In a world where everything – everything – is canon, you never know where the latest offerings may come from. While there have been obvious offerings like movies or comics, there have also been sticker books, atlases, and finally, young reader’s books. And, hey, would you believe it – young readers are given a treat most of us would rather pass over in Backstories: Princess Leia: Royal Rebel!
Scholastic’s line of Backstories is a collection of origin stories for well known DC Comics and Star Wars characters. For now, Princess Leia and Darth Vader are joined by comic greats Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more. This makes for an interesting concept: while origin stories are a vital part of a superhero’s story, do the characters from a Galaxy Far, Far Away require the same amount of work?
For characters like Batman, decades (almost 10 decades) of backstory make up what we know about the character today. Its easy to recall a vast amount of comics in the Batman line: Detective Comics, Batman, Batman: All-Star, and many events, like Rebirth; The New 52; etc. To know one iteration of Batman is to know nothing about any others in some cases! In comparison, the almost three year old canon has very little in comparison to the DC Universe. Rather than being a detriment, or making this book useless, it helps the book find a sharper focus.
By having less to collate into a single volume, individual moments from across the canon can shine in Princess Leia’s Backstory. Each book begins with a basic overview of the timeline as we know it (Sorry – no sneak peeks into The Last Jedi here!). Leia’s timeline is mostly focused around the films, but starts further back into the Prequels than you might expect. Grounding Leia’s story in the whole of the Saga makes this a compelling read: it immediately stretches our imaginations. Whereas we may not think of Leia’s story as framed by the Prequels, this book does a good job of forcing us to re-frame her story.
After a brief timeline, we find the meat of the book. Rather than being a weird omniscient narrator, the book is written as an in-universe biography of Leia (This causes a weird delight when the book has to come up with a reason we have no material between Empire’s End and The Force Awakens). This in-universe allows for a bit more fun than an abject narrator might. One of my favorite bits from the “biography” was the reference to Han Solo, the smuggler perhaps best known as General Organa’s husband! Many in-jokes like this follow the book.
The book’s treatment of the films offers very little by way of surprise. A lot of familiar events in the books are shown centered on Leia, but none of this is too groundbreaking. For those curious to see things through Leia’s perspective, I recommend Alexandra Bracken’s The Princess, the Farmboy, and the Scoundrel. But, I would wager a guess that our over-familiarity with the films contributes to a bit of this apathy I felt toward those bits.
The book really shines in its ability to focus on non-film events. Marvel’s first mini-series, Princess Leia, focused on Leia right after the Battle of Yavin. Though very brief, we saw a glimpse of Leia’s life growing up on Alderaan with Bail Organa and Breha. Though Breha has been largely ignored in both Legends and canon so far, Royal Rebel takes up the challenge of fleshing Breha out. I enjoyed how Royal Rebel presented a wealth of knowledge about Breha as if we should have already known this information before. As we have largely been robbed of a mother-daughter story, this book offers tantalizing hints toward future stories set on Alderaan.
In the Marvel series, Leia teamed up with fellow Alderaanian pilot Evaan Verlaine. I am probably one of the few who truly enjoyed the Princess Leia comic book series in its entirety. Despite that, almost every fan of the canon loves Evaan (Why not? She was a fun character, garnering appearances in Life Debt, Rogue One: The Visual Guide, and Galactic Maps!). It was truly fun to see her garner major attention in Royal Rebel here! Though the book does not contribute much to Evaan’s story, I loved seeing her here. The mini-series is expertly interwoven into the narrative of the films, which gained a lot of love from me. Though we don’t see her in connection to the Liberation of Kashyyyk, nor from her almost appearances in Rogue One and A New Hope, she still featured in almost a full chapter! This connection helped solidify Evaan’s place in Leia’s storyline.
Before I end, I would be remiss to neglect the charming illustrations in the book. Leia from many timelines and stories, such as life on Alderaan, her adventure on Lothal, her trip to find the survivors, and her mission to Endor are all wonderfully recreated in pencil drawing. I love visual consistency, so seeing Leia from Lothal in the same style as Evaan from Sullust was a real treat.
All in all, Princess Leia: Royal Rebel is a must-buy for fans of the character. The book delightfully reframes stories we are well-familiar with, positing them next to movies, cartoons, and comics alike. New canon information adds a touch of freshness to the book, making it a must-read. The fun illustrations give us a beautifully cohesive narrative, reminding us that everything truly takes place in one galaxy.
Canon Novel Reviews:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Reviews:
“A Hero Discovered” 1×01 | “The Mines of Gabralla” 1×02 | “Zander’s Joyride” 1×03 | “The Lost Treasure of Cloud City” 1×04 | “Peril on Kashyyyk” 1×05 | “Crossing Paths” 1×06