SWNN Review: Bloodline by Claudia Gray (Mild Spoilers)

Bloodline

Author Claudia Gray surprised Star Wars readers everywhere last year with her first venture into the galaxy far far away – Lost Stars – a young adult novel released on “Force Friday” in September of last year as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens publishing effort. Her skillful mastery in storytelling, character building, and the ability to seamlessly weave her brand new story and characters into the old tale we’ve known and loved for generations earned her the respect of many fans. Read on for the full review of Claudia Gray’s second entry into the Star Wars franchise, and the first adult novel since the release of The Force Awakens – Star Wars: Bloodline.

 

Star Wars Fan

 

Much like what Luceno did with Tarkin, Gray’s Bloodline, at its heart, is a character study of everyone’s favorite space-princess, Leia Organa.  The story takes place six years prior to the events of The Force Awakens and details the political climate of the New Republic.  The Republic Senate has been gridlocked for decades, as infighting between the two main political parties, the Centrists (who uphold the idea of a more centralized government) and the Populists (who cling to the idea of planets maintaining individual autonomy within the planetary alliance of the Republic) mars the peace that the Populist senator, Leia Organa, has worked all her life to achieve.  This political nightmare is exacerbated further when Mon Mothma, the only real uniting voice in the Republic, is stricken ill and steps down from office.

 

After the emissary from Ryloth – a system that has grown used to suffering at the hands of outside powers like the Hutts and the Empire – addresses the issue of organized crime once again strangling the local economy of his homeworld, Leia and a young Centrist senator named Ransolm Casterfo volunteer to go to the planet Bastatha to investigate the Nikto cartel. The Niktos, former servants of the Hutts, have risen to power in the void created when the Hutts lost most of their influence in the years following the death of Jabba.

 

Leia_kills_Jabba

 

Needless to say, some heads butt and some toes get stepped on, as Leia and Casterfo are forced to overcome their differences to complete their mission.  They soon discover just how vast and powerful that the Nikto cartel has become, and in a very small amount of time, which leads the senators to the conclusion that someone else must be backing the cartel.  Unfortunately, the Senate in their usual state of gridlock, cannot reach a concensus on whether or not Leia and Casterfo should continue in their investigation, prompting the young senator from Arkanis, Lady Carise Sindian, to call for an election of a First Senator.

 

The First Senator, although given strict regulations by the system to avoid a possible abuse of power, would be given a certain authority to overcome the indecisiveness that has long plagued the Republic. Originally against the idea of a First Senator, when the motion carries, the Populists have no choice but to present a candidate who would be most likely to win over whatever nominee the Centrists could drum up.  This of course leads them to nominate lifelong politician and war hero, Senator Organa, for candidacy.

 

Vote Leia

 

Leia is initially hesitant to go along with the nomination, as she was actually planning to quit politics altogether to go live the dream flying all over the galaxy with her racing tycoon husband.  However, as duty demanded that she stay and run for the office, she realized that now was not the time to indulge in her selfish desires. However, when a fellow senator uncovers a skeleton in Leia’s closet, a secret from her past that has been kept between her and only two others – her brother and her husband – the Republic’s trust in Leia is fractured and the Populists withdraw her nomination for the office of First Senator.

 

Liar

 

Her reputation devastated by the public reveal of her darkest secret, Leia is forced to tell her son the truth, a truth she has long kept hidden in an effort to protect him.  Relieved of her immediate necessity in the Senate and in dire need of a vacation, Leia decides to continue with her investigation into the Nikto cartel on her own.  Her discoveries soon set in motion a series of events that reveal the back story to the political situation of the galaxy six years later in The Force Awakens. How did the First Order rise from the ashes of the Empire?  What led to the rise of the Resistance?  These questions and more are answered here in the final pages of the book.

