Written by the number-one New York Times best-selling author of Star Wars Ahsoka!
When Padmé Naberrie, "Queen Amidala" of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo's representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen's shadow.
E.K. Johnston had several jobs and one vocation before she became a published writer. If she’s learned anything, it’s that things turn out weird sometimes, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, that and how to muscle through awkward fanfic because it’s about a pairing she likes.
You can follow Kate on Twitter (@ek_johnston) to learn more about Alderaanian political theory than you really need to know, or on Tumblr (ekjohnston) if you're just here for pretty pictures.
Permcreat. This is the perfect metaphor for this book as far as I am concerned. It fills in the gaps in the Star Wars universe but it is not the most exciting thing.
The writing is good but for me the book is way too slow. An example there is not battle or blaster bolts fired till page 320 out of 345.
In fairness this book takes place is probably the dullest era of Star Wars. In between the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Also as the book is mostly from Padme's perspective (who would not have known about Palpatine's background movements). There is not really much actionwise that could have been put into the book.
This book is about Padme's transition from Queen to galactic senator. I did like the fact that it was not just a straight transition and Padme needed to prove herself in this new arena as well. Starting from the bottom and working her way up. Making allies with future legends. Also the other politicians being weary of her because of her past in the Senate as a Queen. Changing her tactics and those of her staff.
From a filling in the gaps point of view the book is great. However the pace of the story is too slow, and the lack of action was the reason I was disappointed in this book.
I'm actually crying. This is EXACTLY the book I wanted, this is EXACTLY the book that every girl who first met Padme when they were 8, 10, 12 years old NEEDS because this book is EXACTLY what every girl who wanted to believe she belonged in Star Wars deserves. I was 6 when I saw aNH for the first time & asked my mom why Leia wasn't the main character. I was 10 when Padme walked on screen, into my heart because she WAS the main character, even when she wasn't. It was always about her. Everything was about her. And this book knows that.
QUEEN'S SHADOW is exactly the aftermath and the new beginning that I needed and I cannot express how much I love it. Thank you, Kate, for writing the book of your heart, the book of my heart, the book of Padme's heart.
We are brave, Your Highness. We are so, so brave. ❤️💛❤️
. (I wrote a longer review for my work blog, pls enjoy)
I cried when I read this book (and when I reread it). It is exactly the book I wanted, it is exactly the book that every girl who first met Padmé when they were 8, 10, 12 years old needs because this book is exactly what every girl who wanted to believe she belonged in Star Wars deserves. I was 6 when I saw A New Hope for the first time and asked my mom why Leia wasn’t the main character. I was 10 when Padmé walked on screen, into my heart because she was the main character, even when she wasn’t. It was always about her. Everything was about her. And this book knows that.
E.K. Johnston, as usual, takes her characters to the next level. The ones you know and love–Padmé, Sabé, Captain Tanaka, Bail Organa–and the new ones all shine with their own voices, their own goals and wants. It’s a testament to Johnston’s excellent writing that I could hear the dialogue in Natalie Portman’s voice, in Keira Knightley’s, especially in Jimmy Smitt’s, as I was reading. And there are a few sentences that just so perfectly and neatly sum up certain characters that I had to set the book aside to process the moment, the deep understanding that Johnston has of these characters (three words about Palpatine, and one of them was his name, and I’m still not over it).
The characters are intrinsically Star Wars–of course–but there’s something fresh and real about them, too. They want things in such a real way that it’s heart-wrenching knowing what happens to them, knowing what they can’t have. This book is all about wanting, about Padmé finding what she wants, finding her place in the galaxy. It’s about change and all the changes she goes through after a major transition. It’s about Padmé and Sabé learning how to be Padmé and Sabé again, instead of being Queen Amidala. And it’s wonderful to have a book that’s so unapologetic about its ladies wanting.
This book is quiet. It sort of snuck up on me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. There are a lot of politics and hard edges and disasters to avert, but there are these soft moments of pure friendship, too. Like the fashion of Naboo, the plot itself is perfectly crafted for Padmé: looks intimidating and frivolous and extravagant, but is actually practical and intelligent, a defensive safety net and a weapon all in one. (And the fashion! This book focuses on Padmé’s dresses and makeup with the same gravity other Star Wars books lay on lightsabers, which is perfect, because Padmé’s weapons are her dresses and her disguises!)
And it…fits. This book is so beautifully interconnected with other Star Wars canon–the movies, obviously, but the Clone Wars animated show, the other books, especially Claudia Gray’s Princess of Alderaan, the video game Battlefront II–but it absolutely stands on its own, as well. Even if you’ve only ever seen the movies, you could never be lost in this book, and it’s a perfect gateway to more Padmé. But if you are deep in the lore, you’ll notice the easter eggs, the hints and nudges, the moments that are Johnston saying, “Hey, I love this, too. I noticed, too. I wrote this for you.”
I saw a question on Twitter, someone asking Johnston if this book was for Star Wars fans or if it was for girls who like Star Wars, and I give you same answer she did: Yes. This book is for people who wanted more for Padmé, who know she deserves more than the movies gave her, who grew up loving her because of and despite everything she was and could have been. This book is for Star Wars fans who want more lore, more insight into these characters and the galaxy they inhabit, and this book is for girls who like Star Wars and cling to Padmé as one of the few ladies they get to see on screen. This book is for every girl who like Star Wars who was told she wasn’t a real Star Wars fan because Padmé is her favorite character. This book is for Star Wars fans who are girls who like Star Wars. This book is for Star Wars fans.
And it’s for the Royal Handmaidens, both the fictional ones like Sabé and Rabé and Dormé, and the real life ones, like me, who fell in love with Padmé and grew up with her. Queen’s Shadow is exactly the aftermath and the new beginning that I needed and I cannot express how much I love it.
I really don't think it's too controversial to say that, even amidst a throng of other characters that got the short end of the stick, Padmé got the shortest short end of the stick in the prequels.
