**PARTIAL SPOILERS FOR QUEEN’S SHADOW AHEAD**
EK Johnston’s newest Star Wars novel Queen’s Shadow focuses on Padme Amidala, and her transition from sovereign of Naboo, to becoming Senator. The novel centers itself on the earlier years between The Phantom Menace and Attack of The Clones. Johnston’s novel answers questions of Padme and her origins in a way that makes the book a page-turner from start to finish, something that fans have been waiting for since the conclusion of Padme’s story.
“We Are Brave, Your Highness.”-Padme and Sache (The Phantom Menace and Queen’s Shadow)
The novel opens on the last remaining days of Amidala’s reign as Queen of Naboo, with planet-wide elections taking place to chose a new sovereign to lead. It pulls an immediate comparison to the final moments of Revenge of The Sith, with Padme’s inevitable demise. “…white blossoms that had blown through the air to find their rest amongst her curls...her hands were clasped across her stomach as she floated.” Padme, her handmaidens, and staff are occupying Varykino during the election, where she later takes Anakin during AOTC. “The Queen of Naboo surfaced, sputtering water in the sunlight…shedding drops of water–and the last few blossoms.” The juxtaposition of the two scenes is something I haven’t seen in Star Wars canon (at least in regards to Disney canon) before, so it was quite enjoyable to discover.
Queen’s Shadow makes multiple comparisons to both the past and future of Padme’s life, as well as foreshadows the history of the galaxy itself. Foremost, there is a parallel made between Padme, and her daughter Leia later within the novel, when the Senator and her staff visit Alderaan at the invitation of Bail Organa and his wife, Queen Breha. The parallel is also present in Leia: Princess of Alderaan when Leia visits her birth mother’s home planet of Naboo and has an audience with Queen Dalne. Johnston’s use of parallel was thorough and brought out aspects of these familiar characters that I wasn’t expecting when the novel began.
EK also foreshadows the book with the dedication of her previous novel Ahsoka, which was to the Royal Handmaiden Society, a fan community that sprouted after The Phantom Menace was released. The dedication uses a quote that has since acted as one of many mantras for women of the Star Wars fandom. “We Are Brave, Your Highness.”
“My Hands Are Yours.”-Sabe (Queen’s Shadow)
The novel’s focus isn’t just on Padme and her political transition but also casts a spotlight on the individuals who guide and support her both as Queen and Senator: the handmaiden corp of Naboo. From the five who began the journey with her as Queen (Eirtae, Rabe, Yane, Sache, and Sabe) to the three who serve her as Senator (Dorme, Verse, Corde), this group of women is pivotal to Padme’s growth as a character as a whole. The relationship that Padme and the handmaidens (especially Sabe, her decoy) share is something that isn’t often in Star Wars, and is a key element throughout.
The handmaidens not only served as Padme’s assistants to dress into her elaborate costumes but also acted as her bodyguards, decoys, confidants and most importantly, friends. In the novel, the handmaidens even went as far as changing their names as a solidarity symbol to their service. The tight-knit group would go above and beyond to serve Padme and Naboo, even to their deaths. (As Corde, Verse, and Teckla, unfortunately, do in Attack of The Clones and The Clone Wars)
“We Serve And We Allow Others To Serve.”-Padme (Attack of The Clones)
The novel’s central plot is well-executed, giving further depth to her role as the Senator we see in Attack of The Clones and Revenge of The Sith. It also allows for more characterization of her staff, especially with Captain Gregor Typho and Captain Mariek Panaka, the wife of Captain Quarsh Panaka from The Phantom Menace. With these new introductions, it brings out a side of Padme’s character that most readers aren’t familiar with, which is one of a person trying to find her place in a new society, after facing challenges previously. It’s a side of the character that readers are able to relate to, in ways they may not have before.
The transitional period also re-introduces characters seen in The Clone Wars including Rush Clovis, Mina Bonteri, Mon Mothma, and Bail Organa. The inclusion of these characters, as well as new situations for Padme to discover, allow the reader to delve deeper into the inter-planetary commotion of Coruscant and the Senate as a whole with a method not often done in Star Wars canon. (Personally, I could have done without Clovis, but he did an okay job of moving the plot forward.)
Overall, reading and analyzing Queen’s Shadow was like a breath of fresh air in the realm of Star Wars novel canon. A Padme and handmaiden centric book has been long overdue (by 20 years…c’mon) and EK Johnston has done a fantastic job writing these characters that Prequel era fans care so much for. The audiobook, recorded by Cat Taber (Padme’s voice actor in The Clone Wars) was an immersive experience that pulled me straight into the story itself. (I had the privilege of meeting Taber at SWCC, who signed my copy of the book.) The book/audiobook are things I could only dream of as a little girl, watching and growing up with the Prequel era and Padme as a role model. This book celebrates women and their relationships in ways that need to be done more often in canon and opens an opportunity for more female representation within the galaxy, far, far away.
Queen’s Shadow by EK Johnston is available in print, ebook and audiobook in stores and online now.
(You can find Grace Croop on KRW’s Twitch channel twitch.tv/kesselrunweekly, and on Twitter @Amidala_716)