Friday, March 26, 2021

Queen's Peril


This canon Star Wars novel occurs prior to, during, and briefly after the events of The Phantom Menace, initially focusing on Padmé Naberrie’s election as Queen of Naboo, adopting the regnal name Amidala. Alongside the standard numbered chapters, there are various subdivisions termed with characteristics such as “strength” that focus on various side stories, the first about a girl named Tsabin who hates studying at the Theed Conservatory, and whom Quarsh Panaka, head of the Royal Security Forces, recruits to be a handmaiden for the Queen-elect. Naboo politics have been without scandal for decades, with the planet’s Galactic Senator Sheev Palpatine being a rising star in the galaxy’s Senate.

For added security, the recruitment of handmaidens to serve as doubles for Queen Amidala plays a significant role throughout the story, which also focuses on other characters in the Star Wars universe such as the enigmatic Darth Sidious, his Sith apprentice Maul, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, not shy in his distaste of politicians. Viceroy Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation plot against Amidala, attempting to strongarm her into signing a treaty that she resists. There are also some occasional factoids about Naboo such as its lack of prisons, with its primary moon serving as a pokey for the planet’s criminals.

Queen Amidala’s pages and handmaidens see through their training, with Panaka continuing to find more prospective candidates for the positions. The narrative ultimately intersects with Episode I, with Padmé leaving Naboo with her entourage, including Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and traveling to the desert planet of Tatooine, where they temporarily lodge with the Skywalkers. The Queen eventually gets the idea to rally the Gungans against the Trade Federation’s forces and return to Naboo, retaking the planet, with Sheev Palpatine ascending to the position of Supreme Chancellor after a vote of no confidence against the incumbent galactic leader.

Overall, I definitely found this to be an enjoyable canon Star Wars novel that packs a punch despite being only around two hundred pages long, adding good backstory and parallels to The Phantom Menace, filling in many of the holes the film admittedly leaves. There are occasional witty lines in short perspective changes such as “Anakin loved flying” and “Anakin really loved flying” that provide good effect, and the fact that the book doesn’t focus on Amidala alone is a definite draw. The political overtones are definitely engaging, as well, and while some knowledge of the prequel films is somewhat necessary to make sense of the book, I would recommend it to the most unpleasable Star Wars fan.

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