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With Carrie Fisher’s recent passing, it’s important to understand what one of her most notable roles had become, both with Fisher’s own contributions and with other artist’s interpretations. The canon Star Wars novel, Bloodline, follows Princess Leia well after the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and details this character’s efforts in stabilizing a freshly shaken government. Along with being a fantastic and enrapturing read, Bloodline enlightens the reader on 4 important things to understand about one of the best characters from the Original Trilogy:
SPOILERS ahead for Bloodline and The Force Awakens
Leia Rarely Saw Her Loved Ones:
After watching The Force Awakens, I mistakenly inferred that Han and Leia had a relatively close relationship until they lost Ben. Bloodline shows that this is far from the case—Leia and Han didn’t just go back to “the only thing [they were] ever good at” after losing their son—they’d already been doing so for years before that. We come to learn early in the novel that, two decades after the destruction of the second Death Star, Leia and Han had “been apart too often in their marriage. Too long… Leia had remained stuck… mired in the political muck.” Yet, even after Leia has this realization in the first act of the book, and the rest of the novel describes her repeated attempts to escape the political warzone she’s in, the story only ends with her and Han still separated by different duties.
She never even sees her son, Ben, in the novel, and what little hints we get about Luke tend to show that he’s rarely in the picture. The implications of such loneliness may be explored later in Star Wars: Episode 8, but for now it’s clear that Leia rarely saw those she loved between the Original Trilogy and Episode 7. Perhaps this familiarity with loneliness and separation—most likely endured in the same way she stoically coped with the destruction of Alderaan—explains how she maintained so much composure after the tragedy in the end of The Force Awakens.
She Hasn’t Forgiven Vader (and might never forgive Kylo Ren):
Several times throughout Bloodline, Leia converses and ponders over the actions of her biological father. At one point after telling a fellow Senator about the time Vader tortured her, she mused about how “Luke had told her of their father’s last hours. He had renounced darkness, saved Luke, and become Anakin Skywalker. Whenever Luke told the story, a beatific smile lit up his face; his memories of that event gave him a level of comfort and even joy that sustained him. Those were memories Leia couldn’t share.” Just before thinking of this unshared peace, Leia even explained, “Sometimes I felt as if the only thing that kept me going in the aftermath of Alderaan was the strength of my hatred for Vader.”
These insights into Leia’s mind, which are repeatedly visited throughout the book, show just how starkly different Leia’s relationship with Vader was from Luke’s. In Return of the Jedi, Luke looked to Vader with hope, and was able to find peace in his redemption. Leia, however, fueled herself with the rage that she found against her father, and even when he’d been gone for two decades, she found no comfort in his attempt at a deathbed repentance. This could clearly have an impact on the story in the Sequel Trilogy—if Kylo Ren somehow yearned for the forgiveness of his mother, it’d be intriguing to see how she reacts. Given what occurs in Bloodline and how Kylo Ren replicated Vader’s actions by eliminating what Leia likely loved most at the time, she may have difficulty ever granting him mercy for what he did.
She’s Extremely Selfless:
As troubled and hardened as she is, Leia may still be one of the most selfless characters in Star Wars. Such an inference is easy to make just given her backstory: she was an orphan, raised in a loving home and given a position within the Empire’s unstoppable government—and yet she pursued a rebellious path, regardless of the dangers such a trail led to. Even after her crew on Tantive IV was destroyed by stormtroopers, her body was tortured by Darth Vader himself, and her people were annihilated by the Death Star, she still refused to give in to her enemy’s demands. She fought the Empire through every step of the war and only sought to comfort or command others for the greater good.
Bloodline continues this trend of service, and it highlights the tolls such dedication takes. Leia embarks on several dangerous missions throughout the novel: she investigates a purported Hutt-controlled gang, puts a tracker on herself and is “caught” by a mob boss to ascertain his position, and risks her life in several skirmishes to gather intel for the Republic. She does all of this while juggling a term as a Senator and begrudgingly maintaining a campaign for a new government position. Because of such a hectic, dangerous lifestyle dedicated to the galaxy, she seems to give up all her personal free time and any relationship she might have been able to enjoy; in fact, her self-sacrificing nature is the reason she never sees her loved ones, and despite understanding this, she continues working hard.
Bloodline especially highlights Leia’s selflessness in one scene with Han: after surviving a life-endangering mission and dutifully resuming a campaign for a grueling term in office, Leia is told by the scoundrel, “Don’t apologize to me for taking this too seriously, okay? You put duty first. Drives me crazy sometimes, but that’s who you are.” After hearing this assertion through a galaxy-spanning call, Leia attempts to console Han by telling him they’ll eventually get to spend time together, saying, “Someday.” Yet immediately after this, the reader sees that “The words sounded like a promise. But Leia couldn’t make herself believe that day would ever really come… and she knew Han couldn’t, either. Someday was the sun disappearing behind a cloud, a morning lost to darkness long before night should have come.” With this single paragraph (that is also constantly reinforced throughout the book) we can see just how altruistic Leia is, and how she endures the fact that her moral sacrifices will always take a toll on her life—and even, sometimes, others.
She’s Still Awesome
As mentioned previously, Leia dedicates almost all of her time to either helping or saving the galaxy. However, this dedication doesn’t just involve long Senate meetings or even venturing out on dangerous missions where someone else does the hard work—for Leia, it means taking charge of her allies and destroying her enemies in a way that is uniquely charming to the last. Even her aide tries to temper her particularly confident gusto in one scene:
“But, Princess Leia!” C-3PO’s voice rose in alarm. “You can’t! The mission sounds terribly dangerous.”
“Threepio, in the quarter century you’ve served me, have you ever known me to run away from danger?”
“Well. No.” The droid considered this a moment before adding hopefully, “Yet you might eventually develop a stronger instinct for survival.”
Leia couldn’t help laughing. “Don’t count on it.”
Leia’s observation of herself undoubtedly rings true in the rest of Bloodline. Throughout the novel, she’s unafraid of confronting any sympathizers of the old Empire. She is the first to detect a terrorist attack and move everyone from danger, the only operative on her team who runs deeper into a criminal’s city—and kill a mob boss while doing so - and the lead investigator that uncovers a coalition of radical paramilitary groups preparing to fight the New Republic. Each of these moments—and many more within the novel—continue displaying Leia’s skill, courage, and gusto, all confirming that she is still the awesome Princess-warrior that we came to know and love in the Original Trilogy.
Carrie Fisher: “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”
Leia Organa is an incredible character. Throughout the films, we grew to understand that she was an influential, intelligent fighter, and Bloodline only reinforces and enlightens our perception of her. When I first drafted this post, I had hoped that we would continue to see Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of her incredible character for several more years—but now, we can only hope that Episode 8 will give us one final look at this fantastic persona, even more deeply exploring the lonely, hardened, selfless, and incredible woman that was seen throughout Bloodline. I’m optimistic that more books will do the same. May Carrie Fisher rest in peace, and may we continue to remember what she added to this world through her introductory portrayal of such an inspiring character.