The Clone Wars cartoon did give Padmé a bit more focus, but this is the first real canon material entirely about Padmé.
And it came at the perfect time.
Queen's Shadow is not an action-packed book. There are no fight scenes and only a few scenes that could be stretched into resembling mortal peril. It's very slow at parts and most of the tension centers around dialogue. And yet, it's full of intrigue and drama.
This story follows Padmé as she transitions from being Queen of Naboo to her role in the Senate, as well as her relationship with her various handmaidens we saw in the movies (with particular focus on Padmé's closest friend/handmaiden, Sabé). We first learn more about the role of her handmaidens and the decoy maneuvers we saw in the films, which was all incredibly fascinating and intricate.
As Padmé and the plot moves to Coruscant, she slowly has to figure out who she really is while navigating the dangerous world of galactic politics. Even though this doesn't contain the usual blaster and lightsaber action of a Star Wars book, these scenes are just as tense - every decision Padmé makes affects the lives of all of Naboo, and lives across the galaxy. We see her forge new alliances with familiar Star Wars characters and struggle to prove herself to the senate who views her as an over-emotional upstart following her actions in The Phantom Menace. Fans of The Clone Wars will appreciate a few cameos, but you don't have to be familiar with all of the characters to appreciate their role in the story.
The way the politics are handled in this book was absolutely perfect, it felt very real while also deepening the world and showing how the Republic had cracks long before Palpatine exploited them. There are also a number of real-world analogies, like how when Padmé first comes to Coruscant she's the target of news outlets criticizing her. And like a few real-world (young) politicians, most of the criticisms have nothing to do with her policies but are cheap shots at her youth and physical appearance.
My one big complaint with the book is that our other main character, Sabé, had a lot of potential but didn't really have enough to do outside of protecting Padmé. One plotline in particular was extremely interesting but dropped almost immediately, and it came off as a "people keep asking about this so you have to mention it" moreso than something natural to the plot. I wish we could have seen more of Sabé because her personality was very different from Padmé's.
Overall, this was a very good read and I was excited to get to see Padmé develop into her own person. If you've desperately been waiting for more Padmé content since 1999, now is finally the time.
It’s hard not to read “Queen’s Shadow” and wonder how awesome it might have been had Claudia Gray written it instead.
It’s not that “Queen’s Shadow” is a bad book – it’s fine. The characters are mildly interesting, the story – thin as it is – is moderately compelling and rarely boring, and the tie-ins to the broader “Star Wars” universe are satisfying, even occasionally inspired. But whether it be because of the on-the-nose nature of her prose, the formulaic direction that Johnston seems intent on taking the narrative, the novel’s strange inability to really flesh out and explore Padme Amidala as a person, or some combination of all three, the book never quite comes alive in the way that it feels like it could have. Scenes that should feel rich with thematic depth feel slow and ponderous, plot points that should be momentous fall weirdly flat…even the dialogue feels strangely off.
It’s a real shame, because the character of Padme Amidala is one who’s never quite gotten her due in the realm of “Star Wars” novels, and I was really excited to see what a stand-alone novel featuring her – particularly during a period as rife with story potential as the post-The Phantom Menace/pre-Attack of the Clones era – would look like. That this, after so many years of waiting, is the book that she has ultimately been given is disappointing.
That disappointment is only compounded when one considers what an author like Claudia Gray – who, in novels like “Lost Stars,” “Bloodline,” and “Leia, Princess of Alderaan,” has proven that she has a knack for taking female “Star Wars” characters across all eras of the “Star Wars” timeline and creating rich, thoroughly engaging novels around them – could have done with a character like Padme. There’s no doubt in my mind that had Gray been the one to write it, “Queen’s Shadow” would be every bit the great story that Amidala deserves. Instead, as it currently exists, “Queen’s Shadow” is a pleasant trifle – well meaning and moderately entertaining, but ultimately, sadly, forgettable.
Here’s a fact about me that might make some of you lose all respect for me and my opinion: I unironically love the Star Wars prequels. Revenge of the Sith is my favorite Star Wars movie. I love the characters, I love the fight scenes, I love the music, I love the costumes, I even love the bad jokes. And Padmé Amidala is one of my favorite characters in the entire franchise.
I haven’t read any of the Star Wars books and to be honest I don’t plan to read most of them, but I heard so many good things about E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka that I had to add it to my list of books to read. I actually have to watch The Clone Wars first, though, so I figured I’d start here instead. And reading or watching science fiction is one of my favorite forms of escapism and this book was the perfect escape from everything going on in the real world. What better than fictional space politics to distract me from real politics?
It was nice to see this side of Padmé that the movies only showed glimpses of, the person she is outside of her relationship with Anakin: Padmé as a leader, as a politician, as a friend. Johnston kept her true to character, a brilliant politician with an unshakable belief in democracy who puts the needs of others above her own. Padmé has so much depth that this book took the time to explore: She’s both analytical and empathetic, both idealistic and practical, honest in her convictions but trained in the art of deception. She has so many sides to her; when I say I want complex female protagonists, this is what I mean. I love her as a character and I thought she made for a great protagonist.
In addition, I’ve always loved the concept of the handmaidens, female bodyguards who use others’ underestimation of them to their advantage (not to mention the sheer potential for homoeroticism in a close-knit group of young women who would die for each other). Johnston made Padmé’s handmaidens one of the main focuses of the story, and Sabé, Padmé’s body double in The Phantom Menace, has an entire subplot of her own (and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mention that she’s bisexual that I’m way more excited about than I should be).
Even though I enjoyed this book, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. If you didn’t like the Star Wars prequels, you probably won’t like it very much, because there is a lot of politics and I know one of the main problems many people had with the prequels was that they were so politics-heavy. But I’m a politics nerd (unfortunately), so it was right up my alley. The book also wasn’t action-packed by any stretch of the imagination, although I was personally never bored. I don’t need nonstop action and the pacing was quick enough to keep my interest.
