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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!