Book Review: Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston

Published: March 5, 2019 (US); May 2, 2019 (UK)
Author: E.K. Johnston
Cover artist: Tara Phillips
Publisher: Disney-Lucasfilm Press (US), Century (UK)
Formats: Hardback (352 pages), Paperback (TBC), eBook (352 pages), Audiobook (2 CD 502 minutes)
Timeline: 28 years BBY (Before Battle of Yavin)

The synopsis;

The end of her reign is just the beginning….

When Padmé Amidala steps down from her position as Queen of Naboo, she is ready to set aside her title and return to life out of the spotlight. But to her surprise, the new queen asks Padmé to continue serving their people—this time in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about the new role but cannot turn down the request, especially since, thanks to her dearest friend—and decoy—Sabé, she can be in two places at once. So while Padmé plunges into politics, Sabé sets off on a mission dear to Padmé’s heart.

On the glistening capital planet Coruscant, Padmé’s new Senate colleagues regard her with curiosity—and with suspicion for her role in ousting the previous chancellor. Posing as a merchant on Tatooine, Sabé has fewer resources than she thought and fewer options than she needs.

Together with Padmé’s loyal handmaidens, Padmé and Sabé must navigate treacherous politics, adapt to constantly changing landscapes, and forge a new identity beyond the queen’s shadow.

The review;

I really enjoyed Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston, so Queen’s Shadow was high up on my list for need to reads for 2019. This is a book that since finishing reading it, I can’t quite pigeon hole what genre of book it is. It’s political, biographical and it is all encompassed in a story of friendship beyond the perceived servitude of Padmé Amidala’s handmaidens.

As with Thrawn: Alliances, I used the eBook to read, but took in the lion share from the audiobook. Cat Taber does a brilliant job bringing the story to life and it is well backed up with a great selection of sound effects and music for dramatic effect. Taber having voiced Padmé for The Clone Wars series brings a realistic tone to the character and the inflections she pronounces help you understand things that may be missed by just reading the words to yourself.

The one thing that has been very frustrating is the staggered release for this title. Some received copies back in January ahead of its slated March release. In the US it was released in time for International Women’s Day, but here in the UK we have had to wait until now (May 2019) to get our hands on a copy. I think a global release date would have been a wiser move, especially as Age of Republic: Padmé Amidala #1 from Marvel Comics was released that same week.

This is a book that paints Padmé in a completely different light to how I thought it would. We have seen her as the indomitable Queen and the feisty Senator, but this takes us behind the makeup and demonstrates how vulnerable she can be. In the new arena of politics she is out of her depth at the start and it takes her a while to realise that she is unable to operate in the manner of her royal youth. She almost has to reinvent herself and the way her entourage work around her, but also realising how and when to use her decoy subterfuge to her advantage.

Chancellor Palpatine is on the periphery and isn’t too overly involved in the main story, but he is shown to be the true puppet master even at this distance. Stalling or obstructing bills that Padmé is passionate about and turning the heads of some of those she trusts in the Senate. He has had a plan for a long time and slowly but surely he is lining all the steps up on the backs of others to reach the pinnacle he will eventually achieve.

But the really interesting part for me was the relationships between Padmé and her handmaidens. Yes, they are with her out of servitude, but the portrayal of the depth in their friendships is so well written. This also extends out to the Panaka’s, Typho and Tonra who form the rest of her security detail. External to her enclave are the Senators who will shape her future more than she will ever realise, Mon Mothma and Bail Organa. While this is very early in their relationships, the trust is slow to build, but they both realise how much of an ally she will be going forward.

The prologue at the end is as thought provoking as the epilogue for The Last Jedi by Jason Fry. Set after the events of Revenge of the Sith, it actually raises questions and leaves a path open for Sabé to dig deeper into the demise of the Jedi, the rise of Palpatine and the sudden death of her dearest friend. I would definitely read a sequel to this if that was the case. There is a wide expanse that this storyline could go to and would be something a bit different.

While aimed at a younger female audience, I felt that Queen’s Shadow is a great read, but a very different read to the Star Wars novels that have gone before.

Availability;

Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston is published by Disney-Lucasfilm press in the US and Century in the UK. It was released on the 5th March in the US and 2nd May in the UK in hardback and is available at all good book stores and through online retailers including Amazon with a RRP of £20. It is available in hardback, eBook and audiobook formats.

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