Everything You Need To Know About 'Star Wars: Bloodline'

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.

leia

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

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.

The Force Awakens Ending

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

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.

empire

There Are All Kinds of Opinions About the Empire

The original Star War trilogy views the Empire from the point of view of the Rebels and their allies. They are bad news, through and through, a dictatorship run by two Sith lords who command a seemingly unstoppable military forces that keep the galaxy under a steel-tipped boot. Return of the Jedi may have ended in fireworks and singing, but not everyone was happy to see the Empire leave. Some citizens of the galaxy, including members of the senate, miss the days when there was no bickering amongst countless politicians and things could actually get done. It's a chilling concept and one that should ring true for anyone living on Earth in 2016. Many people are willing to trade freedom for security.

While there are a handful of older characters in Bloodline who miss the Empire because they were around when it was at its peak (and may have counted themselves amongst its ranks), there are others who simply admire the efficiency of that government and respect the iconography it created. One of the key characters in the novel is Ransolm Casterfo, a Centrist senator who collects Imperial artifacts and proudly displays them in his office. He's too young to have fought in the Rebellion and he has zero love for Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, but he appreciates aspects of the Empire and enjoys being surrounded by the reminders of history. As you can imagine, Leia is pretty disgusted when she sets foot in his personal Imperial museum. It's like learning that a co-worker has a collection of Nazi memorabilia. Even if he's a nice guy who collects for historical reasons, it's an uncomfortable sign.

hutts

The Hutts Are on the Decline...

Crime flourished under the watch of the Empire, with various criminal organizations taking advantage of a corrupt system to make a tidy profit. Naturally, the Hutts were at the top of the heap, rising to unprecedented levels of power while Imperial forces essentially turned a blind eye to their activities. However, things haven't gone well for them in the past few decades. Under the New Republic, the Hutts have begun to falter and their grip on the criminal underworld has begun to diminish. As they slide from the top spot, various other criminal organizations arise, each of them run by young entrepreneurs united by one thing – their hatred of the criminal slug family that dominated the galaxy for thirty years.

huttslayer

...And Leia Has a Reputation With the New Criminals

So, how much do the new class of criminal scum hate the Hutts? Well, let's just say that there exists footage of Leia Organa murdering Jabba the Hutt with her bare hands and that the Hutts have spent decades trying to destroy every existing copy. However, there are a few floating around amongst private collectors and the image of a small human woman somehow managing to strangle the most powerful criminal in the galaxy has left a lasting impression. As Leia learns during the events of Bloodline, she is known as "Huttslayer" amongst the criminals. Even when she's working to bring them down and halt illegal activity, they can't help but admire and respect her.

the first order

The First Order Is Still Deep Undercover...

When Bloodline ends, the First Order is still very much in hiding, waiting in the wings until they find the right moment to emerge and, uh, restore order to the galaxy. Fans hoping to find excessive detail about the creation of this new group and its inner workings may come away from this book feeling a little disappointed. They're the ones pulling the strings throughout the story, but they're a (puts sunglasses on) phantom menace. The name "Supreme Leader Snoke" isn't even mentioned once.

Here's what we do learn, though. The First Order was constructed out of the remains of the Imperial Navy, with those loyal to the Empire fleeing to the furthest corners of the galaxy to lick their wounds and plan some kind of counterattack. It have taken over twenty years, but they are finally solidifying their position. The First Order also has allies in the senate, with a key member of the Centrist faction secretly working to push their agenda and prepare the galaxy for their arrival. This is where the petty squabbles and inefficiency of the senate stop being irritating and star being dangerous – the First Order is well aware that the New Republic doesn't see them coming and won't be able to unite against them when the time comes.

