A young adult novel, written by New York Times Best-selling author Claudia Gray, about sixteen-year-old Princess Leia, set before A New Hope.
"Great evil can only be fought by the strong. People need spiritual fuel as much as they need food, water, and air.
Happiness, love, joy, hope—these are the emotions that give us the strength to do what we need to do."
After my disappointment with "Lost Stars," I am so happy to proclaim that I absolutely loved this novel! This book beautifully explores the struggles Leia and her family faced as the Rebellion took flight. Claudia Gray digs deep into the heart of emotions and explores the many consequences that could arise from even the most noble of actions.
“We hate the Empire’s cruelty and violence. How can we claim to be morally superior when we stoop to violence ourselves?”
Mon Mothma answered him. “There comes a time when refusing to stop violence can no longer be called nonviolence. We cease to be objectors and become bystanders. At some point, morality must be wedded to action, or else it’s no more than mere…vanity.”
Leia's fierce determination and big heart comes across as empathetic strengths for the developing teenager. The plot moves steadily along as we discover secrets both within the Empire and the Rebellion. We also get added depth to familiar characters like Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, discover old/unexplored characters like Breha Organa, and meet a "The Last Jedi" character, Amilyn Holdo. Gray balances these dynamics well and gives excellent insight into the feelings and experiences these characters went through.
I would have liked a little more differentiation with references. For instance, everyone seems to drink tea, but what kind of tea? The constant being-served-tea scenes got a bit bland because (as a tea snob myself) there is so much variety in tea that could give subtle hints at people's characters. This was underutilized. Also, there was one Alderaanian plant that kept being referenced by Leia. Finally, a few terms were a bit too Earthy to be super believable in the Star Wars world, like "spit spot."
Things I loved, though, were the inklings of the Force that Leia felt during moments of intense struggle and fear, which enhances the original movies and beyond. Reading about Leia's force use in a canon novel is so satisfying since "The Force Awakens" disappointed me in this aspect. I also loved Gray fleshing out Alderaan culture. I'm a history nerd, much like Kier, and really enjoyed these details. Gray also carefully weaves in familiar lines, sometimes with a slight twist, that comes across as enhancing the novel instead of being overt, annoying nods that can sometimes happen with poorly-placed references. Kudos, Ms. Gray!
"It feels wrong," Leia finally admitted..."Going out to celebrate, while out there-"
"'Out there' is exactly why you should go to the ball." Leaning across the table, Breha took her daughter's hand in hers. "...We won't always have the chance to dance with the ones we love...So dance now."
Unlike the books preceding "The Force Awakens," I could really feel the movies alive in this book. There are planets you'll recognize from the past along with the next movie and characters we expect to see in the future.
This was a well-drawn expanded-universe story that enriches the characters we love, most particularly after the passing of Carrie Fisher. This book could have been Gray's swan song if done wrong, but instead, Gray has delivered a solid and emotional story that does the original characters credit and is strong in the Force.
"Descendants of Avalon"
Released via Inklings Publishing
("The Forgotten" volume 2)
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse