Here it is, the one you've been waiting for! Prepare for a rant of epic proportions. I am willing to bet that any Han and Leia fan, upon their discovery of the EU in general, was incredibly excited to learn that there was a whole book devoted to how Han and Leia finally got married. And then you read it. And then you wondered who the hell those people in the book were, because it certainly wasn't Han and Leia.
That up there would be the artwork on the hardcover. There was a new cover for the paperback because apparently sales weren't quite doing as well as expected, and they feared because maybe people were mislead by the cover, thinking it was a romance novel and had no action. That would certainly be a misconception because there isn't really the slightest hint of romance in it. Gods forbid you maybe put some romance in a book that is supposedly about two people in love and getting married.
This book sort of holds a bit of nostalgia for me because it was the first EU book I ever read. This was actually just coincidence and not because I went seeking out the Han and Leia book specifically. It was summer vacation and I remember being at some store with my mom, perusing a random rack of books and suddenly seeing this:
That'd be that paperback cover meant to show that there was more action. Or that this story takes place during ROTJ. One of the two. I knew some books existed thanks to an equally Star Wars obsessed cousin, but I hadn't read one. I had some time on my hands and decided to give it a shot, especially if the book was going to be about Han and Leia. My mom bought it for me along with the soon-to-be-reviewed-here Assault at Selonia, since it was the only other Star Wars book on the rack. I gave that one to my brother to start, only for him to wind up disappointed because it was the second book in a trilogy in which we did not own the first. Oh, well. We got that sorted out eventually.
This was one of the first books I ever read just to read a book. I avoided reading assignments in school, although somehow I was still pretty good at acing the tests. I really have no idea how I did that. The internet existed and we even had it but it wasn't such an integral part of my life and it was a few more years before I even knew fanfic existed, so this was as good as it was going to get. So I didn't know right away that I was supposed to hate it. Not that I really thought it was any good, but I was a teenager at the time, so I was only familiar with teenage "romances" and therefore didn't quite grasp the severity of how absurd this whole book is. That, and again, this was my first exposure to Star Wars outside of the movies aside from maybe a ROTJ pop-up book when I was a kid, so if table scraps is all you are getting, you at least have to appreciate them somewhat.
This was probably my third reading of this book, to be honest. Although it has been a lot of years since I read any more than the one, fleeting moment that is actually almost kind of nice between them. I'll admit I don't hate this book. I think it's stupid and the characterizations are awful but it still just holds a bit of nostalgia for me, so I can't bring myself to hate it. I actually didn't even really mind reading it again, even if it did make me furious at times. But let's get into some specifics.
The book begins with Han coming back from a five-month mission helping Rogue Squadron fight Warlord Zsinj, who is a bad-ass dude commanding a pretty nasty Imperial remnant fleet. Han is exhausted and wants nothing more than to be back home with Leia in his arms. He thinks about how much he missed her and can't wait to see her. Unfortunately, the moment he arrives, he doesn't get to talk to her before the Hapans arrive, offering lots and lots of money, their joining of the New Republic, the help of their starfleet to fight off the Imperial remnants, and their Prince Isolder, who wants Leia to marry him.
Isolder shows up initially wearing a veil (wow, really?) and an outfit that as described sounds kind of like something He-Man would've worn, as long as it shows off his bulging, incredibly muscular chest. He has long, flowing blond hair and essentially it would seem that the author of these books took a brief walk down the romance novel aisle, saw all of those covers with Fabio on them and assumed that was the look that women found most attractive.
Leia is taken off guard, as you can imagine, and poor Han is sitting next to Mon Mothma, who tells him that she hopes Leia accepts the offer, securing her place in our fanfic as the evil villain. Han doesn't wait long before he simply leaves the place. But not before even he seems a little gay for Isolder because he is just so good-looking. Leia is so taken by the prince that she gets annoyed when he puts the veil back over his face so she can't look at him anymore. Are you throwing up yet? I hope not, because it gets so much worse.
Leia asks for thirty days to consider the offer, which Isolder easily agrees to. So far that doesn't so much annoy me. I don't ever see Leia seriously considering this marriage, but she's smart enough not to just say no outright, no matter how much we just want her to say she's in love with and wants to marry someone else. It's even fine if she notices that another guy is hot. I mean, hopefully someday I'll meet my own hot dude and maybe we'll even get married but I sincerely doubt that will make me stop drooling over Harrison Ford. Doesn't mean I'd leave a committed relationship for him or anyone else just because they're physically attractive.
Anyway, Leia goes off and finally finds Han on the Falcon doing some work to take his mind of off the awful situation he just walked back into. He and Leia actually share some civil conversation for a bit, although none of it has anything to do with having missed each other for the past five months, nor do they even kiss each other hello. They talk about the mess of the situation, and it is only when Han starts telling Leia he doesn't trust the Hapans that she gets all angry and defensive - because you know, she's known them for all of five minutes now - and throws back in Han's face the fact that she and Isolder will be having a private dinner that night and Han can just stay and gnaw on his petty jealous fantasies. Han does at least decide to go to the dinner, but this is only the beginning of a horrible string of conversations between them.
