“There’s something about Princess Leia you don’t know. Something she has deliberately kept secret from the Senate for decades. And this secret proves beyond any doubt that she cannot be trusted.” – Lady Carise Sindian
Bloodline is a landmark story in the new Star Wars canon, as it is now the first novel to really begin bridging the gap between the original Star Wars trilogy, and the new sequel trilogy. Set six years before The Force Awakens, Bloodline follows Leia, who is trying to do all she can as part of the Galactic Senate as she watches the New Republic begin to fall apart in front of her.
The book was released on May 3rd, 2016 and is written by Claudia Gray. I was excited to read this book for two reasons. First, because Claudia Gray wrote my favorite book in the Star Wars canon so far, Lost Stars. And second, because this book finally gives us some real backstory to The Force Awakens.
Six years prior to the events of The Force Awakens, Leia is as busy as ever as a senator on Hosnian Prime, the capital planet of the New Republic which we saw get destroyed by Starkiller Base in Episode VII. The Empire has been gone for two decades, and the Republic of old has been restored. Neither the First Order or the Resistance exist yet. There is no Kylo Ren. Ben Solo is still Ben Solo, and he’s off with Luke Skywalker somewhere in the galaxy.
Leia is becoming fed up with politics. She wants to quit. She wants to go off on adventures with her husband again, like in the old days. She is tired of watching the New Republic self-destruct after all she sacrificed to tear down the Galactic Empire and restore the Republic to the galaxy.
Leia is disturbed when the Senate decides to abolish the title of “chancellor” and replace it with the office of “First Senator.” An office that reminds her a little too much of “Emperor.”
Leia couldn’t relax. She found herself thinking of her mother–her birth mother she hadn’t known, Padmé Amidala. After Leia had learned her mother’s identity years ago, she’d done what research she could to discover something more about the former queen and senator. She’d learned that her mother had been present at the vote that had given Palpatine ultimate power over the old Galactic Senate, and Leia could imagine the despair that must have been within her heart.
Is that happening again, today? My mother watched the Old Republic fall–is it my turn to see the New Republic crumble?
Growing up in the Empire, Leia does not believe any one person should be given so much power. Though she hates the idea, Leia reluctantly agrees to run for First Senator, only because she is afraid what would happen if anyone else was elected instead. Her dreams of running off with Han Solo are being torn away from her as she does what she can to try to keep the Republic that she loves intact.
I loved the characters Gray introduced in Lost Stars, and I loved the new characters she introduced us to in Bloodline. Leia is the protagonist of the story, but she comes with a great supporting cast. My favorite character in the book is a young man named Ransolm Casterfo, a senator of the opposing political party who Leia is forced to work with. He collects artifacts of the Galactic Empire, including pieces of armor and helmets of those in the Imperial Guard, and other Imperial propaganda. This infuriates Leia. Their contrasting ideologies are so frustrating at times, but make for great storytelling. He was by far one of the most interesting characters in the story.
I have to say I’m not a huge fan of what the new canon has done to some of my other favorite characters though. Han Solo, for example, has been off on his own running space races for years, and doing it without Chewbacca, who is living at home with his family on Kashyyyk (and I’m going to assume that since the canon hasn’t contradicted it yet, it is the same family we met in the Holiday Special). He went from a lovable smuggler, to hero of the Rebellion and general, to being in charge of races? It seems more like one of his random side jobs he had in Brian Daley’s Han Solo novels, but apparently he has a career in racing now. The Force Awakens left me with the impression that Han and Chewie had been off adventuring together since Return of the Jedi. But apparently they’ve lived pretty boring lives in between the trilogies. Their lives were much more exciting in the old Expanded Universe.
Honestly, at first I wasn’t completely sold on this book. I began reading it, and I thought it was kind of boring. Too much politics. Wasn’t that one of the main complaints about the Star Wars prequel trilogy? Too much politics? I felt the same about this book at first. It was slow-paced, too much about politics, and not enough about the kinds of fun adventures I’d like to see in Star Wars stories. Even looking back, the first two-thirds of this novel did not pull me in like I had hoped it would. I struggled getting through it.
The last third of the book won me over though. Though it grabbed my attention far too late into the story, once I hit the last third of the book, I couldn’t put it down. The story went from “okay” to “great” really fast. I only wish it could have done that earlier on.
I found myself less interested in the overall story, and more interested in the little details and tidbits of information the book provided. Maybe the story itself didn’t pull me in like I would have liked, but finding out things like details about Leia’s past, and trying to pick out all the references made to other stories in the Star Wars canon was really fun.
There are little things, totally unimportant to the story, that I loved. For example, I wasn’t expecting an explanation for why Leia speaks with a British accent at the beginning of A New Hope, but Gray gives us a reason. We get to learn a lot more about Leia’s adoptive father, Bail Organa, which is great because although he is in the prequel movies, we don’t ever learn much about him. We get to see a little bit what Leia’s married life has been like with Han over the years. Things like this were scattered throughout the story and made me happy.
There are references to other stories as well. I was curious to see how much Gray would reference Lost Stars in Bloodline. There are references to that story, including a returning character who we first met as a Rebellion pilot of Corona Squadron, but these stories are completely separate, and there aren’t a lot of connections. Trying to pick out the references is part of the fun though. There was even a reference to Jason Fry’s Servants of the Empire series, which is a tie-in series to Star Wars Rebels. I haven’t actually read those books yet, but I did catch a reference to them (and possibly missed more references, since I’m not very familiar with them) that I thought was cool. It was fun to see the return of Temmin Wexley, from Aftermath (though he also appears in The Force Awakens itself), even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of that book. All of these little references and nods to other stories really made the new canon feel very unified, which is exactly what I know Lucasfilm was hoping to do when they rebooted the canon.
The coolest thing about this book is that it does provide some very interesting backstory to the events of The Force Awakens. The First Order does not exist yet, but it is coming, and we get to see its precursor begin to form. The inside flap of the dust jacket reads “Witness the birth of the Resistance!” and we do get to see how it is that the Resistance came to be. This books ties in very nicely with Poe Dameron’s section in Before the Awakening. After finishing Bloodline, I just wanted to go back and read that again, as it feels like somewhat of a continuation of the story we get in this book.
One thing that I was really hoping for that we didn’t get in this book was any real information about Ben Solo. Ben is mentioned in the story, but is never seen. I really wanted to learn more about him, and see him before he became Kylo Ren. It seems pretty obvious that Lucasfilm is keeping his backstory tightly under wraps, because never getting to see him once in the entire story felt kind of forced upon us. Oh well. I would absolutely love to get a story about Ben and Luke eventually.
For me, this book was pretty average, though it ended very strong. I don’t know that I’d recommend it to the casual fan, because it really took a long time to pull me in, but eventually I couldn’t put it down, and I was glad I had read it. Claudia Gray is a very good author, and she’s one that I would love to see continue writing more stories in the Star Wars universe. Though it started slow, the last third of the book was good enough that I would consider this book to be in the top five best canon stories so far.