Upfront I am going to tell you that I loved Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray. Last year, I enjoyed many Star Wars novels. The Journey to the Force Awakens offerings were a fun line but still felt like it had its hands tied due to the uptight approach of the marketing for The Force Awakens. While I enjoyed Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath, everything about it was right but the timing as far as I was concerned. Well, in my opinion Star Wars: Bloodline is the book that should have kicked off the post-Legends Star Wars canon. This novel matters, works, and understands the spirit and character of Leia Organa. I have watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens since reading the book and I can sincerely tell you that it enriched my viewing experience. I feel that’s the strongest thing a Star Wars novel can do.
The book is very different from Heir to the Empire but the first few chapters took me back to reading that book at ten years old, learning what happened to my heroes after the Battle of Endor. I love the quiet before the storm in terms of the book’s structure. The New Republic is dysfunctional. Princess Leia is driven, hopeful, and has the best of intentions but she is stuck in a political system that is severely flawed and broken.
Star Wars: Bloodline is not heavy on the action. That is honestly fine by me. The Star Wars films are able to operate with a certain visual language that doesn’t translate well into text. The films are meant to be seen. This book offers the other side of that same coin. This book gives us what is meant to be read and not put on the big screen. It is very much a political thriller that needs to take its time and that’s exactly what a film is short on but a book is not. At times the novel was House of Cards meets The Clone Wars’ Padmé Amidala arcs. If that sounds cool to you, you’ll love this book.
Claudia Gray knows how to bend Star Wars without breaking it. Lost Stars was the best novel of the new canon but Star Wars: Bloodline is hands down my favorite. She hit a home run here. She also wrote the best Princess Leia novel or story I have ever read. I didn’t dig the Marvel mini-series from last year. This book was spiritually right, unlike past offerings which had their merits but didn’t really form a cohesive bond with any lasting power.
I read both the novel and listened to the audiobook read by January LaVoy. LaVoy has a voice I found easy to listen to for several hours. She also does a good job of conveying different character voices and keeping them consistent. I do wish the narrators on these audio books didn’t have to do all the voices, however. It would be nice if the large array of voice actors the Star Wars saga has amassed for television were used to fill in the other voices. That said, it isn’t LaVoy’s fault that this audiobook didn’t have a large cast, and she delivers a great reading of Bloodline.
I feel like giving the book a ten. But nothing is perfect so I never go there. But the book is a nine out of ten for me.
**General Spoilers Below This Line***
This book is set six years before Star Wars: The Force Awakens and we only know as much because of the marketing around the book itself. The story operates with a little bit of ambiguity and just mentions Leia is in her late forties and and that Ransolm is about five or six at the time the second Death Star was destroyed. We learn all kinds of interesting things like Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo are believed to be together still at this time.
In essence this book is about how the galaxy found out Leia Organa was born Leia Skywalker and her father became Darth Vader. The inept senate can’t handle her lineage and uses it against her. A fed-up Leia is so fascinating. I also believe we see why she drops the “Princess” from her salutation after this book as she deals with elites that aren’t self-made people, they’re born that way. At the end of the day, this book gives us a solid reason why Princess Leia wants to be known as General Organa by the time we get to The Force Awakens.
I always wondered what the galaxy thought about Leia being the daughter of Darth Vader. I always assumed they knew she was a freedom fighter and never used that against her. However, this book shows how naive that idea is. Leia is accused of possibly being a spy for her biological father and tipping him off to their location on Hoth and even helping the rebels walk into Emperor Palpatine’s trap in Return of the Jedi with the operational Death Star. You’ll find yourself being infuriated by the foolish accusations that are too realistic. When a book makes you mad, you know it’s connecting.
The book lets you hate Ransolm Casterfo when you first meet him. He’s a senator for the Centrist party that wants a strong governmental leader whereas Leia is a Populist that wants the strength to lay within individual provinces and planets. But at times you see the Centrists have a point here and there. Mon Mothma was respected and the senators followed her lead. But every chancellor after Mothma has been disempowered and ineffective. So you kind of see how Casterfo’s party isn’t entirely off base with wanting a “First Senator” that will give the senate an actual leader. Personally, Casterfo goes too far and has Imperial helmets as collectibles and values the power and strength of the Empire. He just thinks Palpatine did it all wrong.
As I said, when a book makes you mad it is working and connecting with the readers. Rarely does a Star Wars novel make you connect with new characters not involved in the films like Gray does with Ransolm Casterfo. As a boy his father was tortured by Darth Vader and young Ransolm vomits from the trauma as it happens. Darth Vader doesn’t even really notice. This makes Vader more of a monster and gives Ransolm some depth and an opportunity for the audience to empathize with him. You really go from hating him to liking him by the end.
The really tiny insights into Ben Solo’s childhood with his parents are really cool to see referenced. One moment I really liked is when Casterfo chastises Leia for not telling Ben about Darth Vader. He comments that he’s old enough to know. I think that’s insightful to the future story we will be getting for Ben someday.
I really can’t recommend the book enough.