In Martha Wells’ new novel Star Wars Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge (out Sept. 24) Princess Leia gets the spotlight. Considering that Del Rey’s ongoing line of Expanded Universe books have charted more than 40 years of Her Worship’s life, what more is there to learn? Easy. Wells is diving deep into the aftermath of the most traumatic part of Leia’s life: the destruction of her home planet, Alderaan. Razor’s Edge is about how, two years after the events of A New Hope, Leia encounters survivors of Alderaan who’ve responded to their loss in a very different, and much more violent, way than she has.
“I think the destruction of Alderaan is such a huge, dark, apocalyptic moment in the middle of an exciting adventure story, and that makes it difficult to address,” Wells says of why previous Star Wars storytelling has often glossed over the planet’s destruction. “It’s such a terrible moment for Leia, it’s going to affect everything she feels and says and does for the rest of her life. She’ll never be free of it, never be past it, she just has to be live with it. And I think to a large extent it would be like that for all the survivors. It was just very interesting to me to think about how different individuals would deal with it, and what their reactions would be, and how it would change them.”
The period of the Original Trilogy has already been largely explored — not just in the movies, but in Marvel’s line of Star Wars comics from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and, of course, Alan Dean Foster’s classic Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, considered the first Expanded Universe novel. “I actually read the old Marvel comics and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye when they came out, but I didn’t go back and read them again,” Wells says. “I was a huge Star Wars fan, especially right after the movies came out, and wrote and read a lot of fan fiction set during that period. I did watch A New Hope again, but I’d spent so much time and imagination in that period when I was in high school and college that immersing myself back in it was pretty easy.”
There have been a lot of different interpretations of Leia over the years, many of which emphasize her skills as a diplomat. In Razor’s Edge, Wells wanted to capture the fierce Leia who could blast her way out of the Death Star’s detention block. “I think the key is not just seeing Leia as a stereotypical strong woman character, but as someone who is young but is a leader, who has taken on huge responsibilities, but also as someone who has an epic temper and can be sarcastic, and can make mistakes,” Wells says. “She’s not a perfect princess, she’s a person with flaws and vulnerabilities who manages to do what she needs to do anyway, and I think those things were conveyed in Carrie Fisher’s performance.”
Read on for an exclusive excerpt from the novel.
From the Book, WARS: EMPIRE AND REBELLION: RAZOR’S EDGE by Martha Wells. Copyright (c) 2013 by Martha Wells. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved
Metara invited them to sit down. Leia took a seat on one of the couches, and Han flopped down beside her, seemingly unconcerned. Terae’s gaze flicked over them suspiciously, and Leia tried to see her group through the other woman’s eyes: Han dangerous, Sian cool and calm, and Kifar stoic. Leia had no idea what she looked like. She suspected she just looked angry.
She watched Metara silently. She wasn’t interested in exchanging pleasantries, especially as there was no telling how much this delay might already be hurting the injured aboard the merchant ship. She waited to hear what Metara wanted to say.
Metara broke the silence abruptly. “We didn’t watch Alderaan be destroyed and then suddenly decide to become pirates. That isn’t what happened.”
Leia inclined her head slightly. “What did happen?”
Metara took a deep breath. “We were in the outer perimeter of the system. We intercepted some Imperial transmissions and realized that an attack was taking place. We set a course for Alderaan but didn’t arrive in time. We never actually saw the Death Star.” Her expression tightened at the name, as if it still cost her something to say it aloud. Leia knew how that felt. “Our sensors and communications were taken out by the blast wave, and we had to stop and make repairs. We had no idea what had happened, at first. Then we were finally able to make our way back and picked up the edge of the debris field. It was . . . a terrible moment.”
Watching Metara intently, Leia realized that the captain had thought a lot about how she would explain what had happened, though it was doubtful that she had ever cast Leia in the role of the person she would be explaining it to. Perhaps she had rehearsed the speech in her thoughts, imagining herself justifying her actions to her commanding officer, or one of her parents, or a mentor. That didn’t bode well. It meant that Metara had been shoring up her defenses for a long time.
When Leia didn’t respond, Kelvan said, “Everyone on the crew had lost . . . everyone, everything. Our families came from Chianar, Aldera . . .” At the mention of the Alderaanian capital, he shifted in embarrassment and looked away, as if suddenly remembering who Leia was. That she had lost everyone, too.
Her voice a challenge, Terae said, “Where were you, Your Highness? When it happened.”
“I was aboard the Death Star,” Leia said, keeping her tone cool, hoping she was betraying nothing. She had rehearsed this, too, and performed it so often she could do it as evenly as if she were speaking of some minor diplomatic incident.
Terae stared, and Metara’s brow knit. Aghast, Kelvan said, “I thought that was a rumor.”
“There are many rumors about what happened, but that one is true. I . . . escaped,” she said, not looking at Han, “not long after. I was on Yavin Four when the Death Star was destroyed.”
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