- Author: E.K. Johnston
- 345 pages
- Published in 2019
- Placement in Timeline: Between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones
What It’s About:
Padme Amidala has ruled Naboo as its Queen for four years, and has seen it through the Occupation of the Trade Federation. Now her time as Queen has come to an end, as another, Reillata, has been voted in. Padme and her Handmaidens–Sabe, Yane, Sache, Rabe, and Eirtae–must now decide what they want to do with their young lives, and which directions they will go.
Reillata asks Padme to represent Naboo in the Galactic Senate, and after some consideration, she accepts the position. Most of her other Handmaidens go their separate ways, but she asks Sabe–her double as Queen, and her best friend–to help her on another mission that is dear to her heart: to help free slaves on Tatooine, Shmi Skywalker in particular.
Sabe, along with Captain Tonra, manage to free only 25 slaves, and can’t find Shmi Skywalker at all. She joins Padme on Coruscant, and agrees to help her in her new role there, along with a few new Handmaidens: Corde, Verse, and Dorme.
Padme must navigate this new terrain and learn how to be a Senator rather than a Queen. She makes allies of Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, and begins a friendship with Senator Mina Bonterri of Onderon. She also meets Rush Clovis, a new Senator from Scipio and the Banking Clan (the latter two are characters from The Clone Wars).
As Padme makes her way through the maze of politics, Sabe gets her own story arc. Profoundly committed to Padme, she must learn how to serve her in this new milieux, and what kind of relationship she wants with Captain Tonra, who loves her.
We get to see Padme visit her family on Naboo: her father Ruwal, her mother Jobal, her sister Sola and baby niece Ryoo. She also visits Alderaan at the invitation of Queen Breha and becomes true friends with the Organas.
Padme’s goal in the Senate is to be taken seriously and pass effective legislation that will truly help other systems. This proves to be an uphill battle, as some question her loyalty, or simply don’t take her seriously because of her youth. But a disaster on Bromlarch becomes her chance to prove herself, to the Senate at large, and to herself.
I had some difficulty summarizing the plot of this book, because to me it meandered and didn’t seem to have a central plot point to solve. After thinking about it, I realized it’s more of an extended character sketch of Padme, and with that definition, it definitely delivered.
I love how the Handmaidens are described and explained in much detail–we only get a tantalizing glimpse in The Phantom Menace, and end up with more questions than answers. We also don’t see them too much in Eps 2 and 3, as she doesn’t need them quite as much as Senator.
But their relationship is fascinating. They are a unit, a tight-knit group of friends who are committed to protecting Padme Amidala no matter what. Sabe is the closest to Padme, and the main decoy used in situations where it’s merited. Even now, I can’t keep track of the specialties of the others, but one of them is in charge of Padme’s wardrobe–and as Queen of Naboo, this was a tall order. The outfits seem outrageous, but every bit of it served a purpose: the crazy headdresses were a distraction from the Queen’s actual face, who was sometimes Sabe and sometimes Padme. The clothes were like armor, fortified with blaster-resistant material. The outfits weren’t as ostentatious on Coruscant, but still served a purpose.
I also found it fascinating that they spoke of the “Amidala Persona” and the “Senator Persona”, roles that Padme stepped into, but weren’t really her. An important part of the story is Padme figuring out when to use these personas, and when to simply be herself, Padme Naberrie.
There’s a few bittersweet moments in the book–when she learns that Yane is fostering twins, she says, “I can’t imagine having twins..” And we know she will, but will not raise them.
On Alderaan, she speaks to Sabe about Sabe’s relationship with Tonra:
“I don’t know what I’d do. I’ve guarded my heart against everything for so long, always aware of the dynamics and the flow of power. I’ve been lucky to find so many people who understand that and give me that space. I’m afraid that if someone breaks through, I’ll let them, and it would be catastrophic.” (p. 239)
Sabe replies drily that it’s not a reactor leak. No, it’s much worse. When Padme lets Anakin in, it’s the beginning of the end.
The novel begins with a paragraph that is reminiscent of her funeral:
“Padme Amidala was completely still. The brown halo of her hair spread out around her, softened here and there by white blossoms that had blown through the air to find their rest among her curls. Her skin was pale and perfect. Her face was peaceful. Her eyes were closed and her hands were clasped across her stomach as she floated. Naboo carried on without her.
Even now, at the end, she was watched.” (p. 7 & 340)
At the beginning, she is simply swimming with her handmaidens. But in the Epilogue, the paragraph repeats itself, and this time we know she is dead. It’s a poetic foreshadowing of the tragedy we know is coming.
I feel like we needed a book about Padme, an homage to what and who she really was. If you love the character of Padme, you’ll love this book. If you get bored with politics or want more action, this one’s not for you.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Lightsabers