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Literature / The Courtship of Princess Leia

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The Courtship of Princess Leia is several storylines in one: Leia is engaged to Isolder so that she can get a home planet for Alderaan expatriates. Han wins a planet in a sabacc game. Luke is looking for information on the Jedi. All of this takes them to the Hapes Cluster and to Dathomir.

Written by noted science-fiction/fantasy author Dave Wolverton, it was the first Star Wars Legends novel to feature the future X-Wing Series antagonist Warlord Zsinj, although the way he is portrayed here is substantially different from what fans of that series may be used to.


The Courtship of Princess Leia provides examples of:

  • Abduction Is Love:
    • Han kidnaps Leia to prevent her marrying Isolder. Though she's outraged at him initially, over the course of the book she chooses him instead of Isolder and they get married at the end. It helps that they had been lovers before.
    • Isolder on the other hand is captured by Teneniel and thus made her slave by her people's custom. The two of them fall in love, she sets him free, and they marry.
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Han wins the entire planet of Dathomir in a Sabacc game.
  • Abusive Parents: Ta'a Chume had her first son killed because he was too weak to rule properly. She did the same thing to Isolder's first love (as his wife would be the next queen).
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: Teneniel wanting Luke, who just happens to be the most powerful Jedi ever.
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  • Altar Diplomacy: Standard for Hapes, though Ta'a Chume does not approve of any of Isolder's choices in a wife.
  • Amazon Brigade:
    • The Hapan Army, Navy and Royal Guard are entirely made up of women.
    • The Dathomiri Witches also have women warriors (the Nightsisters have male stormtroopers who work for them, but clearly are not the elite).
  • Animals Not to Scale: The whuffa worm Han catches is over 800 feet long. The rancors as well.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The origins of the Hapes Consortium—and how! The Hapans' ancestors were a large band of Space Pirates that pillaged nearby shipping lanes, taking the most beautiful females they found on the ships back to their bases, and over time, having only beautiful women giving birth led to most of the Hapan race being extremely beautiful. Put very simply, just because your parents are beautiful, there's no guarantee that you won't have a face for radio. It was never stated explicitly that every child born was amazingly attractive though. However, those who were not physically appealing didn't do well on Hapes. Survival of the fittest came into play. Family embarrassments were likely stashed away. Hence why Hapans seemed radiant.
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    • The Dathomiri probably qualify as well. When you're a placental mammal who only has one or two offspring at a time, polyandry is less stable than polygyny, unless the male to female ratio is skewed towards males (we get no clear information on that).
  • Artistic License – Economics: Han wins a planet in a pot of cards worth 2.4 billion credits. Luke's speeder got 2,000 credits at a used car lot (for a maximum of 1 credit to $10 US equivalent). An inhabitable planet is worth $16 billion? Even for one under imperial interdiction, that means Bill Gates could purchase 3 planets! The estimated price of Earth is 10 QUADRILLION. This is also ignoring the fact that Han started the novel with an amount of money that is unspecified, but certainly no more than the cost of his Millennium Falcon, so assuming he leveraged that at a starting bid, he went from owning 100k-1M credits to nearly 2B credits. What luck to increase your net worth by 3-10 orders of magnitude in one night. Still, it's possible the price is relatively low as A) its full of Force witches, making "ownership" useless and B) in Warlord Zsinj's territory, so you couldn't do anything with it even without them being there. Really though, Han should have realized it was off.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The general idea behind Ta'a Chume and her sisters. Ta'a Chume killed her eldest son and Isolder's first love because she felt them too weak to rule properly. Her sisters are mentioned to have committed plenty of murders of their own also.
  • Begin with a Finisher: Gethzerion is a powerful Dark Side user with no interest in capturing or turning Luke, so when he faces off against her, she immediately gives him a massive brain aneurysm and leaves him for dead.
  • Bodyguard Babes: The Hapan Royal Guard is entirely composed of gorgeous women warriors (of course, the Hapans are known as the most beautiful Humans in the galaxy overall).
