It’s no secret that Padmé Amidala has always been one of the most compelling characters in the Star Wars universe. The films showed a capable politician who wasn’t afraid to engage in aggressive negotiations. The Clone Wars animated series expanded on Amidala’s passion for serving the galaxy’s most vulnerable population. Since 2019, author E. K. Johnston has furthered that mythos with her novelizations centered on the original symbol of hope. Published by Disney–Lucasfilm Press, Queen’s Hope continues that work by giving readers a look at the early stages of the Clone Wars and Senator Padmé Amidala’s place in it.
Queen’s Hope takes just before the wedding between Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalkers and extends until the early days of the Clone Wars. Amidala now has to juggle her new senatorial career with the deep-rooted emotions that come with having a secret marriage to a Jedi. Further, the galactic conflict that emerges with the Clone Wars provides for a deeper look at the political maneuverings of the Republic and the insidious plans of the soon-to-be Emperor Palpatine. It allows for more moving parts as the story progresses than readers have seen in Queen’s Peril and Queen’s Shadow. The Jedi have to adjust to their place as generals in war, Sabé’s mission on Tatooine is yet to be finished, Padmé’s secret missions continue to throw a wrench in Chancellor Palpatine’s plans, and the pain of loss from the Coruscant bombing and the Battle of Genonisis are still fresh on the minds of our heroes.
Queen’s Hope opens with a prologue that sets the tone for what the novel has in store for the reader. As the trilogy progressed, there was more and more emphasis on the characters surrounding the former queen of Naboo. From the Handmaidens to the dignitaries on Naboo to Anakin Skywalker to Chancellor Palpatine himself, characters have been given their time in novels that show their own interworkings. The titular characters of the series are spread throughout the galaxy in Queen’s Hope so that Johnston can elevate those moments even further. The once tight-knit group of Padmé and her Handmaidens is splintered, making them face many of the challenges in Queen’s Hope without the safety net the group provided for so long. Through interludes, even Shmi Skywalker’s character is built upon in the most beautiful ways.
While most recent Star Wars novelizations are currently filled with action-packed stories with the events of the High Republic era, Queen’s Hope is much more focused on developing the relationships the series has established. There are small nuggets of new lore, but nothing that is franchise-changing, and there is nothing wrong with that. The intimate nature of the novel allows the reader to sit with how the characters are feeling rather than waiting to see what the following big action sequence is going to be. It’s a refreshing break as Johnston explores the nature of boundaries and healthy relationships just as much as the perils that come with a galactic war.
With that said, if you are a lore buff, then there is still something here for you. Queen’s Hope is primarily a Padmé and Sabé story as they navigate both of their new worlds and how they fit into them. This is especially compelling when looking at Greg Pak’s Darth Vader comic series that has had Sabé in the thick of trying to uncover the truth of Padmé’s death. Further, one of the most beautiful things about Johnston’s writing is her ability to push the bounds of representation in the Star Wars universe. There are multiple queer characters ranging from main characters and side characters. It is something that is sorely missing from the live-action and even the animated series. I can only hope that Johnston is allowed to be in the writing room more often so a galaxy far, far away can be as inclusive as it should be.
It probably comes as a surprise to no one who has listened to Star Wars audiobooks; the quality is impeccable. Between the sound effects and the music, the audiobook narrator, Catherine Taber, is no stranger to the Star Wars universe as the voice of Padmé Amidala in The Clone Wars. Her voice lends perfectly to the story, and her subtle changes in the Handmaiden’s voices make it easy to distinguish who’s who. The voices for the male characters leave a little bit to be desired for me personally. Still, as this is a story primarily on the women of the series, it is not jarring enough to take away from the quality story presented. Taber’s slow and methodical pace adds to the richness of the character moments.
Overall, Queen’s Hope delivers the kind of story that fans Padmé Amidala, and her Handmaidens will love. The precise character development focus makes it easy to digest but with moments that will stick with you long after. There is a tragic beauty with these characters and their development since the first entry into the series. Johnston’s dedication to these characters makes the story more than worthwhile and adds depth to characters who don’t get nearly any screen time in the films or television series.
Queen’s Hope is available on April 5, 2022.
Overall, Queen’s Hope delivers the kind of story that fans Padmé Amidala, and her Handmaidens will love. The precise character development focus makes it easy to digest but with moments that will stick with you long after.