Leia takes center stage in this new novel.
SPOILER WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as the original Star Wars trilogy. You have been warned. Definitely watch those movies before you read this book.
If you were one of the people who was complaining that we didn’t get enough Princess Leia in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens then this might be the book for you. If you’re one of those people who complained that you wanted Force Awakens to be the Leia, Luke, and Han show then this may not the book for you.
Our story opens six years before the events of Force Awakens. Princess Leia is a prominent member of New Republic Senate and our first chapter sees her dedicating a statue to her adoptive father Bail Organa. Author Claudia Gray gives this not-so-subtle metaphor for a major theme running through the novel as Leia lives in the shadow of both her adoptive father as well as her genetic father, Darth Vader.
In many ways, this book reminded me of some of the better political episodes of the Clone Wars cartoon. If you’ve never seen the show then let me assure you that this is high praise. Gray bounces between two plotlines, one of politics and and one of in a buddy cop movie. Here Leia is the old tough war hero with only a few days left on the job partnered with the hot shot rookie who thinks he knows everything of the opposite political party. The result is as awesome as that prior sentence.
Gray previously penned the Star Wars young adult novel Lost Stars. While some fans of Gray’s work may be looking for ties to Lost Stars there are almost none beyond the connective tissue of Star Wars.
Some may be concerned with this novel being “too young adult” given Gray’s background with Lost Stars as well as several other YA novels like the Evernight series. In this novel, her background in YA becomes a strength complementing the novel. Relationships between the young people around Leia feel very real and the conversations genuine even as the surrounding stakes are on a Galactic level. If anything, I walked away from this novel interested in reading Gray’s other work outside of Star Wars.
Sadly, though this is a good novel, it is not everything I wanted it to be. Specifically I was hoping for more involvement and interaction between Leia and other Star Wars cast members such as Han, Luke, and her son Ben. As our novel opens, Han is off refereeing races for a living and has only a handful of phone calls with Leia. Luke and Ben are off at Jedi school and make no appearance during the course of the novel. We get to see the founding of the First Order but none of the named characters from Force Awakens in the First Order. While the characters we do get are interesting and likeable it just feels like a lost opportunity. Snap Wexley gets a few lines though and if you know who that is then you’ve probably already bought this book.
If there is any genuine criticism it is that the political story drags in the beginning. The stakes, though “big” don’t feel big or personal until the political story morphs into a political thriller. As our story bounces between buddy cops and politics the buddy cop feels fun and propulsive while the politics drag until someone gets hurt. After that the novel really takes off and becomes a tense page turner.
Overall I’d recommend this book to any Star Wars fan and especially to anyone looking for info on the First Order and other Star Wars world building. The Princess may be old, and she may not have a planet that she’s a princess of, but she is still one of the most compelling characters in a galaxy far far away.