Sunnyskywalker (sunnyskywalker) wrote,
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The Courtship of Princess Leia, Chapter Five

Why the read-through?
Chapter One
Chapter Four

Because I know I can't put it off forever, here at last is Chapter Five.

This chapter is perhaps the perfect representative of my problems with this book. I like the beginning quite a bit. Even some of my quibbles are with things I find interesting. I still think the overall idea (Leia trying to figure out her love life and political duty simultaneously, Han trying to figure out where he went wrong, and Isolder pursuing his own agenda) is a good one. But the characterization gets less believable to me by the middle and starts to reek of plot device, and the end of the chapter left me seething and sick to my stomache for various reasons. (And I'm not exaggerating. I get literally sick over fiction that upsets me - too easily sometimes.) This is where I give up nearly every time I try to re-read this book. This is the chapter I had in mind when I agreed with Rel Fexive that slitting my wrists with the book sounded better than reading it. But I think things improve after this chapter, so I just have to keep that in mind!



-That evening Han found himself in a seamy dive in Coruscant's underworld that's both figurative and literal here, which is nifty – a casino that had literally not seen sunlight in more than ninety thousand years They must have quite the electric bill! The rest of the passage about the casino is all right too. Very evocative.

-To his left sat a Columi counselor in an antigrav harness, with a head so large that the blue, throbbing, wormlike veins around his cerebrum were longer than his scrawny, useless legs. I call adjective abuse.

-Across from Han sat Omogg, a Drackmarian warlord Warlords again. This isn't one Han is supposed to be fighting during office hours, we hope.

-To his left wait, isn't the Columi counselor to his left? sat the ambassador from Gotal that Han had seen the day before please let this be significant, a gray-skinned, gray-bearded creature who played with his eyes closed how can he see the cards?

-In fact, Han had not played sabaac in years. No wonder he's been off his game, letting Prince Something's-Not-Right onto his ship and all.

-Long, long description of the "variation on the game [...] called Force sabaac." I think this is to remind us that the Force will be important later, and to set things up for this sentence: Perhaps it was just superstition, but he felt that it wasn't a good time to be switching to the dark suit.

-His cards are "the two of sabers, the Evil One, and the Idiot." Go on, play Trelawney and tell me what you think each card represents!

-Actually, I've been doing some research on Tarot, because it drives me crazy to see interesting symbolism and not know how to interpret it. And there's two pages of that here. I'm turning up some interesting stuff, but that's a separate post sometime. So I'll just say that if my preliminary research is accurate, the "dark" suit probably has nothing to do with evil and a lot more to do with feminine and/or inward-looking energy.

-Two pages about cards which obviously mean something but which most of us aren't knowledgeable about makes for frustrating reading, but I actually can't find it in me to be to annoyed with Wolverton for failing to resist showing off all the work he probably put into it. And it is kind of neat.

-Still, Han could only take the cards he had been dealt. I know he has actual cards, but please, Dave, try to resist.

-They're playing for tens of millions of credits, and are swapping deeds to mineral rights and large percentage interests in the spice mines of Kessel. Isolder probably blows his nose with such deeds.

-Threepio tells Han the odds. Not surprisingly, they are bad. Threepio never gives good odds.

-Han wins, and the Columi and the Gotal decide the game is too rich for their blood. Han now has eight hundred million credits. (!) He realizes that this is "still not enough." Well, duh. It would be pretty near impossible to get as rich as the prince of a gigantic star cluster in a single card game.

-Omogg, who for some reason is called only "the Drackmarian" despite the fact that she has a name, proposes one last hand. She throws in what Han has been hoping for: a habitable planet. (Worth 2.4 billion, for those interested in real estate) It's been in the family for generations. Where do you get an inheritance like that? Isn't it a bit like owning a small country? Or, since the planet isn't represented in any government, like owning a big chunk of that land Chris found out in the Atlantic?

-The planet is called Dathomir. Who's surprised?

-Han shows up at Leia's looking like something the cat dragged in. I know he's excited, but you'd think he'd want to make a good impression and, I don't know, shower first. Can't you see him getting all dressed up before he brings over the shiny box? Since he's trying to compete with a prince and all?

-"Look, Han, if you've come back to apologize, I forgive you, but I really don't have time for this now." It's touching how much she appreciates his efforts, isn't it? But I do think this is in-character for a stressed-out Leia.

-"I'm supposed to meet Prince Isolder in a few minutes, and some Barabel spy wants to talk to me-" Do people really go around casually calling themselves or others spies?

-"Dathomir..." She frowned in concentration. "I've heard of it... somewhere." Last chapter. Which would be last night, for her. Come on, Leia.

-I'm starting to see why Mon Mothma is so ready to get rid of Leia. She must be useless.