  • Bodyguard Crush: Isolder knows that Captain Astarta, the head of his protection detail, is in love with him, even if he does not return her feelings; he realizes it is part of what makes her so good at her job.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Isolder is affronted, though understanding, when Teneniel calls him "just a commoner" compared to Luke—the only male Force user seen on the planet since Mother Rell's time.
  • Cerebus Retcon: The X-Wing Series did this to Zsinj, here presented as a rather one-dimensional Card-Carrying Villain. Aaron Allston, author of the Wraith Squadron books, justified it with Obfuscating Stupidity, and also implied that Zsinj was having a gradual Villainous Breakdown as the New Republic gained the upper hand.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Mother Rell. Justified in that because of her ability to see the past and future and her extremely advanced age (she's almost 300 years old), she often gets lost in her own mind.
  • Combined Energy Attack: Inverted. The Combined Energy Attack heals Luke, rather than destroys him.
  • Compelling Voice:
    • The Gun of Command will make a person subjected to it obey whatever instruction is said to them.
    • Han is nearly compelled to tell a Nightsister where his ship is, before a Singing Mountain Witch breaks the spell.
    • Luke uses the Force to make Ta'a Chume admit her crimes publicly at the end.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • The book is set a year prior to The Thrawn Trilogy, but implies the Empire has broken up into many independent warlords ruling fiefdoms in the galaxy. The Thrawn Trilogy meanwhile said nothing of the kind, having it that the Empire had simply shrunken in size over the five years after Palpatine's death at Endor. This was harmonized later by saying both were true-a number of warlords broke off to form their own fiefdoms, while the Empire proper also remained, and their holdings were then reintegrated after Daala had the last warlords gassed at a meeting, then Pellaeon took power.
    • Luke believes sixteen is "too young to learn the ways of the Jedi". This in spite of the fact that Yoda says Luke is too old to be trained at twenty-two in The Empire Strikes Back. Later the prequel films confirmed Jedi were typically trained from childhood.
    • The book has Luke say droids too are living beings, and can be sensed through the Force, while most Legends material had the opposite view.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: A "lost tribe" of Jedi in a book by a Mormon.
  • Deadly Force Field: While fending off an assassination attempt against himself and Leia, Hapan Crown Prince Isolder makes use of a handheld personal deflector shield. As it begins to overheat he punches one with it, burning half his face off, and throws it at the other, cutting him in half at the waist.
  • Deflector Shield: Isolder has a personal one. It's stated to get unbearably hot. He uses it as a Power Fist at one point, which burns the living crap out of one assassin who he and Luke were fighting and cuts another one in half when it's thrown at him.
  • Do Androids Dream?:
    • There's mention of a droid rights movement in the New Republic early on when Threkin Horm makes a remark disparaging Threepio, who presumably believe droids are people deserving of equal legal protection.
    • As seen under Nice to the Waiter, Luke can sense droids through the Force and thus treats them no different to any other sentient, pointing to "yes" (other books had them unable to be sensed).
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Lampshaded by Luke. Not actually rape, but sexual harassment. Han, Luke, and Isolder are all groped while in the village. One particularly lusty witch attempts to drag off Isolder so she can show him where she sleeps. It's pretty clear that if not for Leia and Teneniel being there (they're deemed to be their owners), he would have ended up raped by that witch or another.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Gethzerion offers the Nightsisters' children as hostages as proof of their willingness to work with Zsinj. General Melvar asks how he can trust they will value the lives of their children since they previously admitted their own lives held no value to them. She replied that "No mother could be so evil." Whether or not you believe her is another issue entirely.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: When the Force-sensitive women of Dathomir touch the Dark Side, small blood vessels burst in their skin. Years of this leave the Nightsisters looking like raw, blotchy, lumpy messes. It appears to be the same effect as the Emperor's terrible condition (although that was retconned into an injury much later).