 

I won’t spoil all the story details, but I will give you a little bit of information about how Bloodline ties in to the larger canon. First of all, let me note that fans looking for massive revelations concerning the sequel trilogy may be slightly disappointed if they’re hoping to find such things in this novel. For example, Supreme Leader Snoke is  nowhere to be found and we are given no real concrete information about what the heck Luke and Ben Solo are doing during the events of the book, although Leia does make multiple references to her son and brother with fond affection throughout the story.

 

What we do know is that Luke has been out of the spotlight for some time as he has focused on seeking out ancient Jedi knowledge. Ben has been traveling with him, and at this point he is not yet Kylo Ren. It’s also abundantly clear from the context of the story that he is in fact the only child of Han and Leia.  And if you happen to be wondering what Chewie’s been up to in the last couple of decades – well, he’s been spending the last several years on Kashyyyk with his family.  He is still in contact with the Solo family from time to time, but he and Han parted ways at some point.  My guess is that Wendig will eventually address this in his Aftermath trilogy.

 

For those hoping for a Lando appearance in VIII, keep holding on to that hope. Although he is not in the book himself, it is confirmed that (at least six years before TFA) Lando is alive and well. The book is full of goodies for those who have been keeping up with the canon so far, as Gray lays down some nice connective tissue with many other stories. There is even a small nod to the Vader Down storyline, a recent crossover event between Marvel’s Star Wars and Darth Vader comic series. But other than small connections like this, don’t expect any major new revelations in this one. However, those who were confused about the political climate in The Force Awakens and just exactly why we should have cared about the people on Hosnian Prime when they met their explosive fate in the movie, may find some of those answers here.

 

Republic_City_Hosnian_Prime

 

Although Bloodline is not without the classic Star Wars standards like space travel, blaster fights, and speeder chases, these scenes take a back seat to what really makes the story shine – the character interactions and the political intrigue.  Gray captures the magic of Star Wars and gives us the best look at Leia we have ever had in a Star Wars story, be it a novel or otherwise.  She understands the character and her motivations brilliantly.  Bloodline probably wouldn’t work as a Star Wars film, varying too much from the expectations of a cinematic blockbuster with its more intimate approach to storytelling – but as a novel – it works beautifully and is expertly crafted by its author.

 

Simply put, Claudia Gray has proven within the pages of just two books her immense love for the property and her ability to write Star Wars in a way that is both compelling and seemingly effortless. So far, Gray is 2 for 2 and if she continues down this road, she is well on her way to becoming one of the greatest Star Wars writers the franchise has ever seen, right alongside authors like Timothy Zahn and Drew Karpyshyn.  I really can’t shower anything but praise on this book.  If I was forced to come up with a disappointment I had when reading the book, I’d say it was when I got to page 332 and realized that there were no more pages to follow.  To sum up my thoughts on Bloodline, I will borrow from the words of the late Darth Vader himself, “Impressive…most impressive.”

 

poster-bloodline

 

Star Wars: Bloodline is available now wherever books are sold.  Get your copy at the first opportunity – you’ll be glad you did.  As always, stay tuned to Star Wars News Net, for news on Star Wars movies, novels, comics and more!

 

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Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he's not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

Jordan Pate (Hard Case)

Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he's not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

33 thoughts on “SWNN Review: Bloodline by Claudia Gray (Mild Spoilers)

  • May 3, 2016 at 6:15 pm
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    Great review Hardcase.

    “First of all, let me note that fans looking for massive revelations concerning the sequel trilogy may be slightly disappointed if they’re hoping to find such things in this novel.”.

    I think this was a given before the publication of this book. It was highly unlikely that us fans would be so indulged before the release of Episode VIII.

    I very much look forward to opening and reading the first chapter on Thursday.

    • May 3, 2016 at 9:12 pm
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      I think people’s expectations need to be put in check. There are still 2 more movies in the works in the ST. You can’t expect for there to be some huge reveal in a novel. The Star Wars films are singular stories. You only need to have seen the previous films to understand what is happening. The new canon and EU is for expanded stories and to give more backstory on events. It does a great job of this. I am half way through the book and it nails it!

