A ceremony honoring the memory of BAIL ORGANA has drawn the Senate together in rare harmony. It is a day of celebration, but even now, the divisions among the worlds of the galaxy are growing wider….
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, twins were born to a senator with a dream of peace, and a Jedi Knight who cared so deeply for his friends and loved ones that he would sacrifice anything—everything—to keep them safe.
The boy, Luke, went to be raised by his aunt and uncle on a distant desert planet. Leia, on the other hand, was adopted by a royal and established senator, Bail Organa. The rest you know—how Leia and Luke were reunited, how they learned the truth of their parentage, the horror at the discovery that Vader was their true biological father. We saw these two young siblings, with the help of the dashing Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO, destroy two Death Stars, kill Palpatine, and end the rule of the Empire by bringing peace to the galaxy.
Peace, however, isn’t easy. Re-establishing rule and implementing a democratic republic in the wake of a totalitarian regime is, as it turns out, very hard. Some twenty years following the battle at Endor and the triumph of the Rebellion, Leia Organa is married, a mother, and a senator in the new Republic—and she is completely and utterly disillusioned with government. The Senate—now comprised mostly of young new blood unable to remember or very young at the time when the Empire existed—spends its time squabbling over matters of form and prestige, instead of substance. Further, the entire senate is fragmented between two parties: the Populists who champion the rights of the people, and the Centrists who see the good in some of the Empire’s aims at unification. Leia is ready to call the whole thing quits—once her final term is up, she hopes to leave government behind and travel the galaxy with her husband, Han Solo. Even when the calls for a First Senator start—a movement that would grant a single senate member the power to unilaterally make decisions—Leia is hesitant to give up her dream of leaving responsibility behind.
Of course, escaping responsibility and flying off into the sunset with Han isn’t an easy or simple goal. When the independent Twi’leks of Ryloth present the Senate with the grim news that a new organized crime syndicate is pressuring their planet, Leia is eager to head the investigation and get her hands dirty. She is joined by Ransolm Casterfo, a young Centrist senator, who Leia initially thinks is more interested in collecting artifacts from the glory days of the Empire than discovering the truth.
Gradually, however unlikely it may seem, Leia and Ransolm form a connection as friends and colleagues. And together, the two discover a horrible truth about the rise of organized crime in the Outer Rim—and who might be behind such a plan.
It is up to Leia and Ransolm to share that hard, horrible truth with the Senate—and in the process, a truth about Leia’s past will come to light as well.
Well, wow. Bloodline is a hell of a novel—it’s a set-up story that explores not only beloved characters from the original trilogy, but also looks at the vital period leading up to the events of last year’s Episode VII. Set six years before the start of The Force Awakens, Bloodline is the book Star Wars fans have been waiting for because it gives insight into Leia’s move from Senator to General, it details how the First Order could have risen in the era of the New Republic, and most importantly, it shows us how Kylo Ren could have been created. From a continuity standpoint, Bloodline is new canon, and it brilliantly shows the failings of the Senate in a way that is consistent with the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the Clone Wars animated series, and Episode VII. The squabbles between Populists and Centrists, the formation of cliques within the system, the focus on appearance and opulence as opposed to actual work being done—it stinks of the Galactic Senate of Padme Amidala and Bail Organa’s time, which collapsed in such dysfunction. I love that Leia, soul-searching the failings of the system, comes to terms with the fact that the system relies on charisma and a leader who can appease both parties—and the inherent danger in such a system. (Bonus points for relevancy: it’s hard not to read this and start thinking of the fragility of the American democratic system in the current election environment.)
Of course, the most important and brilliant thing Bloodline has going for it is Leia Organa’s characterization. Claudia Gray perfectly captures Leia’s voice in this novel—in fact, this is probably the very best representation of Leia that I’ve read, period—showing Leia’s composure and pain, her stubborn sense of right and wrong, and her sense of responsibility for the welfare of the galaxy (even when it is to her own detriment). Gray also manages to capture Leia’s wily and mischievous side, her tendency to lose her temper, the deep, aching maw of sadness she feels for the loss of Alderaan and the many, many people she has lost over the years.
Bloodline is also so remarkable, because for the first time (in the new canon, that is) we see Leia grapple with her parentage—and we see just how long and dark the legacy of Darth Vader truly is. Leia has lost two fathers—Bail Organa, whom she loved dearly, and Vader, whom she loathed, feared, and cannot bring herself to understand. She also struggles with her own family, as she has been separated from her husband Han Solo (who makes a few cameos in this book), and her son Ben and brother Luke (neither of whom show up in the book at all outside of Leia’s one-way communication). It’s not easy, carrying responsibility for the peace and stability of the galaxy on one’s shoulders—Leia is the best person for the job, but it comes at great personal cost. Bloodline shows us every drop of that cost, and how it could have been turned against Leia and Han to such sad ends that manifest in Episode VII.
Beyond the characters that we already know, Bloodline also does a bang-up job of introducing new players—Ransolm Casterfo is a pompous dandy upon first meeting him, but turns out to be a layered, nuanced sympathetic character in his own right. His friendship with Leia, and the derring-do he displays (misguided, though some of it may be) is similarly awesome.
What didn’t work in Bloodline? The mystery was very straightforward and simple, and the responsible villainous character in the senate felt a little comical and one-note. Similarly, I know there’s a lot more meat to the rise of the First Order storyline (its funding, its leadership, its genesis), and I need to know more. I wish we got more answers in Bloodline—although the bits that we do see are pretty freaking fantastic. I can’t really find much fault otherwise in this remarkable book—because I loved it and devoured it whole. Quite possibly one of the best Star Wars books I’ve read, certainly the best book of the new canon, Bloodline is everything I hoped it would be. And if you’re a fan of Leia’s or Star Wars, you should be reading it right now.
In Book Smugglerish, 8 and a half concealed blasters out of 10.