The first New Canon Star Wars novel since The Force Awakens hit theaters is finally upon us, and Claudia Gray's Star Wars: Bloodline has the power to change how you view all the films set in a galaxy far, far away. It brings an incredible story with characters you can't help but love. Come inside to check out my full review!
Before you get too worried, I'm not going to post any story specific spoilers. Nothing direct will be spoiled. The only thing that MIGHT happen, is a reference to a couple story IDEAS. That's about as spoilery as this is going to get, so if you're worried about that, read on at your own leisure.
If the cover wasn't clue enough, the book centers around Princess Leia, a long time Senator in the New republic. The story itself takes place a mere five years before the events of The Force Awakens and that alone makes for some interesting teases. The Star Wars Aftermath books are set to show fans the final months leading to the fall of the Empire, in a time soon after Return of the Jedi. Bloodline, however, shows what these iconic characters have been doing after a couple decades of relative peace in the galaxy.
Yes, it's not like the old EU where our heroes faced a new galactic scale threat every few months. No, these characters have actually been able to enjoy some "peace" even while still working hard. It's kind of a nice change of pace, but Bloodline picks up at a point where that peace is on the verge of failing and a bigger threat is starting to take shape. As such, Bloodline gives us our best look yet at the Star Wars galaxy and the state of things during the big gap between films.
In a lot of ways, Bloodline is the book fans were hoping to get in the pre-Force Awakens build-up. It answers a lot of questions about how things came to be the way they are in the new movie, while giving up tons of hints regarding other stuff. While I thoroughly enjoyed the film, it was tough to care as much because there wasn't any sufficient explanation on how the galaxy got to where it was. The Resistance was just sort of there, and how it worked with the New Republic isn't explored. We know the First Order are the bad guys, but if that's the case, why wouldn't the Republic itself do anything about it? Why is there a need for the Resistance at all?
Bloodline handily answers these questions all while giving us a unique and engaging story in its own right. Make no mistake, the book isn't simply here to make connections and give people hints. It tells a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. The hints of what's to come and connections made are exceptional and add to the overall story, but it is far more than a mere tie-in book. Instead we get a novel filled with intrigue that keeps you guessing and far more action than I expected.
While the focus is obviously on Leia, there are a few new characters that shine as well (and I can't wait to hear more about). These new characters bring a lot of depth to the overall story, and help bring into focus the mindset of not only themselves, but the galaxy at large. One of the most prominent new characters is a Centrist Senator (Ransolm). The Centrists side of the Senate feel a return to a singular governing leader is the best way to go, while the Populists (like Leia) fear the concept of giving over authority to another individual, fearing the chance of spawning another tyrant.
Most Centrists seem to worship the old days of the Empire, with some even being collectors of old Imperial items. They liked the "old" days of order, and some (though they won't admit publicly) thought Palpatine and the others had it RIGHT. As such, there's a great deal of friction in the New Republic, and the government is growing stagnate. When a planet comes looking for help, Leia embarks an on investigation and gets stuck with Ransolm to do it. Along the way, these two manage to find common ground (which forms some really great character moments I won't spoil) and a larger conspiracy starts coming into focus.
A terrorist attack on the Senate begins to change things, and along with the results of the investigation, change begins to happen. There's call for an election of the "First Senator" who could be given real authority to lead and Leia finds herself nominated. While all this political stuff makes it sound like it'd be boring, Bloodline is far from that. There's a bunch of intrigue that follows, and it plays out much more like a political/spy thriller than anything else.
There's a lot going on within the book, but more than any other new Canon novel out there, it has the biggest reach/implications for the movies. Without hyperbole this is the first book I can think of (old Expanded Universe or new Canon) that has legitimately altered my perception on the movies. While The Force Awakens is the most obvious movie that's impacted (and significantly made better) the insights provided from getting inside Leia's head even altered how I viewed events from the ORIGINAL films as well.
On top of that, there are a TON of Prequel movie connections made as well. By far, Bloodline makes the most blatant PT connections than the other novels so far, and I mean that in the best way possible. They aren't obtrusive, and don't have a huge impact on the story, but there were incredibly neat to see incorporated. For example, Han Solo (who is still happily married with Leia at this point) isn't out smuggling or anything. You know what he's doing? He helps manage and organize professional races, one of which being PODRACES. Yeah, Han Solo is mentoring and helping out in podracing. How's THAT for Prequel love, huh?
There's several more little things like that, which are just neat to see. On top of that, we get a better timeline for when things went South for the Republic and Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren). Him and Luke both get a few mentions, along with Chewie and some other fan favorites.
While these teases and Easter eggs were a blast to read about, and there were several times I remember exclaiming out loud about them. While some are small, others were major and got me thinking about the bigger impact it could have on the Star Wars story in the grand scheme of things. One in particular gave me literal chills while I was reading, and is one of the key things I continue to think about even a couple weeks after finishing.
In all, Bloodline offers up tons of things for Star Wars fans to enjoy and get their speculation juices flowing. No matter where your primary fandom lies, the book gives you connections to virtually all of it.
Star Wars: Bloodline has a number of great themes it presents. While the overt theme presented is about the impact of familial legacies and how the sins of the parents can transfer to the children, but there's much more to it than that. There's a lot in the book about trust and respect, and how it applies to people with vastly different viewpoints. Considering the cultural climate today, this feels incredibly relevant and is done in such a great way that really makes you stop and think.
Even though Leia has spent her entire life fighting against tyrants and the idea of them, she manages to still keep an open mind to new ideas and finds friendship with a person who should be her biggest enemy. This idea of common ground and mutual respect is a powerful theme in its own right, but still there's more.
Throughout the story, we get to see Leia in ways we never have before. We get to see her indecision, her ire, and how exhausted she is. With the Rebellion and Empire war being far enough away that even the people she works with view them as old history, and Vader as more a boogeyman than reality, she often wonder where she fits in the galaxy anymore. This question constantly presents itself and sits at the heart of many of Leia's decisions. She fought for peace in the galaxy, but sees how that peace has turned people complacent. Is she a relic herself, can she pass the torch and finally move on to a personal life away from duty? These questions pop up, and really hammer home the other themes at play.
These make for some powerful messages that keep you thinking long after you've turned the last page. They stick with you in the way all great books manage to do. While the story has plenty of action and teases for fans, those aren't the things I keep thinking about. Instead, I'm drawn to the ideas and core themes Bloodline presents, which I feel will be it's biggest legacy in the years to come.
Before I wrap this all up, here are some other thoughts that came to mind while reading the novel, and after I finished it...though they didn't necessarily fit in any of the previous things I've talked about:
* Claudia Gray is a phenomenal writer. She manages to take characters we all know and put draw us even closer to them. Their interactions are believable and fitting with the characters we originally fell in love with, while giving them more depth than ever...All within a very short time frame. If she’s not already on your radar for authors, you need to change that. Also, I can’t wait for her to do more in Star Wars.
* Bloodline reads like one of the best Expanded Universe novels as well. If you were a big fan of the SWEU, you'll find lots to love with this book as well.
* Much like all of the novels in the last couple years, Bloodline brings a couple minor elements from the previous Expanded Universe into the new Canon.
* Bloodline is easily one of the best Star Wars novels I’ve read (and I’ve read them all, literally), new Canon and Expanded Universe.
* It’s a complete story in and of itself, but some of the ideas/teases could pave the way for a sequel, or some really great spin-offs that all tie together.