Padmé is a character who has sadly been overlooked in recent Star Wars canon, but in Queen’s Shadow, that’s all changed.
Written by E. K. Johnstone, who previously wrote Star Wars: Ahsoka, Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow returns to the Clone Wars era, featuring another leading lady and her journey into a new career.
Queen’s Shadow delves into Padmé Amidala’s transition from Queen of Naboo to representing Naboo in the Galactic Senate. It features the likes of Palpatine, Mon Mothma, Senator Clovis, and Bail Organa. But Queen’s Shadow really shines when we are given an insight into Padmé’s thought process.
It’s not just a book about Padmé and her transition; we also read a lot about Padmé’s loyal handmaidens, most of whom also follow Padmé into politics. In fact, the whole of part one (around 50 pages) is based on how Padmé interacts with her handmaidens. Sadly, it’s the weakest part of Queen’s Shadow; not only are the handmaidens quite one-dimensional, but they also take away from Padmé’s character. She’s the one who takes on the Trade Federation and travels with Anakin despite the risk; showing how much support she needs paints her as a lot less confident and assured.
Despite this, when Padmé makes her political decisions, she’s shown to be a very insightful and analytical leading lady. Queen’s Shadow is perhaps the best canon Star Wars text to portray what the Galactic Senate is like, along with how much business gets done outside of the actual Senate. Johnstone’s novel also brilliantly foreshadows the ill-feeling towards the Senate and how many want to break away and form a new type of government. It’s comparable to Claudia Gray’s Bloodline, where Leia works to fix a broken system reeling from the demise of the Empire.
Foreshadowing is something that Queen’s Shadow does really well. At one point, Padmé visits Bail Organa and has a deep conversation with Breha Organa, who reveals she cannot have a baby. Padmé reveals that her sister has just had a child, and they wonder about what that would be like. Breha’s yearning for a child is very clear; it’s a beautiful passage of writing that pulls at the heartstrings. Padmé may not know it at the time, but her daughter will be in very safe hands.
Senator Clovis is also new to the Senate and we get to see their bond grow with Padmé. Aside from a strange moment near the end of Queen’s Shadow, their bond is formed well, and brilliantly leads into the classic fist fight between Anakin and Clovis in The Clone Wars. Anakin is barely mentioned – he’s only the slave child liberated at this time – but Padmé does have a wish to go back to Tatooine and find his mother. Sadly, this isn’t developed much further.
We also come to meet Padmé’s sister, father and mother in Queen’s Shadow. This is another moment that isn’t built much, which is a real shame. It would have been great to see more of her family and see if there are any family traits that are passed down to future Skywalkers. But Queen’s Shadow is mainly a political novel, and Padmé’s interactions with Mon Mothma, Bail Organa and Palpatine are where the novel shines.
Padmé deserved her own story, and Queen’s Shadow goes a long way to fill in the gaps between The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars. There are still some areas of Padmé’s life left untouched, and her reliance on the handmaidens at times feels too much. But Queen’s Shadow provides a lot of insight into Padmé’s transition into politics, and the political feeling at that time. It’s a must read for any fan of the Clone Wars era.