Rebellions are built on lies.
These are words that ring opposite what Cassian told Jyn in Rogue One but are no less true. Rebellions are built on hope and on lies but perhaps not in the way that you might expect.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray takes us back to the princess’s earlier years on Alderaan before there was ever a Death Star in its orbit, poised to destroy the lives of millions of people. At age sixteen, Leia Organa must, by Alderaan custom, have her Day of Demand and then complete her Challenges of Body, Mind, and Heart before she is officially recognized as heir to the crown of Alderaan. While the challenges are worthy ones, they lead Leia down a path she didn’t entirely expect as she discovers the truth about her parents. (No, not that truth.)
This is perhaps even more of a political novel than Bloodline with small moments of action mixed in where possible. This is partially a necessity of the timeline. The Rebel Alliance doesn’t openly exist quite yet and Leia’s moments of action are interspersed accordingly. The Imperial Senate still stands and she works within its system confines which are somehow even more rigid than those of the New Republic yet to come. The Organas have to be sneaky and learn how to circumvent the law with a smile and words that say they are doing nothing wrong while simultaneously working to undermine Palpatine’s government. If that’s not politics in a galaxy far, far away, I don’t know what is.
While Leia: Princess of Alderaan doesn’t quite match my love for Bloodline, there are plenty of times where the book ties back to Gray’s previous Star Wars novel and I would most definitely recommend a reread if it’s been awhile. Gray refers to far more than just her own work though. Leia: Princess of Alderaan also makes multiple of connections to films throughout the saga in a way that make it feel familiar to long term fans while also remaining accessible to those who have only seen the movies. The connections to The Last Jedi are obvious when encountered and it will be fascinating to watch Leia and Amilyn with their past history in mind. (Amilyn, by the way, is an unexpected delight and somewhat reminiscent of Luna Lovegood in the best way possible.)
What really makes this book click though are the family dynamics between Leia, Bail, and Breha. Gray challenges some of the preconceptions that perhaps many of us held about Leia’s early years. She didn’t grow up as a junior member of the fledgling rebellion and neither was Breha someone to sit on the sidelines while Bail ran the war. The moments between parents and daughter as Leia unravels the truth about the rebellion feel real, painfully so at times. One of the few downsides of the book is that it keeps readers purely in Leia’s head so we don’t get much of a chance to see Breha and Bail together away from her. It’s something that would have made one of the book’s truly hilarious moments even funnier. All of this is fine though because Breha finally gets featured. The mother-daughter relationship has been sorely under-explored in favor of the one between father and daughter. Breha is not only the ruling Queen of Alderaan but someone who was an equal partner with her husband in so many ways that she really deserved a statue alongside him on Hosnian Prime thirty years later. If Star Wars has taught us nothing, it is that rebellions are also built upon the women who lead them.
Something that the book has to deal with (and does so rather effectively) are moments where the readers know why the Organas are panicked or who that one nameless character is but Leia does not. Gray deploys these moments sparingly yet tactically and left me yelling at air more than once. Of course Leia won’t be nearly as concerned about questions regarding her true parentage while hints of it are enough to put the fear of Sith into Bail while Breha does what she can to keep a level head. The book does bring some timeline related questions to mind but it’s entirely possible those are more easily answered when one is not reading the novel at an ungodly hour.
Rebellions might be built on lies but Leia: Princess of Alderaan is most certainly built on love. Love for a child from her parents, love for doing what’s right, and love from an author for a character. It’s a fun novel about a beloved character’s early years and something that I most definitely hope we get to see more of in the future.