Leia: Princess of Alderaan is the third novel in the Star Wars series written by Claudia Gray. In this novel, sixteen-year-old Princess Leia is coming of age and must prove herself worthy of the throne of Alderaan. Adopted as a baby by Breha and Bail Organa after Bail returns from a mysterious mission, Leia has grown up in the palace preparing for the day when she will oversee Alderaan.
Leia's Day of Demand has arrived and guests from worlds across the galaxy are present on Alderaan. Many of her father's diplomatic allies in the Imperial Senate, including Winmey Lenz and Mon Mothma of Chandrella, Tynnra Pamlo from Taris and Cinderon Malpe of Derella, are in attendance.
In the Day of Demand, Leia's right to be declared an heir must first see her prove her worth through a series of "Challenges". For her Challenge of the Mind, Leia will help her father in the Imperial Senate and represent Alderaan in the Apprentice Legislature.For her Challenge of the Body she plans to climb Alderaan's Appenza Peak to its summit. For her Challenge of the Heart, Leia intends to undertake aid missions to planets in need.
However, after the ceremony, Leia is left alone and she feels abandoned and forgotten by her parents who seem unduly preoccupied. Her father is often in discussions with various senators and her mother seems focused on planning her next state dinner. In an attempt to do something too impressive for them to ignore, Leia impulsively decides to undertake a mission to the planet, Wobani. This planet, never prosperous, has seen its economy destroyed by a program ordered by Emperor Palpatine. Suffering from famine and isolated by travel restrictions, Wobani is on the verge of collapse with millions of refugees. With her ship Tantive IV filled with rations, Leia along with Captain Antilles arrive to a shocking scene of thousands of starving people. Leia attempts to transport some of the refugees to her home planet of Alderaan, appealing to the Imperial officer in charge, Major Tedam. However, he refuses her request, telling her she must leave with only her crew on board. In a daring move, Leia circumvents the restriction by hiring on one hundred refugees as crew members.
Their return to Alderaan is further complicated when they stop at the deep space station, Calderos Station only to discover that it has been attacked. The Tantive IV is allowed to continue on, but Leia realizes that people are beginning to fight back against the tyranny of the Empire. When Leia returns home, the pride she feels at what she has accomplished is quickly dispelled when she learns of the possible fallout from her actions from her mother, Queen Breha.
The next day Leis travels to a region of Alderaan containing the Appenza Peak to rendezvous with her pathfinding class. The group includes the wealthy Chassellon Stevis of Coruscant, Harp Allor of Chandrila, Sssamm Ashsssen of Fillithar (a planet with serpentine-like life forms), Amilyn Holdo of Gatalenta and Kier Domadi of Alderaan. Leading their group is Chief Pangie of the Chandrilan Pathfinding Corps who tells them they will visit different climates on different worlds. This challenge is to climb partway up the mountain and then to find their way back down. When Harp breaks her ankle, the group separates into those who want to help her led by Princess Leia and those who don't led by Chassellon. During the journey down the mountain, Leia and Kier talk about her responsibilities and life on Alderaan.
|Princess Leia - played by actress Carrie Fisher in the original trilogy.|
Leia had hoped to spend some time with her much absent father, but when she returns to their family's apartment, she learns from her father that he must leave for a meeting with Mon Mothma and will be away on a fact-finding mission for at least a week. In his absence, Leia attends the first session of the Apprentice Legislature. After introductions are made, the young apprentices are tasked with determining which planet should be the location of Emperor Palpatine's new aeronautical engineering academy. Leia, with the help of Kier, manage to convince the assembly to choose Arreyel, a planet suffering from being on the wrong side in the Clone Wars.
Later that evening, while working late in her office at the Apprentice Legislature, Leia inadvertently stumbles upon some puzzling information regarding Calderos Station - the outpost that was attacked. While analyzing the space traffic patterns through Calderos Station, Leia discovers that several unusual planets are involved including Crait and Itapi Prime. Leia believes these unusual traffic patterns through the station are "traces of people who were rising up against the Empire..." in a very dangerous way.
Uncertain as to what to do, Leia decides to investigate herself. Using the Polestar piloted by Lieutenant Ress Batten, she travels to Crait, a planet covered in salt flats. The Polestar is able to escape a weak tractor beam and identifies a small settlement in the northern area of the planet. But once on Crait, Princess Leia is taken by unidentified soldiers while Batten is forced to remain with the ship. To Leia's shock, she meets her father who is also stunned to see his daughter.