Not long after Leia leaves, Threkin Horm, a New Republic big wig who is bad news in almost all of these books for various reasons, comes by with Isolder and shows him Han's ship. Isolder learns that Han saved her life and thanks him, and then I did at least enjoy this exchange:
"Oh, I guess you could say I'm more than her savior," Han answered. "We're lovers, to be precise."
"General Solo!" Threkin sputtered, but Prince Isolder raised a hand.
"That is all right," Isolder said. "She is a lovely woman. I can understand why you would be attracted to her. I hope my appearance here hasn't been too . . . unsettling."
"Annoying is the word," Han answered. "I mean, it's not as if I wished you were dead or anything. Neutered perhaps, not dead."
Well, at least Han is acting a bit more like I'd expect him to act here. Isolder offers Han a really nice, fast ship as long as he promises to take it far, far away and never come back for Leia. Han of course refuses, and Isolder gives Han the standard line of how she deserves someone better and he has nothing to offer her. Han insists that the fact that they love each other is enough.
They all go to dinner that night which is actually mostly civil. Han had asked why of all of the princesses in the galaxy, Isolder chose Leia. He spouts off some crap about how he saw her from afar and was so taken by her beauty that he knew he had to marry her and then he kissed her hand and Leia blushed. At this point Han has another moment of being a little gay for Isolder and wonders how Leia could resist a man that looks like that. Um, really? Where did Han suddenly get the idea that Leia was so shallow? He remembers what she was like, right? Did she seem that shallow the last time you saw her? If she was that shallow, would you even want to be with her?
After dinner Han kissed Leia goodnight "quickly" and then Isolder kissed her and lingered a bit. Once Leia is gone, Han tells Isolder that he's going to fight for her, and Isolder says he knows, but he intends to win her. Leia goes to bed that night and first spends some time thinking about how nice and courteous and gentlemanly Isolder is before she gets up to do some diplomatic stuff since she can't sleep. Then she calls Luke. You think Luke might be the voice of reason here, right? Maybe we shouldn't expect too much of him since he doesn't have much relationship experience. He senses that Leia doesn't want to hurt Han or Isolder, okay, fine. He also senses that Leia feels a "tenderness" toward him and something that could turn into love. Really? After one stupid dinner? Then Luke says this:
"...take things slowly. Find out how you feel. You don't have to decide between the two in a day. Forget about Isolder's wealth. You wouldn't be marrying his planets, you would be marrying him. Just give him the same consideration you would give to any other man, okay?"
Wow, if I were Han I would totally take Luke's best friend card away. The same consideration as any other man? So apparently Luke also has severe short-term memory. Remember Han? Remember all the things you guys went through and how he saved everyone's lives more than once and you used to love him? No, apparently you don't.
The next morning Han comes back to apologize and gives Leia a plant. Leia at least accepts the apology and he kisses her. They enjoy the absolute slightest hint of their old, witty banter:
"After dinner last night, I went to my room and gnawed on my own petty jealous fantasies for a while."
"How did they taste?" Leia asked.
"Oh, you know. I ended up going to one of the ship's galleys in the middle of the night, looking for something tastier to eat." Leia laughed, and Han stroked her cheek. "There's that smile. I love you, you know."
Of course then the whole thing turns into a fight when Han expresses some anger at the whole situation. And for some reason this annoys Leia. Okay, let's think about this. If another guy comes and tries to take the woman he loves away from him, is he supposed to just sit back and not worry about it? I don't understand why she's mad at him for actually caring that someone might take her away from him. If he didn't care, then he wouldn't love her. Han tells her that Isolder offered him a ship to fly away and she tells him that maybe he should've accepted the offer while he could still get something out of the deal.
Seriously, Leia in this is so awful you actually start to kind of hope that Han just tells her off and leaves, because obviously she doesn't care about his feelings on the matter here in the slightest. Not once in this entire book to Han and Leia share anything even resembling an adult conversation on their situation. The set-up of this book is not the problem, it's the execution. I've read more than one story that takes the exact same premise but shows us how they should have acted. Push's story Why Not Now? being one of them. And aside from being just overall much better stories, at least they actually talk about things.
At least at the end of this conversation Leia kind of, sort of says something almost nice to Han:
"Look, I don't know why people would even begin to think that I'd marry the prince. I certainly haven't given anyone that impression. So don't listen to them. Listen to me. I love you for what you are, remember? A rebel, a scoundrel, a braggart. That won't ever change. But I think I need some time to myself for a few days. All right?"
So you do love him then, right? Are you sure? I've got some evidence coming up that would suggest the opposite. Han winds up storming off and then thinks that maybe all of his concerns are simply out of jealousy. Um, so what? Doesn't he have a right to be jealous here? Again, doesn't it just show he cares? It doesn't seem that out of line to be jealous when some dude comes out of nowhere and wants to marry your girlfriend.
