The newest Star Wars novel is a satisfying read.
Star Wars: Bloodline gives us our clearest view yet of the galaxy in the years before Episode 7, and delivers an entertaining tale of intrigue and adventure in the process. Set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, Bloodline is an unsubtle but satisfying story of Princess Leia’s transformation from Republic Senator to Resistance leader before the rise of the First Order.
Much of Star Wars: Bloodline is pure politics: clandestine meetings, senatorial speeches, and some cloak-and-dagger. The rhetoric and procedure should add up to a bore, but thankfully Claudia Gray’s simple, punchy style keeps things moving. The plot advances with the energetic pacing of a good young adult novel. Plots are continually revealed, thicken, and resolved in satisfying ways, and every now and then something blows up.
It’s helpful that the main cast of new characters is so likable. The idealistic Senator Casterfo initially signals self-absorbed naivety a-la Billy Zane in Titanic, but thankfully Bloodlines quickly subverts our expectations and reveals layers of depth and likability to the young man, creating a worthy ally/foil for Leia’s sometimes overpowering presence. The supporting cast is also interesting, including the Princess’s aide Greer and the delightfully one-dimensional Joph Seastriker. Though there’s not a lot of nuance to either of these characters, their raw energy and straightforward likability helps keep the story moving forward. Only the frightfully-silly Lady Carise fails to fire on all cylinders, coming across like a displaced southern belle somehow lost in space.
…raw energy and straightforward likability helps keep the story moving forward.
The story is very Leia-centric, but we also catch glimpses of Han, Chewie, and spend quite a bit of time with C-3PO. The prissy golden droid is his usual meticulous self, but played up with a warm familiarity that stops short of grating. We’re also tangentially aware of the offscreen presence of Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo, always a force in Leia’s memories.
We’re more than twenty years into the reign of the new Galactic Senate, and things aren’t going well. An inflexible two-party structure has paralyzed the government, as representatives of either side remain unwilling to engage in any serious compromise measures for fear of being thought weak. The allusions to contemporary American politics aren’t subtle, but they don’t need to be…the relatability of the setup helps make this new take on the Star Wars galaxy more believable.
From this interplanetary gridlock a new threat begins to emerge. Some of the unexplained set pieces from The Force Awakens are much more thoroughly contextualized in Bloodline. I’ll keep mum about the details for the sake of spoilers, but I can safely say that the novel provides a satisfying dose of backstory and context for Episode 7 that clears up some questions. It also touches more than once on earlier moments in the Star Wars saga, including a clever retconning of one of A New Hope’s stranger moments.