-Han, Academy-trained pilot who has been from one end of the galaxy to the other, didn't figure out that this planet couldn't be in the Drackmar system (and didn't bother to check it out before giving it to Leia, being such a trusting soul), but politician Leia gets it immediately. Because otherwise how can Leia pretend Han is an idiot compared to His Hotness, Prince Isolder?

-It's not that I don't believe Leia could be that knowledgeable about star systems – though she hasn't exactly impressed me with her brilliance so far – it's just that if she knows it, Han definitely should. That Leia has a super memory here also points out how suspiciously convenient it is that she can't remember that she heard of Dathomir from Luke only last night.

-OMG it's in warlord Zsinj's territory! I had no idea Zsinj was going to make an appearance in this book when he's only been mentioned 328 billion times!

-No wonder Omogg wanted to unload that property on someone else.

-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 might ruffle his hair, but I have real trouble imagining Leia saying this. I could much more easily imagine her rolling her eyes and wondering how Han always manages to get into these situations. "A planet in Zsinj's territory, of all the places in the galaxy? *ruffle ruffle* Only you, Nerfherder."

-For anyone keeping score, that's three thoughtful (two personalized) gifts Han has given Leia. Isolder gave her sixty-three generic gifts from RoyalMart. What's she going to do with fruit that makes old people smarter, hmm?

-He had imagined Leia would love her new world, had imagined she would collapse in his arms with joy. I think Wolverton is trying to give Han patriarchal values – look, he thinks girls should collapse in their men's arms! - to contrast with the Hapans' matriarchal society. Or to make Han look like at least a bit of a jerk so we don't all start thinking Leia isn't good enough for him.

-Though Leia's cavalier attitude toward receiving a whole planet and lack of appreciation for the sentiment behind it makes it look like she expects extravagant presents as her due, which doesn't exactly help this agenda.

-This would be a really good time for Han to think that Leia has really changed since the end of the war, and that he isn't sure why or what to do about that. He doesn't, though.

-Leia tells Han that should teach him never to play cards with a Drackmarian. Because she knows all about gambling, unlike Han.

-He'd planned to wait till that moment, then ask her to marry him. Something Wolverton hasn't addressed yet – why hasn't Han asked her earlier? I mean like before he went off Zsinj-hunting. Has their relationship just been coasting? Was Han still afraid to commit? Was Leia? Why do we get oodles of description for things like card games, but nothing about the important bits?

-"You really shouldn't go to this meeting," Isolder said. "I don't like the idea of you traveling alone in the underworld." Shouldn't Isolder have an ingrained assumption that women can take care of themselves just fine, thank you? Or does he think all non-Hapan women are delicate little flowers?

-Leia smiled tolerantly at the prince. He was, after all, interested only in protecting her isn't she trusting, but after tripping over the prince's bodyguards for the past two days, she was beginning to wonder if he weren't overly protective. And I'm beginning to wonder how a guy raised in a matriarchal society can act so patriarchal without any apparent effort. Those years as a pirate must have been awfully influential.

-Isolder is wearing a yellow cape and gold jewelery. I think that sounds hideous. Maybe I'm imagining the wrong shade of yellow.

-He stepped forward, rested his hands lightly on her shoulders, and Leia's skin tingled at the contact. Maybe so, but remember what happened when Han got too close in ESB? She elbowed him away. And she had all sorts of unresolved sexual tension with him. She can't assault a foreign prince who hasn't harmed her, but why isn't she at least irritated at his presumption and violation of her personal space? She could tell herself that she was overreacting and she shouldn't be irritated, and have the same dialogue.

-"If you insist on going into the underworld, then I am coming with you." Because what Isolder learned from his mother and his Amazon bodyguards is that girls need big strong men to help them.

-Leia started to object, but he touched his finger to her lips. Be quiet, you silly little girl; can't you see the big strong prince knows best? I can see this being fine in the right context between two people who know each other, but here it's just condescending and controlling. Leia still isn't annoyed. Quite the contrary.

-This is the trouble with using the stock romance script without thinking through the implications of a matriarchal society. I believe Isolder would try to go with her, but I also think he would approach it from the perspective that he's asking Leia, not telling her while saying 'please,' and that he would simply plan to follow her without her knowledge if she objects rather than trying to push her into it.

-Leia studied his eyes, wanting to object, but there had been threats against her life. So he didn't tell her about the coded assassination order, huh? Still, he hinted enough that Leia should be rethinking her "Hapans are all sunshine and bunny rabbits" stance, and she isn't.

-Isolder hinted that factions on Hapes would object to the union And it would be worth considering how many factions and how strongly, because that could influence whether the alliance has a chance or not. A marriage can't make two nations allies on its own; the rest of the leaders at the very least have to go along with it too. An assassination could mean big problems. But does Leia start considering this or ask Isolder for details? Does Mon Mothma, who presumably does know about the assassination order? Noooo. Why not? Overconfidence? IITS?

