Courtship of Princess Leia
[Dave Wolverton, Bantam Books, 1994]

Synopsis

Han Solo returns with his flagship, victorious from their hunt for Zinsj, and finds Coruscant surrounded by the warships from a powerful interstellar Matriarchy, the Hapan Cluster.

Leia is courted by a Fabio-type himbo, "Prince Isolder" [Regent of the Hapans, who will take his wife as their next Queen when his mother passes on. In other words, Leia prostitutes herself to the Hapans who want a marriage alliance - pimped with Mon Mothma's consent. Everyone knows she's been shacked up with Han Solo [the TOP New Republic General] for the last three YEARS, and is therefore his commonlaw wife - but for some strange reason nobody seems to care!!!

Isolder has a sub-plot of his own; someone on his own side killed his brother and his fiance, and is now after Leia.

Han discovers Leia is searching for a new M-Class world she can re-settle her people on and call "New Alderaan" - so he gets the deeds to a suitable planet and "Kidnaps" Leia to take her there. The only problem is, the planet is deep in Zsinj's territory!!!

The New Republic, ever ready to harrass and abuse its greatest and most successful military leader, brands Han an outlaw. Luke and Isolder go after the Falcon, in an effort to get to Han before the Hapan Queen does.

When our intrepid adventurers arrive at their destination they receive a warm welcome from the local ISDs, and when they crash-land on "New Alderaan" they encounter its primative population.

Luke and Isolder are captured by a teenage redhead called Teneniel Djo. She has Force-powers, and fills the cliched gap that appears in every Star Wars novel - that of Luke's potential love-interest.

Also, Luke meets an aged Witch called "Mother Rell", who refers to Yoda as "that old flirt" and asks Luke how his wife and children are. She is 300 years old, and her powers are such that she can see the future.

However, some of the planet's inhabitants are a lot more unpleasant...

Review

It is strange going from the "X-Wing" series to a "Big 7" story, especially when the plot reqires the Republic show complete disregard for its top General.

Wolverston's writing style involves a complete lack of description, which somewhat detracts from the experience. Some of his Han Solo scenes are well thought out, especially the dialogue, but the delivery is poor.

However, there are times when he makes up for it. On page 83 Han recollects "He'd seen Leia hack her way thrugh a jungle with a blunt machete. He'd seen her slice ropes off her hands with a piece of broken glass. He'd even seen her despatch some kind of swamp monster with a pointed stick ..."

Now if KJA, King of Fan-Wank, had written this book he would have buried us in an avalanche of gratuitous references to the movies. Wolverton, thankfully, has shown a great deal of originality and given us a glimpse at a series of untold stories which remind us that Han and Leia's relationship is not something that can be summed up by a patronising reference to a single scene in a movie set several years before the events told in this book.

Also, Zsinj's planet-destroying superweapon, the "Night Cloak", is a great break from all the "Death Star" immitations wheeled out with great regularity. An adaptation on existing Imperial cloakng technology, it is consistent with Zahn's books - and unlike KJA's books, the superweapon is just that; a weaapon, not a major plot device!

One thing about this book that jarrs the reader is Leia's readiness to drop her common-law husband and prepare to marry a complete stranger. Unbelievable! Indeed, "Prophets of the Dark Side", the last of the 6 atrocious "junior" Star Wars books written by Paul and Hollace Davids, ends with Leia and Han preparing for their wedding. Fair enough, that book was set about 3 years before this one, but the commitment was always there.

Prince Isolder is pictured on the cover as a "Fabio" type - the muscle-bound lunk who decorates so many of the "romance" genre novels. This naturally brings comparison between this book and the insipid love stories, but there is also room for comparison with Fantasy novels - after all, it has witches and monsters enough.

To play Teneniel Djo, I would cast Renee O'Connor ["Gabrielle" in "Xena: Warrior Princess"]. Not only does she fit the book's description of the character, she also has lots of experience in filming Swords & Sorcery! :)

Rating: 60%

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