...But They're Funding Crime Syndicates and Terrorists

While the First Order lurks in the shadows, it has begun to plant the seeds for its future uprising. Although Leia and her crew don't discover the First Order during the events of Bloodline, they do realize that some kind of powerful organization has been secretly funding new criminal cartels. And that investigation leads them to the realization that the same mystery group is funding a massive paramilitary terrorist force that has set its sights on the senate. The First Order doesn't emerge yet, but they're softening up the galaxy, paving the way for an easy march to victory. If the New Republic has its hands full, it won't be able to fight full-scale conflict.

Luke and Darth Vader's Duel

The Galaxy Learns the Truth About Leia's Parentage

Due to plot ramifications that are little to complicated to succinctly explain here, one of Leia's political rivals obtains a video message from her adopted father, Bail Organa, recorded before he was killed in the destruction of Alderaan (as seen in the original Star Wars). This message informs her of a certain dark truth, a truth that would later be reviled to her by her secret twin brother on the forest moon of Endor: she is the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Darth Vader. With Leia currently the frontrunner for the new position of "First Senator," the opposition plays this message before the entire senate.

And as you can imagine, it doesn't go over well. Senators yell and debate about when Leia knew this information and whether or not her family lineage means she is hiding dark intentions. Her bid for First Senator is ruined and her political career is destroyed. Leia knows she won't be re-elected and that she will be a pariah for the rest of her time in government. It's a scandal the likes of which the New Republic has never seen. Once this revelation is made to the galaxy, Leia's list of friends and allies rapidly dwindle. Who wants to associated with the daughter of history's greatest monster?

We learn from Leia's interior monologue that she takes no comfort in Anakin Skywalker redeeming himself in the hour before his death, saving his son and killing the Emperor. While Luke can think about his father and remember redemption, Leia can only recall being tortured on the Death Star and watching her home planet being blown to smithereens. She couldn't care less about one final heroic action following a career of evil. So her big bad dad derailing her chances of making a difference in the senate doesn't even have a silver lining.

hux

A Man Named Brendol Hux is Mentioned

While Snoke isn't mentioned and Kylo Ren is still a few years away from existing, Bloodline does throw us a bone by casually mentioning someone named Brendol Hux. Yes, that last name should ring a bell – Domhnall Gleeson played General Hux in The Force Awakens.

However, General Hux is not Brendol Hux. Although only mentioned in passing, Brendol is described as an Imperial academy commandant who vanished after the Battle of Jakku, the bloody post-Endor conflict that left a permanent scar on the planet. The scene of the battle is the junkyard of walker and spaceships Rey is seen scavenging in during the opening act of The Force Awakens. Brendol Hux is described as a "hero of the Empire" who would never surrender. So, where did he go?

Bloodline doesn't tell us, but it does imply that he's one of the founders of the First Order, which would explain why a certain General who shares his last name and is too young to have any stake in the original Empire would command the forces of the First Order with so much passion. It seems that General Hux was raised in a vacuum by his zealot of a father, who retreated from the war against the Rebel Alliance to build something new.

the resistance

The Resistance Is Born in a Hangar

At the end of Bloodline, Leia's credibility as a senator has been destroyed, so no one is prepared to take action when she tries to warn her colleagues of a greater threat on the horizon. She knows what the First Order knows – the New Republic is not united and it will not be able to repel their secretive new enemy when the time comes. So Leia does what she does best. She rebels.

Step one: she rents a private hangar on the edge of the city as a temporary base of operations. Step two: she begins to build an armory, starting with a massive shipment of thermal detonators she obtained from stopping a criminal operation earlier in the book. Step three: she calls in all of the people she knows she can trust, including old characters like Admiral Ackbar and new The Force Awakens bit players like Snap Wexley. And thus, the Resistance is born.

One of the problems with The Force Awakens is that it doesn't fully explain what the Resistance is and how it differs from the New Republic. To be fair, "rogue organization started by a disgraced senator to deal with the problems the government isn't prepared to face" is a lot to take in, especially in a movie that is already so full of incident and character. But here you go – that's the origin of the Resistance. At some point, it will become Leia's full-time job.