Ugh I had such high hopes for this, it hits every single bingo block for me: Star Wars! Leia! Inevitable Doom with Irony! Instead, I found it lacking in a very similar way that WW84 was lacking–namely that 24 years later a woman who has now been a public figure the vast majority of her adult life is still being defined by or remembering four years worth of events from ages ago?
With much of the EU (almost all of it) non-canon, Gray has the unenviable task of alluding to years and years of time between the original trilogy without having a veritable galaxy of events to pull from. What was Leia doing all this while? Honestly seems like she’s been a politician in the vein of Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi, around forever and given deference as a result but loathed by the other side given enormous polarization. The Leia of the EU was smart and lively and adventurous, and this Leia is still talking about Han running after her in Hoth.
Could you have made plot points revolve around events that the reader doesn’t know about? I don’t know, but I think so! That Rinnrivin Di knows of Leia because of her killing of Jabba the Hutt feels so very pat, like it’s the ONE thing that everyone knows (sexy bikini!Leia). He’s been impressed all these years by that thing she did the one time 20 years ago?
There’s a lot that’s great in this book and a lot that honestly I’ve seen explored more fulsomely in fanfic–aka people have taken what we’ve been given here and fleshed it out in a way that you can’t when you’re writing a novel meant to fit into a grant plot universe owned by our Emperor Disney. I’m definitely super impressed by Gray’s devotion to the grey (ha) of Leia. She’s in a loving marriage but has, for 20+ years, prioritized her career over her spouse and has come to terms with that–but she also continues to be an utterly absent mother throughout the entire book, for example, which feeds into what we know will happen re: her son.
At the end of the day I’m realizing I’m sort of the worst of fans–Gray has given us a well realized world, working with what she has at her disposal in terms of plot points, and all I want is all Leia/Han/Luke all the time. No New Characters! Or, if they do appear, I want them to be folded in over many many novels (RIP Mara). Disney clearly doesn’t think modern day fandom has the patience for such things, which is a pity!