Han thinks again about how he can't offer her anything where Isolder has all of Hapes, so what does he do? He goes gambling! Beause again, that princess you knew in the movies suddenly is a gold-digger and out to choose a husband strictly on his bank account. After an unreal string of wins, Han wins himself a planet called Dathomir. Han is so excited and goes to show it to Leia, who at first thinks it's beautiful. But then they realize that the planet is right in the middle of Zsinj's territory, meaning they could go there, but they'd probably be blasted out of the sky. Then Leia acts all condescending:
Leia smiled regretfully, rubbed Han's hair as if he were a kid. "Oh, you sweet, shaggy nerf-herder. I knew it was too good to be true. Still, it was kind of you to offer. You know, you really are so kind to me!" She gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
You really are so kind to me? She's talking to him like he's this poor, dumb lout who pines for her but will never be able to have her. Like the huge nerd in the high school movies who loves the pretty girl and helps her with everything but obviously in the end she winds up with the football player or whoever is actually hot enough for her. Han had imagined she'd love the planet and be incredibly happy and then he'd ask her to marry him, but now he just left dejectedly.
Leia, meanwhile, heads off to spend some time with Prince Fabio... er, Isolder. She starts to get tingly when he touches her and thinks about how much of a gentleman he is when he offers to accompany her on a mission that may be unsafe, asking her permission. She thinks about how Han would've simply insisted, which now apparently is a bad thing that he might actually want to try and protect her and keep her safe. But no, Isolder asking is "charming." Threkin is with them and Leia starts thinking about how she wishes he would leave them alone, presumably so she can jump Isolder in a very unladylike manner. No time for that though, as suddenly they are under fire, but of course they survive, or the book would be really short.
Leia thanks Isolder for saving her, and he hugs her protectively first, then he pulls her in for a passionate kiss and presses his whole body against her. At least for a moment Leia thinks about how she feels like she's betraying Han. Kind of amazing that she even remembers him at this point. Okay, remember how last week I showed you one of my all-time favorite passages ever written in an EU book? Well, this, right here, has got to be the absolute worst thing I have ever had to read in one of these books. Prepare yourselves:
Leia found herself crying, had never really imagined that she would let something like this happen. But at that moment, whatever attachment she had ever felt for Han suddenly seemed to become as insubstantial as fog, as a gentle white mist, and Isolder was the sun, burning it all away.
Wow. Just, wow. Whoever this Leia is, I think Han should run far, far away and find someone who might actually remember how she feels about him and all of the things they had been through. Am I wrong to think that Han and Leia maybe, just maybe, were attached enough that a couple of dinners and a kiss are shouldn't make her completely forget about him? Was her leaving the Rebellion to save him from carbonite just an act? Was it not just one book ago that he was the light that pulled her back from the darkness and all she'd ever need? Do you see how ridiculous this all sounds?
She then agrees to go to Hapes with Isolder, presumably to fall in love with him and get married and have his babies. I mean, she had said that she wanted to wait thirty days to make a decision, but at the rate things are going, she'll be underneath him by tonight. Sorry, did I just say that?
The problems delve into other, interesting areas, though. So Han is understandably dejected. Makes sense, right? Now, I'd expect him to either get so pissed off for How Leia is treating him that he just flat out leaves, goes and beats the crap out of Isolder, or maybe, just maybe actually tries to tell Leia exactly how he feels and exactly what he's doing to her. But, wait, what does he do? He goes to Threepio for help! Yes, that droid that just annoys him incessantly apparently is the key to his winning Leia back. Oh. Dear. Gods.
Han at least says something constructive to Threepio: "I love her," Han said emphatically. "I love her more than I love my own life, more than breath. When she touches me I feel like . . . I don't know how to say it." Threepio asks the obvious, if he's told her this. And he says he doesn't know how to say it. Um, you just said it! Han is not a shy guy, he's not afraid to speak his mind, and while I don't think he gets mushy a lot, if it's a choice of letting Leia go or breaking down and saying what he's feeling I would think he'd be able to open his mouth. Instead, he starts asking Threepio about like, love poems or songs or something. Yeah, because that's going to save your relationship.
There are so many things about this book that are ridiculous! Han's whole plan is, like, scheming to make Leia fall in love with him. It's like something out of a sitcom or a 14-year old. And it makes no sense because of course they're grown-ups in a (supposedly) adult relationship, and because she did love him before for other reasons. So suddenly spouting poetry or making her fancy dinners doesn't seem like it would do a damn thing.
You think we're done with ridiculous plot points, right? Oh, not even close. Seriously, people, we're like a sixth of the way into this bad boy. So there is this big meeting thing and basically people are announcing the wedding without Leia having said yes and at first she's all protesting but then realizes that she had already agreed to go back to Hapes with Isolder and, well, what did she expect would happen after that? Seems kind of obvious. But to interrupt the whole thing, Threepio goes to take the stage. What does he have to say? Oh, apparently Han Solo is the king of Corellia because his great-grandfather was the king. Sure, he needs to be a king now in order to be worthy of marrying her? Han just slinks out of the meeting and Leia is annoyed that he never told her. Apparently the Solo royalty was fairly corrupt, and why they think Han had never mentioned this before.
Not long after this Leia and Isolder are off walking around some gardens or something and he is being sickeningly perfect. The main thing you need to take away from this section was that after he tells her to take a few days to say goodbye to her friends, she hugs him and almost says that she loves him but decides it's too soon. Ya think? Again, what Leia were these authors seeing in the movies that she is so fickle with her emotions? Kissing anyone who wants one and falling in love with someone in twenty minutes? Do you feel bad enough for Han yet? Isolder tells her he loves her right after she thinks this, and the only good news is she does not return the sentiment.
