Book Review: Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Media Tie-In
Series: Star Wars canon
Publisher: Del Rey (May 3, 2016)
Length: 336 pages
I fell in love with Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Lost Stars last year, and so you can imagine my excitement when I learned that she would be penning a second book in the new canon, this time an adult novel about Princess Leia herself. And Gray certainly does not disappoint. With Star Wars: Bloodline, she has established herself as a new powerhouse author in the world of Star Wars fiction and become one of my favorite tie-in writers.
Taking place approximately five to six years before The Force Awakens, Bloodline is a novel of watershed moments, featuring our protagonist at a somewhat confusing time in her life. After decades of dealing with politics, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed princess is all but gone, replaced with a more mature and world-weary Leia. The New Republic Senate has proven itself ineffectual in the wake of Mon Mothma’s departure; without the charismatic former chancellor to guide them, endless bickering and rigid faction lines have led to paralyzing gridlock within the government. But while all that is enough to turn even the staunchest senator into a jaded cynic, it should come as no surprise that where matters of peace are concerned, Leia remains wholeheartedly committed to her cause.
New concerns arise when a burgeoning criminal organization comes to the Senate’s attention. A mysterious underworld kingpin has emerged to fill the power vacuum left by the Hutts, and apparently he has friends in high places. Struck by a sudden rush of inspiration, Leia volunteers for a mission to investigate the corruption and ends up being partnered up with another senator from the Centrist faction, rival to her own Populist party. Despite getting off to a rough start, the two eventually learn to work with one another, even earning each other’s friendship and respect, but sadly the same cannot be said for their own political factions. As the relationship between the Populists and Centrists continue to deteriorate, those who want change are calling for the election of a First Senator, a position that would grant one person a great deal of influence and power. Considering her own personal history, that idea does not sit right with Leia at all, even as her own party is pushing her to run for the job.
I like reading tie-ins because of the opportunities they offer, a chance to explore the wider spheres of a universe or meet new characters. Still, it’s also tremendously satisfying now and again to return to the central figures and read about events that are directly related to the Star Wars movies. The Force Awakens was a rollicking adventure and action-driven—but it was also utterly devoid of much political or historical context. Good news, though; if you were one of the many fan who left the theater with questions, then Bloodline just might be the book you’re looking for. This novel manages to fill in quite a few blanks, giving us a glimpse into the political atmosphere in the time between the end of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. See how the first seeds of dissent were sown, which later gave rise to the First Order. Learn all about the dramatic events which ultimately led to the formation of the Resistance, Leia Organa’s answer to tyranny.
However, that’s just the dressings. There’s no doubt that the relationship dynamics between Leia and her fellow senator from across the aisle, Ransolm Casterfo, is what constitutes the real meat of the story here. In her previous Star Wars novel Lost Stars, Claudia Gray gave readers an epic love story between an Imperial officer and a Rebel pilot, two kindred spirits who had to deal with being on opposites sides during the war. In Bloodline, she pulls off something very similar, though this time we’re talking political ideology instead of romance, a Populist versus a Centrist rather than the Empire versus the Rebel Alliance. And yet, the parallels are there. Gray has an incredible talent for giving a balanced portrayal of each side of a conflict, with her Star Wars characters showing that nothing is ever black and white, that friendships can indeed bloom across faction lines, and just because someone is your “enemy” doesn’t mean that you both can’t fight for a common goal. In Bloodline, Leia and Casterfo share one of the deepest, most complex relationships I’ve ever read about in any Star Wars novel.
I also want to take a moment to just geek out over the cover. Stylistically, it’s beautiful and I’ve loved it from the moment I saw it, but after reading this novel, I have to say my appreciation for it has only grown. Without delving too far into spoiler territory, the figure of Leia standing in the “shadow” of her father is one of the most powerful and significant pieces of imagery I’ve ever seen, and it’s simply perfect for this particular story. Leia’s not-so-secret origins have been known to readers for years, belying her deep struggle to come to terms with where she came from, her bloodline. What happens in this books will have far-reaching repercussions for the galaxy and for her family.
What more can I say, other than brava, Claudia Gray! Between her and Christie Golden though, the two of them may have just ruined me forever with Star Wars novels, because I doubt I’ll ever be able to read one again without measuring it up against Lost Stars, Bloodline or Dark Disciple. This was another brilliant book in the new canon, and the last line gave me so many feels. Recommended for all Star Wars fans.