Strong Women of Star Wars: Books to Inspire
Princess Leia stepped on the scene in 1977 with Star Wars A New Hope. She was independent, feisty, and knew her way around a blaster. I didn't catch on to Star Wars until I was a teenager in the 90's when the original trilogy was re-released in theaters; but from the moment I saw Princess Leia stare down Darth Vader in the hallways of the Tantive IV, I knew she was a character I could relate to. The only problem? She was the only one. Following the original trilogy, Star Wars stories continued in what was called The Expanded Universe. It included books written from the 1970's into the early 2000's. Although these stories are now considered Star Wars Legends instead of canon, so many characters were introduced during this time, including one of my favorite feisty gals, Mara Jade.
The late 90s also brought a new female character, Padme, who happens to be Princess Leia's mom. It was clear from the beginning of Phantom Menance that Padme was a force to be reckoned with, and where Leia's strong willed personality came from. Fast-forward to now, and we have so many more that have joined the ranks of strong female characters. Ahsoka Tano, Vi Moradi, Jyn Erso, and Hera Syndulla, just to name a few. We've also seen a surge in female writers given the opportunity to write for these amazing Star Wars characters. The authors writing canon today, really take care of the characters and let their personalities and the dynamic they bring to Star Wars shine through. Though, let's not forget the Extended Universe, those legends that came before. As I said, Mara Jade should not be ignored as a character who brought something to the universe that was very much needed at the time.
I have seven books that I consider to be essential reads for anyone who loves these leading Star Wars ladies, and for Star Wars Reads month, I'm sharing them with you!
by Claudia Gray (Canon)
Leia is the strongest woman in the Star Wars universe and my all time favorite. As I said before, she was the first and only one for a long time. Bloodline gives readers and Leia fans something we crave, and that is to know what happens to her after the events of Return of the Jedi. Bloodline starts six years before the events of The Force Awakens and reveals Leia as a Senator working to try and unite the New Republic, much like she did with the Alliance. Between infighting, seedy politicians, Imperial loyalists, and kingpins, there hasn't been much peace within the New Republic. Some are calling for a First Senator to be elected, as one who would hold enough power to bring everyone together. As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia is cautious of one person holding so much power, even when it's suggested she be that person. Even with this decision hanging over her head, there is another threat from the outskirts of the galaxy that may make the path of First Senator her only option.
I loved this story because it brought to light the feelings Leia has about being the daughter of Darth Vader and all the implications that brings. It's moving to see her grapple with those emotions. It's also the first time we get a look at her and Han's relationship before we see them again in The Force Awakens and there's even a little time spent on her son Ben. I really wanted to see more of that relationship in the book. Bloodline shows Leia as the strong and capable princess we know her to be.
by E.K. Johnston (Canon)
What can I say about Ahsoka? If you know her character, then you already love her. She is absolutely my favorite new addition to the Star Wars universe. A favorite of all Clone Wars and Rebels animated series fans, she is a Jedi padawan trying to learn the ropes from her Jedi Master Anakin. She's a quick study though and through both series, we learn just how much she deserves to be high up in the ranks of strong Star Wars women. The book Ahsoka, takes a look at her life shortly after Order 66 was issued. She is dealing with the effects of the order as a lone wolf traveling the galaxy. She lands on a planet with people in need of help, but she's unsure of belonging to something bigger than herself again. Can she face the Empire's injustice and help those in need?
I am in love with the character of Ahsoka. She fits so well into the category of a strong female Star Wars character. Her headstrong and clever ways made her the only padawan that could put up with Anakin and his teachings! What makes me love her most is her courageous spirit and willingness to help those in need. Her journey in understanding her place as a Jedi is not always straight forward and seeing her leave the order was painful for all fans. What the book Ahsoka shows us however, is that she may have turned her back on the Jedi order, but she still carries what is necessary to be a Jedi on the inside. Ahsoka is still someone we can all look up to.
by Delilah S. Dawson (Canon)
The book Black Spire is directly related to Disney's Galaxy's Edge in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It's the story of Vi Moradi, a Resistance spy hand picked by General Organa to find a new base in the backwater world of Batuu. She is accompanied by Archex an ex-First Order storm trooper. However, he's not just any stormtrooper; he is actually Captain Cardinal, the man who tortured Vi when she was captured by the First Order. A rag tag crew of misfits call Batuu home and aren't too welcoming to members of the Resistance, especially when a transport of stormtroopers lands looking for Vi. In order to survive she must find and rely on the good-hearted outcasts she's starting to call friends as she embarks on a journey to spark the fire of resistance on Batuu.
