(this article contains spoilers after the intro)
It’s a good thing I’m writing an analysis and not a strict review, because it’s hard to be objective about Leia: Princess of Alderaan. I’ve long wanted a young Leia book, and there were only three authors that I trusted to write it: Martha Wells (Razor’s Edge), Alexandra Bracken (The Princess, The Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy), and Claudia Gray (Bloodline) — and we got Claudia Gray! From the moment this book was announced at Celebration Orlando, I knew I’d love it — and my sky-high expectations were met. What expectations were those? Well, I wanted a story that did credit to my favorite Star Wars film character and showed us the development of her political heroism that ends up being the driving force of the rebellion. And that’s what we got.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan is a coming of age story: the narrative is book-ended by a particular Alderaanian rite of passage for the royal heirs, and it’s Leia’s relationship to her homeworld, her parents (Queen Breha finally gets a chance to shine, and gets developed in depth!), and Leia’s nascent awareness of a growing rebellion against the Empire that forms the framework for this story. It’s about relationships, and Leia maturing as a person and as a political leader. You’ll hear from Sarah Dempster on Monday about Leia’s relationships with her parents (particularly her mother) — today I’d like to talk about Leia’s political awakening and her involvement with the rebellion.
This isn’t a Star Wars book with moral gray areas. The Empire is clearly the villain in this story, whether we’re talking about Leia’s point of view or the Empire’s role in the story. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy question whether the Empire should be fought, because fighting carries consequences for Leia and those she loves. While the audience knows about the fate of Alderaan, Leia doesn’t. For her, the dangers are hypothetical — but they’re no less certain.
There are spoilers under the cut — do NOT continue if you haven’t read this book!
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As I discussed on Friday, the usual pattern of book and comic announcements at the respective Del Rey and Marvel panels at Star Wars Celebration Orlando changed a little bit. But it wasn’t a bad thing, because that meant that news got delivered more organically and it allowed the panels at Celebration to be focused on more interactive elements. But there actually was quite a bit of publishing and publishing-related news that came out at Celebration.
And since can’t talk about Star Wars Publishing news at Celebration without actually discussing the news, let’s get into it. Primarily what I’ll discuss here are Journey to The Last Jedi, Inferno Squad/Battlefront II, Hasbro news, and Marvel. We got quite a few books announced — several of which were surprises — and we heard about an astonishingly cool connection between the story of the new Battlefront game and an upcoming Del Rey novel. And we got more information about things we knew about earlier, such as Hasbro’s upcoming Jaina Solo action figure and Marvel’s upcoming Darth Vader comic. There’s so much to go over that the only way I can think of doing it is chronologically, based on when news came out at the convention.
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There used to be a predictable pattern to Star Wars publishing and Star Wars Celebration. Big announcements and other book news would invariably occur at the Del Rey panel for books, and the Dark Horse or Marvel panel for comics. I’ve been to five Celebrations, and the pattern always held. I always attended the book panels as a matter of principle, but they were also where the big publishing announcements were made. Even before I wrote for this site and officially covered Celebration, I’d always “cover” the panels and give the news to whatever fandom spaces I was occupying at the time (from message boards to social media). Things are a little different now.
Some people have observed — and some with dissatisfaction — that we’re getting book announcements outside of Celebration (such as how the Certain Point of View/”Operation Blue Milk” project was announced prior to Celebration), or that the Del Rey panel didn’t have the slew of new book announcements that it would traditionally end with. There has certainly been a change, and I’m not qualified to render any judgment about marketing or publishing, but I do have to say that change isn’t necessarily bad. It’s perhaps harder to cover these events, and there’s certainly no longer a one-stop-shop for announcements, but I came out of this Celebration thinking that the future was brighter for Star Wars publishing, and I don’t just mean in terms of the great titles that were announced by Del Rey and Disney-Lucasfilm Press.
There’s also Battlefront, a panel I attended with no expectations of anything other than good-looking pew pew. But I came out of it marveling at the payoff of almost two years of cross-medium storytelling between Del Rey, Disney-Lucasfilm, and Marvel. I’m hoping that this is just the tip of the iceberg and we have more such partnerships to come, but even if it ends up being a one-time thing, it was still a pretty great moment. So I’m going to talk about the panels I attended and what impressions I got for Star Wars publishing going forward. Sadly, this year I didn’t get the chance to attend the Marvel panel nor did I get a chance to attend the Hasbro panel, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss them too.
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(Note: This review is attempting to be spoiler-light – it’ll describe the main characters and that’s essentially it.)
Okay, hear me out. I know comparing dang near anything to the late, beloved Aaron Allston’s Wraith Squadron X-wing books is a tall order to justify. I don’t think anything could really fill those boots, but if I had to describe the first Join the Resistance book in a few words, “Wraith Squadron for kids” is exactly how I’d do it. It gets across what’s at the root of the story: a group of misfits trying to be heroes. Some of them don’t come across as misfits at first, and some definitely do. But they’re all imperfect people, trying to defy stereotypes and going through zany hijinks in order to get there. You have to suspend your disbelief a little further: if you could believe that Wedge Antilles could get away with assembling a squadron of washups who performed bizarre undercover missions, then this book asks a little more of you. It asks you to believe that the Resistance would recruit teenage cadets (not too unbelievable), and would train them on their headquarters at D’Qar (a little more unbelievable).
It’s important to remember that this book is for kids. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable for adults – it’s not as nuanced as the Servants of the Empire books, but I had a great time reading Join the Resistance and could hardly put it down. And it’s not un-nuanced, either. Like I said, the characters are not all what they seem to be. The story also plays into The Force Awakens and the political state of the galaxy, set as it is immediately prior to TFA. There’s some interesting new information in the book, but I wouldn’t say that anybody should read these books for information on TFA or upcoming movies. You’ll just be disappointed, and that’s not what these books are about. Rather, read these books if you want a fun TFA-era story about youngsters from different walks of life learning what it is to be good people and finding that it’s not as easy a question as it sounds. » Read more..
[This is a chapter-by-chapter reaction to the newly-released novel Empire’s End. This post is FULL of spoilers. Read at your own risk.]
[This post was pre-written and was a live commentary at the time of reading, and it is being posted after the book’s release date to comply with review embargo restrictions. Thanks to Del Rey for providing me with a review copy of this book!]
In a first for Eleven-ThirtyEight, I’m going to be doing what’s essentially a live chapter-by-chapter commentary on Empire’s End. There are many reasons for doing this, all of which are named RAE SLOANE. This is the book that terrifies me – not least because of its title, but for the implications it has for the Galactic Empire, the Concordance, and the Empire’s relationship with the First Order. So – let’s go.
Oh and needless to say, there will be spoilers.
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