Star Wars: Queen's Peril
The latest Star Wars book takes fans back to Naboo as we get the story of Padme’s early days as Queen. Between the action and character moments, it’s a Prequel well worth reading. Check out my full review to see why you need to pick it up.
The previous Padme book, Queen’s Shadow, was all about Amidala’s transition from Queen of Naboo into her role as Senator (filling in the largely untouched gap between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones). While that book still left plenty of unexplored territory, Queen’s Peril decides to go backwards. Instead it tells the story of her early days on the throne; beginning right as she’s elected.
As such, the bulk of the story is about showing how Padme and her handmaidens came together, learning about one another, and how they developed the various skills they needed to survive and work together as a unit. This is the primary focus of the story, even as the overlap with The Phantom Menace happens. Instead of simply retelling the events of the film, we get to see how the handmaidens who were left behind on Naboo during the Trade Federation’s occupation.
It’s a fun approach to a story we all know, adding more depth to certain actions we see in the film, while filling in a gap that will now give certain scenes a tad more emotional weight. Couple this with some more behind the scenes political intrigue plus deft use of some minor characters and you’re left with an engaging story that’s hard to put down.
The Sum of Its Parts
To keep this spoiler free, I won’t really dive into any more details about the story, even though it really seems like I’ve barely touched on it. The reason for that is fairly simple. Much like the previous book, Peril is more a series of events strung together without a single overarching plot thread. It’s integration with Phantom Menace gives it more of one in the final third, but overall, it works as ‘slice of life’ sequences.
Generally speaking, I never really care for those kinds of stories. I like a larger plot thread that everything builds towards. That said, however, I was pleasantly surprised at how thoroughly Queen’s Peril managed to hook me. I BREEZED through this book in only a couple days and struggled to put it down.
On the surface, it’s essentially a checklist of things revealing how certain elements (many of which we see in both the movie and within Queen’s Shadow) came to be. It’s so much more than that, however. Each sequence shown, even something as seemingly minor as the girls sneaking out for a local rock concert, feels significant and engaging in its own way.
This makes learning about how certain things came to be (like something small about how blasters ended up hidden in the Queen’s Throne) less of checking a box off the list, and more naturally engaging. Even how it handled the overlap with The Phantom Menace was impressive to me, especially since it was the element I was most concerned with.
As such, the book manages to go well beyond the sum of its parts and doesn’t need that overarching plot thread to keep it all together.
Characters and Action
Much like with the previous novel, EK Johnston accomplishes all of this by putting the focus squarely on the characters. It’s very much a character-driven story and despite featuring a decently large cast of them, it feels like everyone is given plenty of time to shine.
Not only do we get to learn about how the handmaidens became such a cohesive unit, we also see parts of how they were chosen and the lives they were leading beforehand. They hooked me almost instantly, and I felt invested in their journey from the outset. Because of this, it makes the action sequences far more engaging.
The book doesn’t feature the massive battle sequences many expect from Star Wars stories. Instead, the action is more low-key, but no less tense. I think the best way to sum up how the action plays out and the feeling it gives, is that my first thought upon finishing the book was that I’m in desperate need of a stealth/action game (like Metal Gear Solid) about the Naboo Handmaidens.
Seriously, between the planning/intrigue elements and how it was described, it felt like reading great espionage action. While that may not be for everyone, it works incredibly well for the story being told and these specific characters.
Between the excellent writing, and stellar characters, there’s no reason to skip out on picking this one up. By the time I turned the last page I found myself wanting more and more stories featuring these handmaidens.