  • The Exile: The Witches are descendants of a rogue Jedi named Allya whom the Order exiled to Dathomir, hopeful that she would turn from the Dark Side. Dathomir had been a dumping ground for exiled criminals, as many war machine makers had been sent there as punishment too.
  • Fix Fic: The X-Wing Series does this for Zsinj and Melvar and the ambiguity of whether the Iron Fist is destroyed or not. It also contains plenty of straightforward continuity nods to Leia's mission to the Hapans. It also, perhaps accidentally, leaves room for Zsinj to have survived. In Courtship, Zsinj is on his bridge talking with Solo over the comm when Solo launches torpedoes into the Iron Fist's bridge windows. In the X-Wing Series, we find out that Zsinj liked to hang out in a complete duplicate of his main bridge with all control screens being echoed there so that he could watch over his subordinates shoulders without their knowledge. He also uses it as a stage for acting out his decadent leader persona for visitors without impairing the proper crew from running the ship. If Zsinj was in this bridge, he wasn't where the torpedoes hit and may have escaped. No such luck for Melvar though, who we see die on the planet surface. Zsinj never appears after the book though, indicating that he really was killed.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Han marries Leia in the end, a fact established a couple years earlier by The Thrawn Trilogy.
  • Gatling Good: Hapan Battledragon cruisers have their main Turbolaser battery built like a flat version of this, and it works much the same way. The guns are built in a rotating ring around the central reactor, and each gun gets adequate time to charge. During a fight with a Star Destroyer, it states that there's a huge chunk of time where the Imperial ship has its guns silent as they recharge, while the Dragon just keeps pounding on them. However, the Destroyer's got a higher damage-per-shot ratio than the Dragon does.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: For some reason, Allya's descendants only could use the Force if they were female, since no one had seen a "male Witch" as they call it until Luke. Given that Force ability is hereditary, perhaps in her case it was carried solely by the female sex chromosomes (though it would be an outlier as this is never seen in any other case of Force sensitives)
  • Harmless Villain: Played ridiculously straight with Zsinj (that's what he wants you to think...).
  • Healing Hands: Luke heals Teneniel after she's struck by a Nightsister's Force lightning, and put his hands on her doing so. She's astonished because only the most powerful witches in her clan can heal, and always using incantations, concluding that Luke is very potent as a result.
  • Heir-In-Law: This is gender flipped from the usual examples. A man cannot inherit the throne of Hapes personally, but his wife becomes Queen. Prince Isolder thus comments how in a way he has ultimate power due to this, as it's his choice who succeeds his mother. Leia internally dismisses this as a rationalization.
  • Heroic Willpower: Mother Rell's spirit is so strong, it won't let her die until she passes on the knowledge of the Jedi to the one who was prophesied to claim it.
  • Kill Sat: The superweapon of the week is a cloaking device that surrounds the planet. It's even lampshaded as only working on a primitive planet. Like most of the Empire's superweapons, a single ship can (and does) destroy it.
  • Lady Land: Dathomiri women run the tribes and the men are slaves or socially inferior. The Hapes Consortium applies as well, with women at the top of the social structure.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Inverted for the Hapans and Dathomiri. As matriarchal societies, both don't count males for inheritance. Thus Isolder is Crown Prince through his mother, but cannot become king, although his wife will succeed her as queen. Very similarly, Teneniel's mother is the queen of the Singing Mountain Clan and she's also the heir (her father is not mentioned at all). Dathomiri Force sensitivity is also a solely female trait, as no one had ever seen a "male witch" until Luke, although they heard of them.
  • Lost Tribe: The Dathomiri, who descended from prisoners in a penal colony on the planet, including one female rogue Jedi who took power over the rest. Over time, her descendants became (all female) Force users, or the so-called "witches". Since then, they were cut off from the rest of the galaxy and developed on their own.
