Max checks out E.K Johnston’s new Padme Amidala adventure
When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she adopts the name Amidala and leaves her family to the rule from the royal palace. To keep her safe and secure, she’ll need a group of skilled handmaidens who can be her assistants, confidantes, defenders, and decoys. Each girl is selected for her particular talents, but it will be up to Padmé to unite them as a group. When Naboo is invaded by forces of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her handmaidens will face the greatest test–of themselves, and of each other.
Star Wars: Queen’s Peril | By E.K Johnston
Girl power! Star Wars: Queen’s Peril tells the backstory of Queen Amidala’s (Padme’s) handmaidens in a rustic tale that feels more like it takes place in a medieval land than in a galaxy far, far away. We start off strong with Padme totally confident that she will be elected to be the Queen. Padme’s mother is super excited but her father has his reservations. Yet, Padme is a prodigy among prodigies and was going on relief aid missions since she was 7! It is said that many Naboo children tend to be wunderkinds and they can legally vote when they are just 14 years old! I find this very fascinating, and I wonder if the Naboo had a genetically-engineering-superior-traits-in-children craze some centuries ago. Naboo, however, does not really have a high-tech society and most of its adults excel in the arts and live simple lives. Really the only difference is that they have droids and holographic comlinks.
Anyway, this tale really does show the pride and brilliance of strong, young women as Padme has Captain Panaka collect a bunch of girls to be handmaidens. The girls all choose roles, new names and form an alliance where everyone can do individual stuff- but quickly come together as one. They each practice on one voice that “Queen Amidala” will use when Padme has her decoys sit in for her. Immediately, Amidala has to deal with a grain shortage. Apparently, an entire planet can have a grain shortage? Padme wants this grain shortage to be solved in a summit between the representatives of the [sic] Chrommell Sector.
Padme has the ulterior motive of trying to make Naboo more integrated into the galactic society. The previous queen Sassandra [sic] was very much an isolationist. There is a glaring continuity error here, as it has been stated that King Veruna preceded Amidala, but much like The Mandalorian helmet plothole; it would appear E.K. Johnston has steamrolled over it. Naboo is implied now to only have had female rulers. I am curious to see if the Story Group has an explanation for this. Johnston truly writes this story from a strong feminist viewpoint and the girls are portrayed as geniuses and tools with Captain Panaka, who is like a square or an idiot. The girls all get along well, except Sache refuses to be alone with Yane. Weirdly enough, this plot point is never resolved. Why?
The book touches on every one of The Phantom Menace characters and they are positioned like chess pieces; ready to be moved. Laying it out, the novel has what I can see; 3 “acts”. First, is Amidala adjusting to being a Queen and last is the Invasion of Naboo? Having recently just seen something that goes behind the scenes of ROTS, I was eager to see how this would link up. The middle part was this random sneaking out of the palace to attend a concert. Panaka is furious when he learns he has been duped and that genius or not, these strong-minded young women are still rebellious teens.
The novel may seem a little utilitarian, but I feel it was expertly written. It does “trip” a bit at times, and skip ahead over much of TPM. Some handmaidens remain on Naboo in the prison camps and use their ingenuity to send messages in fabric squares. The main handmaiden Sabe’s growth in this book was very fun to watch, as she learns that always being second best; isn’t always a bad thing. My favorite experience in reading this book was learning about the culture of Naboo. Their children are apparently bred to achieve; they are known for eating fish and most people are artists or philosophers; with manual labor presumably taken over by automation. Also, there are no prisons on Naboo. Criminals are sent to the moon. Literally. Ha!
All the handmaidens are likable but Captain Panaka is portrayed as an annoying obstacle that Padme needs to outmaneuver. My only regret is that we did not see an interaction between Padme and Anakin Skywalker. It was strangely absent, and maybe Johnston is Anti-Anakin (considering what he does to her, later). Or perhaps, Padme has so much responsibility, that the book only wants to show that. Other then that, I didn’t have any qualms about this book. It can be seen as glue for cracks in some TPM scenes. It may not be the most exciting story, but I know one thing for sure I would love to live on Naboo c. 32 BBY. The Epilogue was awesome but not surprising as well. Solid B.
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Max Nocerino is a new addition to the Future of the Force roster. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter @MaxN2100 where he channels his passion frequently!