"Whatever happened next, however it was recorded and remembered, she was entirely on her own."
'Star Wars Queen's Peril' by E.K. Johnston is a story from the other side of Trade Federation's blockade of the planet Naboo during The Phantom Menace era.
We've already seen the ins and outs of the liberation of the Naboo people and the role Amidala plays in standing against that incursion.. to a degree. So, we don't see a lot of that here. Incidents like the ousting of Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum, the introduction of Jar Jar Binks, the Skywalker pod racing, the Maul hangar duel, and the death of Qui-Gon are mentioned.. but mostly they act as historical landmarks on the timeline.. allowing us to draw the parallels between the two stories.. and know where we are.
What's wonderful about this book is that it's more of an intimate portrait of Padme and her inner circle. It begins before she even rises to power. I enjoyed learning about the steps it took her to get there and seeing a bit of what she was like, separated from the Queen persona.
I also learned a lot about things I'd always questioned and that was deeply satisfying.. like the reason she dressed as she did in the first place. I'd always found those costumes of hers to be so.. well.. gaudy. But to learn the extent of their purpose.. which was as heavily layered as the costumes themselves.. that was fascinating. Seeing the group of girls develop the Queen's image together was amazing, how and why they adopted the things they did.
"He found the weak points, the cracks where the light got out, and shoved the darkness in."
Watching her go in as an idealistic citizen.. a smart, powerful female protagonist.. and surround herself with others like her, that too was intriguing. It gave me a whole new appreciation for a character I'd honestly never been that fond of. She was more than 'able,' she was calculating and driven. She knew how to show humility without seeming weak.
If I'd read this book before The Phantom Menace, I feel like I would have see in through an entirely different set of eyes. Actually, now I think I need to go back and experience The Phantom Menace again armed with the knew knowledge. Some of the early glimpses of Darth Sidious and Maul are especially interesting.
"Most would have flared out in glorious rage, taking untold numbers with them into the blackness of the void, but not Maul. Maul was made for better things, and his anger was his fuel."
I loved getting to know the handmaidens. Each of them had distinctively different skills they brought to the table and their personalities and backgrounds were just as diverse. This story gave those supporting characters real depth.. and though I started out unsure of one of them, she absolutely had my respect before long.
Watching her build those relationships, along with the relationships between herself and her Queen's Guard was so much fun. She was at times.. frustrating.. for her protectors because she didn't just let them walk all over her, but she chose her battles carefully.. giving in on some issues and standing strong on others.
In hindsight, I picked up this title thinking I was going to read a story about the Queen.. and I did.. but I had no idea how well I'd get to know all those close to her. How much I'd come to like the handmaidens and Captain Panaka and his intelligence officer wife. This story isn't just hers, it's theirs.. and I loved every minute of it.