  • Love Triangle: Han and Leia start out as lovers, but then Isolder, Crown Prince of Hapes, proposes a marriage alliance which would help the New Republic greatly. Leia also becomes attracted to him, and legitimately feels torn between them. This continues throughout much of the book, until Isolder falls for another woman, Teneniel, and Leia chooses Han, marrying him at the end.
  • Made a Slave: Teneniel makes Luke and Isolder into her slaves. In the first case, he quickly gets free (being a Jedi). However, Isolder is left as formally her slave until she frees him. Han initially is also designated a slave, though Leia pleads for him with the elders of the Singing Mountain clan, who agree to treat him as a free man. The Nightsisters disputed it, saying that he was their slave because the stormtroopers they own captured him.
  • Magical Incantation: The Witches of Dathomir mostly speak to work spells, aside from very minor ones. Teneniel is astonished that Luke can do "magic" (as she thinks of it) just by thought alone. He explains this is how Jedi learn, and so it seems Witches have inadvertently limited themselves by requiring chants to use Force powers.
  • Magic Music: Some of the Witches' spells are sung rather than spoken, however this seems to be the exception.
  • The Magocracy: Dathomir is wholly ruled by different Witch clans using the Force (they believe that it's magic), with muggles (or men generally, as only female Witches exist) as their slaves or servants.
  • Marital Rape License: One short scene features Teneniel Djo explaining to Isolder that she's within her rights to do this to him, but she isn't going to. Isolder isn't entirely sure how to respond (especially since he's a prince, back on his own world). Oddly enough they do have feelings for each other, although they're both pursuing other partners at the time. He didn't agree to be her husband either. By their customs, as she captured him, he's hers. However, Isolder later willingly takes her as his wife, with Teneniel becoming Queen of Hapes.
  • Matriarchy:
    • The Hapes Consortium has something of a Patriarchy Flip, with women ruling and men as subordinate, though they don't seem to be mistreated otherwise.
    • Dathomir meanwhile is much more worse. From what's seen, many men are slaves of the women, with the right to rape them if they wish.
  • Meaningful Name: Luke levitates both himself and the ship to a graceful landing, appropriate for a guy called "Skywalker." Isolder speculates internally about how this may be where his ancestors got it.
  • Mind-Control Device: The Gun of Command, which brainwashes people (or more accurately, briefly shuts down their conscious mind and renders them extremely open to suggestion; apparently there are no long-term effects) instead of killing them. Apparently Luke's Jedi powers render him immune to it, but it works perfectly on the untrained Leia.
  • Ms. Fanservice: After choosing a hide tunic to change into, Teneniel casually strips down in front of Isolder and sponges herself clean. Being used to the raging beauties of the Hapes Cluster, Isolder tries to tell himself he finds her homely by comparison. Then she mentions how in winter after a hard day's work she enjoys burrowing naked into a snowdrift.
  • Nature Lover: A rare inversion, as it's nature itself who loves the Jedi. After being attacked by Gethzerion, a dying Luke is revived by nature around him, including plants, animals, and a rock who give him their energy.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Luke again. Isolder doesn't like it.
    Isolder: You shouldn't do this! The universe doesn't work this way!
    Luke: What do you mean?
    Isolder: You—you're treating those beasts as equals. You show my mother, the Ta'a Chume of the Hapes empire, the same degree of cordiality as you give a droid!
    Luke: This droid, these beasts, all have a similar measure of the Force within them. If I sense the Force, how can I not respect them, just as I respect Ta'a Chume?
  • The Night That Never Ends: Zsinj punishes a rebellious planet by employing an "Orbital Nightcloak", a system of satellites that not only keeps all sunlight from reaching the surface, but also blocks all signals they send to other planets asking for help. This will kill every living thing on the planet quite soon. He's a jerk like that.
  • Noodle Incident: The entire reason Zsinj wants to kill Han so badly is brought up about three quarters of the way through the novel; Han telling Zsinj to "Kiss my Wookiee" during gloating over the destruction of his Super Star Destroyer. The Allston-written Solo Command later fleshed it out.
