Star Wars: Bloodline is the newest novel in the new canon of the franchise, coming from author (and Star Wars vet) Claudia Gray. That may be compelling enough of a reason for legions of fans to run to the store and buy it, be it in print, digital, or audio form, but there's more: it's also a spectacular story, and an incredibly important one. Bloodline may be the most important Star Wars novel ever, being released in an election year and deftly handling a political crisis that in many ways parallels our own. The deftness comes from never being bogged down by such things, though, and instead giving readers a real look into the evolution of Princess Leia (a roaring, heart-thumping third act wrought with peril doesn't hurt, either).
It's interesting to think of a Princess, literally steeped in politics and revolution since her childhood, as evolving into a Senator and revolutionary. Despite these things having the same titles as the ones she held as a teenager, Leia's life in the New Republic, around twenty-five years after the Battle of Endor (it's never explicitly stated, but "she's been a Senator for a quarter century" was written) has clearly changed. She still trusts her instincts (which she now knows very well are guided by the Force), and she can still take charge, but now there's a seasoned quality to her words that didn't exist before.
Leia's leadership in Bloodline perfectly illustrates why she's "the General" in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Certainly the respect she carries in that film was born during the events of the original trilogy, but her actions in establishing the New Republic, and dedicating her life to its service, are the real source of inspiration for the troops of the Resistance in the film.
Bloodline isn't just about Leia being Leia all over the galaxy, though it is that, and is exciting, fun, and inspiring enough on its own for it. Supporting casts, and the relationships between them, are what made Star Wars fans fall in love with the idea of an expanded universe of novels, comics, and more the first time around. With characters that aren't just easy to love but also span a wide variety of backgrounds, histories, political ideals, and goals, Gray paints a much more complete galaxy than we often get to see on the big screen. Characters like Senator Ransolm Casterfo, who despite being politically opposed gets to shine and even have his views explained in an equivalent manner to the story's star, and the use of Han Solo as a supporting character - relegated mostly to the background, but ever-present in spirit - stand out in particular. There are also characters in the book who we know we'll see more of, like brief appearances by Snap Wexley and Ello Asty, but perhaps more intriguing are the ones whose story I find myself desperate to know more of, like Joph Seastriker or Greer or Korr. Knowing that Rian Johnson (writer, director of Star Wars: Episode VIII) had some creative input on the novel provides hope that we haven't seen the last of all of these wonderful characters.
Joph, Greer, and Korr are especially brilliant as they're all aspects of Leia herself. Her staff being made up of parts of her is a masterstroke some readers may not notice at first: Joph, anxious for adventure and willing to jump into any situation feet first; Greer, immensely talented, beautiful and likable, but haunted by something in her blood; Korr, the wide-eyed teenage girl confident she can take on the galaxy if she just tries hard enough. Even C-3PO, in his place on Leia's staff, represents her analytical mind, her born leadership. In this way, everything we learn about each of these other characters is something we're also learning about Leia. That sort of planning has to be immensely difficult for a writer, and truly demonstrates Claudia Gray's brilliance.
If a political thriller set in the Star Wars universe with compelling characters and the deepest dive into Princess Leia's character isn't enough for you, the book is also chock full of Star Wars: The Force Awakens preludes. We'll save that for a spoiler-y piece later, but suffice to say, you can learn a lot about the world of Star Wars in this book, including some hints at the origins of the Resistance and the First Order, secrets about Leia, Han, and Ben Solo, and the general political landscape of the world the film introduced. Some may think the film should've done more to establish those elements on screen, but the book handles it so well, and in such thrilling fashion, that it's hard to care that you "have to" read it in order to get the full story.
Star Wars: Bloodline isn't just a great Star Wars book, or a great Leia book, or a great book; it's a great introduction into the larger world of Star Wars in general. I'd highly recommend this as the first book in the franchise someone ever picks up; with its close ties and revelations in regards to The Force Awakens, it's easily accessible. Leia as the central character, and the much closer look at her, is instantly familiar but still exciting and new. Claudia Gray has a clear love and understanding of these characters and this galaxy, but she perhaps more importantly is a damn fine writer who applies her skills to this story with care and brilliance.
Star Wars: Bloodline is out today in print, digital, and audiobook.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars