Checkmate (Star Wars story)
|Author(s):||Suzanne L. Petroske|
|External Links:||Checkmate, Archived version|
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Checkmate is a Han/Leia story by Suzanne L. Petroske.
Reactions and Reviews
Let me preface this by saying that a review of a movie, book, or, in this case, a piece of fanfic, is supposed to have a certain form. It's supposed to give a general overview of the plot without giving away any major plot points, and critique the substance. I've got this problem, though. Many of my opinions about this particular piece of fanfic, both good and bad, have to do with plot points. So, I'm going to give a great big SPOILER WARNING right here and say that if you don't want to know what happens in this story before reading it, go read it, and then read my review.
Checkmate is a pre-ESB story and finds Han and Leia alone in the Falcon , stranded on a barren planet after crash-landing there while on their way home from some kind of mission. It’s the old standard Leia-goes-on-a-mission-and-Han-takes-her-and-fun-ensues-on-the- Falcon setup. But, as I’ve often said, I’ll swallow anything as long as it’s executed well. And, for the most part, this story is executed very well. To go on with our summary, while awaiting rescue, it soon comes to light that Leia is ill with a disease that, under normal conditions, is easily treated with hormonal replacement. Unfortunately, if left untreated it wastes the victim away until death finally results. However, these aren’t normal conditions. But the good news is, there’s a loophole. The body can produce these hormones itself if the sufferer becomes pregnant. When Han finds out that she has this condition, he immediately offers to help her, not lasciviously, but out of genuine concern for her health. She, of course, refuses, initially thinking that he’s really only doing it to get into her pants. She then protests that they’re in the middle of a war, and it wouldn’t be fair to bring a child into that. Besides, how would it look?
Most of the rest of the story is spent inside the heads of the characters; Han is slowly coming to realize that he cares more than a little about her, and he can’t stand to watch her waste away like this. Leia wrestles with the idea of dying this senseless, honorless death, or, actually taking Han up on his offer and how it would look once they got back to Hoth.
Han tries reasoning with Leia, even tries seducing her, but nothing works. (The seduction scene, btw, is very juicy.) Eventually, he makes up his mind that he’s going to help her whether she likes it or not, aka forcing himself on her. There’s several very good paragraphs where Han’s talking to himself about this: how he doesn’t want to do it, but can’t bear watching her waste away any more. Luckily, it turns out he doesn’t have to, as just as he’s about to, Leia wakes up and tells him she wants his help. The scene is so well written that it’s only after reading it that one pauses and goes, "Wait a minute...if he’s having this many doubts, would he have been able to perform at all?" The joys of fiction.
When I first read this story, it ended here. The point of it really, was about Han and Leia dealing with their feelings, not getting Leia cured. However, as I understand it, there were a lot of requests (I think one of them may have even come from me) about what happened next. So the story continues with the two of them spending the next six weeks making love and falling in love. It turns out that Leia doesn’t get pregnant due to the fact that she’s lost too much weight. They’re rescued, and Leia’s treated, and the story ends with the two of them more or less agreeing that it’s best that they not continue their affair.
Now, here’s one of my biggest beefs with this story: the ending. While it’s well written and very emotional (it had me near tears even in my re-reading of it for this review), it’s too damn neat, and left me feeling rather unsatisfied. It sets the couple up for ESB. It’s a bad habit that a lot of fanfic writers have (I’m guilty of it myself): they try and make their stuff fit into the canon timeline. It would have been much more interesting to have Leia get pregnant, or at the very least, have them continue their affair and deal with the mess that either of the above options would have created on Hoth. Barring that, it almost would have been better to leave the original ending where it was.
As for the nuts and bolts of the story, it really is in need of another edit. There are some punctuation errors and there are several rather clumsy spots where Petroske gets stuck in the rut of using the same word too many times too close together.
The characterization isn’t bad, but could be better. Petroske’s Han is too sensitive; not rogueish enough, and Leia is too nice; while she’s certainly strong-willed, she’s not hard-headed enough.But, even with all of the above failings, this is generally a well-written, emotional piece of fic that’s not so angsty as to be emotionally devastating. Petroske’s prose style is easy to read and draws you in with little trouble. This one is definitely worth the download.