    "Let me get this straight," Isolder asked. "You said 'Kiss my Wookiee' to the most powerful warlord in the galaxy?"
  • Offing the Offspring: It turns out that Ta'a Chume had her own son killed because he was "too weak" in her estimation to serve as her heir. Isolder, her younger son who'd tracked down the pirate who'd pulled the trigger (only for him to then be murdered in prison before naming who ordered it), is horrified to realize that she was behind it.
  • Oh, Crap!: Leia's reaction upon seeing the rancors. After what happened the last time she saw one, it's not surprising.
  • Only One Name: Zsinj. In the Essential Atlas it's revealed this was a custom of his father's people which he went by (though his mother had "Zsinj" as her last name).
  • Our Witches Are Different: For some reason, Allya's descendants only could use the Force if they were female since no one had seen a "male Witch" as they call it until Luke. Given that Force ability is hereditary, perhaps in her case, it was carried solely by the female sex chromosomes (though it would be an outlier as this is never seen in any other case of Force-sensitive).
  • Penal Colony: Dathomir was used as one first by the Old Republic, and then later the Empire. In the first case, it housed dangerous makers of war machines, along with a rogue Jedi, while the Empire held mostly engineers who had refused to work for them and were sent there as political prisoners (too useful to just kill, but not people they wanted with the Rebels either).
  • Power Floats: Luke levitates down to the ground at one point, awing Isolder.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Hapan Royal Guard, tasked to protect the Hapans' royal family.
  • Prince Charming: Isolder certainly seems this: exceptionally handsome, educated enough to design and build his own fighter ship, brave and combat-trained, well versed in diplomatic affairs, and truly in love with Leia when he asks for her hand.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: Han is outed as the rightful King of Corellia by Threepio (who's trying to help him compete with Isolder, a prince), though Corellia's been a republic for centuries. It turns out this isn't true-the ancestor he'd supposedly inherited this from was just a pretender, explaining why Han didn't claim the title.
  • Riches to Rags: In a way. After she finds out Luke is a Jedi, Teneniel loses almost all interest in Isolder. He's aghast when she says he's just a commoner compared with Luke.
  • Royal Cruiser: The Hapan Queen Mothers travel aboard a 4000-year-old starship called Star Home, which is essentially a flying castle designed to show off Hapan splendor wherever it goes, though it hadn't been seen outside the Hapes Cluster for nearly 2000 years before this point.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Isolder is not only a combat-trained star pilot, he surprises both Han and Leia by revealing that after his older brother was killed, Isolder deliberately left the Hapan royal court and spent years tracking down his brother's killers, infiltrating the pirate gang they joined, and eventually capturing them. Except for the last part, he did it all on his own. He soon proves his skills after taking on three assassins who had attacked him and Leia, defeating them all easily.
  • Sex Slave: It's made clear that Teneniel could make Isolder have sex with her, as she's his owner by her people's custom. However, she doesn't force him. Still, it's made clear most Witches wouldn't have her scruples and we can infer that many men on their planet are sex slaves of women.
  • Shout-Out: "King Han Solo"? Clearly a reference to Spaceballs...
  • Simplified Spellcasting: Played with. To the Witches of Dathomir, being able to command the Force without specific incantations is a sign of great power. To Luke and the Jedi, it's the normal way of doing things, and the Witches' spells are just a Magic Feather to help them conceptualize their Force sensitivity.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Zsinj. According to Han, he can curse in sixty languages.
  • Slave Liberation: Isolder, Luke and Han are all initially treated as slaves after being caught by Witches. Luke soon frees himself, while Han is freed when Leia tells the elders of the Singing Mountain Clan he'd saved her, which earns his freedom. Isolder stays a slave the longest, while Teneniel frees him when they fall for each other.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Level 8 (Women Rule, Men Obey) for both the Hapan Consortium and Dathomir, although the latter is worse, as there men actually are enslaved, whereas on Hapes they're just second-class citizens (barred from inheriting the throne at least-we don't get more details).