Han, meanwhile is getting ready to go on a long mission courtesy of Threkin Horm who pretty much just wants to get him out of the way so Leia can marry Isolder. Well, it would seem to me that Han being around isn't doing much to prevent that possibility so far. Leia is at least nice enough to invite Han over for a drink, basically their final goodbye. When Han arrives, he tells her he resigned his commission as general (can't say I blame him) and is going to Dathomir and asks Leia to come with him. She says no and Han tells her that she's willing to do the same thing with Isolder, why can't she do it with him? A fair point, for sure. Han then says,
"Who knows, maybe you'd fall in love with Dathomir. Maybe you would fall back in love with me."
He sounded so pitiable. Leia felt guilty for the past few days, for ignoring him, deserting him. She remembered how she'd felt the day that Vader had encased Han in carbonite, shipping him back to Jabba the Hutt, the joy they had shared when the Emperor was vanquished. She'd loved him then. But that was a long time ago, she told herself. "Look, Han, I'll always be fond of you," Leia found herself saying. "I know it's hard."
"But have a nice life?" Han asked.
My blood pressure seriously just went up. Fall back in love? When exactly did she fall out of love? She still hasn't given him a reasonable explanation for anything that has been going on. She hasn't said that she missed him when he was gone, or that she wishes things could be different and she could marry him. All it takes is one handsome prince and that's it. She loved him? Past tense? Again, when did this happen? And that was a long time ago? It wasn't like it was some young, fleeting romance. He was gone for a few months and last we knew you loved him like crazy. I'll always be fond of you? You don't think maybe he deserves more than that? How would she feel if these roles were reversed? Why is she suddenly acting so heartless and as though he has no right to be upset? Why don't they actually talk?!?!?
Well, there's no time for that now, because Han picks up one of the presents the Hapans had given her, the gun of command. All you have to do is shoot someone with it and they do whatever you say. So, what does Han do? He shoots her and kidnaps her to Dathomir. Yeah, that makes way more sense than just freaking telling her how you feel. Like, really making her understand how she's tearing you up inside.
Leia awakens locked in a compartment of some sort, in total darkness. She kind of deserved it, but really it was so Chewie wouldn't know she was there because surely he would've tried to talk some sense into Han. Chewie finds her and is, of course, appalled. So appalled, in fact, that he asks Leia if she wants him to beat Han for her. Amazingly, Leia turns down the offer. It's about the only nice thing she's done for him so far in the book. Still furious, Leia asks him what he wants from her and he says he just wants seven days on Dathomir with her, just some time to see if she falls back in love with him. Again, when and why did she fall out of love with him? She asks him what the point is.
"The point is, Princess, that five months ago you told me you loved me, and it wasn't the first time. You used to love me. You believed it, and you made me believe it. I thought our love was something special, something I would gladly die for, and I'm not going to let you throw away our future just because some other prince comes along!"
Somehow this still doesn't sort of spark something in Leia to make her realize how she's been treating him for no good reason. But of course she never, ever says anything to maybe, like, apologize for the way she's treated him or even just for the fact that the situation has gotten so complicated and it's not so simple anymore. But she does think this:
He really was putting everything on the line, as he had done for her time and time again. A few years ago she had thought he was dashing and bold, perhaps a bit reckless. Now that she thought about it, he had only seemed reckless because he so often risked his life for her. Han would almost throw it away at her whim. What she had once deemed an almost inhuman courage was really a sign of his unflagging devotion. And Leia found her heart pounding in fear at the thought that someone could love her that much.
Okay, but apparently this still doesn't make you sit back and realize what you've been putting him through. Hell, even if for some legitimate reason she had fallen in love with someone else while he was gone you'd think she'd at least have the decency to feel bad for having hurt him!
The trip to Dathomir is quite long, and most of the time Leia just orders Han around and he acts like her personal servant. Again, more of that sort of scheming to make her love him kind of crap. Cutting her steak for her isn't going to make her love you, Solo. Nor is calling her, "my pet." Finally at least Han gets angry enough to tell her that she should at the very least be able to like him as a friend, and then he asks her if there is anything about him that she still likes. Just something. Anything. And she can't answer him. He is of course still angry and tells her to at least talk to him... finally. And she says:
"I'll spell it out for you: you, Han Solo the man, I can forgive. But when you brought me on this ship, you betrayed the New Republic that we serve. You're not just Han Solo the man anymore. You were Han Solo the hero of the Rebel Alliance, Han Solo the General of the New Republic. And that Han Solo I can't forgive, I refuse to forgive. Sometimes what you represent is so important that you can't let your standards down. You become respected as an icon, as much for what you are as who you are."
Ugh. All right. Yet again I'm left wondering if she suddenly has no memories at all of ever having loved him. I still think at this point Han should run far, far away. At least this was probably the closest they came to a grown-up conversation, if only because at the end of it Leia basically just tells Han he needs to grow up.
They finally arrive on Dathomir and it's a bit tricky because Zsinj and his star destroyers are all orbiting the planet. Their landing is a bit more of a crash and the Falcon is left incapacitated, but at least the threat of death can take their minds off fighting for a little while. About this time Luke and Isolder head for Dathomir to get them. Ta'a Chume, The Queen Mother of Hapes and also Isolder's mother, isn't such a nice lady and she intends to kill Han when her fleet finds him. For some reason Isolder wants to make sure that doesn't happen. So at least he's not a terrible guy. Actually, honestly, I like that he's not a terrible guy. I hate when movies have the love triangle and we want the protagonist to win back the girl but the guy she's with is a really awful person. Why does the other guy have to be awful for her to choose the other guy? And why would she be with him in the first place?
