As we continue down the road to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we read a brand new Princess Leia adventure–and we LOVE it, precious.
Title: Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure (Journey to STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS)
By: Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Science Fantasy, Middle Grade/Young Adult
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Publication Date: September 2015
Hardcover: 240 Pages
Princess Leia returns for an all-new adventure in this thrilling upper middle grade novel. Set between Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi, the story follows the warrior princess as she leads a ragtag group of rebels on a dangerous mission against the evil Galactic Empire.
Hidden in the story are also hints and clues about the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, making this a must-read for fans old and new!
Stand alone or series: Can be read as a standalone, but is one of three MG/YA novels following Han, Leia, and Luke)
How did we get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): Hardcover
I recently rewatched all six Star Wars movies in one go and although I love them dearly (well, maybe not so much Episodes I-III), it became so apparent to me how women get the short end of the stick in the movies. For starters, there aren’t a great number of female characters with important roles. And then the two main ones, Padmé and Leia, are not exactly well developed. We see a lot of potential for Padmé in The Phantom Menace, only to see that light extinguished in the subsequent movies and then Padmé gets the doubtful honour of actually dying in childbirth, of a broken heart. We get more out of Princess Leia – she is feisty, heroic, courageous, outspoken who hey, gets to survive and get a happy ending. Truly, a great character. On the other hand, we are told that she is tortured just before her home planet is destroyed in front of her eyes without getting to actually see how those affect her.
The impression I came away with in this most recent rewatch was: the movies don’t seem much interested in the inner lives of women at all.
Enter Moving Target, my first encounter with Leia in the tie-in books.
Taking place right after the defeat on Hoth, this story follows Leia as she sets herself up as a moving target so that Rebel Alliance can recover and regroup.
Moving Target shows Leia as a honour-bound leader, very much aware of her duties and as her place as a symbol of freedom – and everything that it entails, including not only the sacrifices she herself has to make but also those that others make in her name. This is the story that celebrates Leia’s inner life: her inner thoughts, her feelings, the toll that leadership and sacrifice take. This story shows a leader that is very much aware of the difficult choices presented to her; who is suffering of PTSD after she was horribly tortured in A New Hope; it shows how much the destruction of her home world has affected her.
It is also a story that is very much concerned about the meaning of freedom – of what we fight for. This is briefly addressed in the graphic novel Shattered Empire and expertly handled here by placing Leia in that horrible position of having to think of others before herself – remember, the man she loves has been frozen in carbonite and she can’t drop everything to go save him. But what does mean when we go on fighting, and fighting and never get to experience life beyond war?
Moving Target is short but not exactly sweet, especially when we get a glimpse of the present storyline in the prologue and epilogue: Leia, now a general, still fighting the remnants of the Empire. Out of all the books and stories produced prior to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this is by far, my favourite. It’s got depth, great characterisation, superb action and a moving story for my favourite Star Wars character. I hope this is a good sign for the coming movie.
Movie tie-in books, or tie-through books, are complicated creatures. Tie-in novels that span gaps between established films, following major characters, are even more complicated creatures–it’s incredibly tough to nail the tone and inner thoughts of these characters because readers approach the medium-jump with their own perceptions and interpretations (e.g. “BUT LEIA WOULD NEVER SAY THAT”). My bias is this: I am a reader and a long-time lover of Star Wars–not just the films (including the prequel era, which I still liked very much despite its many flaws and bad dialogue) but various extended books, comics, and TV shows (CLONE WARS FOREVER). And when I saw these middle grade novels on the docket leading up to The Force Awakens–and a LEIA novel, with Cecil Castellucci at the helm!!!–I was ecstatic. I was also a little scared, because sometimes Star Wars burns you. (Any Asajj Ventress fans in the house? STAY AWAY FROM Dark Disciple.)
And you know what? Moving Target did NOT disappoint. This is one of the best Leia stories I’ve read–hell, it’s one of the best movie tie-ins I’ve read. The fact that this book grapples with issues like responsibility/duty, loss, love, and the realities of war and diplomacy–and all of this in a middle grade setting? That makes it all the sweeter and more profound.
In other words: I loved Moving Target.
Like Ana says, women in the Star Wars films get a bad rap–Padme of the films has so much wonderful potential and importance, but meets a pretty crappy end (I would add a footnote here to say that the Padme of The Clone Wars animated series has all of the awesome spunk and agency and actively challenges Anakin in the ways I so wished Portman’s Padme did on the big screen–but I digress). Leia, though, she was always my first real love–my first real princess love. (True story: pronouncing “Thea” is like “Leia.”)
In Moving Target, we see Leia as she grapples with three major issues: the survivor’s guilt she feels a being the last member of the House Organa of Alderaan, the internal struggle she faces when dealing with her emotions for Han and her loyalty to the Rebel cause, and the conflict she feels at setting a decoy rallying point to distract the Empire from the real Rebel objective. These three different issues are beautifully examined not only through Leia’s viewpoint, but from the members of her ad hoc crew, as well. (There’s the commando Lockmarcha, the comms specialist Kidi, the pilot Nien, and the tinkerer Antrot–all of whom are on Leia’s decoy team.) There are adventures aplenty as Leia and her squad set up three decoy beacons across the other side of the galaxy, and venture together to buy the Rebels more time (a commodity they desperately need).
Bonus points for awesome interactions between Leia and Mon Mothma.
I loved this book very, very much, and recommend it as one of the best tie-in novels of the Star Wars universe. Trust me and Ana–read it.
Ana: 8 – Excellent
Thea: 8 – Excellent, I love it, I want more of it