It’s Star Wars Day — May the Fourth be with you!
In celebration, starwars.com announced that E.K. Johnston’s Padmé Amidala novel, “Queen’s Shadow,” will be available as free download from May 1-8.
Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls previously reviewed “Queen’s Shadow” in summer 2019. Here’s what she thought!
From Queen to Senator
As a character, Padmé is, unfortunately, sometimes overlooked in the Star Wars franchise. She had some great arcs in “The Clone Wars” animated series, but in the films she is often used as merely a catalyst in Anakin Skywalker’s story.
“Queen’s Shadow” allows her to take center stage in her own novel, which is set between the events of “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones.” In this book, Padmé is just finishing up her term as Queen of Naboo and beginning her career as a Senator.
One of the best things about this book is that it fleshes out some of the background characters from “The Phantom Menace.” Padmé’s handmaidens — a.k.a. bodyguards/assistants — get to play more of an active role in the story and we learn about who they are and why they are so loyal to Padmé. It’s always great to see strong female friendships portrayed in fiction, and this is where the book really shines.
The side character who gets the most development is handmaiden Sabé (she’s also my favorite character in the book). Padmé sends her to Tatooine on a special mission that has an important tie-in to “The Phantom Menace.”
Playing it too safe
Although I enjoyed reading “Queen’s Shadow” and appreciated what it was trying to accomplish, overall the finished product felt a bit flat. After reading/listening to some commentary from other fans, I think I’ve figured out what bothered me about it. (To be fair, I’ve heard from others who really loved this book, just the way it is, so maybe this issue won’t bother everyone, but it definitely stood out to me.)
I really wish the author had written the book with more nuance. The best stories are told in the gray areas between the black and white, where characters have to really wrestle with difficult decisions and struggle to determine what the right thing to do is.
It’s great to have characters who are noble and upstanding and are positive role models. However, I don’t think E.K. Johnston gave the characters enough flaws in this book. Padmé and her handmaidens all get along really well and work well together. That’s great…but it didn’t necessarily feel realistic.
Being close friends with someone doesn’t mean there will never be conflict. Maybe some of the handmaidens could have disagreed with Padmé sometimes. Or maybe a few of them quietly resent all the sacrifices they were required to make to serve the queen of Naboo. While reading this book, I found myself wishing for more moments of contention (as odd as it feels to say that), because conflict helps us to learn and grow as people.
Is it worth a download?
In short, I felt like this book missed an opportunity to provide a deep, emotional dive into some fascinating characters. It was worth a read (especially as a free download!), but it’s probably not a book I’ll read in full again.
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