I went with four stars instead of five for two reasons. First, the dialogue was fine, but it wasn’t great. It didn’t strike me as awkward or stilted but it wasn’t completely natural either. And the romance was unnecessary (yes, I realize I say this about the majority of romance subplots, but that’s because most of them are unnecessary) but thankfully not a main focus of the story.
This was a really comforting read, exactly what I need right now. There’s nothing quite like sinking into one of your favorite fictional universes to take your mind off things. I look forward to reading more of Johnston’s work.
Disney: alright we let you write a book about Ahsoka now write one that's about someone from the original trilogy like Leia or- EKJ: did you ever hear the tragedy of Padmé Amidala and her handmaidens? Disney: . . . EKJ: it's not a tale Disney would tell Disney: . . . Disney: it's treason then
“She hadn’t come all this way to be a line in the programming. She could do more than one thing, even if it meant going against the Chancellor’s implied wishes. She had, after all, only just begun.”
When I started this book I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to find in it. A lot of Padmé Amidala. It certainly delivered in that.
It was a fun enough story. It had it's moments that surprised me. Yet, there was a lot of little -and not so little - things that bothered me and made me not keep this book with star-eyes but a rather realistic view.
Something a lot more difficult to do considering that it has a deeply emotional value to me.
It's also a really political oriented story with a lot of political intrigue and how it all works in this galaxy far, far away.
“They had chosen their names as children, newly come to power and slightly intimidated by it. They had chosen their names to bind themselves to one another, a constant reminder of the greater good they now served.”
One thing that surprised me right out of the bat was the fact that we get the POVs of the handmaidens as well as Padmé's... if not more than Padmé's herself.
This proved to be a really interesting decision as it showed us new areas that otherwise we would have missed about Padmé's life and her dynamics with everyone around her.
Their insights were touching and beautiful. Probably one of my favorite things in this whole book.
I was really looking forward to whenever any of them would have a chance to share their viewpoint or reminisce or anything. They would always move me. Make me feel a hundred things at the same time and connected me to the story really well.
This was particularly meaningful to me because they are characters that have been largely overlooked through the rest of the media just giving us an idea of how important they really were.
“We are brave, Your Highness.”
Another thing I found delightful and completely heart-breaking was that amazing parallel between the first scene of the book and the first scene of the epilogue.
A good parallel always holds a quiet poetry all in themselves and the weight of this one was just augmented with the decades of meaning that particular moment has.
I liked that it didn't really completely rely in that final moment to carry the emotionally charged moment but Johnston actually made it her own and added layers to it.
The fact that I was expecting it -and dreading it - just made it even more perfect.
“Everyone that has ever seen you has underestimated you, haven’t they?”
Even though the book was incredibly close to my heart and I loved every second of it I can't help but noticed the little details that chip away to the perfect image I wished the book had.
For one, we have the fact that it's a book that rellies way too much in the fact that is a book written for fans of Star Wars.
I understand that its target demographic is not people that aren't already familiarized with the Star Wars universe BUT that doesn't take away from the fact that it could have taken the time to add a bit more contextualization and explanation of the facts that had lead to some of the things currently happening.
If you are not one dedicated fan you will find the book confusing.
There is this huge event that happens sometime before the book starts and is a huge driving situation for actions taken through the whole book and some events that are taking place. Yet, it is not explained in more than broad strokes and merely there references.
Again, I completely get that is a book targeted to fans but it would not have hurt, and I hardly think it would have been too hard to add, at least one time when someone explained a little bit in more detail what had happened.
That's all I'm asking for.
“You can like something even if you know it’s not going to last.”
Which brings us to one of the biggest problems with the book -if you ask me. The loose ends.
There are so many loose ends that I actually lost count of them.
This is, largely -I think - derived from the fact that the author thought that everyone who read this book would be really familiarized with the Star Wars universe. But let me tell you if you haven't watched the Clone Wars TV show you will not have any idea how anything is supposed to end.
A book should be able to close every interrogation it opened during its narration. Especially when you are speaking of a standalone book. Doesn't matter if there is a TV show that explains everything that came to happen after.
It's just poor writing. And I don't say this lightly or often.
There are so many important mysteries that we have been dealing with through the book. That are clearly important. And yet, we don't have an answer for them. Nope, they are just dropped and left in the air... Why?
I swear, there was the opportunity to answer it right there and it would have hardly added any page space.
So simple. And yet so impossible to attain.
“I would try a thousand times, Clovis, even if I only ever saved one being. I would try ten thousand times.”
I was saddened to find that a book that I actually really enjoyed can't actually hold itself standing. It rellies in so many crutches that it's painful to watch.
And it was not something so special that lasted long after the moment I closed the book.
The writing style was nice but nothing special that would make me take parts of the story with me. Nothing that would be memorable or lasting. Just another story.
I don't regret reading it - not for a second - and I most definitely will be reading the next book but I would never say this book is anything more than a light read.
“We’ll come back here, you and I. We’ll do what we need to do out there, and then we’ll come home.” ___________________________
So... I finished this a lot later than I wanted to BUT I did enjoy it greatly and took my time to taste it very well. So I'm not too bothered by it.
That ending will always break my heart but it's exactly the ending I wanted. And I was catching that parallel with the beginning and now I think I'm in love.
It was fun but I have a few issues with it.
In preparation for May 4th, I've decided to finally read this book that I've wanted to read for so long.
Padmé has always been one of my favorite characters and learning more about her is bound to be fun. Especially her time as Queen of Naboo, of what we get so little time in the movies. I mean, she was a 14 years-old queen, that's bound to have been something.
So, of course, I'm very excited to get into this. Just... get into her mind and see things through her eyes is gotta be a lot of fun.
She is a badass, after all, and I want to see her shine in all her glory.