Han, Leia, Chewie and Threepio decide they need to move or they're not going anyhwere. They saw a city as they were landing. Han basically thinks he's going to have to leave the Falcon behind for good and Leia is amazed he is willing to do such a thing. Then, as they set off into the night after having noticed giant footprints that remind me of the T-rex from Jurassic Park, Han starts being all nice to Threepio again and tells him he needs to help him find a way to get Leia to fall back in love with him. *Face palm* How about just being yourself? If you have to like, trick someone into falling in love with you, well, that can't be a good start to any relationship.
They are being pursued by Imperial walkers, and they manage to take one out before running into another one later and spending quite a while marching toward impending doom before a third party shows up and takes out the bad guys. This third party would be the witches of Dathomir, riding rancors like cowboys ride horses. This is a step in the right direction, but now basically they are captives of the witches instead of the Imperials.
The witches are sort of a primitive society, although the women are the leaders and the men are the slaves. They mostly have the Force but they think they are casting "spells" and have been taught to use it a bit differently, although they are quite powerful.
Luke and Isolder have a similarly not-so-smooth descent to the planet upon their arrival, and also wind up having to walk around a lot. They are captured by another witch, Teneniel Djo. None of them know it, but they are all about to be reunited. Leia, Han, Threepio and Chewie get there first. Leia is taken inside while Han is sent with the men where he kind of has to figure out what he is supposed to do. At which point somehow he winds up spending like two hours pulling a giant worm out of the ground, which they are all quite happy with. I don't know, they use the thing's hyde for rope and stuff.
Someone comes to get Han and brings him it to be judged or whatever, and apparently Leia has been pleading his case. I'm kind of surprised considering how she's been acting she didn't just tell them to kill him. Also on the planet at the Nightsisters, which are sort of like the dark side of the Force on the planet. Not so nice. So the Nightsisters and the witches of the Singing Mountain Clan (this book is crazy) are arguing over who has claim to him. The witches argue that he had saved the life of one of their own, and that would be Leia, so he should be free.
Meanwhile, Teneniel Djo is bringing Luke and Isolder back and has already decided that Luke will be her mate since he's a male witch. She's maybe the only one who doesn't think Isolder is the hottest dude around. Back at the camp, Han discusses a deal to sell the witches the planet. He asks to get off the planet, because he needs a ship, for some gold and stuff they had offered, and for Leia to marry him. They tell him that Leia said he would ask for those three things, and he can have the ship and the gold, but not Leia, and Leia just sits there acting all smug. The only good thing about this exchange is that Han finally realizes how deluded he was to think that Leia would choose a husband based on material goods. Newsflash: she wouldn't choose one just because he had long, blond hair and a pretty face, either!
They all head off too bed, which is basically just one, big hut thing and some mats. Threepio offers up some music to go to sleep by and, in one of the most embarrassing additions to any Star Wars book, sings a song he made up about Han. I just... I'm not even going to quote from it. Just one like, all right, "Han Solo, what a man!" That would be the chorus, and it winds up getting stuck in Leia's head quite a bit during the rest of the book. Well, after that ridiculousness, Leia finally says something sort of nice to Han out of nowhere:
"Han," Leia whispered.
"That was nice of you, offering her the planet."
"Oh," Han said, almost choking on the words, "it was nothing."
"You're a pretty nice guy sometimes," Leia said.
Han raised an eyebrow, looked across the room to where Leia rested on her mat, blankets pulled tight against her throat. "So, uh, does that mean you love me?"
"No," Leia said flippantly. "It just means that sometimes I think you're a pretty nice guy."
It's like it's before Empire and they haven't even kissed yet. Sheesh. The Nightsisters really want Han, mostly as a trade to Warlord Zsinj. So in the middle of the night Han thinks he's seeing Leia, but what he sees is trying to kill him, but fortunately real Leia saves him. So I guess she cares at least a little.
Luke and Isolder are still on their way, and Isolder seems to be taken by Teneniel even though Luke is the one she insists she wants - even though he does not reciprocate. Eventually they finally all find Leia and Han, and Leia starts to tell the witches how Luke and Isolder have both also saved her life, at which point they all wonder why so many people are always trying to kill her. The Falcon got dragged back so Han could try and fix it, and everyone goes and finds him there. Han tells Isolder to take Leia back to his fighter and fly her off the planet, but apparently Isolder had just been testing Han to see if he valued Leia's safety over his own. Duh.
They decide they need to go break into this prison to steal some generators in order to get off the planet. The prison was set up for Imperial war criminals, or basically anyone against the Empire. Not a happy place. So they all set off to ride their rancors. Han of course wants to ride with Leia but Luke, being annoying, says he wants to ride with her since it's been a while. Dude, do you not realize that that stupid prince is trying to move in on your sister and your best friend needs to have some time with her? Isolder winds up sneaking on, and Luke rides with Teneniel and Han gets stuck with Chewie. Han did use the opportunity to say that maybe he should go ride with Teneniel and gives Leia a hard time about it. I kind of felt like he should've just to let her see how it feels. Again, if the roles were reversed, it would never have been tolerated.