      • May 3, 2016 at 10:59 pm
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        No spoilers now. No spoilers.

  • May 3, 2016 at 6:42 pm
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    “[…]those who were confused about the political climate in The Force Awakens and just exactly why we should have cared about the people on Hosnian Prime when they met their explosive fate in the movie, may find some of those answers here.”

    This is all that needed to be said for me. I understand that J.J. probably wanted to avoid prequel tropes that people aren’t fond of, like an emphasis on politics, but I still feel like TFA should have had at least one scene about the New Republic so we actually cared when it got blown up.

    • May 3, 2016 at 6:57 pm
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      Totally. Much as I liked TFA that was one of its weaknesses. One I’m hoping Episode VIII might address.

      Although I’ll be diving in to Bloodline as soon as I’m done with Joe Abercrombie’s Sharp Ends collection. Lost Stars was surprisingly good.

    • May 3, 2016 at 8:23 pm
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      agreed! A 3 minute scene of leia pleading with Hosnian Prime would have made its destruction a lot more tragic. We felt for alderan in mere seconds just because it was princess leia’s home and she said they were a peaceful people with no weapons. We don’t even get the name of the Hosnian system until after it is destroyed.

    • May 3, 2016 at 8:41 pm
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      Wet me just say…I wuv youw avataw… – Youw Paw, Homestaw

    • May 3, 2016 at 11:11 pm
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      It is because they wanted it to feel more like A new hope…Nobody knew anything about Alderaan besides the fact it was Leia’s home when it was destroyed…never heard anyone whine about that…The new republic had nothing to do with the story in the force awakens..that movie was about Rey,Finn, and kylo Ren…we knew that the planets they blew up were the new republic….that’s all we really needed to know…if that fact alone didn’t make you care…then I don’t know wtf to tell ya.

    • May 4, 2016 at 12:12 am
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      We didn’t know anything about Alderaan when it blew up.

      • May 4, 2016 at 3:56 am
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        And we did not cared for Alderaan. Same as we do not care for Hosnian prime.

      • May 4, 2016 at 7:27 pm
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        But we at least saw that someone (Leia) whose home it was, and who said they were peaceful and had no weapons. We at least had her emotion to go off. Starkiller Base blew up like 5 planets, and we briefly heard in Hux’s speech that one of them housed the Republic. That’s it.

        • May 4, 2016 at 7:53 pm
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          There wasn’t much emotion, honestly. She never even mentioned it after it happened. It was merely to show the stakes.

    • May 4, 2016 at 3:59 am
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      I liked politics in prequels. TFA would been a better movie with some politics. I really wanted to see The New Republic. New Senate.

  • May 3, 2016 at 7:07 pm
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    I am less than halfway through the book and I can say, in Vader’s words. You were right. 😛

    If the rest of the book is this good, Gray had done it again. It might be better than Lost Stars and that is my number two book in the new canon.

    • May 3, 2016 at 10:11 pm
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      I’m looking forward to reading it!

  • May 3, 2016 at 7:11 pm
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    Are there any plans to write a spoiler discussion? I understand some people want to find out for themselves, but I just want to know what the explanations for force awakens are.

    • May 4, 2016 at 7:16 am
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      You’re looking in the wrong place then. This book isn’t necessarily an “explain TFA” novel. It’s a character piece on Leia which happens to give a little backstory to Ep. VII peripherally. It only really does so by way of Leia’s personal journey though, not really anything major that swayed the event’s of TFA. There aren’t any real major revelations here, just some framework and scaffolding to help ease people into the new era. It’s got some meat to it, but it’s just about all covered right up there in the article which does cover spoilers for the most part.