This book did a great job at fleshing out Padme Amidala (my second favorite character in Star Wars) but that's about it. To me there didn't seem to be a driving plot. It seemed like we randomly pick up in a spot in Padme's life and then are abruptly taken back out. There was no real stakes. No real distinguishable plot.
Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book. I love Padme and I loved learning more about her and her world. I love reading about the Handmaidens and honestly, the epilogue was my favorite part of the book. I'm excited to learn more about Sabe's future in canon, I know she appears in at least one Vader comic.
I loved the scenes with the Organa's and Mina Bonteri and Rush Clovis. I just finished the Clone Wars today, so it was really interesting and exciting to meet these characters again, ones I recognized, and get more background on them.
Don't read this book expecting a fast paced thriller with high stakes that keep you on the edge of your seat. Read it knowing you're about to get educated on the inner workings of former queen turned Senator Padme Amidala.
I do wonder how much of this new material is going to go unused. In these books, for example, we find out that Padme has a sister and niece. I'm wondering if they will appear later, or if the character was written solely just to expand on Padme. I'm excited and eager to find out.
I had high hopes for this first Star Wars new canon novel focusing entirely on Padmé/Queen Amidala, but unfortunately I was left a bit disappointed. On some level though, I think I had anticipated the issues, because from the moment I learned that Queen’s Shadow was to take place in the transitional time between the end of her reign as Naboo’s queen and the start of her career as a senator, I’d wondered whether there would be sufficient material for a well-rounded, interesting story.
The book begins on the cusp of a new election for Naboo’s next queen, and Padmé and her loyal handmaidens are all nervous and excited about what they will do once she steps down as the current ruler. For four years their lives have been tied to the politics of the planet, but soon they will be free to pursue any dream or career they choose. As Padmé watches her handmaidens discuss their future plans, however, she herself is still unsure of what her next move will be. Service to her people is all she’s ever known, and now that her reign is almost over, there is a both a bittersweet sense of accomplishment and loss about a chapter of her life coming to a close.
But with the election of Réillata, the new queen, an unexpected opportunity suddenly falls into Padmé’s lap when her successor asks if she would represent Naboo in the Galactic Senate, replacing another retiring senator. It is an offer Padmé can’t refuse, and though a part of her is sad to be leaving her home planet for the bustling ecumenopolis of Coruscant, another part of her is thrilled to be able to serve Naboo once more, as well as to improve the conditions of the Galactic Republic. For one thing, she would like to put an end to slavery in the Outer Rim. Padmé has never forgotten the boy Anakin Skywalker she met on Tatooine, as well as the fate of his mother Shmi who was left behind on the desert planet.
In the years since that day, Padmé’s youngest handmaiden Sabé, who was also the one most often chosen to be her decoy, has also become one of her closest friends and most trusted confidantes. As Padmé takes her place in the Galactic Senate, it is Sabé that she sends to Tatooine in her stead to search for Shmi and hopefully buy her freedom.
First things first: there’s nothing really wrong with this book—nothing wrong, unless you count the fact that barely anything happens other than a whole bunch of political drama and description into the wardrobe of Naboo royalty. Don’t get me wrong, stories about the politics of the Galactic Republic, and later the Galactic Empire, have always been a prominent part of Star Wars fiction. But to have it as the main focus of a Young Adult book about Queen Amidala? The only result this guarantees is a limited audience, beyond diehard Star Wars fans such as myself. For one thing, this is not exactly the most interesting story you can tell about the character, nor does it have the usual adventure and action of a more typical Star Wars novel, so I doubt it would hook even the mildly interested. Older, hardcore fans of Star Wars will likely also find the conflicts in this story too simplistic and/or juvenile.
That said, the writing’s great. E.K. Johnston also wrote Star Wars: Ahsoka, which I really enjoyed, and she’s brought that same smooth and accessible quality in her prose to Queen’s Shadow. The problem with this book, as I said before, has more to do with the lack of material to work with rather than any weakness in its technical aspects. We’re looking at a very brief and narrow timeframe in Padmé Naberrie’s life, after all, so in a way it’s understandable for some parts of the story to feel slow, drawn out, inflated. To her credit, Johnston did try to work in a separate storyline for Sabé in order to give the plot and setting a little more variety, but as a supporting character, her impact can also only go so far.
Still, some positive things to note include all the wonderful references to other people, places, stories and events in the Star Wars universe, including an appearance by Senator Clovis, who was first introduced in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series in one of the few Padmé-centric episodes. I also liked how this book expanded and developed Padmé’s personality, so that we got to know more about her as a person with her own private hopes, fears, dreams and ambitions. So where Queen’s Shadow failed to deliver on good pacing and compelling entertainment, at least it worked extremely well as a character study.
Regrettably, the same could not be said of Sabé, who fulfilled her supporting role duties valiantly but was otherwise wasted in her potential. While her loyalty was admirable, it just sucked that her entire world and life’s purpose—by even her own admission—revolved around Padmé and serving her wishes and desires. If the ending to this book is indeed a setup for a Sabé story, my hope is that she will gain some of her own agency.
In short, Queen’s Shadow is probably a book I can only recommend to readers who really want to know more about Padmé, or if you’re generally into everything about Star Wars. While I count myself among the latter group, even I must confess it is one of the less engaging of the new canon novels I’ve read and not very memorable.
Audiobook Comments: Admittedly, I’m way more used to having January LaVoy read as the female narrator for Star Wars books, but for Queen’s Shadow, how could I say no to Catherine Taber, who also provided the voice for Padmé on The Clone Wars cartoon series? Just like the audiobook of Star Wars: Ahsoka, getting the voice actress for the title character to narrate the book was a stroke of genius and brought an extra layer of immersion to the listening experience.
