Genre: Sci-fi Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: Yes
When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she adopts the name Amidala and leaves her family to the rule from the royal palace.
To keep her safe and secure, she’ll need a group of skilled handmaidens who can be her assistants, confidantes, defenders, and decoys. Each girl is selected for her particular talents, but it will be up to Padmé to unite them as a group.
When Naboo is invaded by forces of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her handmaidens will face the greatest test—of themselves, and of each other.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
The friend who lent me this book described it as “the Star Wars: Phantom Menace we all deserved”, and yes, that works perfectly. Cut out Jar-Jar, most of the Jedi, and basically all of Anakin (phew – no podracing), and instead focus on a group of determined girls who are going to assume identities to protect the Queen, creating an independent personality for that personna.
Yes, the fact that Padmé is 14 (and thus her handmaids are all similar ages) is still preposterous and you have to suspend a lot of disbelief/just ignore the fact to make the story at all believable. However, that is not the author’s fault: that is the fault of the ridiculous “creative decisions” made by George Lucas when designing Star Wars (instead of just NOT making Anakin a 10 year old!). Alas for cannon. Given that Anakin basically doesn’t feature AT ALL in the book (yay!), I pretended he didn’t need to exist, so mentally re-aged her to early twenties, and it all worked.
I loved that the focus was what the friendships of the group, and what they could do when they pulled together. The emotional heart of the story is about dealing with the natural stresses and strains that come from having to assume a group identity and never be an individual outside of the privacy of the royal apartments. Friendship, determination, frustration – it is soooo much more compelling than the film.
There are five girls and Padmé, and they all take on names that end in -é, because they need new identities to hide behind. The reasoning is that all having -é names will make them run together, and they did a bit. I could still tell the girls apart, by paying attention to the start of the name. This is when being a recognition-reader really helps, as I don’t have to phonetically hear the names, just rely on the word shape.
There are many POVs in this book. Some are one or two short scenes that hint at the film plot when it doesn’t directly intersect with Padmé. There is actually barely anything from the film in here, mostly references to what’s happened, because that’s not the point of the book. It works so well. As a watcher of the films, I knew what was happening “off-page”, so it was simply another layer to the story. However, without dealing with the battles or pod-racing, the book could focus in on the girls, giving it real heart.
It is quite an impersonal style, which works, but wasn’t my favourite. Being a short book, and with so many POVs, it does feel like a lot of the central characters don’t get enough time and development. Only Padmé and Sabé really get character arcs and deep explorations of who they are. I think a little more time on the other girls would have helped with the names.
There is some politics in this book, an explanation for what exactly is happening with the trade dispute. Now, I read a lot of politics in fiction, and I’ve grown up talking about economic theory with my dad – in short, I am really used to reading it and find it relatively easy to comprehend. However, I was just not following it in this book. There simply isn’t enough information – it’s skated over. It felt like SOOO much was missing. The causes and reasons weren’t explained at any point. WHAT do the Trade Federation want?
I talked to the friend who lent the book to me, and she hadn’t gotten confused, so maybe I got confused because I’m used to diving deeper and was actively seeking out reasons. The book is about the consequences of the politics, not the politics itself.
This is actually the second book published by E. K. Johnston about Padmé, but as it’s chronologically first, I decided to start with it (and why I’m recording it as book 1 in the series for my own records). I’m excited to see what happens next, and read QUEEN’S SHADOW.
Read my review’s of other books by E. K. Johnston:
Star Wars/Padmé (this series):
- QUEEN’S SHADOW (#2)
- QUEEN’S HOPE (#3)