Last week, I read the latest canon Star Wars novel, Bloodline. Written by Claudia Gray, the novel takes place in the years prior to The Force Awakens, a period of time I, for one, am immensely intrigued by since watching the movie last Christmas.
This is very much a Leia-centric novel, as we follow the princess through the inner workings of the new New Republic. Just when she’s contemplating retiring from the senate to join her husband Han on the racing circuits, a plea from Ryloth to investigate what is possibly the biggest crime cartel since Jabba the Hutt puts her firmly back into the action, as she thinks this might be the perfect last job before leaving. She is joined by Ransolm Casterfo, a senator from the opposing Centrist party, and the two are immediately on opposite sides of the field when Leia finds out he collects Imperial relics such as TIE pilot helmets.
The two travel to Bastatha, and Leia meets with the Nikto crime boss Rinrivvin Di, a meeting that is interrupted by Casterfo as he thinks she needs rescuing. While on the planet, however, Leia has picked up on a clue that leads the investigation to Daxam IV, on the trail of a paramilitary organisation calling itself the Amaxine Warriors. Leia and Casterfo grow more friendly as the investigation progresses, though this is shattered when Casterfo learns who Leia’s father was.
The Centrist party seeks to re-establish a strong central government, while the Populists, Leia’s party, want worlds to have more autonomy and take more responsibility for themselves. Casterfo’s relics make Leia think he’s a pro-Empire kinda guy, but it emerges he has suffered while still a child under the hands of Darth Vader, which initially brought the two together. When Casterfo finds out Leia is Vader’s daughter, he flips and denounces her secret to the senate. It’s a really interesting point, and one that the Bantam-era novels didn’t really take much interest in exploring – in fact, I think it was just taken for granted that Leia was Vader’s natural daughter, but owed more of her history to the Organas of Alderaan so the point was moot. Here, however, it proves to be a political scandal that forces Leia to leave office.
She decided to see her investigation through to the end first, however, and manages to gain a lot of intel on the Amaxines and the various criminal activity of Rinrivvin Di. This intel comes perilously close to the nascent First Order, a group that is essentially backed by a die-hard core of Centrist politicians.
This book is fantastic! Back when I wrote my review of The Force Awakens, something I found particularly difficult to follow was the political landscape of the galaxy in light of the removal of all of the now-Legends stuff. Following the Battle of Endor, we had nothing to go on until suddenly there was a New Republic, but also a Resistance, opposed by something called the First Order, which looks an awful lot like the Empire, but there also may be an Imperial Remnant hanging out there somewhere? This book is definitely required reading if, like me, you’re a huge Star Wars nerd and love the political aspects of the universe. Indeed – if you enjoyed Cloak of Deception and the way in which it made so much sense out of The Phantom Menace, then you’ll love this book, as well!
Something I like about these new Star Wars novels is how new the galaxy feels, yet also how familiar. I remember mentioning this during my review of Heir to the Jedi, which involved a new history for Luke yet also featured Givin as mathematicians, a facet to the species that has been there since the 80s. Here, we see the New Republic that was set up under Mon Mothma’s leadership following Endor, yet it is vastly different to the state we read about during Bantam’s tenure. I’m not saying it’s better, but I find it really interesting to see how the new take on things and how it will be developed. Having a government by party might seem to be too Earthbound for some sci-fi enthusiasts, it’s nevertheless a decent enough framework from which to hang the wonderful character portraits Gray creates for the various senators. I’d have liked to have seen more of the Centrist party, but maybe that will be for another book. I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that Lost Stars was the first of three novels for the author, so I guess we’ll see.
Something that I want to mention here is the lack of Chewbacca. For decades, we’ve read of his Life Debt to Han that has led to him following around in the wake of the big three with very little to do. Sure, there were some stand-out moments for the big furry guy (specifically, I loved his role in the Black Fleet Crisis), but he’s often relegated to a sidekick with little more to do. The Life Debt seems to be well and truly a thing of the past, as brief mention is made of him living on Kashyyyk with his family. So I wonder what brought him back in with Han?
Of all the stories that need to be told between episodes VI and VII, I want to see a Han story that explores what he’s up to with this racing malarky, and I actually want to see more of Chewie! We also get a few mentions of Luke off training Ben somewhere, but I honestly don’t believe we’ll be seeing much of those guys before episode VIII comes out next year, so I suppose it’s pointless wishing for more Luke so early into the sequel trilogy.
Anyway, I’ll stop my rambling now! This book was amazing, and highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in the new Star Wars lore.