-Leia was already getting a taste of what it would be like to be the queen mother, wielding her might. Because Leia has always secretly longed to wield her might over all and sundry. That's why she helped form the New Republic. Wouldn't she need at least some recent political failures haunting her (rather than all the victories she told Han about) to make such power seem more attractive? Also, this comes right after a description of the warlords who want to kill her so she won't marry Isolder. If that's what wielding the might of a queen mother is like, then why would she want the position? She won't be able to help the New Republic or the Alderaanians if she's dead!

-"All right, you can accompany me," Leia said, and she admired Isolder for having the courtesy to ask to accompany her. Han would have demanded it. It sounded to me like he was telling her what he was planning to do but adding "please" for convention's sake. The finger over her mouth to keep her from speaking was a clue. I would actually find this more offensive than someone flat-out demanding. At least that's honest. Isolder assumes that pretty words will fool her into thinking it isn't a demand. (Shame he's right.)

-She wondered if Isolder's good manners how many times do I have to point out that he has lousy manners? were a natural part of his personality or if they had become ingrained because he was reared in a matriarchal society where women were shown greater respect. "Matriarchal" does not mean "gender-equitable society where women are respected." It means women have the power. If Isolder's (apparent) deference is due to his upbringing, then it isn't necessarily based on respect; it's just how he learned he had to relate to the privileged gender. It could be based on fear. Or on cunning – play along and you'll get what you want, right? Leia knows what a matriarchy is, and Isolder has admitted that Hapes has a glass ceiling. Why is Leia okay with this oppression? Why doesn't she even seem to recognize that it exists? You'd think she'd be all for Hapan Men's Lib.

-Also, did I miss the part where Tarkin and Vader laughed at Leia and called her a little girl who shouldn't be in politics, and the part where Madine glared at Mon Mothma for presuming to speak at the Rebel meeting, or was that not in the movies? I'm not seeing the rampant disrespect for women in the GFFA there. I thought Tarkin and Vader treated Leia like a worthy rival, actually.

-Isolder takes Leia's arm and they take a turn about the room. I mean, go to the curb. I'm starting to think Wolverton didn't work out this matriarchal society at all. Isolder acts just like a gentlemen from an Austen novel, only he occasionally mentions that women are supposedly more powerful than men on his planet. I don't believe him.

-"Old" Threkin Horm pops up yet again and says that it's such a nice day, he's almost tempted to go sunbathing. Is he suggesting that Isolder and Leia should go sunbathing together? Alone? Because I think that's what he's hinting at. This could be cute, if Threkin had ever seemed at all romantically-minded or concerned about Leia's welfare. As things are, it reads like he's pimping her out.

-Leia's car is full of ASSASSINS! Finally, some action.

-One of Isolder's Amazons (and I'm not being sarcastic when I call them that – the book calls them amazons too) takes a blaster bolt in the chest for Leia. Strangely, though Leia smells "charred flesh," there are "Gouts of blood" in the air. If blaster bolts burn, then where is the blood coming from?

-You know it's Hapan blood, though, because it glitters.

-Isolder whips out a little personal energy shield. Aha! The Hapans are from the Duneiverse!

-Where is New Republic Security, by the way? Shouldn't they be guarding Leia more closely after Isolder's warning?

-A painter droid turns out to be an assassin droid, and Leia actually gets to shoot at it. She doesn't hit it, though. Remember what an excellent shot she was in the movies? She must be out of practice.

-Isolder's shield slices through an assassin "like a lightsaber." Oh, no. I think he is slightly Force-sensitive and I just forgot. Well isn't he just the coolest. Why does everyone in the galaxy have to be Force-sensitive? Muggle pride!

-[The assassin] had once been a handsome man, Leia thought. Too handsome. A Hapan. Because no one in the galaxy could possibly be as handsome as a Hapan! Leia still doesn't think that maybe Hapes is not so fabulous after all.

-Isolder tries to torture a confession out of the man by blasting away part of his face, and Leia is not at all horrified. She doesn't even have to steel herself and convince herself it's the only way. Why would she have a problem with torture? It isn't like she was ever tortured, or like her boyfriend was ever tortured with heat, or like she would have principles forbidding it or anything.

-Leia and Isolder hide in a coat closet, where they can ignore silly things like New Republic forces finally showing up and make out instead. He lifted her chin and kissed her forcefully, passionately trying to recreate her first kiss with Han? And why is Mr. Courteous-and-Respectful-to-Women kissing her "forcefully" without asking? And why hasn't Leia noticed what a condescending prick he is? Logic and consistency? What's that?

