When I first heard that E.K. Johnston would be following up last year’s solid Star Wars novel Queen’s Shadow with a prequel, I was very skeptical. But after reading the book, I was happily proven wrong.
Queen’s Shadow (released July 2, 2020 by Disney Lucasfilm Press) expands on the story told in Shadow while at the same time tying Padme and Naboo into the larger Star Wars narrative even better than its predecessor.
Queen’s Shadow took place after The Phantom Menace, telling the story of Padme’s transition from Queen to Senator and how vital her handmaidens were in every aspect of her life. Queen’s Peril is the story of how Padme transitioned from citizen to Queen, the first days of her working with her handmaidens and how the early days of her reign led right into the events of The Phantom Menace.
At its heart, this is a book about Padme and how she forms a routine and relationships with her handmaidens. While they are a bit hard to tell apart at times, they do have their individual personalities, talents and back stories. Just like in Shadow, Peril gives us a Padme more relatable than her onscreen incarnation. Padme is the idealist who wants to do what she can to make things better. She takes a situation- her security- and inventively changes it through the handmaidens to better suit her. Certain scenes, such as the first time she gathers her new team, or when they decide to buck authority for a simple night out, are very well-written and help make the galaxy far, far away feel more down to earth.
However, the novel is not just about Padme. Nearly every character from the Phantom Menace makes an appearance at one point or another, with many given weighty moments. This book made me want to watch The Phantom Menace again. The moments relate not just to the first Star Wars episode, but provide insight into other events throughout the saga (however, one of Jar Jar’s interests comes off as totally out of left field).
The book is an entertaining, quick read. However, there are some times, particularly with the character asides, where the pacing feels off. There was a concept or two (notably the idea that very few people know of the Queen’s true identity- based on my understanding, the candidates for Queen take a pseudonym when they run for office and don’t give it up) that went over my head. And if you haven’t read other Star Wars books, some references might not make a ton of sense. But none of this detracts from the whole reading experience.
Queen’s Peril is out this week. If you want to explore the state of the Star Wars galaxy right before the movie saga begins, these pages are definitely worth turning.