The Different Interpretations of Princess Leia

bloodlinefinalposteronline-1jpg-19d5fc-720x959So yesterday, I posted This is NOT a Review. When my husband saw it on Facebook, he asked, “So you didn’t like the book?”

That’s not what I meant, not at all.

What I meant is that it’s like someone taking U.S. History, or even World History as I was taught, and suddenly telling me it’s pretty much WRONG, and THIS is how it all really happened, and how it all really happened bears little resemblance for what I’d held as true for 20+ years. Like the some of people really existed, others didn’t, but what I thought happened isn’t even close. Even the names of locations are different!

But guys? Star Wars: Bloodline is a really good book. Like really, really good. Compelling characters, emotional stakes, and sneak peaks into what really shaped the people who know and love (and love to hate) into the characters they are in The Force Awakens.

Razors_EdgeIt’s better than Martha Wells’ Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge. Wells is a great writer, but I was rather ambivalent about the story and the characterization of that now “Legends” title.

Which was far better than Dave Wolverton’s The Courtship of Princess Leia, which one would think would be ALL ABOUT LEIA, but instead it’s about the men fighting for her. I mean, seriously? Why didn’t they get a woman to write that book?

But being a woman doesn’t guarantee you get Leia right. Wolverton’s book was LIGHTYEARS better than Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Crystal Star, which remains the worst Star Wars novel I’ve ever read (not including the novelizations of the films).

These books above? These are the books that I’ve read (there’s a period from 2005 through 2012 where I wasn’t reading the Expanded Universe, sorry folks) that I remember being Leia-centric. And if I think really hard, I’m not even sure The Crystal Star was very Leia-centric: but the parts of the book that are seared in my memory because I hated them so much? All focused on Leia’s plot line.

Courtship2Leia, I’ve found, is an incredibly difficult character to get right on the page. I’m not sure why. But I have yet to read a Leia-centric book where I think, NAILED IT. It may have a lot to do with the fact that we all see Leia a little bit differently, and while I think we can all read a description of who and what Leia is based on the movies, I think translating that to the books is different for everyone, and I realize I’m particularly picky.

I wonder if it has to do with the fact that for so long, Leia was really the one female character of substance in the Star Wars universe, at least from the films? Does that add an extra layer of difficulty in translating her character on the page? Because Leia had to be ALL WOMEN, and ALL WOMEN are not the same.

Claudia Gray does a great job, but I still had disconnect. For all of the reasons I mentioned yesterday, and also because I wasn’t picturing Leia post-ROTJ, but rather Leia pre-TFA. And while I think it’s meant to be more pre-TFA than post-ROTJ, I couldn’t quite get her visage nailed in my head, nor her voice — her voice in particular was very hard to hear, and I kept hearing Carrie Fischer’s gravel from The Force Awakens. Perhaps I was meant to hear that particular gravel, and this is just the part of the transition of getting used to the way things are, rather than the way things used to be.

The_Crystal_StarI wonder if I’m going to be so picky about Rey’s voice, when it’s time for her to star in her own spin-off novels? I hated how Alan Dean Foster wrote her in the novelization for The Force Awakens (and I hated how he wrote Leia too). I know I was super-picky and protective of Jaina Solo back in the day, and to a point, Tenel-Ka Djo, Tahiri Veila, Mara Jade, Mirax Terrik Horn, and Winter Celchu. I’ve always been so protective of the women of Star Wars and how they come off on the page, and I don’t have enough fingers to count all of the times I felt the characters were written wrong, or badly, just to shoe-horn them into a plot that made no sense of their character (not that the guys are exempt from that kind of mishandling either). I’m still bitter about Jaina’s characterization in the Dark Nest trilogy, let alone how they treated her love life overall in the EU.

But when I talk about disconnect, that has very little to do with how well the book is written, and every much to do with how much time I’ve spent getting to know these characters outside of the movies. You’d think that it shouldn’t be a problem: after all, superhero stories are told over and over and re-told and re-launched ad nauseam, and nobody bats an eye. But those aren’t the stories I keep revisiting. And fan fiction often does the same thing, but I don’t read much of that either, let alone a fanfic canon long-lasting enough to create what is a essentially a parallel universe in my fandom.***

So Star Wars: Bloodline is a really good book. And no, I don’t miss the EU so much as I miss the familiarity of it, despite characters getting run into the ground. I’m happy that writers have a clean slate from which to write, I really am. As I said yesterday, as long as they’re written as well as Bloodline, I’ll happily keep reading.

*** = Now THERE’s a fanfic idea, as we see how this new trilogy shapes out: take the best parts of both canons and combine them into something entirely new. And I’m sure someone out there’s going to do it.

Star Wars: Building Tension When You Already Know the Ending

Once upon a time, the only science fiction books you’d find in my hands were Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. I adored them. I read them as soon as I could get my grubby little paws on them, whether I used my allowance, or borrowed them from the library, or cashed in my credit at the used book store. I couldn’t get enough of the stories, because I was so enthralled at seeing what happened to Luke, Leia, Han, and everyone else after the defeat of the Empire in Return of the Jedi.

I’m not sure I would’ve been able to articulate the reasons why, but back then, I was never really excited about any stories that took place between the films of the original trilogy. Not that there were many, mind you, but I realize now there was a good reason. Once the trilogy was over (and the prequels were just a distant dream), nobody really wanted to know what happened between the movies. We wanted to know what happened after.

Of course, since then we’ve gotten the prequels. We’ve gotten Expanded Universe novels so far down the timeline that some readers, like myself, got tired of seeing my favorite characters manipulated by the plot into doing things that never felt true to character. And of course, since then, Disney bought Star Wars, announced a new slate of movies, and officially deemed what had been the Expanded Universe as a kind of alternate reality, divorced from any continuity from this point on.

I’m okay with all of this.

Razors_EdgeAround the time this happened, Del Rey had announced a series of books that would focus on individual heroes of the original trilogy and fill in the blanks between the movies called Empire & Rebellion. They also got some big names to write those stories: Martha Wells would write Leia’s,  Star Wars: Razor’s Edge. James S. A. Corey would write Han’s, Honor Among Theives. And lastly, Kevin Hearne would write Luke’s, Heir to the Jedi.

Of those books, Han and Leia’s were dismissed to the “Legends” line — the old Expanded Universe continuity. Luke’s got the official stamp of cannon.

All of this is background, not the point of the post.

I’m almost finished reading Razor’s Edge, which is Leia’s story. I became a fan of Martha Wells’ work when I discovered her Raksura trilogy, so I knew this would be a well-written tale.

And it is. But there’s a problem: there is very little tension. The stakes, such as they are, matter little. And it’s not Martha Wells’ fault.

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