Claudia Gray’s latest contribution to the growing Star Wars canon, Bloodline, released this week to a hungry audience awaiting a story that promised to answer (and provoke) several questions about the events that lead up to The Force Awakens. But perhaps more enticing was the chance at another Leia-focused adventure and the first full-length novel in the new canon dedicated to the iconic heroine. Full of action, heart-stopping drama and countless pages of political intrigue, the story has already received exceptionally positive early reactions, and for good reason. Bloodline may focus on the Skywalker family, and yes, it also demonstrates Leia’s unique connection to the Force even further, but the pièce de résistance (ha - get it? Resistance? OK, I’ll show myself out) is the way that story is told, through the lens of Leia as a Senator struggling to keep the New Republic together.
For anyone familiar with Star Wars, it’s undeniable how familiar that sounds, and it’s no coincidence. From her fight against tyranny in the prequel trilogy to her physical heroics on full display in several episodes of The Clone Wars, the courage and tenacity of Leia’s mother, Padme Amidala, echo throughout the pages of Bloodline. While the shadow of Darth Vader looms heavy over Leia to a point at which it could potentially tear her life apart, her efforts to navigate that pressure are directly reflective of Padme Amidala’s actions nearly half a century before. The result is a book that’s hard to put down, and a story so heart-wrenching that it might go down as one of the most emotionally impactful novels of the Star Wars saga to date. With Leia embarking on adventures so similar to those of her mother (and the story already being so well-received on Twitter) Bloodline does more than just bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens -- it opens up the door for stories focused on Padme Amidala throughout her years as a teenage queen, a senator, and one of the first people to ignite the spark of the Rebellion.
One of my first Star Wars books was part of a junior reader series composed of character journals from the primary cast of Episode I. It was Queen Amidala’s journal and, having been released in 1999 on May 3rd (the same date that Bloodline released this year, coincidentally), the book successfully spoiled many of the events leading up to the end of the film. But, even at 10 years old, I was far from angry. My reading experience up until that point involved Beverly Cleary’s precocious heroines and the adventures of a young Indiana Jones, which is probably why I read Queen Amidala’s “Journal” over and over until the cover began to peel. Along with gorgeous descriptions of her outfits, the book detailed the pressures of being an elected 14 year-old Queen who must overcome condescending adults, steer her planet away from total devastation, go undercover to reveal crimes against the galaxy and, when the moment finally calls for it, dive into action with the prowess of a trained warrior. During the events of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Padme goes on countless thrilling missions by herself, often handling the situation just in time for Anakin Skywalker to arrive, out of breath, to find that she didn’t need his help. While one needs little more than the scenes of her retaking her own palace in The Phantom Menace or her “aggressive negotiations” during the Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones, Padme shines in The Clone Wars, forging alliances with her political enemies and recovering from devastating betrayals at the hands of her own advisors.
To say that there’s no intrigue to stories involving Padme would be like saying no one wants to visit the picturesque Disneyland: The enticing details of Padme Amidala Nabierre’s short life are already too much not to expand upon. Along with being trained to fight, herself, Padme was assisted by several nearly identical handmaidens throughout her career, all of whom were trained to act as decoys whenever she needed to go undercover. What’s more, these handmaidens were trained for combat, and the very idea of seeing Padme in action with her handmaidens at her side has spawned fan fiction and dedicated blogs just for theorizing about where they came from, how they were trained, and what happened to the remaining members of her entourage after Padme’s tragic death.
From dedicated comic book runs to feature-length novels, characters throughout the Star Wars universe are seeing their stories expand in countless ways. But, despite being thrown to the wayside and sometimes discarded as weak, Padme possesses a history as a defiant freedom fighter who was wise beyond her years. So, why should her story be limited to being told in scattered episodes of The Clone Wars, or through the eyes of other characters, such as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi? Much as she was in the journal that started it all for me, Padme deserves to be given her own voice to tell her story, expand upon the intrigue of her political career, and detail the relationships of the characters who stood alongside her throughout her life. Padme was an undeniable game-changer in the events of Star Wars, and with a story like Bloodline looking as though it’s about to fly off the shelves, it’s about time we stop treating her as if her contributions were limited to birthing Luke and Leia.