Book Review | Star Wars: Queen's Shadow

Book Review | Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow (US Edition)

The long-awaited story of Padmé Amidala’s transition from Queen to Senator is finally told in E. K. Johnston’s Queen’s Shadow

As her second term as Queen comes to a close, Padmé Amidala is looking forward to retreating to a quiet life. But when the newly elected Queen Reillata asks her to step in as Senator of Naboo and the whole Chommell Sector, she can’t bring herself to refuse. With the help of Captain Panaka’s wife, Mariek, his nephew Captain Gregar Typho, and three new Handmaidens, she sets off for Coruscant. Her transition is anything but smooth. With an attack on her life, vicious HoloNet rumors that she’s incompetent, and a lack of support from Senator Palpatine, Padmé must find her own way and forge new allies to establish herself as a Senator and not a Queen.

Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow | by E. K. Johnston

Book Review | Star Wars: Queen's Shadow

To say I’ve been wanting this book for a while now would be an understatement. I was 13 when The Phantom Menace came out, a year younger than Padmé. We only get to see her as a young Queen and after she’s established herself in the Senate. There are a whopping ten years to fill in. This book goes a long way to bridge the gap between what we see in The Phantom Menace and what we see in Attack of the Clones.

That being said, I have some mixed feelings about it. There were parts I really enjoyed or loved, but there were parts that I just don’t think worked or were rushed.

handmaidens-the-phantom-menace

We Are Brave, Your Highness.

I absolutely loved that the Handmaidens were along for the ride. I wish we’d seen a bit more of the original five than just Sabé and occasionally Saché, but I loved that they each had their own interests and lives after being Handmaidens. Saché’s foray into planet-wide politics, Yané’s home for orphans, and Rabé and Eirtaé’s artistic pursuits gave each of these amazing young women their own small story and life. I especially loved that Saché was said to have been tortured during the Trade Federation Occupation and that she wore the scars of that torture proudly. As someone with four surgical scars, half of which are quite large and prominent, I appreciate the inclusion of a character with scars that don’t let them become a source of shame.

I also really liked learning how Cordé, Dormé, and Versé came to be in Padmé’s service and more about their individual roles. I also liked learning more about Typho’s role and how he became Captain. I picked up on a few moments between Dormé and Typho, which, combined with their exchange when seeing Padmé and Anakin off in Attack of the Clones, makes me want a story with them teaming up. And, of course, I totally ship them.

padme-bail-senate-rots

I loved how Padmé found a way to become friends with Bail Organa and Mon Mothma. Seeing their budding friendship and how they became allies gave so much more weight to Bail’s immediate decision to take in Leia without discussing the matter with his wife, Queen Breha, first. I now wish the scenes with the three of them weren’t cut from Revenge of the Sith, and I’m going to have to watch them pronto. Padmé also became friends with Mina Bonteri, but with where the relationship ended in this book, I’m not sure I see why they are still close in Clone Wars, but this book does only cover about a year.

The Queen Would Not Approve

I did not like how some parts seemed rushed through. My copy says the book is 345 pages. Both Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray and Rebel Rising by Beth Revis clock in at around 410, and Lost Stars by Claudia Gray at 551. At least 50 pages longer, if not more. Some scenes and characters felt like they needed more fleshing out. The plotting and pacing of the novel were fine for the first three quarters, then it seemed to all be rushed through to fit everything into 350 pages. I really think it needed those extra 50 pages toward the end to really make it all come together a little more smoothly and finish off story-lines less abruptly. There’s also just something about Johnston’s style that I can’t quite put my finger on that I don’t like. I’ll have to read one of her non-Star Wars books to make a comparison and fully decide what it is though.

rush-clovis-clone-wars

While just about everything was included that I expected to be, the only thing that wasn’t was her romantic relationship with Senator Rush Clovis. The two interacted and worked together on a project, but the beginnings of a brief romantic relationship weren’t touched upon. In fact, Padmé rejects him, which doesn’t make much sense to me given that it’s explicitly stated in the Clone Wars that they dated. I got the impression from how their relationship was handled that the author didn’t like Clovis or the implication of a romantic relationship so she found a way around including it.
queen-amidala-phantom-menace

E. K. Johnston is the author of Ahsoka, as well as This Inevitable Victorian Thing, and the retellings A Thousand Nights, and Spindle. Her novel The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim was a Morris Young Adult Debut Award nominee in 2015.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I think the book was good, but not great. It did a great job of beginning to fill in the gap in Padmé’s story and add to her evolution as a character, and it ended perfectly, but there’s still more to tell. This story is just missing something for me to rank it as high as Claudia Gray’s Star Wars YA books or Rebel Rising by Beth Revis.

Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston is published by Disney Lucasfilm Press and is available to buy in the US now.

 

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