Written By: E.K. Johnston
Published By: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
Last year, I read Star Wars: Queen’s Hope and thoroughly enjoyed this new look at Padmé Amidala and her handmaidens. I had always wanted the powers that be in Star Wars-land to delve deeper into some of the characters in the prequels and had gotten my wish. Then I discovered that Queen’s Hope was part of a trilogy and realized I had to get my hands on the rest of the books. My latest acquisition from the trilogy: Queen’s Peril.
Star Wars: Queen’s Peril tells us the beginning of Padmé’s journey, introducing us as she is just about to be elected Queen of Naboo. We learn how Padmé’s original handmaidens were chosen and how they were integrated into something more than just handmaidens. It was important for Quarsh Panaka to incorporate the handmaidens into Padmé’s security forces. He intentionally picked intelligent teenagers with special skills who looked similar to Padmé but had no desire to be in the forefront of things. Tsabin was a musician who looked most like Padmé and could teach her breathing techniques that would help hide emotions. Rabene, the artist and crafty con artist, would help Padmé not only hide her feelings, but be deceitful when necessary. Eirtama, the costume designer, would design new clothing that would emulate the traditional Queen’s garb, but would be less ungainly and would have some hidden surprises should things get rough. Suyan was skilled weaver who would change the large headpieces Queen Amidala wore into lighter, more manageable constructs. Sashah, the youngest of the group, would teach them all how to hide in plain sight.
Panaka was proud of his choice of handmaidens, but he eventually learns he has underestimated Padmé and his selections, how close they would become, and how crafty. They would change their names and assume specialties: Rabé would be the wardrobe mistress, Eirtaé would become the communications specialist, Yané would be the liaison with the palace staff and droids, Saché would become a paige, and Sabé would be the assistant. They would all learn the other’s job and all would learn how to be Amidala so they could be the Queen’s decoy if necessary. Padmé could then hide in plain sight as one of her own handmaidens, often gaining direct access to her people and their plights.
Though frustrating for Panaka, this would prove to be a valuable tool for, unbeknownst to Queen Amidala and her allies, trouble was brewing. The Trade Federation was about to enact a blockade in the Naboo sector and a Sith was about to make trouble for them all. Even with the help of Jedi, Queen Amidala will need every last one of her handmaidens to bring all of her subjects together, including the outcast Gungans, in a fight for the very freedom of Naboo and its people.
I loved Star Wars: Queen’s Peril. We got a very close and personal look at Padmé Amidala and her rise from citizen to Queen Amidala, treasured Queen of Naboo. We also got a better look at each of the handmaidens, their lives before they accepted the job, and the ways in which they sacrificed themselves for their Queen and their sisterhood. I love that E.K. Johnston does not back down from any formerly taboo subject in the Star Wars Universe. I always wondered how it was that the people of Star Wars could have children, but never seem to have sex. No one ever seems to suffer from period cramps. Homosexuality was never a thing in the Star Wars Universe. Not so in this book. E.K. Johnston breaks the boundaries. Yes, Padmé has a period and so do her handmaidens. Young teenagers reading this book will recognize what Saché is going through when she gets her first period. They will enjoy the tales of budding romance, no matter the gender.
Star Wars: Queen’s Peril is a tale any Star Wars fan could love. It reveals the backstories of some very important prequel characters. It contains characters that are relatable and easy to like. There is action, intrigue, drama, and a little bit of tongue-in-cheek fun. Most of all, the stories of Star Wars have become a little bit more realistic. Wars don’t happen without death, horror, and destruction. PTSD is a real thing to be dealt. The writers of Star Wars are now dealing with realities of life and I applaud this move into a more realistic Star Wars than we have ever seen before.