- Author: E.K. Johnston
- 201 Pages (Kindle version)
- Published in 2020
- Placement in Timeline: Just before the events of The Phantom Menace
What Its About
This is a prequel to Johnston’s Queen’s Shadow, which takes place after The Phantom Menace; it’s also a prequel, of sorts, to The Phantom Menace itself. It begins several months before the events of that film with Padme’s election to Queen of Naboo, up through the key events of the movie through Padme’s or her handmaiden’s eyes.
Once Padme is elected, she and Captain Quarsh Panaka, the head of Royal Security, come up with a plan to recruit several young women to serve as Padme’s royal handmaidens. Panaka chooses each girl according to how much she looks like Padme, and her particular set of skills. I still can’t keep these girls straight, but they each take on a name similar to their real name that sounds like Padme: Sabe, Yane, Eirtae, Sache, and Rabe.
Sabe is chosen by Panaka first, and looks most like Padme. She is the one who doubles for Queen Amidala during The Phantom Menace, and this book shows how they perfect their mirroring and switching. In fact, all the girls work together to create the “Amidala” personality, and contribute their own skills to that end. Yane tends to the Queen’s wardrobe, making them lighter and more comfortable (considering Amidala’s outfits, that seems important), outfitting them with light armor that protects against blasterfire. Each girl brings their own ideas to the table as to how to best protect the Queen.
It takes the girls some time to get to know each other, to gel as a team, and to become friends. But once they do, they’re a formidable force. They’re all prodigies, as many Naboo children are, artists, and clever beyond their age. These girls, at 14, are discussing politics and being brilliant and putting their lives on the line for their Queen. Sache, the youngest at 12, endures torture at the hands of some battle droids, and then goes back to work with a stoic strength worthy of a Jedi. When I was 14, my biggest worry was what clothes to wear for the day, my math homework, and what book to read next. So yeah, they’re impressive.
By the time the Trade Federation invades Naboo, they’re a well-oiled machine, and we get to see the events of TPM from their perspective. Throughout the book, we also get a handful of other perspectives: Qui Gon and Obi-Wan, Senator Palpatine, Darth Maul, even Anakin, but they’re brief. The stars of the show are Padme and her handmaidens.
This is a short, interesting book on Padme’s early days as Queen of Naboo, and how she worked with her handmaidens to create the team we see in The Phantom Menace, and how that team worked together to get Amidala through that crisis.
I understand the situation of Naboo at the start of TPM a little better, too; when I first saw the movie, I was so confused at the beginning: Trade Federation? Taxes? Trade routes? Huh? In truth, I had no idea what was going on. And I was 30 years old, not a kid, lol. The book goes into a bit more detail about Naboo’s political position at this time, and it helps to make the movie make more sense.
There’s also some personal relationships that need to be sorted out:
There is a power struggle, of sorts, between Padme and Panaka. His job is to protect her at all costs; but she’s the Queen, not just a child to be protected. He wants to know everything Padme and the handmaidens are up to and to control everything; but she needs to have her own domain and draw the line that he cannot cross. They have to learn to trust each other and work together.
There’s also a misunderstanding between Padme and Sabe; they have to walk the line between friendship, and the fact that Padme is her sovereign.
Yane and Sache have feelings for each other, and must work through those feelings while staying professional and keeping the mission a priority.
I love that there are a couple of scenes involving Padme, and then Sache, dealing with menstruation. I don’t think any book in Star Wars has ever addressed the subject, but when you have a group of teenage girls, these things come up. It gives the story a kind of realism I appreciate. What happens when Padme has terrible cramps and can’t be Queen that day? Enter Sabe, dressed as Amidala. I love these little details.
This isn’t a brilliant book, and doesn’t give us anything we don’t already know. Just a different perspective to familiar events, and a fun read with strong, smart, but very human, girls. If you love Padme and want to know more about her and her handmaidens, this book should be on your shelf. I can’t wait for Johnston’s third book in the series, Queen’s Hope, out in November. It takes place during the events leading up to Revenge of the Sith, during her marriage to Anakin, and I think it’s going to be the best of the trilogy.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Lightsabers
Like this post? Hit the Like button, comment below, or Follow The Star Wars Reader.
Check out my other blog Star Wars: My Point of View, for all things Star Wars!