Posted on Friday, May 13th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
If you are planning to read Star Wars: Bloodline, this article is not for you. But I will say this much: Claudia Gray‘s second Star Wars novel is very good, a brisk and well-written thriller that captures the voices of many iconic figures, creates a few memorable new characters, and manages to blend tantalizing details of the post-Return of the Jedi universe into a plot dense with politics and intrigue. Unlike other Star Wars books I’ve read in the past year, this one didn’t make me want to claw my eyes out. I enjoyed it very much, especially how well Gray captures Leia Organa, who gets to the be the no-questions-asked lead character of the story.
But I know some Star Wars fans don’t have the time or inclination to dive into the new books taking place in the gaps between the movies and filling in the new Disney-supervised canon. If you’re a Star Wars fan who wants to know the state of the universe, who wants to know what went down between Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and how the Resistance was formed and what’s up with the First Order, I’ve got you covered.
Spoilers ahead, of course.
The New Republic Is a Two-Party Debacle
Star Wars: Bloodline begins six years before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which means it takes place roughly 24 years or so after the events of Return of the Jedi. In that time, the glorious New Republic, the governing body that grew out of the Rebellion following the defeat of the Empire, has split into two partisan factions, each of which has its own specific viewpoint on how the galaxy should be run. And neither group is willing to meet the other one halfway, even when the safety of countless people and planets are on the line. Sound familiar? Yeah, the political gridlock at the heart of Bloodline isn’t subtle, but it’s effective enough shorthand – the senate of the New Republic is screwed in the exact way that many modern governments are screwed.
The two factions are known as the Populists and the Centrists, with the former believing that planets should be allowed more control over their laws and regulations than a central government and the latter believing that every planet in the Republic should be managed by a strong central governing body. It’s states’ rights on a massive level. Anyway, Leia, who is now a respected veteran senator, is a Populist because she lived through the reign of the Empire and thinks everyone answering to a central authority is a good way to revive tyranny. However, the events of Bloodline see Leia reaching across the aisle and making an ally on the other side, only to realize that no one else in the senate is willing to make that kind of compromise. She and her handful of allies are alone.
Han and Leia Are Still Together
At some point in the next six years, a mysterious figure named Snoke will seduce Ben Solo to the dark side of the Force and drive a wedge between Leia and her husband, Han Solo. However, Bloodline depicts the couple as being very much together and very much in love, constantly exchanging messages and confiding in each other over video transmissions. Still, their careers do keep them apart. While Leia battles government gridlock on Hosnian Prime, Han is off being a celebrity in the world of starfighter racing, rarely competing but acting as a manager and expert of sorts (his exact daily duties are never dwelled upon). It’s a little to weird to see a former Rebel soldier and a former smuggler being so respectable, working in the public eye and acting as the closest thing the Star Wars universe has to celebrities.
Gray does a fine job of selling the relationship between Leia and Han, with their relationship now taking on the air of a veteran couple who have grown truly and deeply comfortable around her. Knowing that this will all collapse before long is a little heartbreaking. Also, the book notes that Chewbacca has retired to live with his family on Kashyyyk, so the whole Ben Solo tragedy also yanks him out of a comfortable life as Han returns to his smuggler ways.
Luke Is Gaining a Mysterious Reputation
What happens to a war hero thirty years after he was most relevant? In the case of Luke Skywalker, Rebel pilot and Jedi Knight, the galaxy starts to wonder if he was every what he was cracked up to be. Bloodline states that Luke retired from public life shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi and has dedicated his life to exploring Jedi lore in peace (and training a new crop of new Jedi, including Ben Solo). He’s a vague presence in the book, never returning Leia’s messages, which doesn’t surprise her at all, and dodging the spotlight at all costs. While all eyes are on Han and Leia, Luke is off doing…something.
And yes, this means that people wonder about him. They speak about him in the same way you would hear people speak about Howard Hughes in the years after he vanished into self-imposed isolation. Whatever happened to the most famous man in the galaxy? Especially interesting is how so many people have begun to doubt him and the stories about his exploits. Come on, did one man really take down the first Death Star by himself? Really? How could the Empire allow such a buffoonish technical flaw! That sounds like propaganda, right?
Korr Sella Was Leia’s Intern
When General Hux activates Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens and destroys a handful of planets, he wipes out Hosnian Prime, the home of the New Republic senate. The film offers a single reaction shot of the terrified citizens on the planet, focusing on one woman played by Maisie Richardson-Sellers. The movie doesn’t tell us who she is, but her story is being slowly unpacked elsewhere. This is Korr Sella, a Resistance officer who was on Hosnian Prime representing Leia and the Resistance. She had to earn that position, though. When Bloodline begins, she is Leia’s intern, a 16-year old girl who accompanies the senator and her staff through daily tasks (although she’s left behind on Hosnian Prime when they need to get their hands dirty). By the end of the book, there’s some tension between Korr and Leia, but they come to an understanding, with the young intern promising to help the senator with whatever she needs in the future.
How she grew from a glorified personal assistant to someone worthy of representing the Resistance at the senate is apparently another story for another day.