I still have the paper dolls, uncut of course. I still stop to admire anyone dressed as Padme or one of her handmaidens at any con I go to. I don't care if you don't like the "prequels," I love them, and 90% of that love is because of Padme. The clothes! The hair! The intelligence and quiet strength! That is absolutely my jam. The sheer STYLE of those movies, and . . . I'm sorry, I know there's clickbait articles all across the internet about "co-stars without chemistry" or "who couldn't stand each other IRL," and they ALWAYS show Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, but I DON'T BELIEVE THEM. They are the ONLY couple in any Star Wars movies I ever thought looked like they might, um, you know.
So here (because my talented friend Kate agrees with me), is the book I always wanted but didn't yet know it! A story about brand new Senator Amidala, with her attendant handmaidens, her political concerns, her fashion choices, some romance for the loyal Sabe, and some page time for secondary characters whose story I actually wanted! (Side-eyes Boba Fett.)
Saying Queen’s Shadow is boring would be the ultimate understatement of the year. Saying Queen’s Shadow is a good book that represents everything Padme fans have wanted for the last 20 years is a blatant lie.
Yes, I hated this book. Take all the bad parts of the prequel trilogy (and there a lot of them), throw in a contrived plot in which nothing happens, make every single handmaiden confusing with names like Sabe, Sache, and Verse, give them no distinguishing characteristics, and then have literally nothing of any importance happen and at any single time, and you pretty much get the gist of what E.K. Johnston did in Queen’s Shadow.
And hey, even I could have maybe upped my record had this book had any kind of excitement or joy. But nope. There’s none of that either. 400 pages of inane, cyclical, recycled plot structures, and typical cliched YA elements. This book is so insanely boring and so plain that I fell asleep reading it and didn’t even realize it. Hell, I’ve stared at grass growing and snails racing and desert tortoises having sex and that was all way more entertaining than this waste of time.
I should have known Queen’s Shadow wasn’t going to be much good since I was totally u impressed with Johnston’s last book Ashoka, but I was willing to give her another try, especially since I wasn’t a big Ashoka fan to begin with. Sadly though, that book is like a Nobel Prize winner compared to what she manages to destroy in Queen’s Shadow.
Another canon novel and yet another disappointment. At this point the duds and disappointments have far outweighed the successful stuff. Now, 2019 is looking to be a great year for Star Wars so I’ll tentatively cross my fingers that Gray, Dawson, Freed, and even Zahn (though I’m not holding my breath for his stuff) can turn things around after the mess that Queen’s Shadow is.
Anyone who has read my reviews of other Star Wars related media probably knows that I really enjoy The Phantom Menace, it is my favourite of the Prequel Trilogy and I rate it higher than Return of the Jedi. With that in mind, I was really stoked when I heard about this novel - I wanted to hear more about some of the characters that we had only seen briefly on screen, and E.K. Johnston did great character work with Ahsoka.
Therefore, I really thought I would like this book more than I did.
First, the positives. As seen with Ahsoka, the author is great at portraying character. The people in the book feel like the people portrayed on screen, and (as many of them are teenagers) they come across as realistically as teenagers who are space- bodyguards-cum-makeup-artists can do.
The pose style is solid, and age-appropriate. Subtext is a little lacking, and the narrative probably over-explains if you are an adult reader, but this is not a problem in a YA novel.
The political machinations are also well portrayed. One of my highest rated Star Wars novels is James Luceno’s Cloak of Deception, which has machinations in spades - and Queen’s Shadow gets the complexities of a young politician finding her feet in a new environment—where people don’t always say what they mean and where motivations are never transparent—spot on.
The very best part of the book are the excerpts from the TriNebulon News Agency reports trying to character-assassinate Senator Amidala—they serve as a very pertinent reminder of how powerful vested interests can seek to delegitimise a woman in public life by labelling her as trivial or flighty. But even these dwindle to no more than praise by the end of the book without any real active change to address them on the part of the protagonists.
There is one insurmountable problem, though - nothing actually happens in this book. Sure, there are people doing and saying things (there is even the obligatory YA blink-and-you’ll-miss-it almost- sex scene), but in a genre and franchise where action and adventure are the hallmarks there is never a blaster fired in anger, and far too many descriptions of food and frocks. I get that clothes are important to the handmaidens and Amidala, and is central to their form of trickery, but when the ratio of intricately described costume changes to exploding spaceships in a Star Wars novel is 20:0, that is somewhat missing the point. In The Phantom Menace we had Padmé and Sabé blasting Trade Federation battledroids left, right and centre whilst N-1 starfighters attacked Trade Federation battleships in orbit.
There are two scenes that approach having action: 1. Padmé is lured into a place where she could be in mortal danger, but this is resolved with a conversation with someone who had nothing to do with laying the trap. 2. There is a skirmish in space, but our protagonists arrive late, and manage to drive off the attackers without a single casualty on either side. Where is the sense of peril? If you as a reader aren’t feeling the risks and dangers in a story, then there are no stakes whatsoever.
And the relationships of the principals don’t change either (until the epilogue—more on that later). No-one has a startling revelation about themselves. No-one finds out that they have made a grave mistake that needs to be mended. No character shows any form of growth—they are all as capable, competent and dull before the epilogue as they were at the very beginning.
Villains. Where to start. It’s difficult. There were no villains in the narrative. Sure, we hear Count Dooku speaking to someone. We have some meetings with Chancellor Palpatine, but he has not yet been revealed as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, and just comes off as mildly self-interested bureaucrat. Some pirates make the briefest of the brief appearances, but really have no impact. There is the constant background rumble of Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray’s trial, and it is implied that he had something to do with the damp squib “assassination” attempt, but he never appears on page, and references to it just sort of peter out.
The book starts with a fake-out. It describes a scene in words that could equally well describe Padmé’s funeral, but instead is quickly revealed to be a happy moment shortly before the end of Queen Amidala’s reign. This is done as an intentional bookend, as the novel’s epilogue also uses the same description, this time applied to the funeral, and includes the thoughts of Sabé (the handmaiden played by Keira Knightley) and her intention to investigate Padmé’s death. This is unfortunate, because the epilogue is the set-up to a much more interesting story than the one presented in the novel.