  • May 3, 2016 at 8:30 pm
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    Fairly major reveals actually (not like “I am your father” or anything but still). I assumed from TFA that luke had been gone for 15 to 20 years and that Ben became kylo very early on. After reading this it appears that Luke has been on Ach-To for less than six years and Ben is (relatively) new to his dark side moniker. That combined with the clarity that Ben is an only child and a few nuggets on the creation of the resistance and I’d say that’s a rather meaty appetizer to tide us over until episode 8

    • May 4, 2016 at 1:51 am
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      At least 10 years as he was 30 in TFA and would be about the same age when Anakin razed the Jedi Temple when the new purge happened.

      • May 4, 2016 at 2:13 am
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        wait- How could it be 10 years if this book takes place only 6 years before TFA and he is still ben solo? Unless leia has been out of touch for that long.

        • May 4, 2016 at 7:11 am
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          It wasn’t.

        • May 4, 2016 at 1:05 pm
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          I think it said in the novelization and they probably retconned it. I don’t think it’s believable if he falls so late in life but I also find it not believable if he took everyone out so young.

      • May 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm
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        Anakin was 23 when he sacked the Temple. Ben is 23-24 in this. I assume the “revelation” leads him to investigate the Dark Side and thus fall fairly quickly after the book ends.

        • May 5, 2016 at 3:01 pm
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          Good theory though obviously they are going to save all the best stuff for the films.

    • May 4, 2016 at 2:23 am
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      I sort of assumed that Luke had been missing for 10 or so years and Ben turned to the dark side when he was 19 or 20 or so. Of course, now that I think about it, there’s no real basis for those assumptions. I guess it was just a timeline that made sense in my (and many other’s) head. At any rate, I’ll be picking this book up this weekend.

    • May 7, 2016 at 12:37 pm
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      I have not read the book.
      But from the article and some PHidalgo tweets I have understood the following:
      -6 years before TFA Ben Solo is still with Luke.
      -Then Ben Solo was probably fully trained by Luke.
      -He went to the dark as an adult, and probably trained jedi and not as a teen as everyone was supposing.
      -A consecuence of this, Rey was not left in Jakku as a consecuence of the destruction of Luke´s Academy, because it was 7 to 10 years before. So many theories related to that timeline are not possible.
      -What I understand the article is wanting to say and it is not telling totally, Ben discovering the family secret, he is grandson of Dart Vader, is one of the reason he passed to the dark side.

  • May 3, 2016 at 9:56 pm
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    @hardcase37:disqus, do you have any speculation as to which threads of the story Rian Johnson may have informed? There are reports he gave input on backstory to help set up the world he’s creating for Ep VIII.

    • May 3, 2016 at 11:06 pm
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      I suspect that some of the new characters may have future roles on screen. I don’t want to say who exactly because that may be spoilerific to those who haven’t read it yet, but there is one in particular that Claudia Gray said that the idea of the character came to her by Lucasfilm (in EW’s recent interview with her). I think there will be a lot more political undertones in VIII as well. I think we will explore more of the inner workings of the First Order and I think Leia will play a more prominent role in VIII than in TFA.

    • May 4, 2016 at 12:12 am
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      Probably won’t know until Ep 8 is out.

  • May 4, 2016 at 12:36 am
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    It goes from Han has been in contact with Ben and Luke on and off for years to Han has not seen Ben and Luke in years. Got it.

    • May 4, 2016 at 4:12 am
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      Ja bot wear? On or off ha, ha

  • May 6, 2016 at 2:11 am
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    warning spoilers ahead:

    so can someone clarify this for me, when Ransolm played the thingg in senate did they learn that:

    a) Leia is actually Skywalker

    b) Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker

    c) Leia is Luke’s sister

    ?

    or any of these options were known to the general public beforehand, say, Luke being Vader’s son etc.
    I’m confused

    • May 9, 2016 at 10:17 pm
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      They knew she and Luke were brother and sister, but they found out that Annakin was their father and he was Darth Vader.

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