It’s arguably the biggest twist in cinema history. His son defeated, just one false step from falling to the depths of Bespin, Darth Vader reveals the truth. The Dark Lord of the Sith is Luke Skywalker’s father. Star Wars would never be the same.
The last few minutes of The Empire Strikes Back begin to unpack how this revelation has completely shattered Luke’s world. All of a sudden, as he escapes Cloud City on the Millennium Falcon, our hero can hear Vader in his thoughts, calling out to him to embrace their family’s dark legacy. He’s already accepted the truth, replying to Vader through the Force: “Father.” But in that moment, Luke’s also struggling with an even bigger betrayal. Why didn’t Obi-Wan Kenobi tell him the truth about Anakin Skywalker? (We finally learn from the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series that Ben did tell Luke the truth about his father’s death…from a certain point of view.)
Return of the Jedi, the final chapter of the Original Trilogy, continues to explore how conflicted Luke still feels about his parentage. He feels that he can still bring Vader back to the light, but he’ll have to risk falling to the dark side himself to do it.
But Luke isn’t the only character who needs to cope with all this amid the final battle with the Empire. Once Leia learns that she’s Luke’s twin sister, and therefore Vader’s daughter, she’s also forced to carry the burden of the tragic Skywalker family history. All her life, she embraced Bail and Breha Organa as her parents — even though she knew she was adopted — only to discover that her real father was the Sith lord complicit in the death of her parents and the destruction of her home planet. It’s a massive life-altering revelation for Leia, too. But she’s never given the space onscreen to process all this. Minutes after Luke reveals that they’re twins, he’s off to face Emperor Palpatine on the Death Star, and Leia’s back to fighting Imperial forces on Endor.
Fortunately, an upcoming novel by Beth Revis titled The Princess and the Scoundrel takes a much deeper dive into the mind of Princess Leia in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi, finally unpacking her very complicated feelings about what the truth about her parentage means for her future with the Rebellion and the soon-to-be New Republic.
It’s while on her honeymoon with Han Solo — we learn in the book the two stubborn heroes finally tied the knot on Endor just hours after Return of the Jedi — that she has actual time to think about how her familial ties to one of the most feared villains the galaxy has ever known threatens her career.
“Once the galaxy knows my secret, people will see me differently,” Leia tells Han in a new excerpt from the book published on StarWars.com. “It will limit what I’ll be able to do to help others; they’ll question, at the very least, my motives…But also, I know I will no longer be trusted if…once people know. If I have a position in the new government, it will be recalled. Any work I’ve done will be criticized, possibly dismantled. I’ll lose everything.”
In other words, Leia knows her days as a hero of the Rebellion and as a leader of the New Republic could be numbered once the galaxy discovers the truth. Which is why Leia feels she needs to do as much as she can now while the secret is still hidden. In the case of The Princess and the Scoundrel, she’s referring to helping free the moon she’s visiting with Han from a secret Imperial presence (at least that’s what Leia suspects is happening there).
“I have to do as much as I can, while I can,” Leia tells Han. “A secret like this, it cannot be hidden forever. So if there’s something I can do, I have to do it. Now. I can’t stop doing my job…I can’t stop helping others. I can’t just quit being myself. And part of it is because this is the way I believe I should live my life. This is the work I love.”
This long-awaited moment of reflection not only serves as an unseen continuation of Leia’s story from Return of the Jedi but also as a bit of foreshadowing for what’s to come decades down the line. After all, we learned in the 2016 novel Bloodline by Claudia Gray that the truth did eventually come out about 24 years after the end of the Original Trilogy, completely destroying Leia’s candidacy for First Senator of the New Republic. It was a First Order spy who manipulated the events that led to the stunning revelation on the Galactic Senate floor, which also set up Leia’s exit from politics to form the Resistance that would go on to fight this new Empire in the Sequel Trilogy.
But with years to go before the darkest day of Leia’s political life, her biggest worry in The Princess and the Scoundrel is still how she can best help the people of the galaxy far, far away.
The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis hits shelves on Aug. 16.