Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Courtship of Princess Leia

A few notes before we begin.

This was the sixth book published in what would become known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe. It was originally published in May of 1994. In publication order it came in between book 1 and 2 of the Jedi Academy series by Kevin Anderson.

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In terms of timeline this book takes place about 8 years after the Battle of Yavin which is the main way we measure time in the Star Wars Universe. Leia mentions in the very next book, Tatooine Ghost, that it has been 8 years since she met Han. That book takes place 6-8 months after the events of The Courtship of Princess Leia.

In terms of timeline this is 10th book in chronological order post Return of the Jedi. For the most part these original works would lay the groundwork for what became the Expanded Universe. The main plot point here is the introduction of Dathomir and the Force Witches and of course the Night Sisters. The major (and I am using that term lightly) character introduction is Prince Isolder of Hapes. This is the origin story for what would become a crucial plot point later in the EU as Jacen Solo slips to the Dark Side and starts a second Galactic Civil War.

This book was written by Dave Wolverton. It should be noted this was his only Star Wars stand alone novel. He would go on from this work to write many short stories for the anthologies that would be published later. Yes that is a very important fact that will come into play.

With all of that being said this is not a very good book. I remember when I read in the first time way back in the ’90’s that it was very disappointing. This time around reading the EU in chronological it was far more enjoyable after Lucas Books went back and ret-conned a lot of the story concerning Warlord Zsinj. However for this post we will deal with this book as a stand alone story. Just a small piece of the EU, and one of the first pieces…albeit not much was carried on because this book was so bad and so poorly received by the fans.

This is what a lot of people forget about the EU. When Disney threw out this particular Star Wars timeline we were all outraged because we had spent so much time and money reading this stories. However, there is a lot of crap in the EU…and to be very frank this is one of the largest pieces of crap. With ten thousand reviews on Good Reads it has a 3.6 star rating. That is basically where I would rate but that is based on my current re-read of the EU in chronological order. It is far more enjoyable that way story wise as instead of skipping around events a lot I am getting the story as it happens. I also got the benefit of the ret-con contained within the X Wing series book that set this book up very well.

One of my biggest complaints of the EU is that Lucas books would go back and add stories to the timeline. That is why I did not like Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor because it came so late in the run and ended up so early in the timeline. With that being said this book is a tough read. While I am not a big fan of the powers that be going back and adding stories to the timeline…in this case it was justified because this book fails in many ways.

My largest complaint is that Han Solo, Hero of the Rebellion and General in the New Republic, kidnaps Leia. Somehow that gets justified away because they fall back in love with one another…but seriously he kidnaps her and faces no punishment for that crime. I am pretty sure if I just kidnapped someone, much less a Princess and/or an Ambassador my white ass would be in prison. I get it fiction is all about suspending disbelief but this is an act that should have led to some sort of punishment.

Which leads directly to my second biggest gripe with this book. The way Han kidnaps Leia. Using the Gun of Command from the Hapes Consortium. This is not a piece of technology we know a lot about and as far as I can remember it never gets mentioned again. Thankfully at that.

Goodreads user Meggie so perfectly summed up my next biggest gripe that I am just gonna sample her words, if famous ass rappers can do it so can I. I am actually going to give her credit for this argument because it is well thought out…even though I did not agree with some of her other 10 biggest flaws of this book.

Meggie Says:

10. LUKE FREAKING SKYWALKER
Chronologically, CoPL comes before Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, where Luke behaves much as he did in the original trilogy–by which I mean that his Force powers are nothing too extravagant. He participates in lightsaber duels, glimpses the future, faces a Dark Jedi, and hones his instincts. You’d expect Luke to act much the same in this novel.

Nope. Instead, he seems to have sprung fully formed from the pages of the Jedi Academy trilogy; Luke performs daring feats years before he faced the reborn Emperor and proclaimed himself a Master. It doesn’t fit into the Expanded Universe timeline.

Additionally, Luke acts like the most obnoxious kind of Jedi: the constantly proselytizing teacher. He even instructs Isolder (as non-Force sensitive as they come) in the ways of the Light Side. When captured by Teneniel, Luke calmly goes along with it and tries to explain that gosh, she really shouldn’t rape him, it’s not nice. He makes no moves to escape, and I don’t buy it. To reference Zahn again: in Heir to the Empire, Luke didn’t escape from Mara in the forests of Myrkr because the ysalamiri blocked the Force, and they both were in the same bad situation. Here, Luke can access the Force perfectly fine, so he has no reason to stick with Teneniel. (She wants you to be her sexy slave, Luke. Get out while you still can!)

And the climax of the story, where Luke faces down Gethzerion, ruptures all the blood vessels in his face, and yet still manages to heal himself and save the day….I can’t even discuss it, I’ll get too angry and degenerate into senseless typing again.

The only thing I can add to that is this is the problem with publishing books out of chronological order. Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy proved that there was a market for continued Star Wars books so the good people at Lucas Books wanted to try and fill in the timeline between the end of Return of the Jedi and that trilogy. In some of their efforts (X-Wing Series) they were highly successful. This installment falls well short of success, and that seems to indicate to me that they went with the wrong writer. It seems to be a lesson that Lucas Books learned well as Wolverton was never again allowed to write a stand alone novel. For the most part those writers who nailed their assignments in the EU were given many chances to write additional novels. Instead Wolverton was given the task of pumping out short stories…which is probably a good thing.

I rated this book 4 stars on Good Reads because a bad Star Wars book is better than no Star Wars book. And because reading the EU in chronological order adds something to this book as the ret-conning done in the X Wing series books centering on Wraith Squadron really built up the characters of this book. However this is probably the worst book in the entire EU. So much so that I wish Disney would not include it in its Legends series and we could all just forget that this was one of the first Star Wars books we read. As a stand alone novel and story I don’t think it even rates 1 star.

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I find it very curious that they changed the cover when this book was offered as a paperback. While this book made the New York Times bestseller list in its original form…many thought that the original cover confused the fans. Many thought of this book as a trashy romance novel. Personally I think Star Wars could use different ways of telling the stories, but not in one of the building blocks of what became a vast publication powerhouse. I would very much like to see Disney devout a trilogy of books to this relationship and the fallout of it that we saw in The Force Awakens. I would also very much like to write said trilogy in the new Disney timeline.

Help Support Star Wars Book Club and add a copy of The Courtship of Princess Leia to your collection by using the following Amazon link:
The Courtship of Princess Leia (Star Wars)

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