Review: Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/13/2016
When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing....
When Disney bought the Star Wars IP and decided to throw the Expanded Universe into the bin, I was dismayed. I was preparing to get into the fiction for good, and then it was just... gone like Alderan. But then I figured, hey, this might give me the opportunity to dive into all the new, sanctioned canon from the start and not fall behind too much. So far, I have been keeping up well with the new material and am confident to be up to date by the end of the year. Bloodline held a special interest for me, so I dug through it within days of its release.

The Story:
"When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing...."

The Review
Star Wars: Bloodline is an excellent character piece on Princess Leia Organa. Set roughly 6 years prior to The Force Awakens, it gives us some much-needed background on the galaxy at large, and the New Republic Senate in particular.

First off, though, I wouldn't recommend reading this book before watching The Force Awakens. It doesn't outright spoil things for the movie, but you will have a much greater appreciation for the small bits and nuggets of info that nod towards the movie. The sense of tragedy and anticipation is also more impactful this way.

The New Republic Senate is pretty much split down the middle (3rd parties notwithstanding). On one side you find the Populist party, which believes in a hands-off approach on most things and is reluctant to assign real power to anybody. On the other, you get the Centrists, who in many ways revere the order and structure that came with the galactic Empire under Palpatine. They wish for a High Chancellor, or First Senator, like in the old days, and execute far more rigorous authority on the galaxy.
They are at an impasse, with no side willing to budge, and as a result, the senate is, for all intents, useless. Decisions get tabled due to bickering, and situations that require quick and decisive action don't get tackled at all. Both sides are just waiting for the other to make a mistake, or open up an angle of attack through their actions.

It is a disaster, and Leia is frustrated with it all. She is much more cynical than she's ever been, but still an idealist. The cumbersome nature of the senate even has her indulge in nostalgia for the old Rebellion days, despite her better knowledge.
She is ready to throw it all away and leave the senate when she, inadvertedly, gets picked for the role of First Senator herself - because nobody else could possibly be trusted not to turn into another Palpatine.

Open to scrutiny by senators on the Centrist side, Leia has to overcome her own fears and Vader's legacy, while figuring out her own priorities and wishes, as well as duties.

Next to the book-spanning political plot, Leia is teaming up with Centrist senator Ransolm Casterfo to investigate a criminal cartell and its connections to republic worlds. What follows is a tale of growing trust and friendship that bridges political rifts, and a good dose of covert action and espionage behind the senate's back. There's a corruption lurking in the galaxy, and Leia and co are trying to uproot it.

I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of this novel. From Leia's characterization, her relationships with Han, Casterfo and her aides Greer and Kor Sella, and even Threepio, everything was spot on. Claudia Gray hit the soft spot with Leia. There is enough of the young, energetic and determined princess here, while highlighting just how resigned she is to the current political situation. Leia's need for action and doing the right things is coming across wonderfully.
Bloodline proves that even well-established characters like Leia Organa can still grow further. In many ways, I see the book as a love-letter to her, and it sheds light on her innermost feelings and fears post-Return of the Jedi.

Meanwhile, I very much enjoyed Gray's original character of Ransolm Casterfo, who turns from somewhat-antagonist to genuine protagonist over the course of the book. His actions, thoughts and feelings were an excellent counterpoint to Leia's own perspective. Through these two characters' combined views, we get a well-rounded idea of the senate as a whole, and the political intrigue going on.

As somebody who enjoys political stories a great deal, even if they can be slow burners at times, I never thought that Bloodline dragged or didn't get off its butt. There was always something to catch my interest or move the plot forward, whether directly or through progressing relationships between characters. I sincerely hope to see or read more of Greer, Kor and Seastriker in the future, for example.

Of course, there are also some cameos here that fans will enjoy and that shed light on just what the old cast was up to before the events of TFA. Not everything is explained, for obvious reasons, but enough to make things come closer together and feel just right.

Claudia Gray has written a truly convincing novel with Bloodline, which ticks all the boxes for a Star Wars book in a satisfying, conclusive way. Well, apart from lightsaber duels. It doesn't have any of those (and it did not need to!). The dramatic nature of the Star Wars series is well and alive here, which earns Gray a merit-Deathstar in my book.

Star Wars: Bloodline on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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