Review – Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

How did The First Order rise from the ashes of the Empire? How did Princess Leia become a General? Why did her accent waver from English to American in Star Wars (1977). All these questions and more are answered in Star Wars: Bloodline, the terrific new Princess Leia novel by Claudia Gray.

The politics of the Star Wars movies have never stood up to much scrutiny. They were scarcely mentioned in the original trilogy, and superficially explored in the prequels. The politics of The Force Awakens are very much down the list of important plot elements.

But in longer form, such as The Clone Wars cartoon, the intrigue of the Senate, the Jedi Council, and the galactic infrastructure have proven to be a rich seam of drama.

Books are another format where this aspect gets a chance to be explored, and in Star Wars: Bloodline author Claudia Gray has crafted a terrific political thriller.

Despite being a childhood Star Wars fan, I never ventured into the world of the extended universe (EU) books. Growing up, I became frustrated that Marvel’s Star Wars comics had no relationship with the larger saga, and I felt the same about the flood of EU novels post-1990’s.

There is now a different approach to tie in books, comics, and TV shows – new stories are now part of Star Wars canon. If it happens in a book, it happened to the characters you see onscreen. So any secrets, background, or relationships revealed in these spin-offs are part of the larger Star Wars saga.

In short, this means is that these stories matter again. So whatever we learn about Leia in this novel – set a couple of decades after Return of the Jedi – happened to the character in The Force Awakens, and beyond.

In Bloodline, Leia is yet to be a General, but is an elected representative (not many princesses you can say that about) – a Galactic Senator. She is tiring of the divisions that have engulfed her time on Hosnian Prime, the new administrative center of the galaxy.

But Senator Leia is a highly revered figure – war hero, princess, and daughter of renowned enemy of the Empire, Bail Organa. But little is spoken about her other father – Darth Vader.

Two main plotlines emerge. Firstly, Leia – seeking a little more adventure – begins to uncover a plot occurring in the outer rim of the galaxy. It may be just local crime lords filling their coffers – but could be something more. There is also the intrigue of the new Galactic Senate, and how Leia emerges as perhaps the only person who can unite the divided house – who are split into opposing Populist and Centrist factions. Think Left vs Right, or small government vs big.

Of the main cast of Star Wars characters, Leia is the really only one to make much of an appearance. Han cameos – but is off-world (we learn he runs a very successful racing team). The book does offer glimpses of Han & Leia as a couple, the kind of pairing I had hoped to see in The Force Awakens. In Bloodline, we find a couple very much in love after many decades together – seemingly longing for an extended retirement together

Of the other main characters, Ben is away training at Uncle Luke’s School for Gifted Jedi (or whatever it’s called), but Threepio is a constant presence by Leia’s side. She is also supported by various new characters such as Leia’s assistant Greer, Joph an enthusiastic young X-Wing flier, Korry a 16-year-old intern, and most prominently ambitious rival senator Ransolm Casterfo – from the opposite side of the senate and a collector of Imperial memorabilia. His clipped tones and flamboyant wardrobe a bring to mind Tom Hiddleston (‘Loki’) – the author has admitted as much herself.

This is Leia as we have never seen her before in the movies – the protagonist: a leader of great intelligence, experience, and authority. That’s nothing against Carrie Fisher, but how her character has been written previously for the screen. Here she is at the heart of a story that no other character could have driven.

I don’t know what fans of previous Star Wars Legends/EU books will make of this, but for me this was a terrific Leia story. There was a recent Princess Leia Marvel comic, that despite being written by Mark Waid, was ultimately disappointing.

This book is a much more satisfying tale, allowing us to experience her keen political mind as well as the many other aspects of her character such as her charm, compassion, and temper.

There are many revelations that inform our understanding of The Force Awakens, and there are plenty of easter eggs that the keen eyed reader will spot. Even more tantalisingly, Lucasfilm have stated that “some of the story ideas and elements in this novel came straight from Rian Johnson (writer/director of Star Wars: Episode 8)”. After reading the book, I am excited to discover which of the many fascinating threads of this story will play out in Episode VIII.

Star Wars: Bloodline contains parallels with both modern and historical political upheaval. If that sounds a bit serious, let’s not forget, that one of George Lucas’s inspirations for Star Wars was the Vietnam War – where an economically and technologically superior power (America) was unable to overcome the Vietcong.

The pace and content of this book will not be for everyone. There are no lightsaber duels, very few dogfights, and only a couple of out and out action scenes. This is a mature, character driven, political thriller – and I hope for many more Star Wars books like it.

And the reason why Princess Leia’s accent wavered between posh Brit and Californian American? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray is published by Century (UK) and Del Rey (US). It has a UK RRP of £19.99.

A Review copy of the book was provided free of charge.

4 Great Star Wars Books For Kids

There are so many great Star Wars books for kids out there that it’s tricky to choose which ones your children will enjoy the most. Well here’s a selection from Egmont Publishing that have  gone down well with my 3-year-old daughter (as well as me).

They are a mixture of craft, early readers, and a new retelling of the original movie trilogy – and they’re perfect for keeping us engaged in all things Star Wars until the release of the new movie and beyond.

First up we had a couple of early reading Star wars children’s books – Escape From Darth Vader and Use the Force!Star wars children's books, Young readers Use the Force, Escape from Darth Vader,

Escape From Darth Vader: A Star Wars Saga Reader (Young Readers Level 1)

Escape From Darth Vader is an illustrated and simply written retelling of the opening scenes of the original Star Wars movie.

This book begins with the Darth Vader’s forces boarding Princess Leia’s ship, and ends with the droids’ escape to Tatooine.

This is rated as Young Readers level 1, so the prose is very basic. For example, even the classic opening line of every Star Wars movie ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…’ becomes ‘Long ago and far, far away…’.

This pared down text allows children to recognise words easily. While my 3-year-old Star Wars fangirl is at the very beginning of her literacy journey, she can read many of the words in this simply written book – and the likes of R2-D2 and C-3P0 offer another opportunity to connect letters to their sounds.

This Star Wars children’s book also features some really cute art by Stephane Roux. I am especially fond of the illustrations featuring Princess Leia.

Princess Leia, Stephane Roux, Escape From Darth Vader
Princess Leia in ‘Escape From Darth Vader’. Illustration by Stephane Roux.

Like the other books, it offers a great way for my daughter to engage with Star Wars.

Use the Force!: A Star Wars Saga Reader (Young Readers Level 2)

Use the force, star wars for kids, early reader Use the Force! is a reading level 2 book, so the prose is more advanced and flows better.

This book is a vignette from The Empire Strikes Back, about Luke’s time training to be Jedi with Yoda on Dagobah.

One of the things I really like about this story is that it features – in book form – some of the great lessons the saga has to offer. Yoda’s proclamations of “Size matters not” and “Do or do not. There is no try.” have been important messages I’ve already referenced with my daughter many times, and it’s great to have another format to reinforce them.

Luke’s training is a key part of the wider saga, and it works well as a standalone story. It’s an often requested favourite of my daughter’s.

The Star Wars Treasury: The Original Trilogy

Star Wars books for Kids, Star Wars Treasury Original Trilogy One of the downsides of getting your kid into Star Wars is how often they want to watch the movies.

No really, this is a downside! While I love the fact that she loves the saga like I do, it also means that she wants to rewatch the movies all the time. While this is a) awesome, it would also be b) irresponsible for me to let her watch them as much as she’s like to.

The Star Wars Treasury: The Original Trilogy is a great way for her to engage with these stories that have captivated her. We all know reading to children is vitally important, and she happily sits there for the 1-2 hours it takes to read this 200+ page retelling of episodes IV-VI (believe me, we’ve done it).

Of course it’s easy to break this up into smaller reading sessions. While the stories of each film are here, the narrative has been pared down and has omitted some subplots. The text is more advanced again, but the still fairly simple and full of famous lines. I dare you to read the likes of “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further” without attempting your best Darth Vader voice.

The art is a curious hybrid of illustrated versions of iconic stills and/or publicity photos from the three movies – so the imagery is both familiar and fresh.

Star Wars Treasury: The Original Trilogy, Luke and Leia swing across chasm in death star, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, star wars kids book, Star Wars digital art
A famous scene from Star Wars (1977) recreated for the ‘Star Wars Treasury: The Original Trilogy’ book

I’m hoping to take my then 4-year-old daughter to see The Force Awakens at the cinema (after I have vetted it of course). This Star Wars kid’s book is a great way to revisit the saga of episodes IV-VI in the lead up to the eagerly awaited episode VII.

Star Wars Starfighter Workshop

Star Wars Starfighter workshop, star wars activities for kids

The final Star Wars books for kids in this collection is a different than the others, as it is actually a construction set masquerading as a book. The Star Wars Starfighter Workshop allows you to construct your very own card models of the iconic Star Wars vehicles the X-Wing and Tie Fighter.

This is a fun joint activity for a Star Wars loving dad & daughter. Construction projects like this are also great for many skills that we’re trying to encourage such as fine and gross motor skills, following printed instructions, understanding how things are put together, and simple patience.

This particular Star Wars books for kids really took me back to my childhood. I’m old enough to remember when the first movie coming out, and prior to seeing it Star Wars Weekly came out – the first two issues had free gifts of a cardboard X-Wing and Tie Fighter. The ones contained in this book are a vast improvement!

This book also has an activity section, with Star Wars themed puzzles, mazes, and the like, so it still has a lot to offer once the models have been made. The construction material is a fairly sturdy carded foam, and the finished models are solid enough to withstand play that isn’t too vigorous.

While aimed at ages 7+, it was a fine activity to share with my 3-year-old.

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4 Great Star Wars Books For Kids – the Star Wars kid’s opinion

While I can write about the best Star Wars books, it’s really the kid’s opinion that counts 😉

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All of these Star Wars books for kids are available from Amazon (as well as other retailers).

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Or if you’re feeling lucky, why not enter our giveaway for your chance to win a copies of the Star Wars Starfighter Workshop and The Star Wars Treasury: The Original Trilogy!

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Star Wars books for kids

Which one of these 4 Egmont Star Wars books is your favourite and why?

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