Vi is an amazing spitfire and it's easy to see why General Organa trusts her with a mission so critical. Much like the other strong women in Star Wars, she's not intimidated easily and has been through so much before she comes to Batuu, that she is strong, while partially broken at the same time. She's a raw character, and it's great to see her vulnerable but still have fight and hope left inside to get back up and complete her mission. Vi Moradi is a refreshing character who fits so well in the Star Wars universe, it's like she's been there all along. Also, when you go to Galaxy's Edge, look out for her. I met her earlier this year in Disney World and it felt like I'd stepped into her story. She asked me what I could bring to the Resistance, and I said hope; she liked that.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan
by Claudia Gray (Canon)
Leia: Princess of Alderaan introduces fans to 16 year old Leia in a coming of age story. It is a time before she learns of the Rebellion and the only weight on her mind is to prove herself to be worthy enough to be called the heir to the Alderaan throne. However during this challenging time, she notices her parents acting strange and distant. This behavior puts a curious Leia on a dangerous path that leaves the Empire watching her closely. And when she discovers what her parents are up to, she must decide if she will dedicate herself to the people of Alderaan as heir or become the rebel hero the galaxy desperately needs.
Princess of Alderaan is by far my favorite of all the Leia books I have read. In it we get to see a side of Leia that is so rare, I wish the book was longer! We find out she has a love before Han, that she had normal teenage hopes and dreams, and that she deeply loved her parents. The resilience and dedication she shows later in life is so apparent in her younger years. As I read I saw so many similarities to her mother Padme, it was heartbreaking to think they never met. Leia's character is written so well in this story, it just solidifies even more her place as a strong woman of Star Wars.
by E.K. Johnston (Canon)
Queen's Shadow is set between the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones and follows Padme Naberrie as she steps down from her royal duties as Queen of Naboo. The new Queen has asked her to represent Naboo in the Galactic Senate, making Padme unsure if she should accept this position. In the end, she decides it's best to continue serving her people. With her most trusted handmaidens she wades into the world of the senate, trying to figure out who she is and how to leave behind the Queen's shadow.
Padme is on the same level as Princess Leia for me. She's headstrong, confident, not easily intimidated, and loyal. She quickly became a favorite of mine after seeing her in The Phantom Menace. I love Queen's Shadow because Padme doesn't often get attention where her back story is concerned. She's also rarely seen or written about without being tied somehow to Anakin. Seeing her in her own world before she sees Anakin again and everything changes is refreshing, because her story ends so tragically. It's nice to get to know the feisty and clever girl she was and see how that reflects in her daughter.
Heir to the Empire
by Timothy Zahn (Legends)
The New Jedi Order Series
by Various Authors (Legends)
Although she's not considered canon, Mara Jade will always be one of my favorite female Star Wars characters. She's first introduced in Heir to the Empire, as someone with Force abilities who has been trained by the Emperor himself. She is called The Emperor's Hand, though no one except the Emperor knows who she is and what she can do. Mara's mission is to travel the galaxy doing the Emperor's bidding and causing harm to his enemies. That is, until he was killed by Darth Vader. Now Mara has no one and only clings to the last thing the Emperor said to her: "kill Luke Skywalker". She spends many years after the Emperor's death just trying to survive and eventually becomes a smuggler. During the events of Heir to the Empire, Mara has forgotten the Emperor's teachings and most of her Force ability, then she finally meets Luke Skywalker. However, instead of killing him, she saves his life, and he saves hers. Luke tries to teach her the ways of the force, but she pushes him away to focus on her duties as a smuggler. Mara's character grows throughout the of the Heir to the Empire trilogy and continues into The New Jedi Order series. Here she becomes a prominent main character, marries Luke, her once enemy, and they have a son named Ben.
Mara Jade is an amazingly strong female character who feels like she's always been part of the Star Wars universe. Her redemption from the dark side to the light side resonates well with other characters we know and love. When I was first introduced to her, I instantly connected. Her fiery spirit made me want to read more about her. As she grew more towards the light side, I was excited to see a bad-ass female (remember, this was before Ahoska) Jedi along side Luke's calm demeanor. One of the biggest problems (besides a few others) I have with the new Star Wars movies, is the absence of Mara Jade. She could have been easily worked into The Force Awakens, and if written correctly, would have caused fans to fall in love with her all over again. I think Luke needed someone and she is the best fit. In my opinion, Mara Jade ranks among the strong female characters of the Star Wars universe. Her story deserves to live on, even if it follows a different path than what was written in the Extended Universe.