This is the first Star Wars canon novel I’ve read (besides the film novelizations), and I have to say, I’m impressed. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this book sucked me in like the sinking sands of Pasaana.
If you’ve ever wondered how the First Order came to power, how the New Republic failed and Leia came to lead the Resistance, this is the book for you.
It begins a few years before the events of The Force Awakens. Leia is a Senator in the New Republic at the capitol of Hosnian Prime. Han is running a ship-racing event in another system, and Ben is a teenager training with Luke at his Jedi Academy.
Mon Mothma is the Chancellor of the New Republic, but she’s absent due to illness and may never return. Without her clear guidance, the Senate has divided into two factions: the Populists, of which Leia is a member, and who believe individual worlds should mostly govern themselves; and the Centrists, who believe in a stronger galactic goverment and military.
These two factions bicker and blame each other in a way that is easily familiar to us, and just as frustrating. Leia stresses compromise to both factions, but no one wants to listen. The heroes of the Rebellion are still honored, but most have forgotten the pain and bloodshed of war; a great many weren’t even alive at the time, and tend to romanticize it. Leia senses trouble for the New Republic if they can’t bridge their differences.
After a statue dedication to Bail Organa, a Ryloth ambassador addresses the Senate and tells them that, after the fall of the Hutts, his people are now threatened by a new crime cartel led by the Niktos, led by Rinnrivin Di. Leia is concerned and volunteers to investigate the situation on Bastatha, but the Centrists decide to send one of their own with her, a young Senator named Ransolm Casterfo.
When she meets with him, Leia is horrified to find that Casterfo actually admires the Empire, and has a personal collection of artifacts in his office. Casterfo claims that he only admires the structure of the Empire, and not the Emperor who led it. As a Centrist, he believes in a strong central government, and that the “chaos” of a Populist government can help no one. They get into a testy debate, and she angrily leaves his office, convinced that their mission will be acutely uncomfortable.
She isn’t wrong, at first. But as they investigate the cartel and Rinnrivin Di, their mutual animosity turns to grudging respect, and as the book goes on, understanding and even friendship. That friendship, however, is tested, not only by politics, but by Leia’s very personal secret she’s kept from everyone for decades: that Vader is her father.
I love that this book explores Leia’s thoughts and feelings about her parentage, which we don’t hear too much about anywhere else. Not only about Anakin/Vader and Padme, but her adoptive parents, Bail and Breha Organa.
I love that, even though we don’t see Han Solo too much in the book, they share sweet intergalactic phone calls, with no hint of the bickering they’re famous for, or the eventual split caused by Ben’s turn. By this point, they have a mutual understanding of how their marriage works best, and the love between them is clear.
I love the references to past events, like Leia’s killing of Jabba (which turns out to be an important plot point here), or when Vader held her prisoner on the first Death Star and tortured her.
I love that, no matter which galaxy you’re in, politics and government are proven to be pretty much the same: a predictable shit-show.
Basically, I loved everything about this book. I would have loved to see and hear more of Ben, but I suppose that wasn’t the purpose of the book. Both Ben and Han are out of her reach most of the time, and it’s Leia’s story all the way.
Claudia Gray is a wonderful writer, and I highly recommend this book to any Star Wars fan who wants a little more insight into Leia and pre-TFA events.
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