Claudia Gray’s Leia Princess of Alderaan is an earlier canon novel but one that is worth your time.
Leia Princess of Alderaan (PoA) was Claudia Gray’s third book in Star Wars canon release schedule and a marketing tie-in to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While there are many feelings about the latter, the former is an excellent story and chapter in one of the most loved Star Wars character’s life. Unlike Bloodline, Gray’s second book, which covers Leia’s struggles in the New Republic Senate well into her political career, PoA covers the beginning.
Sixteen-year-old Princess Leia Organa is going to be named heir to the throne of Alderaan and must prove herself in body, mind, and heart; she’s taking rigorous survival courses, practicing politics, and spearheading relief missions to worlds under Imperial control. On top of all that, Leia notices that her parents, Bail, and Breha, are acting strange. Deciding to investigate, she comes across a secret that puts her in the crosshairs of the Empire, and on her path to join a new rebellion.
This Claudia Gray book gets a little lost in the shuffle with her other YA juggernaut and universally loved Lost Stars but it is a key book for any fan of Star Wars and especially for Princess Leia fans. Like Lost Stars, it is also getting a Manga series adaptation, and Vol. 1 is out now, which covers the first eight chapters. So if you like beautiful art to accompany great storytelling, and Haruichi’s art is a sight to behold, then consider picking up the manga. Either way, here are three reasons why Leia Princess of Alderaan is worth your investment:
Alderaanian Culture and Alderaan’s Importance in Star Wars
Yes, it is through the lens of the Royal House, but it is still fascinating to read about the culture and rituals of a planet that was destroyed in the first Star Wars film released. The Day of Demand is a ceremony that takes place during the 16th year of the naming of the heir to the throne of Alderaan (basically their 16th birthday). We learn that there is a certain way that heirs announce themselves during the ceremony and that it differs if the heir is adopted. To prove her worthy of inheritance to her parents and her people, she has to undertake challenges that represent the mind, body, and heart.
Reading through PoA, you begin to understand why Alderaan was targeted by the Empire in Star Wars: A New Hope. Alderaan was the manifestation of hope for billions, born there and who claimed refuge there and that would always present a challenge to the ideals and might of the Empire. I might do a separate blog post on this but the destruction of Alderaan was also a turning point in external and internal views on the Empire and was the instigating factor in some well-known canon Imperial defections. Alderaan continues to represent a kind of paradise that was and one that survivors still mourn for, most recently the character Cara Dune in The Mandalorian. This is not only a Princess Leia novel but also an Alderaan novel and highlights what made that planet so special.
This is the Most Time You are Ever Going to Get with Queen Breha Organa
While we get a good chunk of time with Bail Organa and his political contributions to the Republic and Rebellion through The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we get nothing from Breha Organa. Queen Breha is also a “mention only” in so many canon novels and comics but rarely ever featured. In PoA, you get to see her relationship with Leia but also some more information on her backstory. During Leia’s challenges, Breha tells her that during her challenge of the body, she sustained injuries that required her heart and lungs had to be replaced by pulmonodes and refused to cover them with new skin, making her mechanized organs visible as a reminder that she was a survivor. She is not a passive participant in the Rebellion but an active member who is battling her duties to protect her people and her daughter and her efforts to support a fledgling Rebel Alliance. After reading PoA, you will get a stronger sense of the Princess we meet in A New Hope.
To Appreciate the Character of Amilyn Holdo
I bought into the marketing for the lead-up to The Last Jedi and read PoA before even getting a ticket to see Episode 8 and one of my favorite new characters in the novel was Amilyn Holdo, whom Leia meets in the Apprentice Legislature (an Imperial program for young politicians). Leia is struck by Holdo’s appearance:
The student was human, a tall, gangly girl with a narrow face and long nose. Her hair was acid green, which meant that she was either from Illoh or she really liked standing out.– Leia: Princess of Anderaan
Leia and Holdo’s relationship goes through its’ own arc in the novel as Leia first finds Holdo slightly annoying and disturbed by her desire to face danger to experience the inevitability of death but by the end, Holdo is a close friend and confidant. Holdo is weird but conveys the qualities of her homeworld, Gatalentan, who honor kindness, courtesy, and honesty.
So, it was deeply disappointing to see a disconnect in the portrayal of the character in The Last Jedi, and the subsequent reception to the Holdo. As much I would love to think every Star Wars fan reads the novels, the reality is most will never read about this version of Holdo. I don’t expect Rian Johnson or Laura Dern to read a novel that has the first appearance of a character Dern is portraying, but this is supposed to be the benefit of The Lucasfilm Story Group, so continuity and characters don’t get lost in translation from page to screen. And it is reasonable for a person to change from their youth to adulthood, especially if you have lived through two major Galactic conflicts (and the Holdo sacrifice is very on character for her) but when certain traits are baked into your upbringing and training as a citizen of your homeworld, and some of them are missing in the live-action version, it’s jarring as a canon reader and off-putting as a more casual fan. I still have her Black Series figure (which I paid full retail price for) because of her character in PoA. While not the main reason to read this novel, it will be a nice additional context for Leia and Holdo’s relationship in The Last Jedi and perhaps even offer a new perspective and appreciation for the future Vice Admiral.
There are so many canon novels and some of the best ones are Leia focused so, if you loved the character and want to read about her time before the events of A New Hope (a perspective that we have yet to get from Luke Skywalker) then Leia: Princess of Alderaan, in novel or manga form, is worth your time.