They do all share a somewhat interesting debate spurred on by Isolder questioning why the witches seem to treat the rancors more like equals while they treat their men as slaves. Leia brings up the fact that it is actually somewhat barbaric that some people rule simply by birthright. Isolder argues that the skills for ruling would then be in their blood, and it's no different from breeding for speed or size or whatever, just a different set of desired traits. After some back and forth on this Leia at least finally has a rational thought, realizing that she possessed all of the desired traits Isolder was looking for in a queen, and that he might just be the kind of person who only let himself fall in love with someone of the right qualifications.
At this point, there is a lengthy section of the book that has nothing to do with Han and Leia getting together again. It's all logistics and breaking into the prison and there is no sort of turning point in their relationship. As they are breaking into the prison, Threepio finds out from a message Artoo intercepted that Gethzerion, the evil lead witch of the Nightsisters, has made a deal with Zsinj to give him Han and has set a trap for him. Well, they have a not-so-perfect mission at the prison, but survive. Isolder starts having some meaningful chats with Teneniel, and Luke talks to her also about the Force and crap like that. It isn't long before Luke has a vision and knows that Gethzerion is planning to attack them and they need to get moving again.
So they saddle up the rancors, and there is some shifting of who rides with whom, Isolder with Teneniel and Han and Leia together. This is another thing (of the 2,781 things) that drives me nuts about this book. Let's just say that Leia did fall out of love with Han and just sort of forgot what they had been through. Well, she finally spends some time to him and apparently she is sort of warming up to him but there is no indication given as to why. In fact, at this point it is really more because Isolder is starting to like Teneniel Djo better, not because Leia wants to ride with Han.
Well, they get back to the ship and Luke tells them to go back and get it fixed as quick as possible while Luke has to go off and fight or something, and Han says he wants to go with Luke. Leia yells at him about not fixing the ship instead to save some of these people, but even Luke understands that it's just Han's inability to desert a friend in need. So off he goes while they try to get the Falcon running and eventually wind up under attack. Isolder was outside with Teneniel and he gets taken out but she saves him and Leia does some flying around and they take out some of their attackers. Upon going back and finding Isolder unconscious, Leia wakes him up and he says something about, "What a beautiful face to wake up to!" and grabs her and kisses her. All Han does is say something about, "no mushy stuff."
They hear another message about how Gethzerion claims to have Han captured for Zsinj and things aren't looking so good. They decide that someone is going to have to fly out and take out some of the sattellites Zsinj has overhead in order to clear a path for the others to escape, but there is just about no way this person will survive. Han tells Isolder maybe they can draw straws and Leia just about loses it at this point. Mostly because she can't feel Luke anymore and is very much afraid he's dead. Han tries to comfort her, but there's nothing he can say.
His comforting gestures are interrupted by a vision. Gethzerion basically forces herself into his head and tells him that if he does not surrender she will kill those prisoners that they were going to try and save. She kills a bunch of them to prove her point, and Han can't turn away and she tells him that in an hour she'll kill five hundred more. And another five hundred after that. This is not the best news he's ever heard. Leia at first thinks he's crying, then he says he has to get out of there and runs back to the Falcon. Leia and Isolder follow him and Han sends Isolder off to get something they need to get the ship running while Leia tries to figure out what's going on.
First she gets mad at him because she thinks he's just running away, but then Han picks up his commlink and relays a message that he's surrendering. Now, finally Leia seems to act like she cares about him at least a tiny little bit, knowing that if he turns himself in, he will certainly be dead. Han goes and grabs a thermal detonator and tucks it into his belt, planning on taking out Gethzerion and her cronies, but also certainly dying in the explosion himself. He turns to ask Leia if she can tell it's there and she can't find her voice. This next bit I'll just directly quote, because it is just about almost the only part of the book that maybe, kind of, sort of is something a Han and Leia fan might like to read:
"Hey," Han said, "don't take it too hard. You're the one who said I had to grow up, take responsibility for who I am. General Han Solo, hero of the Rebel Alliance. I figure if I play it smart, I can take out Gethzerion and all her damned cronies with her. I'll have to leave it up to Isolder to do something about Zsinj. He's a good man. You made a good choice. Really."
Leia heard the words distantly, realized with a shock how strange they sounded. She hadn't thought about her involvement with Isolder for three days, hadn't really believed she had ever made a choice. Because she hadn't made a choice. Deep in her heart, she'd still been waiting to see if she loved Han.
Yet, she knew that that wasn't true. She had chosen Isolder, out of necessity. Her people had needed her to wed the Hapan worlds, and she'd responded to those needs. As long as the Empire remained a threat, she hadn't been able to see any other path she could take.
She glanced down at Han's belt line, tried to sound calm, controlled. "Yeah," she said. "That ought to do it. I've got to say, you really look good with a bomb strapped to you."
Han bent down and kissed her fiercely, passionately, and the blood thundered in her ears. Leia suddenly realized how much she had missed this, missed feeling such raw, elemental fervor for a man. She looked over his shoulder. Chewbacca was putting tools away. The Wookiee looked at her mournfully, and Leia closed her eyes, leaned into Han and kissed him harder.