Then there is the mission that Padmé entrusts to Sabé and flat nonentity meatbag Tonra—rescuing slaves from Tatooine. This is done in the most inept and obvious fashion that it beggars belief on the part of the reader—are we meant to be anything other than contemptuous of a solution (buying slaves) that totally ignores the perverse incentive that actually encourages the slave trade? I find it hard to believe that a politician as adept, empathetic and observant as Padmé Naberrie would advocate something that could only exacerbate the situation.
All through this book I found myself adjusting my rating downwards, as nothing continued to happen. Every time a character went to a new planet, I thought to myself “maybe the adventure will start here!”, but in never happened. Just more discussions about committees and costume changes.
So much wasted opportunity. For die-hard fans only.
Lucasfilm and Disney: give E.K. Johnston a contract to write an adventure story where Ahsoka teams up with Sabé to solve the mystery of Padmé’s death and Order 66, and make sure you green light plenty of exploding spaceships and lightsabre combat to go in there as well.
We are brave, your highness Some feel that Padme is young, annoying and naive. But i really think she's awesome and badass, i relate to her a great deal and i loved how i saw some character development and it felt like she trusted herself more and didn't rely too much on the handmaidens she'd had before.
“They'll stall you," Organa said. "I know it's a horrifying situation, but you can't fight every evil in the galaxy."
"Evil? " Padmé said. "I've fought evil and it was easy: I shot it. It's apathy I can't stand.”
Finally we have a book dedicated to Padmé Amidala Naberrie. It's been 84 years..
E.K. Johnston also wrote Ahsoka, one of the best books in the new canon. Ahsoka is for sure a top favorite character for me and I was overwhelmingly happy to have more of her story. The Clone Wars did a great job of giving us a deeper look into Ahsoka, as well as Padmé. However, not quite enough. Not like the male characters in the saga! I am so incredibly grateful for this book for giving us more of Padmé and her life, rather than just her death. This is her story.
Can we also take a moment to appreciate how achingly gorgeous this cover by Tara Phillips is?!? It captures the beauty, pain and strength within Amidala perfectly. Oof.
Queen's Shadow takes place between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. It follows Padmé just after serving as Queen of Naboo and into her role as Senator. It provides insight into her relationships with her handmaidens and the profound respect that these women had for their queen, and that she had for them. It additionally serves as a behind the scenes look into the costuming, disguises and makeup and the importance that these play in the life of Amidala.
"We all have our disguises."
This was a deeply emotional story that went into how so many underestimated her, thinking she was just a "puppet" queen, which was further evidenced by the TriNebulon News articles throughout. This was such a telling glimpse into the galactic politics surrounding Amidala's reign. Meanwhile, she was holding off a planetwide invasion. She is completely selfless and I think that is one of the main injustices with her character portrayal over the decades.
"'You have not changed very much since the first time I met you,' Billaba said. Padmé wasn't entirely sure what to make of that, and it must have shown on her face, but the Jedi Master continued. 'You have grown, of course. You are wiser. You are more balanced. But you haven't changed. You are still the person who took on the Trade Federation, and I think you always will be.' It was probably the oddest compliment Padmé had ever received, including the time a small boy on a desert world had assumed she was an angel, but she was pleased by it nonetheless."
Courageous, fierce, hopeful, idealistic, strong. Padmé is a character that I have always felt deserved better. Someone who was essentially mishandled in the movies, with how she was written. Queen's Shadow is a beautiful portrait recognizing her legacy as a queen and the heroic backstory of someone that has been misunderstood throughout time.
I love me some action-packed stabby violent dark shit.. but I'm also a sucker for the quiet moments. The spaces in a book where the characters are given the spotlight. Johnston allowed Padmé to truly shine here. For those that are familiar with Amidala's story.. we know how this ends. Queen's Shadow is a long overdue story arc for a character that was in the forefront, but that still remained a mystery for the most part. I mentioned in my previous review for Honor Among Thieves how that would be a great place to begin your Star Wars book journey, because it stands alone in the grand scheme of things. However, Queen's Shadow is a book for people that are already familiar with Padmé Amidala. I wouldn't recommend this as a jumping off point, because this is a book that is used as a connective force between timelines.
Reading something where the writer is obviously passionate about the subject matter tickles my brain. I eat that up! I'm a wicked passionate person and I get energized when passion flows through another person. When it's obvious that they have a genuine love for what they are writing about. It is clear that Johnston wanted to represent Padmé in a respectful way, that she wanted to shed light onto what a feminist badass this character actually is. As a lifelong Star Wars fan.. this book just made my heart so fucking happy!
This is the book I really wanted of the intelligent, clever, canny, caring and generally awesome Padmé Amidala and her equally amazing handmaidens. The woman presented within these pages is everything I knew she must have been, rather than the weepy, increasingly dimwitted creature whose brains leaked out her ears once she got together with Mannequin, and became only worse once pregnant (as if a pregnant woman can't function or think!) But then, movie Padme really just existed to support Mannequin's whingey, whiny and generally totally annoying self. E.K. Johnston gives us a well-rounded woman in Padmé, who has deeply caring and respectful relationships with her handmaidens, who are actually incredibly competent and kind of scary young women in their own rights. Why could we not see this incredible team of women onscreen?? The story shows us how committed Padmé is to public service, and how she takes her initially naïve approach to the Galactic Senate and her new job as Senator and turns it into a powerful tool to accomplish her goals. (All the while, we also see the dastardly Palpatine slowly setting his plots in motion.) Padmé could not have been as successful without the diligence and quick thinking of her handmaidens, who we discover are not just there to apply Padmé's makeup, but have a variety of security, analysis, political savvy and espionage skills, and yes, even needlework, as nothing Padme wears is ill-thought out, and serves multiple purposes. We also get a picture of Sabé, Padme's most frequent decoy during their planet's invasion by the Trade Federation. Sabé is a complex and really smart woman, and it was great seeing her in action by herself, too. Though this book is light on action, I was thrilled with E.K. Johnston's characterizations of a powerful woman and her brilliant aides.
