One of the great things about Star Wars is that we get to experience it in many different formats: movies, TV shows, comics, music, and books. It provides the galaxy far, far away with the ability to expand on what a two and a half hour movie doesn’t have the time to show.
When The Phantom Menace debuted in 1999, I was in high school and a very new Star Wars fan. I’d just seen the Original Trilogy for the first time two years earlier and having a new movie so soon was such a huge deal for me. Not only was it expanding on the saga, but it was giving us new characters and worlds and droids and ships. The moment Queen Amidala graced the screen, she became my new favorite character next to Han and Leia. I had to buy the version of the novelization with her on the cover!
Now here we are twenty years later and Queen’s Shadow, written by E.K. Johnston, is the book many of us have been waiting for all these years! It primarily follows Padmé as she gets her footing as a new Senator in the Galactic Republic but also follows Sabé as she finds her own footing in the galaxy.
At the beginning, we find that Padmé has finished her two terms as Queen. She and her handmaidens now have to move on to the next step of their lives. I thought it was really beautiful how Johnston expressed the close relationships between Padmé and her handmaidens. While they were excited to move on to new things, there was sadness that this part of their lives was ending.
We didn’t truly get a sense of who each handmaiden was in The Phantom Menace, but the author makes a point to make sure the reader understands that Sabé, Rabé, Eirtaé, Saché, and Yané are each their own unique person. I really enjoyed getting to know each of them , but it took me a little time to properly associate their characteristics. So I was slightly disappointed that when I finally had that information correct in my mind, and new handmaidens were introduced while the others were then in the background. Ultimately, it had to happen for the story to continue, and I was happy to see that the original handmaidens showed up later in the book.
At times information seemed to come up abruptly. For example, we suddenly learn that Saché was up for election into the planetary legislation assembly right as we find out she actually was elected. In another instance, we find out that Padmé had met Senator Clovis prior to his first appearance in the book, but we do not read about it. Often, this made me feel like I had missed something and sometimes that was disconcerting.
What I really liked about Queen’s Shadow was that it truly is an introspective look at a time in Padmé’s life when everything is changing and the stakes are incredibly high. We see exactly how she navigates the galaxy both as Padmé and Senator Amidala. From what she wears to how her makeup is applied to how her hair is styled, Amidala is like an armor for her, literally and figuratively.
We also see what Sabé is up to and how important she is to Padmé and to her legacy. Their friendship is so beautiful. The author was able to show how two women can have a friendship incredibly deep and loving while still being strong and independent people. It actually makes Padmé’s eventual death that more heartbreaking.
Even though Queen’s Shadow mostly follows Padmé and Sabé, some amazing new characters are introduced, like Captain Panaka! No, not THAT Captain Panaka. His wife, Mariek Panaka! We also meet Captain Tonra, who spends most of his time with Sabé. We are also reintroduced to some familiar faces. Bail Organa makes a strong appearance and of course Chancellor Palpatine shows up from time to time, like a looming shadow. There are also a plethora of Clone Wars era characters that make an appearance. Bringing characters that we know or kind of know from other medias within Star Wars Universe is one of my favorite things to see.
Overall I enjoyed the story line. There were some twists and turns I wasn’t expecting. Padmé came across as a very strong, independent young woman who wholeheartedly stuck to her convictions. She was not afraid to stand up for herself and others while still being able to play the game of politics. She continuously learned from her errors and grew from her weaknesses. But my biggest take away from Queen’s Shadow is the value of friendship and love, which to me, is the heart of Star Wars.
Queen’s Shadow is now available everywhere books are sold!