The Courtship of Princess Leia
|Cover artist||Drew Struzan|
|May 1, 1994|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Preceded by||Solo Command|
|Followed by||A Forest Apart|
The Courtship of Princess Leia is a 1994 bestselling Star Wars book by Dave Wolverton. It continued the streak of New York Times Bestsellers, which started with 1991's Heir to the Empire. The Courtship of Princess Leia is set in the Star Wars expanded universe, and deals with the downfall of Warlord Zsinj and the circumstances leading to the marriage of Han Solo and Princess Leia.
Though the Battle of Endor resulted in the destruction of the Emperor and Darth Vader, along with the best of the Imperial Starfleet, the remnants of the Empire are still a danger. One of the recently formed New Republic's most dire foes is a splinter faction of the former Empire, led by Warlord Zsinj. Zsinj is a cunning strategist whose skills have earned him the allegiance of almost a full third of the entire galaxy. Both the Imperial Remnant and the New Republic have dedicated considerable forces to ending his reign. But Zsinj has possession of one of the few Super Star Destroyers left, and whenever nearly cornered, slips away to a secret stronghold where the SSD Iron Fist is repaired.
At the opening of the novel, Han Solo, who from aboard the Mon Remonda has been prosecuting the search for this hidden fastness, wearily returns to the recently captured Coruscant expecting an end to the long separation between him and his beloved, Princess Leia, head of the New Republic. To his great surprise, when his vessel drops out of hyperspace and into the Coruscant system, what appears are a number of fearsome Imperial Star Destroyers, Hapan Battle Dragons, and Hapes Nova Class battle cruiser. Eventually, Han learns that the Hapes cluster had sent a delegation of some manner to the New Republic. He lands and enters the Imperial Palace, where, with the help of C-3PO, who translates and comments on the formal diplomatic reception, he watches the Hapes delegation present to Leia a number of stunning gifts: the dozen Star Destroyers Han had seen, a Hapan gun of command, a small plant resembling a bonsai which promotes longevity and intelligence, and the hand of the Hapes cluster's ruler Ta'a Chume's son, Prince Isolder, in holy matrimony.
The effect is devastating; Leia nearly accepts, driving Han into a frenzy of fear and jealousy. Han eventually wanders into a cantina in the lower reaches of Coruscant, where he participates in a high-stakes sabacc game. One of his opponents runs out of liquid financial instruments and instead proffers real estate: a deed to an entire habitable planet, Dathomir. Han thinks he has found a gift which would prove his worthiness to Leia and compare favorably with the gifts of Isolder (and provide a place to resettle the expatriates of Alderaan). When Leia examines his gift and points out that he has been conned (since Dathomir was in the section of the galaxy controlled by Zsinj), Han is further devastated. Isolder compounds insult with injury by denigrating the Millennium Falcon and offering Han a Nova battle cruiser if he abandons his quest to win Leia's heart. Han snaps. He abducts Leia using the Gun of Command, and flees with her and Chewbacca aboard his recently refitted Millennium Falcon to Dathomir. Prince Isolder pursues him with his Hapan fleet. He arrives at Dathomir shortly after Han despite Han's headstart, as Isolder is aided by the Jedi Master Luke Skywalker who uses his Force powers to navigate a shorter (but still safe) path through hyperspace, shaving time off accepted conventional routes. There they both discovered that Zsinj had truly laid claim to Dathomir—in orbit around it was the Iron Fist, a number of other capital ships, and the complete orbital shipyard Han had hunted for so long.
The Millennium Falcon had been forced to land on Dathomir itself, where it is captured by the Imperial garrison Zsinj had marooned on the surface years ago. Isolder sets out in his Miy'til fighter accompanied by Luke's X-wing fighter while the Hapan fleet fights a covering action before it retreats into hyperspace to inform the New Republic, Imperial Remnant, and the Hapes Consortium of the whereabouts of Zsinj heretofore secret redoubt.
On the surface, Isolder and Luke discover the remnants of the star-borne Jedi training academy, the Chu'unthor. Luke had seen recordings noting how Yoda and a number of other Jedi knights had failed to retrieve the library of the Chu'unthor, due to interference by the Witches of Dathomir. The best they had been able to do was seal the vessel thoroughly, so thoroughly that only centuries later the first intruder would need a lightsaber to gain access. As they peruse the vessel, however, Isolder and Luke are captured by a Dathomiri witch, who enslaves them and takes them to her village.
Having learned about Han Solo's presence on the planet, Zsinj had dictated a combination of ultimatum and deal with the head of the Nightsisters, Gethzerion: they would give him Solo to torture and execute as he liked, and he would give them an Imperial shuttle to pilot where they like. If they did not, he would keep his "nightcloak" (an interconnected network of geostationary satellites, which reflected all solar emissions back into space) intact, which would slowly freeze Dathomir, ending all life on the planet.
Eventually, they infiltrate the Imperial garrison and steal the Falcon, piloting it out into the ongoing Battle of Dathomir. Solo allows the Iron Fist to acquire the Falcon with a tractor beam; once it is within the deflector shields, he breaks it free of the beam lock, piloting his vessel over the superstructure of the gigantic vessel. Arriving upon the main bridge, he launches two concussion missiles, destroying the bridge, killing Zsinj, and knocking out the ventral shields. With Iron Fist so exposed, the Hapan Battle Dragons move into position with their ion cannons, disabling Iron Fist. Defeated, Zsinj's empire soon crumbles. Shortly thereafter, Solo and Leia marry, having realized during their intrepid journey together that they loved each other. Isolder is consoled by the fact he has fallen in love with his captor, Teneniel Djo.
Reception for The Courtship of Princess Leia was predominantly positive and the book was a New York Times Bestseller in both its hardback and paperback formats. Both The Hamilton Spectator and the Milwaukee Sentinel have given positive reviews for the novel and the reviewer for the Milwaukee Sentinel commented that the book continued the "stellar tradition of George Lucas' Star Wars movies". Trade reviews were also mostly positive, and Publishers Weekly opined that although parts of the book were disappointing, "the novel [raised] expectations for Wolverton's future works once he moves on to other things". Tor.com included the book in a list of "Where to Begin with Star Wars Books", as they saw it as "one of the craziest Star Wars novels ever written" and that "after you read it you won’t be able to think of any other way that Han and Leia’s relationship could have progressed towards marriage".
- "PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS: May 7, 1995". NYT. May 7, 1995. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
- "BEST SELLERS: May 1, 1994". NYT. May 1, 1994. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
- PIASKOSKI, R. THOMAS (May 21, 1994). "'Star Wars' lives with 'Princess Leia' novel". Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
- Tominac, Philip (May 23, 2003). "Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia (review)". The Spectator - Hamilton, Ont. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
- "STAR WARS: THE COURTSHIP OF PRINCESS LEIA (review)". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
- "Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia (review)". Library Journal;March 15, 1994, Vol. 119 Issue 5, p104. Archived from the original on October 9, 2014. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
- "The Courtship of Princess Leia (Review)". Booklist. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
- "The Courtship of Princess Leia (review)". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
- Asher-Perrin, Emmet. "Where to Begin With Star Wars Books". Tor.com. Retrieved November 18, 2013.