Star Wars returns with its first new novel of 2016 and the first since The Force Awakens released, in Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray. By putting the focus on Princess Leia and her work in the New Republic, Gray is able to explore a relatively unknown period of Star Wars history but does so by providing a deep and complicated look at the galaxy and its politics.
Taking place over 20 years after the Battle of Endor, Princess Leia has begun to notice the cracks forming in the New Republic. Split along ideological lines, the galactic senate is at a near standstill. When the independent planet of Ryloth requests aid to deal with a powerful criminal cartel, Leia sees it as an opportunity to get real work done. However, when Leia is forced to work with her polar opposite, Senator Casterfo, a young, ambitious man and admirer of the old Empire, the adventures outing turns into a headbutting match. Soon, though, the two learn that they are not so different in the face of an even greater threat.
While Leia works to uncover how deep the criminal conspiracy goes, a great shake up occurs in the senate, forcing Leia into the spotlight. As the secret of the Princess’ parentage looms large, she finds herself caught up in a tangled web of crime and politics. All of this eventually comes to a head, shaping the future of Princess Leia Organa and the galaxy.
While at its most basic, Star Wars is often thought of as a story of good versus evil. However, the best stories in a galaxy far far away have often mixed in elements of current events. In Bloodlines, Claudia Gray manages to capture that while walking the fine line of politics. Readers may be inclined to view the political sides in the story as versions of 2016 American politics, however, Gray does one better. Combining ideals to form the Populists and Centrists in the book, she is able to comment on modern day politics, while taking no side at all.
Where Bloodline is certainly focused on the New Republic, there is also an excellent story of criminal conspiracy weaved throughout. As Leia and her team follow the trail of a crime boss, the mystery behind them and the power this organization wields unfolds in a satisfying way throughout the novel.
Princess Leia Organa is front and center here. She is smart, resourceful, and insightful. She recognizes flaws in both her adversaries and those on her side, and it’s easy to see how the character gets from the end of Return of the Jedi to here. Throughout, we see a character unhappy with the way things are and wanting to take a more active role as if she was never able to leave the rebellion behind completely. Alongside her are fun supporting characters that comprise her staff. Geer, Leia’s aide and pilot and
Alongside her are fun supporting characters that comprise her staff. Geer, Leia’s aide, and Joph Seastriker, a fun young fighter pilot get to play major roles next to the heroes of this piece. Even Senator Casterfo, who comes off at first glance as an obnoxious foil to Leia, quickly grows on the reader. Korr Sella has a small but important role as Leia’s intern along with Han, who is less seen and more heard. He and Leia do not live together often, as the two are focused on their own careers while still remaining a loving couple. The final character of note is Lady Carise, another senator who can come across as quite silly, but ends up playing a larger part than originally perceived.
While it’s not overflowing with action, Bloodline is a tightly paced character piece. Gray explores what makes Princess Leia so respected and admired in this universe. She also sets up a number of interesting situations and pays them off nicely while keeping an overall plot working in the background. The novel gives us a nice glimpse into the galaxy since the fall of the empire and lays many breadcrumbs for how we get to The Force Awakens. Standing as one of the strongest entries in the new canon of Star Wars books, Bloodline, like its main character is smart and insightful and a must read.
Bloodline follows the path of previous Star Wars audiobooks by Penguin-Random House Audio, offering quality narrator with excellent use of music, sound effects and background noise. It just adds another layer to the story and the overall experience.
Bloodline is narrated by January LaVoy and she does an excellent job with the general narration and many of the voices. She adds a good feel and pace to the story that keeps it flowing. However, there are a few character voices that she falls short on. While almost all of the side characters are great, the main cast is mostly a miss. Leia and Han suffer from this the most. While we’re closer to The Force Awakens then the original trilogy, neither character sounds like a version of themselves. It is not necessarily bad, but having grown up with these characters, it’s often jarring when they sound off. The other is Senator Casterfo, who just doesn’t have quite the punch that this sort of character could have used. None of these detract enough from the overall audiobook to not listen, but I was never quite able to get used to the characters voices, even after listening through to the end. Overall, the audiobook is an excellent way to experience Bloodline.
The article also appears over at Mammoth Gamers. Check more of my video game and pop culture writing there.