While some of this is nice, some of it is terribly frustrating. Han doesn't think she should take it too hard, and considering the way she's been acting toward him, he's right. Then Leia starts thinking about how she'd been waiting to see if she still loved Han? How was she going to figure this out, exactly? She never gives him a second of opportunity to talk to her like a grown-up in a real relationship, never listens to what he has to say or what he's been feeling. She just acts angry with him for having the gall to be upset that she might marry someone else and talks to him as though he's exactly the low-life, undeserving smuggler that everyone else seems to think he is. She never appears to give this choice any real thought. Only thinks of the advantages of having Hapes on their side and never wonders about what this might do to Han or if she might actually miss him.
Well, then at least they do share what is most likely the most intense kiss of all of the EU books. But you know, the last kiss before dying had better be a good one so at least she'll give him that. Oh, and apparently it makes her finally realize that she missed this with him. So you'll admit that maybe love has something to do with it? Really wanting someone with every fiber of your being and not just thinking the guy looks pretty good and has a lot of money? Did Leia have amnesia for the prior 350 pages of this book or was she possessed by some she-devil?
Okay, well, Leia you're too late now because now he has to leave to get himself killed. Oh, this reminds me of another funny fanfic you should read by GreatOne, called, "How Han Solo Became a Hero." There is a movie made about Han's life and some of it is exaggerated in fairly amusing ways, and some of the pokes at this book are quite funny. Anyway, once the kiss is over Leia starts to talk and Han stops her, telling her that he doesn't want this to be any worse than it already is, basically that he can't stand hearing her say she loves him only to know that it's the last time he'll ever hear it.
Han goes and says goodbye to Chewie and then says he has to go, walking down the gangplank. Leia sits and cries for a minute but she finds herself following him. She calls out to him and he stops.
Han turned, looked at her. She could barely see his face at this distance, dark and insubstantial, almost an apparition. "I like some things about you," Leia said. "I like the way your pants fit."
Han smiled. "I know." He turned and began walking again.
"Han!" Leia called again, and she wanted to say, "I love you," but she did not want to hurt him, did not want to say it now, and yet could not bear the thought of leaving it unsaid.
Han turned to her, flashed a weak smile. "I know," he called softly. "You love me. I've always known." He waved good-bye, and jogged off into the deeper shadows.
Okay, we'll have to give points for the mention on how his pants fit because I'm sure there is not a woman alive who is not appreciative of that. I'm not exactly sure how Han has always known she loved him because she didn't act like she did at all for the entire book up until now. I guess I can appreciate that she wanted to tell him but again, where did it even come from at this point? This is what is annoying: she only decides she loves him because she knows he's going to die. I can maybe forgive that point if somewhere throughout the second half of the book they maybe talked a bit or you could see a bit more evidence of her warming up aside from just riding his rancor instead of Isolder's (that sounded really dirty) but no, not a hint of feeling until the scary realization that she's never going to see him again, and that makes her realize she might miss him.
I don't understand any of this. If you think about it, it's almost as though the only reason Leia is with Han is because he's the default option. It is never simply because she loves him more than anyone else. First it's because Luke is her brother. Now it's because in the end, Isolder decides he likes Teneniel better and the threat of Han dying makes her somehow remember her feelings for him. Again, I'm not totally against the idea of Han's imminent death making Leia realize what she'd be losing, it's just that there was nothing prior to that where she acted a little bit like she might still like him. Seriously, if that is the kind of woman she was, I'm not sure I would even want Han to wind up with her.
Back to the story, off Han goes and Leia is desperate for Luke to come back, except Luke is severely injured after coming in contact with some Nightsisters. Han finds him on his way to turning himself in and gets some help for him before he leaves again. Isolder is chatting with Teneniel and decides that she is the one he wants. Again, making it almost as though it isn't even really Leia's choice to be with Han, but it just works out that way because everyone else is taken. Well, Luke gets brought back to Leia, badly injured and insists on just a little bit of sleep before they go find Han. This also seems somewhat ridiculous but works out all right because Han does a lot of waiting once he turns himself in.
Once Han is taken in, we get one of the many examples of how badly Han is treated when held captive in the EU. I can recall at least one instance in another book in which Leia was held captive in what seemed like a five-star hotel. First a guy with some nice claws gashes Han's cheek and then digs one into his shoulder and twists. Finally Han is brought before Gethzerion and he feels a bit like the end of his life is anticlimactic, but he pulls out and tosses the thermal detonator and... nothing happened. They knew he had it and deactivated it and they are not happy. So she decides she's going to break each of his bones one by one, which she can do with the Force. First, she shatters his tibia, which feels great, as you can imagine.
About this time he sees the Falcon coming for him and tries to find a way to sort of stall. So he asks her if she's going to be doing that to his teeth. I guess he figures he'll be better off with broken teeth than a couple of broken arms and legs before they get to him. So she shatters a couple of his teeth and kind of makes you cringe. Fortunately, after only the leg and two teeth, the Falcon starts blasting things and comes to get Han, blasting a hole in the prison wall right close enough for Han to stumble to the ramp with a bit if help from Isolder and some witches.
