There are many ways to celebrate May the Fourth, but how better than by learning where the tense political situation seen in Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens came from?
Bloodline, a new novel by Claudia Gray featuring Princess Leia’s valiant attempts to hold the New Republic Senate together in the face of a shadowy conspiracy, comes out in hardcover on May 3.
The same author penned Lost Stars, another prelude to Episode VII that has garnered fan acclaim — no small task, consider the decades of “Expanded Universe” lore that was jettisoned when Disney bought LucasFilm and the rancor that has often stoked, and has even sparked a desperate billboard campaign recently.
And Bloodline delivers. Rather than a traditional review, this article will indulge spoiler seekers — to a degree — with a few select observations highlighting how the novel fills in the new gaps in our collective understanding of the Star Wars universe canon “decades” after the Battle of Endor.
Hosnian Prime, the planet destroyed by the Starkiller weapon in The Force Awakens, sports a statue of Bail Organa — just as Coruscant, the galactic capitol under the Old Republic and the Empire, sported an oversized statue of Emperor Palpatine. Like that Imperial visage, seen crumbling to the ground during anti-Empire celebrations at the end of the Special Edition version of Return of the Jedi, Bail’s tribute doesn’t make it to the end of this story unscathed — and is certainly obliterated entirely along with the rest of the Hosnian system years later.
Korr Sella, the Martha Jones lookalike last seen gaping at the Starkiller beam seconds before her death on Hosnian Prime, begins her service here with Leia as an intern. A plot point of The Force Awakens that didn’t make it on screen was that Sella was representing Resistance General Leia Organa’s interests in the Senate because the capitol had become too dangerous for the princess; in Bloodline, you quickly come to understand just why it was necessary for Leia to have a proxy.
Ben Solo, in his 20s here, is traveling with Luke, who has been away long enough that he is little but a myth to anyone but his own students.
Many know Luke is Leia’s brother, and some know that their mother was Naboo nobility — but only Han knows, at the beginning of Bloodline, who their father was. That won’t last.
Han Solo owns a shipping company and oversees starfighter races. It’s not clear whether he still has the Millennium Falcon here. At this point, he and Leia are still together, but each is doing what they do best and trying to make a long-distance relationship work. Leia, however, is growing weary of the Senate and considers leaving to knock about the galaxy with her scoundrel of a husband.
Chewbacca has returned to the Wookiee homeworld, Kashyyyk, but keeps in touch with Han and Leia. When we saw Han and Chewie in a previous adventure, Aftermath, they were abandoning a mission after the Battle of Endor to seize an opportunity to free Kashyyyk from the Empire — something we’ll learn more about in that book’s follow-up, Life Debt.
First Order General Hux’s father, Brendol Hux, is mentioned; he has appeared in other books, specifically a Rebels tie-in for young readers.
‘Witness the birth of the Resistance’
That’s what the inside cover flap of Bloodline promises. If you want to see how New Republic vs. Empire became Resistance vs. First Order, read this book. It all boils down to politics.
The Republic Senate is divided into two factions: Centrists, who favor a strong central government and often look favorably upon elements of the old Empire, and Populists, who value decentralized government and planetary independence.
You won’t learn the true genesis of the First Order, or witness its ultimate revelation to the galaxy, but it’s there, in name and in spirit.
According to StarWars.com, Episode VIII director Rian Johnson provided some ideas and story elements for Bloodline — so, yeah, chew on that for awhile …
This one is a bit of a stretch, but I can’t shake the feeling it’s important. Allow me to indulge a theory of my own.
In Bloodline, a political rival of Leia’s uncovers the princess’ childhood “keepsake chest,” described as a “carved wooden box” that was removed from her adopted homeworld of Alderaan before its destruction. In addition to some mundane-sounding items (“a tiny doll no taller than her hand; a small, soft blanket of fine gillendown; a hexagonal, mirrored music box; a ring sized for a tiny finger; and a lock of dark-brown hair tied at either wend with a ribbon”), the box hides a message to Leia from her adoptive father Bail revealing her Skywalker family lineage — and her relationship to Darth Vader.
Where else have we seen a carved wooden chest? In the possession of The Force Awakens’ Maz Kanata beneath her establishment on Takodana, where she stashed the Skywalker lightsaber Luke lost dueling his father in Bespin’s Cloud City. Could this be the same box that leads a reluctant Rey to her destiny? It’s definitely possible.
But it’s probably what’s inside the chest that has a more lasting impact upon Leia: In a political maneuver, her greatest secret becomes revealed to the galaxy — before she’s even had a chance to prepare her son. (It’s no coincidence that Vader’s shadow looms large over Leia on the book cover.)
Bloodline: EU or pee-yew?
When you’ve read Bloodline, come on back and let us know what you think of this new development in Star Wars canon!