Title: Queen’s Shadow
Author: EK Johnston
Published: Disney Lucasfilm Press (March 5, 2019)
Pages: 345 (Hardcover)
My track record with Star Wars novels is pretty hit or miss. But, I love this world so much, so I still want to read as many of them as I can. Luckily for me, Queen’s Shadow was a pleasant surprise, and I enjoyed this even more than I was hoping to.
“They’ll stall you,” Organa said. “I know it’s a horrifying situation, but you can’t fight every evil in the galaxy.”
“Evil? ” Padmé said. “I’ve fought evil and it was easy: I shot it. It’s apathy I can’t stand.”
Queen’s Shadow is the first canon novel about Padmé Amidala Naberrie. It takes place between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. After stepping down as Queen, Padmé is planning to step away from the spotlight and focus on a cause that is near to her heart. But, after the Queen approaches her about being a Senator, Padmé realizes that she can’t say no. Luckily for her, Padmé has a double/best friend in her handmaiden Sabé who volunteers for the mission allowing Padmé to essentially be in two places at once.
While Sabé takes off for Tatooine, Padmé is thrust into political landscape of Coruscant. Padmé learns to navigate in her role as senator while dealing with the media outlets (the news articles included in the book were a great addition to the story), the distrust of her fellow senators, and her reputation as someone who goes around the senate to get what she wants. We see her interacting with characters we know and love like Bail Organa, R2-D2, and Mon Mothma as she attempts to establish a new identity outside of her time as Queen.
“We could do so much more if people would listen,” Padme said.
“People are listening,” Bonteri said. “They’re just not paying attention.”
One of the major focuses of this novel is the genuine friendships between Padmé and her handmaidens. It’s amazing to see the bond these women have developed over their years together. In the movies we see the handmaiden’s (specifically Sabé ) acting as decoys, but the book sheds more light on that – the way they used clothing, hair-styles and make-up to achieve the switches. And I really appreciated that care that went into describing these things, and that they aren’t written off as frivolous, but rather they are Padmé’s form of armor. They have a functional purpose, and they use them strategically.
“We are brave, your highness.”
In many ways this is such a quiet novel – it’s not an action packed book full of battle sequences. It’s introspective and focuses on the less flashy kind of strength of these amazing female characters. In the movies we see Padmé being a thoughtful and passionate voice for the people, but we never really knew her. (Padmé is a much better character than the prequel movies showed – I’ll always be a little salty about that). This novel seeks to change at least some of that. It allows us to see her get started on her path. We see her struggling with moments of self doubt and frustration with the slowness of senatorial politics. We see the heart of her character – not only her idealism and hope of creating a better world. But, also her fierce loyalty to the people she loves.
“You are an idealist,” Bonteri said. “That’s not a bad thing.”
“I know,” Padmé said. “I have worked very hard at it.”
Even though we already know how Padmé’s story ends, the Epilogue kinda came out of left field. But, if Johnston was using that as a segue to a future Sabé focused novel, I’m not mad about it.
If you are a Padmé fan, then this is a must read. If you’re a fan of the Clone Wars animated series, you will love how seamlessly this book ties into the Padmé we see in those episodes.