Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray
|Publisher(s):||Del Rey (US)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Star Wars / Science Fiction / Fantasy|
|Release Date:||May 3, 2016 (US)|
Bloodline is best novel of the new Star Wars unified continuity. It’s certainly one of the best Princess Leia tales ever told. Steeped in the myth, lore and continuity of the Star Wars films (all seven of them…) while remaining fresh and fiercely individual, Bloodline exists as a novel set in the Star Wars universe. It advances the larger story instead of capitalizing on it. It has heart, humor and never feels cheap. With Bloodline, Claudia Gray has managed to alleviate any remaining qualms I had regarding the rebooted Star Wars Expanded Universe.
Much like Lost Stars (her prior entry in the rebooted Star Wars EU) Bloodline is a showcase for Claudia Gray’s deft storytelling, crisp dialogue and engaging prose. There is no pretension in Gray’s writing—her Star Wars books are exercises in storytelling, not in cross-marketing. Her love for the characters and the universe they inhabit is palpable. If she’s intimidated by her role in the EU reboot, it doesn’t come through in her writing. She navigates a galaxy far, far away like a savvy veteran, and has the confidence to put her own spin on characters as classic and immutable as Han, Leia and Threepio. In other hands, Bloodline could have been a disaster. Claudia Gray does herself and the source material proud.
Even when being “rescued” in A New Hope, Princess Leia Organa never played the role of damsel in distress. She is a strong character. A complex character. And a role model. In Bloodline—set just six years before The Force Awakens—those complexities shine through. Bloodline is a Leia tale, and it encompasses every aspect of her life—be it her true parentage, her adoption into the Alderaanian gentry or her life as a crusader for freedom. Past, present and future are woven into a tale that is illuminating despite not being revelatory, and familiar without being stale.
The Leia of Bloodline is unmistakably the same Leia from Episodes IV-VI. Older but wiser, driven but still plagued with doubt, Leia is firmly ensconced in New Republic politics. A natural leader, Leia is respected—if not revered—by most of her colleagues. But as cracks in the foundation of the New Republic begin to manifest, Leia is tiring of the constant senatorial struggle against entropy.
Enter Rinnrivin Di, the remnants of the Hutt criminal empire and a plea from the newly independent Ryloth. Suddenly, the lure of adventure is too great and Leia leaps at the chance for some boots-on-the-ground action. And so the story begins.
I certainly won’t spoil the plot, but suffice it to say that Leia’s mission uncovers a broader and more chilling conspiracy. What starts as a bit of a romp quickly transforms into a political/espionage thriller that hurtles to a climax like a runaway train. Bloodline takes an honest, unvarnished look at what happens in the aftermath of a successful rebellion. Victory doesn’t come without a cost, and the galactic turmoil from the resulting power vacuum is cast as a tragic side-effect of the Rebellion’s success. The idea that things may have been better under Imperial rule is discussed from multiple opposing viewpoints, and it is fascinating to learn how each character views the past and the status quo.
The new characters introduced in Bloodline are the perfect combination of archetypes both familiar and new. The best of the new crop include Centrist senators Ransolm Casterfo and Carise Sindian, former racer Greer Sonnel and Populist senator Varish Vicly. Each character has an arc and they all feel authentically Star Wars. Casterfo and Sindian, in particular, are standouts. Their ostensible common ground and their very different relationships with Leia are one of the most engaging aspects of Bloodline. These characters are three-dimensional; archetypical but not cookie-cutter.
Of the “classic” characters in the book, only C-3P0 has more than a cameo role. Han looms large, and his brief involvement in the story is essential to the plot, but his presence is seen more than felt. Also notable in their absence are Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo. It is unclear whether they are studying at Luke’s new Academy or traveling the galaxy together as Master and Padawan, but that they are together—and with Leia’s blessing—is readily apparent.
Bloodline does a masterful job bridging generations of Star Wars lore. The events of the book are directly connected to both the original trilogy and The Force Awakens in very tangible, meaningful ways and even touch upon the prequel trilogy and Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons. Bloodline is part of the larger tale being told and Star Wars fans should disregard it at their own peril. I wouldn’t be shocked to see that Bloodline is addressed in a direct manner in Episode VIII.
Claudia Gray has managed to craft a novel that I would consider to be as essential to the rebooted Star Wars Expanded Universe as the Zahn novels were to the original EU. Bloodline is a triumph. A Star Wars tale through and through, Bloodline is must-read material that is as important to the larger narrative as any movie or TV show. It deserves a place on the shelf of any Star Wars fan.