It was time for Sabe of Naboo, bodyguard and handmaiden, to do her job, And she would, because that was what she had always chosen to do. Sabe turned to face her enemies as the queen of Naboo, and Padme all but disappeared into her shadow.
This wasn't bad, per se. This isn't "2-stars-I-hated-it." And I guess coming directly from the excellence that was Bloodline, I had expectations a tad too high. I will definitely be checking out Queen's Peril, though.
THE GOOD: It is beyond amazing that the voice actress for Padme from The Clone Wars is the narrator for this audiobook. That's another level of fascinating. And the fact that Clovis from TCW is in this book as well really makes this feel like an extended TCW episode. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, honestly.
I wanted to see more of the other handmaidens besides Sabe, as they all seemed like they had their own personalities but didn't get time to grow. I get that this is a book focused on Padme and Sabe, but to be honest Sabe is only the most famous handmaiden, not the most interesting.
There's a space battle near the end of the book. With the sound effects of the audiobook and the way the dialogue was read, it was very transporting and incredibly well done.
The epilogue actually kind of got me. And it tied in very well to the opening of the book. It just had some really good parts about Sabe and the other handmaidens and their relationship with Padme that I really think shouldn't have been saved until the end.
We are brave, Your Highness.
THE NOT GREAT Frankly, not much happens in this book. It takes place in the time between TPM and AotC, which isn't the most active SW time period. It's kind of about Padme and Sabe's relationship, but not really? It's more told-and-not-shown, and it was still... weird. I think this book could've definitely benefitted from going more into why Sabe is so devoted to Padme instead of just stating it as a fact and moving along. I get that lifetime devotion is sort of a trait in handmaidens, but it's not dealt with well and is just, again, kinda weird.
Again, not much happened in this book when you take out the relationships. The most interesting part, or I guess what is supposed to be the most interesting part, is this big court case that isn't even in existence until more than 3/4 of the was\y through. As I previously mentioned, it's more like a TCW episode than a book.
The rest of the book is sort of about Padme's transition from queen to senator and gaining respect, but again... not really? See, I can't even place my finger on the central plot of this book. It's just weird.
2/5 stars. Not altogether terrible, but not a very memorable or thrilling SW book. Well, onto Cobalt Squadron, don't fail me this time.
edit: raising my rating to 3/5 stars. I didn't love this, but I still had fun with it.
This is kind of like the prequel trilogy, but without any of the interesting bits. People walk down corridors together having stilted conversations about sort-of politics. And there are a lot of descriptions of fashion and hairstyles. I believe that there is much room in Star Wars for books that don't rely on lightsabers and space battles; the absence of all that in this book wasn't the problem for me. It's that the politics feels rather simplistic and juvenile (a problem in most SW books; I don't know that any author has yet figured out how to write so that it truly seems like the Galactic Senate represents thousands of systems, and maybe that's an impossible task), the characters a bit lifeless and interchangeable, and the writing style bland.
E. K. Johnston had a tough assignment for sure, writing a novel about Padmé and her handmaidens, whose defining characteristic is that they all look and act a lot like Padmé—so much so that when they're standing behind Padmé, they blend into the background and become nearly invisible. Johnston does what she can to differentiate all of these characters, but there's only so much that can be done.
The bigger problem right from the start is that Padmé herself is not a very dynamic character. In the years between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones (where this novel takes place), the character doesn't seem to have undergone any interesting development. We meet her in Episode 2 as a laughably naive, immature person (I mean, she falls for Anakin Skywalker after he slaughters an entire indigenous community on Tatooine). So she can't have much significant growth in any story that falls in this in-between era; it wouldn't make sense in the movie continuity.
Also, her introduction in Episode 2 indicates that she hasn't thought about Anakin at all since the end of Episode 1. But in this story, Padmé is desperate to find and free Anakin's mother, Shmi, on Tatooine. That feels weird. (It's also odd that the subplot about freeing the slaves on Tatooine gets completely dropped by halfway through the novel; I'd always thought that was an interesting direction that the movies missed out on, so I was curious to see how it plays out in this novel. But no.)
I should say that I don't want Padmé to be a dull character. I find the concept of Amidala in Episode 1 and the final battle on Naboo quite spectacular. It's the execution that's flat.
I didn't think Johnston's writing style helped the story. Over and over again, Johnston opts for the most obvious choices of word and phrase. For me, it was serviceable and quick, but not at all vibrant or creative. Occasional typos do liven things up, though—such as when Palpatine cautions Padmé to "tamper" her optimism (313)! :) I also enjoyed this sentence: "It was a remarkable relief to wear pants" (181).
It's nice to see some more of Bail Organa and Mon Mothma in the senate, but I'm still confused about why Organa was in the lower levels of the building at just the moment that Padmé was in danger. It seemed sinister, intriguing—but then it wasn't.
I hope for better stories about Padmé someday, but for me, this novel was not it.
Queen Amidala/Padmé is not among my favorite Star Wars characters, and this book did nothing to improve my opinion of her. Seriously, if you want a strong female in "a galaxy far, far away," take a look at Princess Leia, Rey, Jaina Solo, or Mara Jade Skywalker. Unfortunately, since the original Expanded Universe has been relegated to "legends" status, we're bound to get more dreck like this.
