After the gift that was Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril, the brilliant E.K. Johnston gives us Queen’s Hope. I’ve talked about this before, but I think Johnston’s strength in this series is twofold: smoothing out gaps in cannon and giving us incredibly vivid characterizations for the handmaidens.
This book is incredibly successful in what it is building to. Looking back at it, it’s less a conclusion and more of a prelude to Padme’s life in the Clone Wars show and Ep. III. I don’t think folks going into this hoping for everything to feel like the last book in a trilogy will feel fulfillment. Instead, I think if folks go in thinking about this as setting the stage for what comes next in cannon, they might feel more fulfillment. If you wanna feel some Leia feels, this is for you.
A cool canon feature to this book is the inclusion of a trans clone, who is not a big part of this book, but still really awesome to have. Read more about Sister here.
Read on for more on my thoughts, with discussion of some plot points ahead.
I kept a reaction tab open, so I’m gonna write out what I’m responding to and hope that it’s fun for you.
Start with flashback thoughts of Shmi SO SAD
So the interstitials in this book do a lot to center the women and mothers of the prequels. From Shmi to Beru to Breha, and even a young Padmé, it’s so emotional and so right. This is a love letter to these women. And I think it’s important to think of this ending on a hopeful note not for Padmé or even Sabé, but for Leia and what she is going to represent.
Then jump to Padme needing handmaiden help to put her wedding dress together
So we come out of that intro into Padmé having this moment trying to think of what to do with this scrap of lace from her family that is supposed to be part of her wedding in some way. It’s so subtle and powerful, tying her dress into the cannon more. (Because lemme say that an antique lace garment, while stunning, didn’t necessarily have precedent in the textiles we’d seen thus far in canon when it showed up onscreen.) Anyway, I thought it was super sweet she wanted to bring in her closest to this moment. Padmé and Anakin are prepping for their wedding and decompressing from the shitshow of Geonosis.
Then we catch up with Sabé
And we see where the mission to free enslaved folks is in the galaxy is. This is the legacy of Shmi, and it’s… bittersweet right? While this mission set forth by Padmé is still a little white savior-y I do think it makes sense this is what Padmé would be moved to do. I feel like we get just enough Sabé update to feel like we know what she’s up to, but not so much that someone else couldn’t come along and write their own novels on her (is this wishful thinking?)
Dormé – recruiting new handmaidens
Back to reality, we’re dealing with Padmé’s senatorial household trying to prepare for more work to come, and reeling from loss. It’s sad. So much of this book is sad but that it feels like that’s how everyone would feel after the events of AOTC.
Anakin realized he wanted to marry Padmé when at Owen and Beru’s home, seeing their love. Goes to see shrine to Qui-Gon on Naboo, which is a thing.
I liked knowing Qui-Gon is remembered and I loved the threads in this story that helped make it clear why Anakin and Padmé got here, to this moment of marriage. I think some folks will still find that relationship wanting for logic, but in the defense of this book/author, I think this story and the previous books did a LOT to lay a foundation for that relationship to make more sense than it does in just movie canon. It isn’t a perfect relationship, but it never is and maybe we gotta just accept that instead of expecting someone to magically make it make sense.
Queen Jamillia visits Padmé and Anakin/Padme have one last job … before wedding.
The team has one last job before the wedding! Of course! Are days somehow longer in the Star Wars galaxy? Because that would explain how so much can go down in such short timeframes. Oh well. I could have lived without this but I get why certain parts of it were necessary. Nute Gunray is on the planet they’re sent to and some insights on where the Trade Federation is in the war, etc. etc.
Yané wove her dress itself, after telling her the small piece of her family lace would do for her hair veil
Yané helps with Padmé’s wedding dress and it’s sweet. SO SWEET. Again, one of the aspects I love about Johnston’s writing is attention to the fashion, which is critical to Padmé and her handmaiden’s character design.
That after marriage glow
There’s some sparkling writing about Anakin and Padmé after the wedding. It’s cute.
Beruuuuuuuuuuu cry cry cry
The Beru interstitial chapter was so fucking good. I cried. Legit I got teary. It was so good.
Ok we have a mission and gotta bring the team back together.
Padmé is brought into a kind of convoluted mission related to her senate work with Bail and Mothma and Sabé is brought in to stand in for her while she’s away. I think the strongest part of this section of the book is less Padmé’s mission and insights and more Sabé’s experiences on Coruscant. Like… WAKING UP TO ANAKIN TRYING TO GET INTO PADMÉ’S BEDROOM. I feel like that writing around Sabé and Anakin’s dynamics was maybe my favorite of the whole book. How they interact, and how Sabé has to grapple with layers of hurt… damn, just damn.
Omg this interstitial about her childhood watching the planet die fuck
Padmé watching a planet die, and then watching its refugees die is so sad, and kind of feeds into the whole trajectory of this being about the legacy of mothers, even the ones absent from their child’s lives later on.
YES PLEASE. I loved that this is where Sabé needed to go to reset and that Dex knows her despite any costume or makeup.
Ok ok I see you palpy
There are ample moments of Palpatine being Palpy. We get him being angry and get him nudging the chess pieces to his will. I think it was just enough.
PADMÉ, SABÉ HAS SOME SHIT TO SAY. DAMN DAMN DAMN,
Padmé returns from her mission (again, I get the minor things that get established here that are needed for continuity, but I felt like the strength of this book is the character dynamics, not the politics of the Clone Wars) and Sabé has to have a really hard convo. I loved this despite it breaking my heart. It was necessary to set up Sabé’s absence and it reminds of of similar painful experiences I’ve seen or been privy to in life. It’s real. Sometimes even the closest friends have to part ways.
And the book ends on a hopeful note, despite all this. Again, I don’t think folks going into this wanting joy will be happy. I don’t think any book that takes up two characters recovering from capture and battle, and in the midst of a war, will be able to tactfully weave a story that leaves readers with joy. I think it did what it needed to to bridge Padmé between AOTC and ROTS. And I think in that, it was successful. We know where all the players are on the table, and most readers know where they’re going after this.
I think this is masterful writing for what had to be traversed and I dearly hope Johnston gets to write more Sabé and handmaidens. Ultimately, I will see this as a love letter to the women of the prequels, and the mothers who had an influence an Leia, the beacon of hope herself, despite early deaths.
What you should drink with this: Strong tea. Not only does tea come up in the story, but I think a good strong herbal tea might be the best to brace yourself during the saddest parts.
Who should read this: Fans of Padmé that needed just a little more after AOTC.
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