” book published? Most of the novels, with a few notable exceptions, have fallen closer to the ‘eh’ side of the spectrum than the ‘OMG that was amazing’ side, at least for me. Especially over the last year, I’ve found that most of the new “Star Wars” novels that have been published have been diverting at best, outright cash-grabs to other, “more important” Star Wars media at worst. “Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel.” “Ahsoka.” “Rebel Rising.” “Thrawn.” “Guardians of the Whills.” All of these are books that were well-written enough…but none of them, at least for me, left close to any impression.
So when I tell you that “Leia, Princess of Alderaan” DOES leave an impression, and currently stands as one of the very few “Star Wars” books published post-2014-reboot that I unabashedly loved…believe me when I tell you that, for me, that was a pretty big deal, not to mention also a pretty big relief. I had honestly begun to wonder if I would ever read another Star Wars book that I truly loved…and would ya look at that: Claudia Gray came to the rescue and delivered just that.
What makes this book work is the same thing that made “Lost Stars” (also written by Gray) so good: the focus on characters. Rather than getting bogged down in stories that just feel like rehashes of events we’ve seen or read countless other times across other Star Wars media, Gray puts the focus first and foremost on developing the relationships between young Leia and those around her: her mother Breha. Her father Bail. Her friend Amilyn Holdo. Her love interest Kier. These relationships, and all of the complex emotions that come with them, are the primary things that fuel this book and give it the energy that it has; they’re also what make it such a compelling read: you as a reader are invested in the plot not because you’re expected to, but because Claudia Gray actually gives you a REASON to. It’s unbelievably refreshing, not just to see that in a Star Wars novel, but to read it in ANY novel, period, and if “Lost Stars” or the pretty good “Bloodline” hadn’t already done it, then “Leia, Princes of Alderaan” completely solidifies Claudia Gray as THE best Star Wars author currently working today.
“Leia, Princess of Alderaan” is the definition of a “breath of fresh air”: it’s well written, has characters you care about, and rarely if ever drags. It’s the type of Star Wars novel that you wish every Star Wars novel could be like, ones that values the relationships and development of its protagonists over lightsaber fights and starship battles. Here’s hoping this is far from the last time Claudia Gray pays this far, far away galaxy a visit.Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Leia, Princess of Alderaan (Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: the Last Jedi)