  • Smooch of Victory: Leia smacks one on Han after rescuing him from the Dark Side Dathomiri, leading to some Mood Whiplash as this is almost immediately after The Tooth Hurts, below.
  • The Social Darwinist: Isolder argues certain people are most genetically fit to rule, as with social carnivores, and this being the right way of doing things (he's a prince himself, making it an unsurprising view). Luke of all people thinks this might have some merit to it, distasteful though the idea may be. Leia (a princess, of course) disagrees strongly with this (the Alderaanian monarchy was far more limited than the one Isolder's from), plus she was adopted and thus can't claim "superior" royal blood (he doesn't realize this, from his comments-oddly, as she's Luke's sister, who's not royalty).
  • Space Pirates: The Hapans are descended from a group of these who settled the Hapes Cluster, while their good looks result from taking beautiful female captives as their wives. Isolder's older brother as well was killed by one space pirate who attacked their ship. Later to find him Isolder became one himself, infiltrated the gang and caught the murderer.
  • Spare to the Throne: Isolder, after his mother murdered his older brother. However, it's not outright inheritance in his case-he won't become king, but whoever he marries will be queen (still giving him some power).
  • The Tooth Hurts: During Han's torture at the hands of a Dark Side witch, two of his teeth are telekinetically shattered. Actually the result of a successful bit of Briar Patching by Han. He specifically asked that she not do anything to his teeth, because he'd rather lose a tooth than something more immediately useful. Talking to her itself was a Batman Gambit to keep her occupied and not notice the Millennium Falcon coming to the rescue.
  • Too Clever by Half: Ta'a Chume compared to Luke. She essentially attempts to seduce him without sex during their dinner, but underestimates his Jedi abilities (a not uncommon trait amongst Star Wars villains). He knows exactly what she's doing and what she has done in the past. At the end of the novel, he uses the Force to make her confess that she sent the assassins to target Leia, who she'd judged as too weak to succeed her.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The titular "courtship" refers to Han Solo shooting Leia with a brainwashing gun and kidnapping her. He's called on it at first, but the whole thing is all but forgotten by the end of the book, probably because it's so very creepy, and by that point they went through hell together. Chewbacca even offers to beat Han for Leia over it, life debt or not.
  • Wicked Witch: Gethzerion is quite ugly due to facial deformities caused by her use of the Dark Side and lives in isolation with her fellow wicked witches at the Imperial prison on Dathomir, which they took over. She, and they use their powers for evil, chiefly by hurting people (Gethzeron tortures Han with Force telekinesis near the end).
  • Women Are Wiser: Hapan women firmly believe this. In fact a popular saying is about never letting a man believe that he's equal to women, as it will only cause evil. However, in the book this isn't true, with both men and woman showing a sound mind (or the lack thereof, as the case may be).
  • World of Action Girls: Star Wars has lots of action girls already-this book takes it Up to Eleven with not one but two different matriarchal cultures here which feature warrior women en masse, the Hapans and Dathomiri. The entire Hapan military is made up of female soldiers, while Crown Prince Isolder's bodyguards are also entirely women. Dathomiri clans meanwhile have Force-using "witches" catch men and also fight each other with their "magic". Only the evil Nightsisters use male soldiers too-Imperial stormtroopers who have been trapped on the planet and obey them out of fear. Leia naturally remains an action girl, but is largely overshadowed with all the rest. Tenenial Djo, a Dathomiri woman, has the most focus of them. Out of them all, just one or two female characters aren't action girls here. Conversely, even male characters like Luke who are action heroes are outnumbered (plus beaten at several points) by many degrees.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Teneniel is (momentarily) scared out of her wits when she learns that Isolder, the man she has taken as a slave, is the son of a Queen who rules sixty-three star systems and commands a navy of several thousand ships and billions of soldiers.