I really enjoyed getting a deeper look into the handmaidens and Padme, as well as seeing Padme meet and become close to characters like Bail (and Breha!) Organa and Mon Mothma. Padme's interactions with the handmaiden's and the whole way the clothing is used as weaponry and used to manipulate people's expectations so that they can spy was so fascinating. I also thought it was great that Padme's guilt over leaving Shmi was addressed as was her desire to do something about slavery on Tatooine. And that epilogue!!
That being said, this book felt a bit empty, like I just felt really detached from it and never felt like I got attached to the characters. Sometimes I would space out and realize that a plot had been dropped and I would have to go back and re-read sections. The plot was a bit meandering and so much that was brought up was just dropped. Like for example, why bring up the whole slavery subplot if you're just going to drop it. The look into Padme's first year in office and her transition from queen to senator was an interesting idea but there could have been way more done to execute it properly.
I'd love if Johnston delved back into this universe, especially with that epilogue.
I have a long history, noted by most of you, of keeping myself a 49 and a half foot pole away from people who get on their soap box and tweet angrily about people liking Kylo Ren or Reylo. I try to avoid the Fiction Purity Contests whenever I can.
EK Johnston is one such individual, and she’s the author of this book.
The underlying exception here? I fucking love Padme Amidala Naberrie.
And I, despite my most petty desires, enjoyed this book. Now, there were some issues because I am picky and I NEED to have issues, but I enjoyed it, and found myself hyped to keep reading every time I paused to itch my nose and moan about betraying my moral code to like it.
Padme’s handmaidens are badass as fuck in this, and I would die for all of them. I found myself heartbroken before ten percent of the book had even passed, my mind unable to comprehend them separating from each other. What this meant, however, was NEW HANDMAIDENS FOR ME TO LOVE. There are so many women in this book, I love it.
The foreshadowing was fairly subtle – I caught it but it wasn’t in my face screaming “THIS WILL MATTER LATER.” The plot was a little dry for me, or perhaps it’s just not my favorite writing style. I commend the plot though for keeping my interest throughout, which sometimes can’t even happen with stories I like more.
Padme’s voice was strong and accurate here. Though, if I’m allowed to nitpick, the suspicions in the book placed on Palpatine feels like waaaay too early in the timeline for her to be feeling. It’s just me, but it felt like inklings that only make sense with what we know, and therefore felt a little off in Padme’s voice. Lastly, it was a little hard to tell who’s POV I was in at the beginning of each chapter, and the similar names probably didn’t help me there (no one’s fault but GL’s for that though :P). Since this review is nonsense and far too nitpicky, I will leave off with more that I liked:
The epilogue with Sabe was heart wrenching and made me want to screech “HOW DARE YOU” at the book – I loved it. I also loved R2’s presence; he was written in such a cute way here. I feel like I have to watch Rebels now too, which is always good :P
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Padmé Amidala was completely still. The brown halo of her hair spread out around her, softened here and there by white blossoms that had blown through the air to find their rest amongst her curls. Her skin was pale and perfect. Her face was peaceful. Her eyes were closed and her hands were clasped across her stomach as she floated. Naboo carried on without her.
Even now, at the end, she was watched.
I want to go back in time and give this book to George Lucas and everyone who worked on the prequels.
Cause you see, I don't hate the prequels. There are lots of things that I appreciate about them. I just can't in good conscience call them "well written" movies.
Luckily, all that potential didn't get completely wasted, so we got The Clone Wars tv series and the absolutely amazing novelization of Revenge of the Sith. And now this book.
I know not everyone will like it, because it's almost solely focused on personal relationships and politics and how both of these elements shape a person. There is not a lot of action and barely any plot beyond Padmé figuring out who she is and who she wants to be - and in a parallel storyline, her best friend and former handmaiden Sabé does the same. They've both lived behind the mask of Queen Amidala (which is basically a made up personality Padmé and her handmaidens worked very hard on), that they've kind of lost themselves a bit.
There are almost no Jedi in this story. No lightsaber duels. No Force.
However there are Bail Organa and Mon Mothma already working behind the scenes. There is Palpatine being shifty. There is Clovis being a dunce, who might not be entirely useless. There are Panaka, Typho, the handmaidens and other people on Padmé's team we get to learn more about and making me want to rewatch the prequels to see if I can spot them and feel a deeper connection to them now.
And then there is Naboo. This book did what Leia - Princess of Alderaan did for Alderaan. It showed me a homeworld beloved by its heroine for good reasons. It also showed me its flaws enough to not make it into some unbelievable utopia. I wanted to live there.
And I also wanted to be part of that group of friends. The handmaidens and Padmé had such a beautiful friendship! Yes, they worked for her and Padmé was always very aware of the fact that these women would die for her in a heartbeat, but in essence they were just simply a different kind of family.
Of course Sabé is the standout there. This book is almost as much about her re-defining herself as it is about Padmé. Technically the title could even refer to her, cause she's been the Queen's Shadow for so long, she doesn't really know how to be anything else. And in a refreshing turn of events, she actually doesn't want to be anything else. Padmé's relationship with her was so deep and beautiful that the very last chapter from her POV gave me a gut punch I didn't expect.
There are only two criticisms I have for this book, but the first one is probably the reason why I didn't give it 5 stars. I said above that not everyone will like this book, because it's mostly a character study and while I personally don't mind, I do have to admit that this book was really really slow in places. I finally stopped waiting for a bigger plot to arrive after I had reached the halfpoint of the novel. I didn't need some big conspiracy or anything... just a goal here and there? I enjoyed the book regardless - especially getting to understand why the Naboo queen dresses the way she does - but other people might be understandably call it a bit boring at times.
The second one was Clovis. For those who don't know him: He was a minor character in The Clone Wars tv series and it's been implied that him and Padmé were close/a couple a few years back. I didn't expect any true romance or anything like that, but I thought what we got was kind of weird? (Don't get me wrong. I didn't need a romance. I'm glad there wasn't a focus on that. I think if I hadn't watched The Clone Wars, I wouldn't have been bothered at all. But I did.)