Since the debut of the new canon line of novels, comics, games and more in 2014, it’s been an uphill battle for creators who’ve chosen to play in that sandbox. Despite a plethora of quality content being produced on the publishing side of things, the years that encompassed the Sequel Trilogy of films being made saw a notable lack of storytelling surrounding the main Skywalker Saga characters, outside of their confines in the original trilogy era. That’s not to say they didn’t pop up occasionally in post-Return of the Jedi stories, but it was a rare treat when their appearances were ever more than cameos. And this also wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; I have a fondness for most of the novels released during this push that steered clear of any Skywalker drama.
But as of 2022, after conditioning us to enjoy Star Wars content that more-often-than-not focused its attention away from the Skywalker Saga, it feels as though the dam that’s been slowly throttling mainline stories has finally burst. We received E. K. Johnston’s Queen’s Hope, a Padmé and Anakin-centric love story detailing their marriage, shortly followed by Brotherhood, Mike Chen’s Obi-Wan and Anakin story that bridged Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars animated series. We just recently got our first canon Luke Skywalker novel since 2015 in Adam Christopher’s Shadow of the Sith! And now to top off a tremendous run of novels, Beth Revis has dutifully written into canon the marriage and subsequent honeymoon of Han and Leia, and it is exceptional. Some spoilers to follow.
It’s one thing to write a tie-in work of fiction that adds a solid chapter to the larger narrative of a franchise. It’s another thing entirely to do so while successfully mining unexplored depths within characters the reader already knows and cares for. Revis handles this fabulously in The Princess and the Scoundrel. There isn’t a moment in the story where I questioned whether these characters would actually say this, or partake in that. This is very much the Han Solo and Leia Organa we’ve come to love.
We’re thrust into the story the very night of the celebration on Endor, as we follow the emotional toll the past four years of war has taken on our heroes. Luke mourns the loss of his father, yet Leia cannot think to ever forgive the man who tortured her and made her watch as Alderaan was destroyed. It’s a brilliant internal battle faced throughout the book. The audience has had nearly 40 years to appreciate the significance that Leia is Vader’s daughter, but to her it’s only been moments. It’s a through-line that weaves itself wonderfully into Claudia Gray’s Bloodline book from 2016.
Which is another thing that struck me about how well this novel is crafted. The book works particularly well on the timeline. There are a number of canon stories that occur shortly after Return of the Jedi, namely the Battlefront II game, and Shattered Empire, both of which are touched on in some capacity, and in ways that don’t require you to be aware of the other titles’ existence. Visit our timeline notes on this entry for more.
What worried me, going into the novel, was the story’s prerequisite need to advertise Disney’s latest Star Wars venture at the Galaxy’s Edge theme parks, the Galactic Starcruiser. The two-day, two-night luxury Starcruiser experience aboard the Halcyon takes guests across the galaxy, all while they participate in various story’s threaded throughout the ship’s cabin and crew. The Princess and the Scoundrel, while very much a novel that stands on its own, is in truth a glorified tie-in to the ship’s storied history, as the two are gifted a honeymoon retreat aboard the Halcyon after their wedding. In the past, books like Black Spire and comics like Halcyon Legacy have proven to be almost solely focused on showcasing the many encounters and treats you’re likely to experience in Galaxy’s Edge or the Galactic Starcruiser.
While there are moments in The Princess and the Scoundrel that feel like a tour guide, they’re brief, enjoyable, and truly fit well within the context of the story it’s trying to tell. Honestly, after everything is said and done, I kind of wish the time spent on the Halcyon was greater. The book balances the care one would expect from an event as momentous as the wedding of Han and Leia, while treading a fine line through established canon, and expanding how we view the character’s motives, with its need to showcase a new Disney attraction. And yet, there’s true meat to the story which gets to the heart of it being Star Wars.
While the war may have been declared “won” by the Rebel Alliance, the threat of the Empire still looms in the shadows. Despite their being on their honeymoon, Leia is still actively strategizing the Rebellion’s next moves and reaching out to worlds in need as an ambassador, and Han’s simply caught in the midst of it all. The world they end up embarking to, thanks to a bit of diplomatic elbow grease on Leia’s part, is facing serious ecological collapse.
The novel surprisingly detours away from the luxury of wealth and comfort aboard the ship, to a cold and deadly moon. It pulls away from pleasure and throws us into gritty discomfort, one that mirrors many of our real-world issues turned up to the max. Earthquakes rock the surface of the ice moon of Madurs, disturbing the fabric of life both above and below the ice. If nothing is done, the moon has months left before it’s core collapses completely. While the characters on Madurs are mostly forgettable, this notion of turning away from prosperity and peace to help where the need is greatest rang true for me.
The novel is written from two distinct points of view, that of Han and that of Leia. Each chapter successively trades one point of view for the other, and it’s a wonderful back and forth. What’s even better is the audiobook chose to bring on two distinct narrators to voice the dual POVs. Saskia Maarleveld and Mark Thompson, both veteran Star Wars narrators, do wonderful work voicing these character’s respective chapters. And the final chapter, featuring both talents, was especially touching. If you have an Audible credit to spend, this work is well worth it.
Overall The Princess and the Scoundrel is a lovely ride. It’ll make you rethink the ending of Return of the Jedi. It gives new life to characters we’ve known for decades. It moves in the reader the desire to do more for those around you. I found myself choked up at times. I think you’ll find it doing the same for you. Revis has done an incredible job bringing this take to life and it’s a great introduction to Star Wars publishing. I hope you give it a shot. Grab your copy here!