-Gah. I could buy that way deep down Leia likes guys taking charge occasionally because she's sick of always being in charge and is uncertain in romantic matters, and that that's one of the things that draws her to both Isolder and Han (though she wouldn't admit it). I do not buy that she thinks blatant patriarchy is respect for women.

-and stepped in closer so that the entire length of him pressed against her. 0_o Bad innuendo, bad!

-Leia's mind seemed to go white, but it was actually just Isolder's sparkly elvish glow – see Peter Jackson's movies if you don't believe me – and her whole body felt electric. I will refrain from making any more plug-and-outlet jokes. Her jaw was trembling, but she kissed him long and slowly, the seconds ticking away far slower than the pounding in her chest. She needs to take some deep, slow breaths to get that heart-rate down.

-With each second she could think of only one thing, I'm betraying Han. I don't want to hurt Han. Except that that can't be the only thing she's thinking, because she's obviously also thinking about how electric Fabio Stu's kiss is making her feel. And yes, Leia, you are betraying Han. Break up with him properly first if you want to kiss someone else. (I'm a bit over-sensitive about this, having been cheated on myself. And that nowhere near as serious a relationship as Han and Leia's.)

-But then Isolder whispered into her ear, demanding. Oh, but didn't we just establish that Isolder doesn't demand? Oops. He is just so courteous and deferential to women, words cannot describe it. And they don't. He must really be a misfit back on Hapes. A patriarchal man in a matriarchal world. My heart bleeds for him.

-"Come away with me to Hapes! Come see the worlds you will rule!" That's his idea of seduction? "Join me, and we can rule the Hapes Consortium as boytoy and Queen!"

-Leia is not at all bothered that he thinks the offer of ultimate power is what will win her over. On the contrary: Leia found herself crying, had never really imagined that she would let something like this happen. Neither had I. And what does she mean? She never imagined she would collapse sobbing into a stranger's arms? She never imagined she would agree to consider ruling a society that feels threatened by democracy? Or *gag* she never thought she would feel this way about a man she had just met?

-But at that moment, whatever attachment she had felt for Han seemed to become as insubstantial as fog, as a gentle white mist, and Isolder was the sun, burning it all away. Like the way he burned away that guy's face? (And this sun metaphor is giving me all sorts of half-baked ideas about Hamlet.)

-All this talk of mist and white noise in the brain is once again reminding me of the Gun of Command. Are we sure it doesn't have a lower setting than the one we see later?

-With tears running down her cheeks she tangled her arms around Isolder and promised, "I'll come with you!" I'm really, really trying not to see any double meanings in that. I'm also baffled that in the next chapter she doesn't understand why everyone thinks she has accepted his proposal, but more about that later.

-The crying bothers me. When Leia's planet got blown up, she got sad-eyed. When her boyfriend got tortured and put into an experimental freezing device, she got teary-eyed. When her friend told her he was really her brother, the man who had tortured her and cut off his hand was their father, he was going off to confront their father and probably die, and then her boyfriend thought she was cheating on him and got mad, she got choked up and wanted a hug. So who the hell is this, and what has she done with Leia? If Wolverton wants me to believe that Leia would fall sobbing into Isolder's arms, he had better show me that she's been on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And he hasn't.

-So let's recap. Han: thoughtful gifts, sensible advice, and years of love. Isolder: generic and gaudy gifts, arrogant presumption, rudeness, chauvinism in pretty wrapping, and no acquaintance whatsoever. Leia prefers the latter. It must be the Veela powers. Or since this is Star Wars, he must have Falleen ancestry. They're handsome and irresistible too. Why couldn't Wolerton just have let Han and Leia have had a fight before he went after Zsinj?

-I've got it: the big twist will be that the real Leia is actually locked in a trunk, and this is just her Polyjuicing impersonator! Maybe it's Isolder's mom, for a nice Oedipal subplot!

-No?

-Damn.

-You know what I've been thinking of while reading this? The Legend of Zorro. Yeah, I know, it's about as bad as this book (a Catholic divorcée in 1850 considered a suitable bride and mistress of a humongous estate? Please), but it had one twist that would make everyone's behavior in this book make sense. Imagine that Mon Mothma, Leia, and Threkin Horm are all suspicious of the Hapans' offer and need to lure the Hapans into a false sense of security so they can find out the truth. They don't trust Han not to give up the game accidentally, so they don't tell him, and he acts perfectly in character when Leia pretends she's smitten with Isolder. Leia is then perfectly poised to find out the whole plot – until Han messes it all up with his kidnapping scheme.

-I've also been wondering, where is Fey'lya? Was he not on the Inner Council yet? Because this seems like just his cup of tea. Would he be against Leia gaining fabulous powers as Queen Mother, or for getting her out of the NR and possibly assassinated? Hmm...



Yay, I survived! Now I can move on to better chapters.
Tags: star wars, star wars: courtship of princess leia, star wars: eu
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