Politics in Space!
“An entire generation has prospered during an era of peace. The New Republic, governed by the Galactic Senate, has held power for more than two decades. The wars that divided the galaxy are fading into legend.”
The days of the Expanded Universe are finished.
Yes, names like Kyle Katarn, Jacen & Jaina Solo, and even Dash Rendar no longer exist.
It has been nearly 2 years since the era of “The New Canon” began and it’s safe to say that we live in a very different era of Star Wars fandom. Since then, we have received plenty of new media in the form of novels, comics, and YA novels with a wealth of brand new planets to visit, and new characters to meet. “The Force Awakens” took place 30 years after “Return of the Jedi”, leaving fertile ground for rich background information that can be revisited at a later date. “Star Wars: Bloodline” is one of the first real stories to take advantage of that gap, which shows us what state the galaxy is in, and where Leia and Han Solo’s marriage has taken them. So is it all worth it? Does the new Canon have a better understanding of the galaxy we all know and love? Are the characters just as rich and dynamic? If we get more stories like this (and less like “Aftermath”), we are all in great hands.
Bloodline takes place 6 years before the events of “The Force Awakens”, and the galaxy is in a state of complacency. Two unofficial factions in the Senate have divided the galaxy in two: The Populists, who believe individual planets should retain almost all authority, and The Centrists, who favor a stronger galactic government and a more powerful military. Claudia Gray draws obvious parallels to today’s political climate, with the addition of these two factions revealing how stagnant the Senate has been since the fall of the Empire. When we first see Princess/Senator Leia, she has had enough of the Senate and is ready to fly off with her husband/racer Han Solo. However in little time, Leia is thrust into a plot of political intrigue and adventure involving cartels, warriors, a “Napkin Bombing” and an election. Did that all make sense?
Well, only Claudia Gray can make all of this an engaging and surprisingly brisk read. There is a lot of politics in this novel; if you’re of the mind that politics and Star Wars don’t mix or you just had enough of that in the prequels, I would still recommend you give this a read. Action in Star Wars really belongs on the big screen and it can pass in the comics, but I’m happy that there was only a handful of action beats, because the experience of reading about a speeder bike chase will never measure up to seeing it happen with John Williams in the background. The novel does what a novel should do in this universe: further flesh out the characters and enrich the saga as a whole, so you can later have a better understanding of what is happening in the films. The films have always come first in Star Wars and everything else helps further enhance the main focus.
As far as “Legacy” characters, this is Leia’s story first and foremost. Han does make several appearances, while Luke is really taking a backseat in this one. You do find out what he’s doing (and who he’s with), but it’s really just planting seeds that will later blossom in future stories. Gray captures the voice of Leia perfectly; she is exactly the person you would expect post-“Return of the Jedi”. Strong willed, and demands authority, but has a cautiousness and vulnerability that a wife and mother (and daughter of the Dark Lord of the Sith) would have, especially after everything she’s been through.
As with many novels in the new Canon, there are brand new characters that flesh out this story. Korr Sella is particularly interesting, because she actually makes an appearance later in “The Force Awakens” on the planet Hosnian Prime. (Yeah, sucks eh?) The rest of Leia’s crew is interesting enough to get through the story; even C-3PO has more to do here than in “The Force Awakens”, but the real scene stealer of the novel is the Centrist Senator, Ransolm Casterfo.
“He collected artifacts leftover from the Galactic Empire including pro- Emperor Palpatine banners, armor fragments, and more.”
With a collection of old Imperial propaganda you begin to question exactly where this guy’s loyalties lie, but it’s not as simple as you think. At the beginning of the story, he acts as a foil to Leia’s more realistic approach to viewing things. As the story moves along, though, he really becomes the second lead and witnesses many of the wrongdoings going on behind closed doors in the Senate. He’s a refreshing character and a welcome addition to Star Wars. Also as an added detail, Claudia Gray modeled Casterfo from Tom Hiddleston and if this character ever made it to the screen, he would fit the part perfectly.
With characters like this, you can’t deny that the Lucasfilm Story Group has been knocking it out of the park with their knowledge and ability to blend everything into a singular universe. Even without the names I mentioned earlier belonging in this “New Universe”, they are finding ways to re-introduce some characters in a new way, sharing elements of what they may have been in past stories. A stand out title in the new collection of novels, this is one book not to miss if you’re a fan of Star Wars, political intrigue and rich characters. Highly recommended!