Leia reveals to him how she was able to track the rebels to Crait. She questions her father on having attacked the Empire, reminding him that he has always maintained they "had to exercise influence through the Senate, to change the system from within." But Leia is also amazed and wants to be a part of her father's efforts to weaken the Empire from within.Her father however is adamant that she is not to be involved, believing that if they are discovered, her ignorance will save her.
Iit is an unexpected meeting with Grand Moff Tarkin that sees Leia thrown headlong into a dangerous situation that threatens not only her family but the entire rebellion movement.
Fans of Star Wars will definitely enjoy this well-written novel about Princess Leia of Alderaan and her life before she becomes involved in the Rebel Alliance.
Gray spends some time creating the setting for the events that happen in the novel, although those readers unfamiliar with the Star Wars canon may have difficulty understanding the various characters, different planets and life forms. The novel contains many references to characters, events and settings in the Star Wars movies. The assumption is that most young readers will know the story line well enough to understand these references. For example, when Princess Leia visits the mining colony on Onoam, a moon orbiting the planet Naboo, readers will recall that Naboo is actually the home planet of Leia's biological mother, a fact she doesn't yet know in this novel. Sometimes Gray helps her readers with descriptions that clarify. For example, Sssamm Ashsssen is a snake-like life form lacking legs and hands. His physical nature becomes apparent on the hike on the mountain as he aids Leia and her companions taking the injured Harp to safety.
The essential story line in Leia: Princess of Alderaan focuses on Leia's coming of age and her journey into the beginnings of rebellion against the Empire's tyranny. As Leia begins attending the Apprentice Legislature, she is working towards the goal of some day becoming Queen of Alderaan and representing her planet in the Senate. But her new acquaintance, Kier Domadi offers a suggestion Leia has not ever considered - choosing her own path. This concept is expressed metaphorically in the journey Leia takes on the mountain during her first pathfinder session, when Harp Allor is injured. Leia forges a new alliance with some of the pathfinders to find a route down the mountain, different from the one they took in the ascent.
When Leia uncovers her parents involvement in the resistance to the Empire, she is inspired by their courage to forge her own path in life. She wants to act because "the battle ahead was one for her future..." At first Leia has no concept of what her role in the resistance to the Empire might be. Initially she believes that if she can document some of the Empire's excesses and get this information to those who can use it, this might be helpful. But as Mon Mothma explains to a naive Leia, "The people of the galaxy know Palpatine is corrupt and cruel." She explains, "Trillions of people understand what he truly is, and with every day that passes, more of them become willing to do whatever it takes to see the Empire fall."
As it turns out, Leia's most valuable asset appears to be her presence on Coruscant. Leia's doubts about ever playing a meaningful role in helping to bring down Palpatine are quickly dispelled when she realizes during a conversation with Moff Tarkin, that he knows about the secret armada her parents and others have been amassing at Paucris Major. Suddenly Leia is vitally important to the resistance in a way she could never have imagined, as the only one who can warn her father that the Empire knows and is coming for them. This turn of events will cost Leia dearly, but it will prove her mettle in the far more dangerous times to come.
Gray has crafted Leia's character well; she's believable and true to the character in the original movie trilogy. Leia is intelligent, decisive, a quick learner, and able to assess the people around her quickly and fairly. For example, at first she believes Kier might be standoffish and stiff-necked but quickly comes to realize that he is shy. Kier adds depth to Leia's character, acting as a love interest and as someone who questions Leia's parents involvement with the beginning rebellion because of the threat it poses to the peaceful, beautiful and wealthy Alderaan. Kier believes that Alderaan is possibly "...the one truly safe place in the entire Empire". It is as he is dying that Leia fortunately discovers his plan to inform the Empire about the rebellion fleet. Kier loves Alderaan more than he hates the Empire, something Leia understands but does not agree with. As Star Wars fans know, Kier has under-estimated the evil of the Empire, as Alderaan is eventually annihilated by the Death Star.
Perhaps the most delightful character in the novel is Amilyn Holdo, an eccentric human, with wildly coloured hair, an odd young woman with a loopy way of talking, but who, in the end, proves to be both insightful and a courageous young woman.
Overall, Leia: Princess of Alderaan is well done and will appeal to fans of the Stars Wars movies and science fiction fans too.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray
Glendale, California: Disney- Lucasfilms Books 2017