Welcome to Book Reviews. In this series I will look to review any canon books that come out in the Star Wars galaxy as I work my way through them. I am no expert book critic or expert in writing (as you may be able to tell), so this is very much from a fan’s point of view. In each review, I will also try to point out a few “Moments in Canon” – moments that link into the wider canon and references to other canon stories. Today I will be looking at E.K. Johnston’s Queen’s Shadow.
There may be some mild spoilers
Set 4 years after The Phantom Menace, the novel shows the final days of Padmé’s reign as Queen of Naboo and her transition into a senator, including her introductions to a number of characters that we met in The Clone Wars series and Attack of the Clones.
They had grown up on Naboo, and it had been good to them. Now it was time to grow someplace else.
While the main point of view is Padmé’s, a large portion of the book will show events from the view of Sabé, the handmaiden who was her decoy during the Invasion of Naboo, and there are a couple of other handmaidens who also have sections of the story seen through their eyes.
I was a fan of E. K. Johnson’s first canon novel, Ahsoka, and her contribution to From A Certain Point of View, so when I heard that she was writing a novel focusing on Padmé and her handmaidens, I was excited. Safe to say that I wasn’t disappointed! Along with Claudia Gray, Johnson does a fantastic job of writing the characters we know and love from the films and series, and her portrayal of Padmé was no different. The novel does a great job of showing her feelings towards the politics and how much she has to adapt to her new role as a senator on Coruscant, which is so good to see considering how effective she always appeared on screen, years later. More than that, it does a great job of showing the closeness she has to her handmaidens, a relationship that we barely got to see on screen.
Now there was no one in the galaxy who knew them better.
I especially loved seeing the characters of the handmaidens – especially Sabé – fleshed out, as well as their actual roles. Each of them has their own areas of expertise, but they all work together to make sure that Padmé is safe and impressive, while themselves fading into the background. I also feel that the novel does a great job of introducing characters that we have seen on screen and know will go on to be important people in her life: Gregar Typho, Cordé, Dormé, Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Rush Clovis and Mina Bonteri, while also setting up for Jar Jar being brought in as a representative. My one criticism here is that I think the story surrounding Mina Bonteri somewhat goes against what we were told in The Clone Wars. In the show, it was said that Mina was an old friend and mentor. While there is clearly some friendship there in this story, I find it hard to imagine their interactions in this story led to the friendship that it was implied they had in the show, and I would also question how much Mina mentored Padmé in this novel.
This Padmé was new, more calculating, more wary.
One of the big criticisms I had hear of this story going in is that nothing really happens. I will agree with this, but counter that this feels more like a character piece that builds on what we already know, a part of a larger story rather than the whole story itself. In that way, I would compare it to Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, which probably had more moments of action but was more about the characters of Krennic and the Ersos. Catalyst was a novel that I really struggled with, which did leave me a little nervous when I started reading Queen’s Shadow, but I had no issue with the lack of action in this story. Perhaps it was that I had more interest in Padmé and Naboo compared to the Ersos, perhaps it was that it felt nowhere near as heavy a read… regardless, I found myself absolutely loving this story and would have loved to see it go on longer.
Should I read it?
She had been Sabé for all the most important parts of her life. Tsabin was a stranger.
If you have often found yourself drawn to the character of Padmé or enjoy more character-focused stories, then this is not to be missed. If you would rather have an action heavy story, then you may find yourself a little disappointed with this story’s lack of action.
Moments in Canon
- The Monarch of Naboo has a term length of 2 years, with each monarch able to serve a maximum of 2 terms
- At the end of Padmé’s second term, Gungans were allowed to vote for only the second time in Naboo’s history
- Saché was heavily scarred from Trade Federation interrogations during the occupation of Naboo
- Many of the Queen’s garments are made with her protection in mind: the materials are often blaster-resistant and the headpieces help to put off marksmen, while they also help to take the focus away from the queen’s face, making the use of a decoy easier
- Padmé’s handmaidens modified their names in her honour, eg Sabé was previously Tsabin and Dormé was originally Dorra
- Gregar Typho lost his eye in the Battle of Naboo
- The ion pulse that we see in the Star Wars Battlefront II campaign is being constructed
- Palpatine created his own security force, the red-robed guards
- Artoo came with the ship the Queen gave to Padmé for her use, but took on a bigger role due to his usefulness
- Bail Organa is often at political odds with Chancellor Palpatine
- Sio Bibble retired and was replaced as governor by Quarsh Panaka shortly after the formation of the Empire
- Sabé meets contacts in Dex’s Diner
- Following the Naboo Crisis, the Jedi memorialised Qui-Gon Jinn on Naboo, where the Naboo honour him as a hero
- Padmé’s hair pins for her senatorial outfits are designed to double as weapons or tools, The Clone Wars series and Attack of the Clones both show her picking the locks when she is handcuffed
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on it? Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you…