Once he gets on board:
Leia stared hard into Han's eyes, grabbed his face and kissed him. Pain flared from the broken molars and Han nearly screamed, but instead held Leia and closed his eyes, just enjoying it.
Wow, remember when she used to like him? Again, I don't know where this woman came from because she is certainly not the same one from most of the rest of the book. There are some crazy escape antics and they wind up even getting to take out Zsinj thanks to some brilliant tactics on Han's part. Then, the battle is finally over. Leia starts massaging Han's shoulders and he feels like it's five months' worth of tension being taken away. Then he thinks about, "what a cramped little man I've been." And that I just don't get at all. Are we supposed to think that any of what happened earlier was his fault? I mean, the kidnapping might not have been the best idea, but was there something else he could've done to crazy, irrational, wants-to-marry-the-prince-she-just met Leia from the beginning of the book? I just don't know.
They talk a bit about how they are making some progress in the war and then Leia turns Han's chair around and tells him he won. He says no, they haven't won the war. And she says no, he won the bet. Seven days on Dathomir and if she fell in love with him she had to marry him, and apparently she loves him now because he won.
"Oh, that," Han said. "Look, that was a stupid bet. I would never force you to do something like that. I release you from it."
"Oh yeah?" Leia said. "Well, I don't release you!" She took his chin in her hands and kissed him, a long slow kiss that seemed to penetrate every aching fiber of his being, making him whole.
I remember kind of liking that when I first read it back in 1994. But at the same time being kind of disappointed that there was no proposal or anything. It just seems ridiculous that the reason they wind up married is almost because of a stupid game and again, not just because they actually love each other and want to spend their lives together!
When they all get back it is learned that Ta'a Chume apparently was behind the attempt to assassinate Leia much earlier in the book. She's just pretty much evil, and Isolder announces his plans to marry Teneniel instead. Leia was obviously totally in love with Isolder recently because she doesn't seem to care about that in the slightest. Not that she should, since she'll be marrying Han.
At the very end, we do not actually witness the wedding. At the time I hated that they skipped it, but if you think about it, actually reading a wedding ceremony doesn't really make for great literature. Not that any of this book qualifies for that either, but wedding ceremonies are pretty boring and all the same. But it is told from Luke's point of view as he is late for the wedding. Yes, the best man and brother of the bride is late for the wedding. That was just yet another ridiculous, stupid inclusion here. Apparently his driver dropped him off two hundred kilometers away from where he was supposed to be thanks to a bit of miscommunication. I'm sorry, that's just ridiculous.
Well, just before he goes in Threepio finds him and tells him that apparently Han's long-lost relative who had taken the throne did so illegally so Han is not really an heir to be king. Gee, never saw that one coming. So Threepio insists that now they'll have to stop the wedding, and Luke agrees... just before switching Threepio off. Luke makes it just in time to witness this scene:
There are apparently thousands of guests and yet Isolder and Teneniel are in the front row. Yes, thousands of people in their lives and that guy you just met recently who wanted to marry you and the random witch you found on that planet who is going to marry him instead are important enough to sit in the front row. Who got stuck in the back? But the last line is at least kind of nice:
And at that moment Leia was more serene, more content, than she had ever been in her life. And perhaps she was as filled with joy as anyone could be.
So, well, at least she actually seems happy she's marrying him. Sigh. What more can I really say about this book that I didn't already rant about as I went along? I will say that in spite of the fact that it is obviously absurd in its characterizations and just irritating beyond belief, I still sort of feel like it is required reading for any good Han and Leia fan who has any intention of reading the EU. Just think of it as some parallel universe or something. And understand that it has almost nothing to do with Han courting Leia. There's even a lot of crap about Luke finding out more Jedi stuff.
Seriously, you just feel so bad for Han here and wonder why he is even bothering trying to win Leia back if she's going to treat him like that. I'm actually going to mention another fanfic here which I believe was written by Dant Solo. Basically, Han and Leia finally get to have a real conversation supposedly after they are back from Dathomir in this book. Han is, understandably, pretty angry about how everything went. So angry, in fact, that he says he's leaving her. Leia is devastated and Han asks her, "Does it hurt?" Of course it does, and he tells her, "Just imagine how it'd feel if I actually meant it." And she finally gets it. There you go, Han, throw it back in her face. Seriously, how would she have felt if Han just decided he liked some other hot chick and was going to leave with her without giving a shred of thought as to how Leia might feel about that?
Even if we are supposed to somehow believe that Han and Leia would've acted like they did in this book, I find it hard to believe that after what they just went through there wouldn't be some serious arguments and coming to terms with some stuff. I mean, Leia never even apologizes for anything. I know we all like to think that Han loves Leia unconditionally, but she gets just a little out of hand here. Even he would have his limits. Unfortunately, this sets up an awful lot of Leia treating Han like a second-class citizen throughout much of the EU.
I'm pretty sure I've covered every element of terribleness in this book. So, what the heck do I give it for a Han and Leia factor? I feel like you kind of should read it, since they are in it and theoretically it is about them, so it's not as bad as Splinter in that sense. But I've never seen such a poorly handled relationship or two characters who in the book seem to have pretty much no reason to be together yet find themselves getting married in the end. I guess I'll go with a 1, but Push may have other ideas. All right, I'd say that's enough!