Over 40 years ago, the romance of Leia Organa and Han Solo as depicted in The Empire Strikes Back sparked a passionate response in Star Wars fandom. The iconic lines “I love you” and “I know” shared between Leia and Han before he is encased in carbonite by Darth Vader is still to this day a mainstay of franchise merchandise, often displayed across shirts intended for couples to wear indicating their shared love. Return of the Jedi cemented their place as the original One True Pair of Star Wars. Luke turns his father Darth Vader back to the light; Leia’s quest to end the Emperor’s reign is fulfilled. Han Solo, ready to graciously step aside as he believes Luke and Leia have become more than friends in his year-long absence, discovers that they are, but not in the way he imagined. The movie closes with Han and Leia in each other’s arms celebrating their victory with the Ewoks. But what happened next?
The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis (Rebel Rising) picks up at the closing moments of Return of the Jedi. As often happens in times of war, emotions are heightened, and joy is something people need desperately. In this moment, Han proposes to Leia, kicking off a new chapter in their lives. The internal journey of the book explores how marriage will change the lives of two very strong-willed individuals with very different lives. As a princess, Leia has spent most of her life fostering diplomatic ties for the Rebel Alliance and operating as a spy. Scoundrel Solo has spent a better part of his life searching for a place to belong, to feel needed. Where do they live? What will they do?
The external conflict of the book shapes their first days as a couple. The Emperor may be dead, but he’s left behind contingency plans and some are willing to believe the fake news that his death is simply a Rebel lie. Alliance leader Mon Mothma is faced with numerous looming obstacles to establishing a new government in the wake of the deaths of Palpatine and Vader. Imperial strongholds on Endor and beyond still exist. General Lando Calrissian points out that fuel will become a necessary commodity to hold in order to keep a new government functioning. Despite all these obstacles, Mon Mothma sees the wedding of General Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa as an event that suggests to the broader galaxy that things are changing for the better.
While the wedding mixes the wacky sensibilities of Ewoks in the Rebel Alliance, it also sets up the undercurrent of ecofeminism that is woven into this book, echoing powerful classics like Princess Mononoke and Mad Max Fury Road. Where nature and the patriarchal need clash, the wedding represents a willingness of the wedding planner Mon Mothma to synthesize more traditional human ceremonies with the Ewok’s spirituality that requires harmony with nature. This idea of compromise threads it way across the tale. Revis uses the events around the wedding to highlight Han’s roguish side, but also the internal musings of Leia missing her parents in a very special day, while also grappling with the very recent news that her real father was the man who tortured her and helped destroy her home world. There is a lot to unpack, so if this part seems slow, stick with it, because once the honeymoon starts the pace picks up.
Numerous Easter Eggs can be found once the couple reaches the Halcyon, the cruise ship used as the setting of Walt Disney World’s Galactic Starcruiser. If you’ve been to this one-of-a-kind event, you’ll find yourself happily reminiscing locations like the Engineering Room or Sublight Lounge and you’ll read about familiar faces like D3-09 and Riyola Keevan. If you’re not familiar with Galactic Starcruiser, the plot is moving along setting up the intrigue to come once the cruise ship reaches the moon Madurs.
Instead of mining existing lore, Revis chooses to explore a new place as the galactic stakes beyond the forest moon of Endor unfold. The worldbuilding on Madurs is fantastic – a melding of a Frozen-style winter wonderland with culture-building on par with Avatar. Why is the couple looking for resources and striking diplomatic alliances while on their honeymoon? That’s where the internal conflict of married life collides with the external struggle of trying to run a newly-formed government. The plight of the people of Madurs tugs at Leia’s open wounds about the destruction of Alderaan. For Han, the icy climate brings back fresh trauma from his time in carbonite. Revis’ clever use of alternative tight point-of-view between Leia and Han keep both of their plights ever-present. As far as the mystery on Madurs, you’ll want to turn the page to see if you’re putting the clues together correctly.
Leia fans have had a good year between Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Princess and the Scoundrel. One of things that is notable is that these two stories did not synthesize Leia’s backstory. Some of the internal monologue clearly lacks an understanding of the adventure in the Disney+ show. I’m not going to fault the story for this, but for all Lucasfilm likes to drum this idea that it’s one continuity being overseen carefully, this aspect is a pretty big miss. Here at FANgirl Blog, we have had the mindset that Star Wars just needs to say, “everything we put out is canon and a story worth of telling, but not everything exists within a singular post-Disney (not-so-carefully-overseen) continuity.” As they are told, the television series and the book don’t work as a singular narrative on Leia’s experience, particularly with the Force. Most geek fans already understand the idea of multiverses from comics and movie franchises. The Princess and the Scoundrel is equally as valid a telling as The Courtship of Princess Leia, which was the first telling of the Han and Leia wedding. People who have been shipping these characters since 1980 understand that a multitude of awesome versions of Han and Leia’s wedding exist.
For all that The Force Awakens discarded the passionate Leia/Han shipper fandom that had bought so many books over the years between trilogies, it finally feels like there is some respect for that demographic with this book, even if it is a shameless tie-in to a really expensive Disney Parks offering. No doubt, Revis put her heart into this story, and it is much appreciated by this long-time Leia/Han fangirl.
We’re HIGHLY RECOMMENDING this book for its excellent storytelling that strives to deepen the past of two of the franchise’s most beloved characters. For more on the storytelling and themes in The Princess and the Scoundrel, check out a spoiler discussion on Fangirls Going Rogue podcast.
FANgirl Blog was provided a copy of The Princess and the Scoundrel by Del Rey Star Wars for an honest opinion.