“I adored E.K. Johnston’s Star Wars: Queen’s Hope and I love the new dimensions she added to Sabe, Padme, and even Anakin!”
Star Wars: Queen’s Hope will release on April 5th, 2022, and is the final entry in E.K. Johnston’s Padme trilogy. Queen’s Hope has continued the tradition of Star Wars filling in the blanks and takes place immediately after Episode II. And it intertwines with the secret wedding of Padme Nabierre and Anakin Skywalker.
One of Johnston’s strengths has always been her writings on character introspection and foiling. She executes great writing of the feelings of Padme as she approaches the eve of her secret wedding and all the charged feelings she has. She shares everything with the women who acted as her decoys, and now feels exhilarated that she is doing something private and for herself for the first time in over 10 years. Anakin is hers and she is his. Nobody else is involved and she can truly be herself. Extremely poetic and powerful. Yet, there is a snag immediately because she needs someone to create her wedding dress. She asks one of these talented women and feels afraid as she always asked her handmaidens to do things as Amidala, and never personally as Padme. It’s really deep and I applaud Johnston for creating that emotion.
Early on, we learn a lot about what the handmaidens are doing with their lives post-Invasion of Naboo. Sabe, Padme’s second and closest friend is working undercover on Tatooine to try and free slaves. This was likely inspired 13 years prior when Padme was aghast that Tatooine still allowed slavery despite the Republic’s anti-slavery laws. Sache and Yane have become a couple and it represents how easily Disney has shifted into full LGBTQ+ acceptance. Nobody in that galaxy bats an eye at two males or two females getting married, and it is quite an enchanting world that they have created.
The main story of this novel is segmented very strangely because it is not a standard adventure tale that splits into different views. Yes, we see Sabe and Sache have their own challenges, but the Padme/Anakin tale is very, let’s just say, realistic. The first couple of pages makes you think they are trying to get some artists off a planet for Queen Jamilia of Naboo amid the war. But that plotline quickly fizzles out and we are left scratching our heads at what this novel will be focusing on.
REALISM IN STAR WARS
The slow stop and starts and utilitarian adventures may be boring for some. But I find it incredibly realistic. Because during the war, a politician will not be constantly accomplishing exciting and long-lasting adventures. Instead, many things will be political and not have a ton of laser swords crossing and blasters blazing. I was surprised at how quickly the war became conforming to the beloved cartoon Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which first aired in 2008. It’s barely been a month in the universe, and everyone is calling it the Clone War. Anakin has become a Knight, the Clones give themselves nicknames and call the droids clankers. The only thing missing is the presence or even mention of Asajj Ventress and General Grievous. And I must conclude that they are still lurking in the shadows.
THE CLONE WARS
Do I find this speed of conformity bad? No, not really. It’s a big galaxy and news and events travel quickly. BUT I hope the rest of the Star Wars initiative does NOT forget how quickly we switched into Clone Wars immediately post-AOTC, and cause continuity problems. I am already turning a blind eye to C-3PO being decked out in gold plating for Padme’s wedding. Even though the final scenes of Attack Of The Clones showed that he was still varnished in dull grey.
If you are NOT a fan of slow-moving politics, sections of this book may not be for you. Because they spend a lot of time with Sache trying to figure out with the rest of the Naboo council how to unify with other planets in the Chommell sector. During the looming war. I always liked politics (having grown up with it) so I actually was intrigued at how they needed to make it so Naboo was protected but not taking too much of resources away from other planets.
Captain Panaka is back and plays a minor role in this book. And his attachment to the insidious Palpatine foreshadows how he will be made a Moff in the future Emperor’s twisted bureaucracy. Sabe often resumes her role as Padme’s doppelganger in this book, and I love how she quickly grows to hate this role that she has played for 13 years. She is no longer Padme’s mirror and has evolved into a different person with different desires and needs. Her interactions with Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker are all telling because she REALLY dislikes both of them and even sees things that Padme herself is blind to.
Anakin is very aggressive and his personality quite frankly sucks. He is judgmental and quick to anger and doesn’t like when anyone disagrees with him. I’m glad Johnston did this. Because even though there is good in Anakin for sure, he has a lot of dark personality traits that everyone just glosses over. Except for Sabe of course. As I said I am in total support of the gender-equable message this book contains. Yet sometimes I feel that E.K. puts a little too much of non-binary into the Star Wars world.
CHARACTERS & REPRESENTATION
Yes, having a female clone trooper is interesting. However, Omega was the only female clone the Kaminoans experimented with and I just don’t see how shoehorning a female clone into the ranks of the main infantry is necessary. Also, one of the replacement handmaidens is referred to as zhe. Yes, zhe, not she, and this term is likely the Star Wars equivalent of non-binary. It’s fine, but Anakin even remarks on transcending gender in this book. And I feel that in a galaxy where some species have 10 genders or NO gender, remarking on the male and female parity is completely silly and unnecessary. Yet, I will say that I love the direction Disney is going with LGBTQ+.
I also love LOVE the main “mission” this book finally transitions into, as it shows that Palpatine’s grand plan is not infallible. He can make mistakes like any other sentient, and controlling an entire war is impossible due to so many variables. Hats off to E.K. for showing Palpatine’s anger and frustration and making him an ever more real character.
Lastly, I must gush over how much I like Sabe. She is Padme’s second, always coming in second best. But really, this book shows that her instincts have grown better than the woman she is sworn to impersonate and protect. She doesn’t trust Anakin. She sees his flashes of anger and it frightens her. And she even feels physically sick in the presence of Palpatine (despite not being Force-sensitive) and achieves something the most senior Jedi were not even able to sense. But back to Anakin. She point-blank tries to understand why Padme married this man after he KILLED an entire tribe of Tuskens. And when pressed, Padme really doesn’t have an excuse! Love truly is blind, and that is something that Sabe uncovers and reassures the audience.
E.K. has really grown as a Star Wars writer throughout these THREE Padme books. And I cannot stress how surprised I was when I finished. I adored it and I love the new dimensions she added to Sabe, Padme, and even Anakin! Fans should read this book, as the continuity is NOT done with Sabe and we will learn more about her as the storyline has and will progress. I give this book 5 out of 5 Death Stars. Well done E.K.!
Star Wars: Queen’s Hope by E.K. Johnston is published by Disney Lucasfilm Press and is available to pre-order now.
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!