Today I spent my morning with Princess Leia: Royal Rebel, part of the Scholastic Star Wars Backstories series. Aimed at fans in grades 3-7, it was a quick read: only 128 pages including a glossary and index, and many of those filled with captioned illustrations. Although imperfect in some aspects, it was a cute book and worth the little time it took to devour it.
The book is presented as an in-universe biography of the famous Princess and General and includes an illustrated section on her most famous “friends, family, and foes.” The in-universe timeline for the book is interesting, in that it mentions the events of The Force Awakens, therefore presuming that the key events of the film (the destruction of Hosnian Prime, the death of Han Solo, the discovery of Rey and her Force-sensitive nature) have already occurred. Knowing what we do about Episode VIII following so quickly on the heels of The Force Awakens, it took a little fudging in the suspension of disbelief department for me to get past that.
The introduction is done in first-person by General Leia Organa herself and dovetails nicely onto events in Moving Target–wherein an archival droid is pestering her for a memoir. “I’d much rather be doing things than talking about things I’ve already done,” Leia bemoans in the opening paragraph. And the General’s reticence on matters of her life comes in handy later in the volume.
The body of the book itself is basically a Leia-centric retelling of everything we know about Star Wars. With an at-a-glance chronology that begins with Padme and Anakin meeting, we get a summary walk through the saga focusing on where Leia was and what she was up to at any given time (including her appearances in Moving Target, the Princess Leia comic books, and Star Wars Rebels). There are notable gaps in information available about the years between events of Return of The Jedi and The Force Awakens. “These records,” the imaginary biographer posits, “may have been lost when the First Order destroyed the system of Hosnian Prime.” It is also alluded to that perhaps little is known because after the war the Princess kept her private life…well…private. It’s a useful device for allowing this book to bridge the gap in the saga without giving anything away.
Today I read The Princess Diarist. Depending on who you are and how you approach fandom, I might recommend that you do the same. Or I might not.
The Princess Diarist is a personal book. It’s less the telling of the story of the making of Star Wars as it is a glimpse into the emotional life of its then-nineteen-year-old leading actress. Through this book we get a very intimate glimpse of what it has been like to be Carrie Fisher- beginning in her youth as the famous-once-removed daughter of Hollywood royalty through to her current experience of the “celebrity lap dance” that she continues to perform thanks to her permanent alter-ego: “Princess Leia Organa, formerly of Alderaan and presently of anywhere and everywhere she damn well pleased”.
If you’re at all into that sort of thing, or even morbidly curious as to what it might be like to get a glimpse inside Ms. Fisher’s head, then picking up The Princess Diarist is definitely worth your consideration. But if celebrity tell-alls and occasionally uncomfortable recollections aren’t your cup of tea, then perhaps this book isn’t for you. In The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher not only gives you a glimpse into her inner life, she holds it up to your face and forces you to look at it- in all its sordid and uncomfortable relief, until you’re almost squirming at your own unintentional voyeurism. And if you don’t go in for that level of discomfort, then perhaps you should steer clear. This book is filled with unvarnished truth-telling, but more so in an emotional sense than a factual one. It left me tearful, empathetic, and grateful to Ms. Fisher for her willingness to lay herself so bare to the world. I love this book and I love Carrie Fisher [even more than I already did] for writing it.
Catalyst was a good book. It was a worthwhile read. And, as it was very thoughtfully and craftily designed to do, it has whet my appetite for next month’s release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Catalyst is the story of Galen Erso: his passion for science, his devotion to both his family and his work, and the relationships that come to bear on his personal and professional life; all wrapped up in a volume that feels unmistakably Star Wars. From the opening paragraph, the GFFA seems familiar in a way that’s been missing (although I would be hard pressed to use the term ‘lacking’) from recent Star Wars books. Perhaps it’s just that Luceno contributed so much to the Legends universe that is to account for this feeling of familiarity. Whatever is behind it: Catalyst felt a little bit like coming home, and that made me smile.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that I’m not altogether fond of the way that the new post-ROTJ canon has treated Leia. By the time we see her in The Force Awakens, her career is shattered, her marriage is strained, and her only son has become a Vader-worshipping genocidal maniac. These are not the kinds of things that I ever would have said that I wanted for my favorite character. Half the time I go around sad for her fate and the rest of the time I go around scared for what the future of Star Wars storytelling has in store for her. But this is not an article about that. This is…well… the opposite.
One of my chief complaints about the (much beloved) Legends universe of storytelling was that Leia’s character seemed to be difficult for many writers to nail down, and even more difficult to keep consistent across multiple series and authors. As much as abuse as the new canon has heaped onto Leia, that particular violation is gladly absent from her current portrayal. One of the best things I have found about the new canon and the work of the Lucasfilm Story Group is the fantastic job they’ve done with the internal consistency of the universe- not only as it pertains to the events in the Galaxy as a whole, but also in the portrayals of the passions and the motivations of the individual characters. Continue reading