Among the many unexplored time periods in the Star Wars Story is the gap between The Phantom Menace and The Attack of the Clones. These 10 years prove to be an important, formative time for the heroes of the prequels. While Anakin’s transformation is perhaps the most obvious (and as seen below referenced multiple times by Padmé), it’s not the only one.
Padmé — “Ani? My goodness, you’ve grown.”
Anakin — “So have you, grown more beautiful…for a senator, I mean.”
Padmé — “You’ve changed so much.”
Anakin — “You haven’t changed a bit.”
Despite Anakin’s claim that only her looks have improved, Padmé Amidala also experienced significant transformation during these years. Finally, E. K. Johnston has provided a window into Padmé’s transition from queen of Naboo to Republic Senator, and at the same time set the stage for the subtle political maneuvering preceding the galactic civil war in her newest novel, Queen’s Shadow.
The novel begins at the end of Padmé’s reign as Queen Amidala. With the governance passed on to her successor, Padmé must choose how to direct her passion to making her home and her galaxy a better place. Being heavily impacted by her time on Tatooine, Padmé endeavors to fight intergalactic slavery. But this new humanitarian mission is cut short when the new queen of Naboo appoints Padmé as Naboo’s representative in the Republic Senate.
Padmé journeys to Coruscant with a new cadre of handmaidens to fulfill her new role, and quickly learns that she must be flexible and adapt to survive in galactic politics (figuratively and literally). As she finds her feet, and teams up with more powerful, like-minded senators such as Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, she becomes an integral force pushing the senate to fulfill its mandate to preserve galactic peace. But peace comes with a price, and paying that price is something she must learn to do both on and off the senate floor.
It’s actually not entirely clear to me who the main protagonist of the novel actually is. While the story line mostly revolves around Padmé, much of the story is told from the perspective of Padmé’s right hand… maiden, Sabé. At the time of Padmé’s initial appointment to the queenship, her royal security advisor, Captain Panaka, recruited and trained several young girls to be Padmé’s doubles, bodyguards, and personal advisors. During the queenship, Sabé and Padmé became inseparable. Such that once her responsibilities as handmaiden to Queen Amidala had ended, Sabé continued to support Senator Amidala in a more covert, unofficial capacity. While the title of the novel, Queen’s Shadow, may refer to Padmé learning to find her place after surrendering her queenship, I think the more interesting interpretation refers to the behind-the-scenes network of handmaidens supporting the queen.
Several aspects of the novel provided additional depth to the overall Star Wars story. The plot of the novel felt very familiar. Where else had I read about a bright, female politician navigating the political quagmire and discovering hints of a lurking threat to the galaxy? Both Leia: Princess of Alderaan and Bloodline featured Leia Organa in a very similar role. It was quite satisfying to see the similarities between the mother and daughter that never met. Additionally, I really appreciated the added depth into understanding the complexity and intricacy of Sheev Palpatine’s plan to overthrow the republic. Lastly, I will never look at Naboo handmaidens the same way again. It was very enjoyable to learn about the cohesion between the queen and her handmaidens, plus their particular set of skills that make them nearly as dangerous as Liam Neeson.
Overall, the novel is an enjoyable read, though the plot does drag a bit. Compared to the other novels in the Star Wars Canon, I put this one just below the middle of the pack. To quote Master Yoda, “page turner [it] is not,” but if you are looking to add depth and context to your understanding of the larger Star Wars Story, I recommend Queen’s Shadow.
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