Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book Review: Star Wars Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Star Wars Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Hardcover, 336 pages

Published May 2016 by LucasBooks

Non- Spoiler Review...

As a serious Star Wars nerd since watching Empire Strikes back opening day at six years old I have consumed tons of Star Wars media. I understood the decision by Lucasfilm to jettison the previous novels but I admit it bothered me just a little. There are alot of Star Wars novels out there and to varying degrees of quality. The strength of Timothy Zhan's trilogy is well known. As hated as the prequels are by many SW fans my age I thought some of the best fiction set in this universe took place in the clone wars. I was for one example entirely pleasantly surprised by Michael Reeves Darth Maul novel and the Coruscant Nights trilogy that spun-off from that. There are several hidden gems in back catalog. At the same time there were plenty of New Jedi Order clunkers.

When I heard they were doing new novels as connective tissue between Jedi and Force Awakens I was interested. Then they hired very respected writers Chuck Wendig and Claudia Gray, who I had not read but knew we very respected and I was more interested. Then Force Awakens kicked my ass but like many I was left me slightly confused. JJ Abrams learning lessons from the awkward moments in the prequels wisely skipped over-explaining the political nature in the galaxy far far away. I mean I could ride with it, but most of us were wondering who the first order was? Why is there a resistance didn't the good guys win 30 years ago?

After having read Aftermath and Bloodline it is clear that you are going to learn very thing you want to know about the back story in these novels and Lucas books is taking them very seriously. Aftermath was an excellently plotted novel with a massive scope that the effect of the empire's fall on the whole galaxy. Claudia Gray's novel appears to have a more narrow focus on the surface. The novel's lens might be focused on Princess Leia but the whole galaxy is once again on her shoulders.

Gray does an amazing job of realizing Leia and giving us a window into the emotions of woman at the heart of this tale. The weight she carries from surviving the war,being tortured and watching her planet die at the hands of the man she has learned is her father. Gray goes there and succeeds in making Leia a richer more real character. Certainly this novel will add flavor to the force awakens much like frosting does to cake.

Bloodline is an excellent novel. It is one of the best written SW novels I have read, with excellent characters and pacing. It felt like a Star Wars story. It had the adventure, politics, drama you come to expect all tied together with a sense of fun. Like the new film it captures the sense of fun without talking down to the audience. The various characters were as interesting and fun to me as seeing Leia and brief but perfect moments of Han Solo. Six years before the events of Episode 7.

The pilots Seastriker and Greer were great partners for Leia and deserve their own books. But the true heart of the novel for me was Senator Ransolm Casterfo. His political dances with Leia were some of the novels subtlety great moments. His confusion over desire for the order of an empire balanced with his hatred for the abuse Darth Vader brought to his home world was so well done. A collector of empire artifacts but a man with a strong sense of judgement the reader is torn between many emotions with this character. There are moments when you wont like, him, then you will grown to like him and back again. Fantastic character.

As you might imagine the pain of Leia's bloodline and connection to Darth Vader is always under the surface of this novel. It is must read for fans of Star Wars fiction, or anyone who wants to understand the roots of the event of the new saga. I am sold on Claudia Gray. Her novel "A Thousand Pieces of You" sounds awesome so expect a review of that before the end of the year.

As for the spoiler review.................

OK at this point I am going to assume you have either read the novel or have no plans to. that's too bad. You're missing out. But I know I have some friends who just can't find the time to read a book. Last chance.

I know many were confused by the need for a resistance and where the first Order came from after Episode 7. Both Wendig's Aftermath and Bloodline explain parts of the story. In Aftermath Mon Mothma made the bizarre decision that what the universe needed was less military and central control. Bloodline is very much a Leia story but it weaves the political melodrama in very fluid way that episode I failed to do. The factions in the galaxy are forming and fighting. Mon Mothma is sick and Leia is nominated to be first senator. A position of leadership she doesn't want to have.

At the same time she suspects cartels of building illegal armies. The adventure part of the story is great with a underwater base, stolen data and Leia blowing up a whole army. Han comes to the rescue but not in a sexist way. Leia doesn't need him, he is just being a loving husband, which he still is at this point. If you are wondering Ben is off with Luke, Chewie is kickin it at home, Han is off racing ships. Leia is going on secret missions - no biggie. Gray does a wonderful job of making Senator Casterfo instantly dislikable, then when Leia and the reader start to like him he betrays her exposing her secret parentage to the full senate. By the time he realizes he was used and it is too late. Heart breaking ending for a rich character.

So the main spoiler he is that Leia stops an early attempt to build a first order army but exposing her real life father becomes the way the roots of the first order use to discredit her. This forces her out of the senate. Now She knows imperial elelments are at play she is on to them so the novel ends with a meeting between her Akbar and the roots of the new resistance. Perfect.

No comments: