Review: Queen's Peril


Queen's Peril is a lot. It's a lot more than you think it is, actually, which is both it's greatest asset and it's greatest weakness. E.K. Johnston's work on Star Wars has consistently focused on the almost mundane side of the galaxy, which has led her work to be a fascinating part of the new canon. Ahsoka was a great exploration of the character post-Clone Wars and how she lived her life, and this book's predecessor, Queen's Shadow, filled in many of the gaps between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones with ease, giving a look into Padmé that we don't see too often, while also smartly exploring the politics surrounding the Galactic Senate and Padmé's role in there.


Johnston's prequel, which explores the beginning of her reign, does double duty. Not only is a clear prequel to Queen's Shadow, particularly in the large focus on the relationship with her handmaidens carried over from that book, but also in setting up the events of The Phantom Menace, specifically from the political angles that haven't been explored yet. Much of the book is equally devoted to the beginning of the blockade as it is letting you see the friendships between the handmaidens grow, and thus those looking for an expansion to the lore will find plenty to love here.


The real draw here though is seeing how Padmé became the queen that we all know by the time of The Phantom Menace, and in that regard the book succeeds with flying colours. We get to see Padmé through every step of her coronation, as well as her beginning to navigate the complicated realm of politics, which is never boring nor confusing thanks to Johnston's smart and witty narration. And once the blockade does begin, we get to see some gaps from the film fixed up and even made more clear - the book does a lot to aid some of the muddled storytelling of The Phantom Menace, and will likely make the film much better in retrospect once you know these things are also happening in the background.


And the book doesn't shy away from darker thematic material either. Despite being a young adult novel, the book lets the inhumane containment camps that the people of Naboo are placed in during the blockade speak for itself, and some of the more disturbing content in the second half will throw you for a loop in how, despite not being very graphic, affecting they can actually be. It's not all darkness though - the book is laden with great humor, particularly a sneak out scene in the middle of the book that is extremely entertaining as it reminiscent of teenage coming of age films.


However, it does also need to work as a prequel to the whole of The Phantom Menace, and in that regard, the book is a little bit more mixed. There are a ton of cutaways to other characters, including a couple of surprises, and while some of them are really nice moments that tie into other books and comics (particularly a nice shout out to Master and Apprentice), a lot of them feel superfluous and like padding, filling out a story that really didn't need them as the main narrative was good enough already.


The incorporation of The Phantom Menace is also a little clunky - once the events of that film are reached it's almost a rush out of the door to not repeat the narrative of that film. As such, the book is more interesting when it stays on Naboo during this time, particularly with a subplot with handmaidens Saché and Yané that set up their close bond and romance in Queen's Shadow quite nicely. And for those who want more of Sabé thanks to the current Darth Vader comic, you'll get a lot of her as well, whose friendship with Padmé starts here as well as giving a glimpse into her bisexuality of previously referenced from Queen's Shadow.


Queen's Peril isn't a tightly constructed or focused as Shadow was, but it's arguably larger and more important then one would think, tapping into multiple sides of the canon for references and story beats while also giving more of the political side that the prior did so well. If anything, it makes me interested in seeing more from Johnston in regards to Padmé, Sabé, her handmaidens, and the rest of the Naboo people as she writes them so well. A delicate build to a satisfying climax.

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