Story: E. K. Johnston
What They Say:
When Padmé Naberrie, “Queen Amidala” of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo’s representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen’s shadow.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The novel market for the Star Wars franchise is something that I enjoy quite a bit since it seems to go against what many online commentators talk about. “Who would want that story?” is a common refrain. Yet the books must be doing well enough, short and long term, in order for them to keep exploring some of these characters and “unusual” time periods of their lives. E.K. Johnston’s Queen’s Shadow book takes us back to the time after the end of The Phantom Menace and delves into Padme’s life as she goes from Queen to Senator. While it does touch lightly at the end with the end of Revenge of the Sith, it’s otherwise intent on showing us what brought her around to truly accepting the position that she was offered and making something of it.
Like most, I don’t think the original film did a good job in exploring how a Queen is elected and that’s touched upon a bit in here. We deal with Padme as she’s transitioning out of the position and looking to figure out what’s going to be next in her life. It’s an interesting transition from the start as the incoming queen was a former young queen who only did one of the two allowed terms. And now, much older, she’s coming into it with a different point of view. What’s welcome is that she knows the value of those that serve and understand the needs of Naboo. So offering Padme the role of Senator now that Senator Palpatine has become Chancellor Palpatine is a good thing. They know that he’s unable to show favor to his homeworld (is it truly his homeworld?) and the other Senator there has been a member for some time. So some fresh blood will be good and Padme’s time in dealing with the Trade Federation and her experiences with the Jedi offers something new for the planet in its representation.
The book works well in what it wants to do in exploring the group that surrounds her. We get touches upon how her handmaidens operated in the past, the kind of roles they play in protecting her, serving as her double, but also in preparation for events, meetings, and information sharing. There’s almost a sense at times that they’re really the same person in how they operate, sharing among them. But part of the book is how that was required as Queen but not as Senator. And the transition for them away from that is difficult. Padme has to spend her time on Coruscant where the political game is intense and secrets powerful. Some that she has to keep from those her work with her as well, which in turn becomes a limiting factor in how they can all share the role as needed. As a growing up and shedding your youth kind of thing, it works well enough and though it focuses heavily on Padme is also makes sure that at least Sabe gets a good bit of attention as well. That she’s now showing up in some of the comics is a delight and I’m hoping for some nice continuity to exist there.
As this is the early days of her being a Senator, it doesn’t have any truly big or grand stories to it. It focuses on how the Trade Federation is manipulating her reputation through the media, her learning the ropes and meeting with a range of new legislators and established ones, and getting a handle on the system itself. I like that we get to see the first meeting with Clovis, who figures nicely in the Clone Wars, and that events referenced in the TV series unfold here in how the pair along with others worked to curb piracy as a side-effect of a bigger issue that she was tackling. Her creative approach is what helps to break a logjam where so many systems are focused only on themselves as opposed to the greater good at times, so her using that to her advantage makes for a good tale. The downside is that once it’s a success and decisions are made, the book ends far too abruptly overall when there’s still what feels like a good several years worth of this period to explore before it gets to Attack of the Clones era, which then leads into the Clone Wars TV series.
There are a lot of things I enjoyed about the book but one of them was definitely seeing how Bail Organa took to her here. We know the bond formed over time as he was helpful in the prequel trilogy and that carries through Leia, which provided for a brief but nice Rogue One moment. Seeing these throughlines are what I love about the novels and comics. Having an interlude where Padme and her group end up on Alderaan for a week and spending time with Bail and Queen Breha there is a delight as it reinforces just how strong the bond must have been between them all, and why Breha was all the more willing to bring Leia into their lives. Knowing who Padme is for several years through her husband and the work Padme did as a Senator certainly helps.
Padme was one of the characters that made out the best by the Clone Wars TV series in really expanding her. This book goes back before that to a place where we get to see her understanding of the Senate – which we saw play out in the Leia, Princess of Alderaan novel when she joined the junior legislature, and that provides that famous echoes quote of Lucas so well. I’ve long liked the character of Padme and this helps to bring more of her to the surface while also exploring more of her support system, particularly with Sabe. It’s not a deep or rich look at the political system as it exists, though it’s certainly touched on, because it’s a young adult novel. But it serves the character well to explore her as she moves from one state to the next, bringing her back home briefly as well, and allowing her to make the real choice of what she wants to make of her life. Johnston has another Padme book coming up but this one looks like it goes back to just before The Phantom Menace, which should be interesting for different reasons. But I hope she gets to explore more of what comes after this novel someday.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Release Date: March 5th, 2019