This week the official novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker finally hits stores, bringing with it an expanded take on the film's story and its many characters. Rae Carson's novel is both faithful to the events on the big screen and full of exciting new context for things we've already seen, making it a compelling companion to the film. Nowhere is that more evident than the novel's treatment of a character who simply couldn't be onscreen more: General Leia Organa.
Carrie Fisher's untimely death in December of 2016 meant that she could only appear in The Rise of Skywalker through previously unused footage director J.J. Abrams shot for The Force Awakens. That meant Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio had to get particularly creative in using Fisher's limited dialogue for the film, and it also meant certain scenes only featured Leia listening while others filled in exposition around her. Though Carson still had to work within the same story framework as the film, the novel gave her the freedom to flesh out Leia's thoughts and feelings about the final chapter of the saga, and that reveals some very interesting things.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the Rise of Skywalker novelization.**
In the film, we learn that Leia did indeed proceed with training in the ways of the Force with her brother, Luke Skywalker, as her teacher. We also learn why she stopped: She had a vision of a dark path ahead if she continued her training, including the death of her son, so she put her lightsaber aside and devoted herself to other things.
In the book, we learn that Leia was not just Luke's student, but that her brother also recognized she was exceptionally gifted in the ways of the Force. While they trained together on Ajan Kloss — which Luke dubbed "Nice Dagobah" — Leia was able to show off certain skills early on that impressed even Luke, including levitating her whole body up off the ground during a handstand. While she soon gave up her training, she carried his teachings with her, and told Rey that her ability to calm herself through Force meditation had often come in handy during her time in the New Republic Senate.
She also learned how to do what she's trying to teach Rey to do in the beginning of the film: To reach out and hear the voices of the Jedi who came before. The novel notes that at various points she'd managed to hear bits of Obi-Wan Kenobi and even Yoda's voices in her head over the years. It also makes it clear that, although he's gone by the time of The Rise of Skywalker, she continues to hear the voice of her brother as he urges her forward.
In fact, according to the book, it's Luke who urges Leia to reach out to her son, Ben Solo, to turn him back to the Light at the eleventh hour. Leia is resistant to this, not because she doesn't believe her son can be saved, but because she doesn't feel ready to leave the Resistance behind in its most desperate hour, but Luke's voice persists in her head throughout the narrative, until Leia realizes she can't wait any longer. The novel notes that her efforts to use the Force to pull her own body out of the vacuum of space in The Last Jedi left her in a continued state of weakness, and when she contemplates projecting herself out to Ben, she realizes it will take all her strength. When she finally does it, she does it as an "ultimate act of hope" to let her son know that she never stopped seeing the good in him.
Perhaps the most stirring insight into Leia the novel offers, though, comes near the end, when Rey is with Luke Skywalker's Force ghost on Ahch-To. When Luke remarks, "Leia was stronger than all of us," Rey thinks back to her knowledge of Jedi history, and realizes that she's never heard any stories of Leia being tempted by the Dark Side. Palpatine and Vader hadn't been able to turn her, hadn't even attempted to, and even as Snoke rose he aimed for her son rather than for Leia herself. Rey realizes that Leia was the lone "unturnable" Force user among them, the one so pure and so full of Light that she could be a beacon and an anchor point for others.
This is a particularly stirring insight in light of Fisher's death and the necessity of finding a way to end Leia's story in The Rise of Skywalker, and it's something that echoes down not just through the sequel trilogy, but through the original trilogy. From the moment we met her in Star Wars, Leia was sure of the righteousness of her cause and willing to fight and die for it. She wasn't searching for something on the horizon or acting out of cavalier self-interest. She was always a leader with the greater good in mind, and it makes sense that those ideals would carry over into her own views on the Force. It's why she made a good teacher to Rey, and why Rey was ultimately able to follow her example against Palpatine. Of all the insights in Carson's novel, this observation about Leia might be the most powerful.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's official novelization is available now.