This guest squee was written by Crystal Anne With An E
Crystal reads a lot, cross-stitches, and is an autism consultant by day and goes to library school by night. She is a Hufflepuff.
Hi, my name is Crystal. I…I have to talk about something. I’ve been dying to talk about this, and the time has come. So I’m going to just jump right into it.
I love what Claudia Gray does with Star Wars.
What? Context, you say? You mean, I can talk more about this and give exhaustive detail about this?
I love this song, don’t mind if I do.
In the past few years, there has been an explosion of Star Wars literature in conjunction with the new movies. Before this, there was the Extended Universe, that included stories about Han and Leia’s children, including Jedi twins Jacen and Jaina, Luke’s initial antagonism and then romance with Emperor’s Hand Mara Jade, and the fearsome, intelligent General Thrawn. With the advent of the new films, this entire canon was essentially thrown out, to the consternation of many fans (including my husband, he’s holding an impressive grudge about this). That said, a lot of really interesting new literature has come out of the characters and events in the newest Star Wars trilogy, with a strong emphasis on elements like interpersonal conflict, political scheming, and wonderfully diverse characters.
Which brings us to Claudia Gray.
Prior to her involvement with Star Wars, I was already familiar with Gray’s work through her Firebird trilogy. It involved intricate plotting, dimension-hopping, and the occasional evil doppelganger (let’s be real, those are never not fun). Around the time of The Force Awakens, her first Star Wars novel, Lost Stars, was released to much acclaim.
Confession: I haven’t read it.
Oh, I have it, make no mistake. However, I really enjoy psyching myself up for a Star Wars movie by reading one of her books, and I’m hanging on to it for the release of The Rise of Skywalker.
That said, the three Star Wars books that have been released since then are some of my very favorite things involving Star Wars.
I’ll take them one at a time, so that I can really dig into what worked for me with each one.
Star Wars: Bloodline
This is my favorite Star Wars book of all time, hands-down. It may be one of my favorite books of all time. I throw it at people all the time, wanting them to read it. It has so many great things about it, but I’ll start with what stood out most to me. Do you like political drama? Game of Thrones, House of Cards, West Wing style political machinations? Because this is that book. This is Leia in early middle age, a respected senator, and a SLYTHERIN.
What, you thought Leia was Gryffindor? Oh, you sweet summer child. This is a woman that knows how to play all the games and every time someone might think they’re playing her, she is ten steps ahead and tapping her foot waiting for everyone to catch up. She is AWESOME. Gray has such an understanding of this character, the kind of understanding you only get from deep, deep love. She understands her sadness, her wiliness, her resourcefulness, and her love for her family, even as fissures are developing.
At the beginning of this book, her husband is off gallivanting the galaxy with his big furry pal, and her son is in Jedi training. She is trying to hold together a rapidly fracturing government, and trying to warn people about the rise in populism and authoritarianism that she is seeing (sound depressingly familiar?). In addition, politics being dirty, she is eventually forced to publicly face her painful family history, something that she herself has never really come to terms with, as her lineage as the daughter of Darth Vader is revealed. I want a West Wing style TV show of Bloodline. Walk and talk, Leia, walk and talk.
NB: Tor.com had some great ideas on casting for this, and despite the sad passing of Carrie Fisher, they had solid ideas about how this character could live on).
Leia: Princess of Alderaan
Gray’s next Star Wars book focuses on Leia at a completely different stage of her life. In this book, Leia is a bold, idealistic teenage girl, in training for her role as ruler, and undergoing the trials that will prove her fitness for it. We get to see her relationship with her parents, Bail and Breha Organa. Breha, especially, gives us an understanding of why Leia is the woman she is. Breha is a strong ruler, a cunning spymaster, and a fierce mother. She also has a deep affection for and understanding of her daughter, remarking that she believes someone with her personality could find themselves attracted to a “bad boy” type (ya don’t say).
In this book, Gray uses the reader’s knowledge to really twist some knives, so to speak. There is a scene during one of Leia’s trials in which she is clearly using the Force, although she does not know that is what she’s doing. There is another in which she is on Naboo on a type of spy mission, and meets someone who knew Padme Amidala. Leia cannot figure out why she makes this individual so uncomfortable and why he seems to look at her so closely. The one that hurts the most? Leia’s excitement and pride as she gains the skills to rule her planet, and her determination that she will protect her people and be a just and effective ruler. We know what she does not. She will never rule, and she will be forced to watch her planet die. It is a sharp but effective skill, to use what the reader knows to pierce that reader’s heart.
Star Wars: Master and Apprentice
This is the newest entry in her Star Wars books. This one takes a break from Leia and instead focuses on the apprenticeship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. The character work in this one is interesting, as it turns out the Padawan relationship between these two individuals was a fraught one. Neither man is particularly forthcoming about their feelings, which seems to be a natural consequence of Jedi training, and tend to have diametrically opposed views on how to handle political matters.
Like Bloodline before it, politics plays a central role in the story, as the Jedi are grappling with the roles they play in galaxy politics, and how extensive those roles should be, especially since they hold a great deal of natural power. Much like in Princess of Alderaan, the reader’s knowledge of later events provides a lot of natural interest in this story, especially as we find out what it is about Qui-Gon that later made him so interested in a slave boy on Tatooine, and his history with Count Dooku.
Also, the secondary characters in this one were aces. I really would like entire books about Pax and Rahara moving around the galaxy purloining jewels, or complicated, sneaky little Fanry and her learning what it really means to rule.
While I focused here on Gray’s Star Wars books, I would be remiss in not mentioning that her Firebird and Constellation trilogies are also a great deal of fun. Frankly, at this point, while I love Gray’s writing in general, my affection for her work in a galaxy far, far away cannot be overstated (obviously). So yeah, the next time the world is burning (ha, like it’s ever not these days, amiright?), and you need to say “screw this, I’m going to space” and wish you could lightsaber your frustrations out, Gray’s books are an excellent way to go for that.
May the Force Be With You.
The post Squee from the Keeper Shelf: Claudia Gray is a Book Jedi appeared first on NeedaBook.