TITLE: Leia: Princess of Alderaan
AUTHOR: Claudia Gray
RELEASED: September 2017; Disney Lucasfilm Press
GENRE: YA Science Fiction
FORMAT: Library Paperback
KEY INFO: coming of age, learning political duties, friendships, family
REPRESENTATION: female MC, aliens
CONTENT NOTICES: n/a
I remember walking into a local bookstore not long after we had been to see the midnight screening of The Last Jedi and seeing this sat in prime attention-demanding position. It’s beautiful cover with its homage to Carrie Fisher as Leia and it’s daring red background called to me. I remember gasping in the shop and thinking ‘oh my god, I need to read that’. I am so glad that I did because it was everything I wanted it to be and more.
Leia, Princess of Alderaan is the brilliant coming of age story of Princess Leia. We join Leia who, having just turned 16 years old, is preparing for Demand Day, Alderaan’s royal ceremony where she must declare to her parents and her people three Challenges of Body, Mind, and Heart which will prove that she is ready to claim the throne. But, as any Star Wars fan will know, reaching her teenage years also indicates that Leia must be about to start her journey towards joining the Rebel Alliance.
Claudia Gray has provided a fantastically enjoyable, intricate, detailed and rich account of that journey. My only encounter with Gray’s work before was when I read her contribution to Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View which, to be entirely honest, I really didn’t love. But the story which she has deftly woven here is everything. I was so pleasantly surprised at how detailed the political, historical and cultural descriptions were throughout the book. I am a huge Star Wars fan and I was raised on Star Wars since I was old enough to sit on a sofa, but I feel like Gray’s book brought something really new to the table and kept me gripped the whole way through.
On the one hand, we have Leia preparing herself to become the ruler of Alderaan whilst at the same time, we also have her hurtling towards discovering the blossoming Rebel Alliance, and all of the tumults that comes with being a 16-year-old girl. We follow her as she must learn to navigate the increasingly dangerous political waters of the Universe through the Apprentice Legislature where she learns how to make new allies and survive the gaze of the Empire; struggle to cope with mounting family tensions with Breha and Bail Organa; complete the Alderaanian trials; discover who she is outside of being a Princess; unfold mysteries which could tear the Universe apart; and learn how to flirt with a cute boy. I absolutely loved the characters that support Leia along the way, especially her mother and father, new friend Amilyn Holdo (think Space Luna Lovegood) and Mon Mothma. At all times, Leia’s relationships with everyone around her are incredibly complex, reciprocal, multi-faceted and interesting.
Although Leia: Princess of Alderaan is set in the period between Episodes 3 and 4, Gray also does a great job of making Leia’s story relevant to the release of the current trilogy. Along the way we meet classic characters like Mon Mothma (Clone Wars, Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi, and Rogue One) who plays a very lovely part in Leia’s story, as well as hearing about the dangerous exploits of violent extremist Saw Garrera (Rogue One). I thought the way that Gray skillfully wove together all of these different aspects of the Star Wars universe was really impressive.
Books about the Star Wars universe can vary massively in whether they are actually any good or not. Some are thoroughly enjoyable, some are cringingly awful, while others are just a whole bowl of meh. Without a doubt, Leia: Princess of Alderaan blows the rest of the books out of the water and brings something completely refreshing to the fandom. I think that Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View was the beginning of a much better, more diverse authorship which L: PoA continues to build upon. I can only hope that more books like this are lurking on the horizon, a horizon which truly marks a new age for Star Wars.