I’ve always loved Star Wars. Though there were times in my life where it was less important to me – and times when I rebelled against it – it’s always, in some way, been a part of me. Even when I tired of the original trilogy and the men who would question me endlessly on it if I wore a Star Wars t-shirt out of the house, I still read the Expanded Universe books that I bought in battered boxes from old car boot sales. When the shine of the prequels wore off for me as a pre-teen, I still journeyed with Jaina, Jacen, and the rest of the Young Jedi Knights.

As I grew older, my fandom became something I cherished. I refused to let others define my love for Star Wars and began to embrace every moment of the epic, sprawling galaxy that I adored so much.

I loved The Force Awakens, seeing joy in the inclusive, expansive, and beautiful new world that J.J. Abrams created. The film reignited my adoration for the series and drove me to seek out anything I could find that would let me stay in the galaxy far, far away for even a little while longer. That’s how I stumbled across the majesty of Claudia Gray, a fantastic writer who cut her teeth creating fanfic before moving onto bestselling young adult novels. She was soon approached by Disney to launch what would soon become a sort of modern Expanded Universe. Her first Star Wars book, Lost Stars, is a heartbreaking exploration of friendship, first love, and loyalty set to the backdrop of the original trilogy. After consuming the entire book in 24 hours, I was hooked.

Gray’s follow up was Bloodline. Set in the lead up to The Force Awakens, the book explored the realities of life under the New Republic with a focus on the personal lives of Leia, Han, and Ben in the face of the First Order. and ultimately the formation of the Resistance. Another incredible novel, I devoured Bloodline and waited eagerly for Gray’s next book. But I never could’ve foreseen the profound level on which it would connect with me and quickly become one of the most important pieces of Star Wars canon I’d ever come across.

Leia, Princess of Alderaan is Gray’s third official Star Wars novel and tells the story of Leia as she gets closer to her Day of Demand, the ceremony which will see her declare her intention to one day take the throne of Alderaan. However, as she prepares for the ritual, she discovers the truth about her distant parents and begins to slowly head towards her future in the Rebellion.

As a fan of Gray’s other Star Wars books, I was excited to read something that would focus solely on Leia, a character I’d always identified with and looked up to. But with Leia, Princess of Alderaan, Gray did more than write a great story – she gave readers an insight into moments that we would never have gotten the chance to see if it weren’t for her book. Of course, that’s the point. Still, where her other books focused on new characters, or singular moments in Galactic history, Leia, Princess Of Alderaan focused on massively important touchstones in Leia’s life that the men telling her story on screen never deemed worthy of showing. Gray gave Leia the origin story that she deserved, and as soon as I read the first couple of pages I couldn’t put the book down, finishing it in one sitting.

princess leia a new hope

There’s a moment in Leia, Princess of Alderaan which moved me profoundly, as Leia saves a fellow student and friend whilst on a mountain. It’s a small description, but to anyone who knows Star Wars, it was clear she was using the Force for the first time. I’d never realized how much that moment would mean to me, but it actually makes a of of sense. Imagine A New Hope without seeing Luke use the Force for the first time? Or the prequels without seeing Ani fly in the podraces? Leia was never given those moments as a burgeoning Force user, even though she was from the outset one of the most competent and able people in the galaxy. Leia, Princess of Alderaan finally gave the princess the complexity and challenges that her father and brother were given for all these years.

Gray is a fantastic writer whose prose creates a vast and expansive world that adds layers to the Star Wars mythology whilst still nodding at the galaxy we know and love. Where Lost Stars is an intimate character study juxtaposed with a macro look at the timeline of the original trilogy, Leia, Princess of Alderaan is set in 3BBY (three years before the Battle of Yavin, which ended with the destruction of the first Death Star in A New Hope). It follows Leia as she prepares to become a leader of Alderaan and slowly discovers her parents role in the burgeoning Rebellion. Gray’s exploration of Leia before she takes on the weight of saving the galaxy is a nuanced one that sees the Princess question her parents, the Empire, and herself before finding her way.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia

There’s so much power in seeing the characters we love given the space to be flawed, conflicted, and to experience growth. Leia, Princess of Alderaan lets us get to know Leia as a young woman unsure of herself and who she can trust. Seeing ourselves represented and reflected in fiction is a rite of passage, something that all of us hope to have. I was lucky enough to find this in a number of incredible fictional characters as a young woman, but it makes me happy that a whole new generation of young women will get to discover Leia as a fully rounded human, rather than just a sidekick in a film about the men around her.

If you’re a canon hound, Gray’s expansion of the lore and world of Star Wars is unmissable. She’s been integral in creating interior lives for the tangential characters of the galaxy. Under her stewardship Mon Mothma has taken on even greater significance, playing prominent roles in both Bloodline and Leia, Princess of Alderaan. In the latter, we get to know Breha Organa, the queen of Alderaan and someone who’s rarely been seen or thought about in the main canon. Here she’s a fierce protector, hyper-intelligent leader, and master manipulator, holding vast, apparently vapid feasts that’re actually the first meetings of the burgeoning Rebellion.

Star Wars Leia

In Leia, Princess of Alderaan we find Bail Organa a tired, frustrated, and sometimes cruel man. His calm, unflappable facade is finally cracked as he faces the Empire and the realities of the war ahead. Again, Gray excels at showing an unseen side of a fan favorite character, whilst also building on the importance of family and how the Organa’s shaped Leia, her activism, and her destiny in the wider Star Wars universe. It’s radical to get a glimpse at young Leia, as we’re all being reintroduced to General Leia Organa, leader of the Resistance, Gray’s book gives us an insight that along with the new trilogy paints a whole picture of one of the most important people in the Galaxy.

It’s hard to even imagine how incredible and formative it would have been to see this kind of origin put on film for Leia. In fact, I would love to see the story adapted into a longform television show. A show that can truly do justice to the kind of epic, expansive storytelling that Gray pours into every page of her books. Getting to know Leia intimately like this was a revelatory experience for me…and I hope that it will be the entry point for a whole new generation of Star Wars fans.

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