This new iteration of Star Wars since Disney purchased them a few years back is not the Star Wars that we grew up on. While The Force Awakens largely played it safe there were a few key differences that have set the continuation of the story apart. First, most of the characters exist in a moral gray area now. The days of the EVEEL Emperor and sneering Imperial toadies is largely behind us. Secondly, these stories are primarily female driven. So far both of the new movies and all of the books have prominently featured women in the lead roles as both heroes and villains. Whether it’s Rey in The Force Awakens, Jyn Erso in Rogue One, or Nora Wexley in the Aftermath series, these stories are all reliant on strongly written female characters to lead the way along with a score of well crafted supporting characters. Star Wars: Bloodline continues that tradition by placing Princess Leia as the lead character.
It has been over twenty years since the Rebel Alliance defeated the last remnants of the Empire at the Battle of Jakku and effectively ended the long war. Now the government of the New Republic, housed on Hosnian Prime, is on the verge of collapse. Squabbling between the two parties, the Centrists and Populists, has deadlocked the Senate. Centrists favor centralized control, Populists want individual systems to govern themselves fearing the rise of a new Emperor if Centrists gain control of the Senate.
Senator Leia Organa Solo is one of the reigning Populist senators. She is ready to retire from public life and re-join Han while he is pursuing a racing career. But before she can announce her retirement there is a push for a First Senator to be elected to lead the Senate. The Populists want Leia as their candidate and believe she is the only one that can bridge the gulf between the parties given her notoriety and respect as a hero of the Rebellion. As this political powerplay dominates the senate, a threat is growing in the Outer Rim that threatens everything the Alliance fought and died to create.
Deeply cynical and very much steeped in our current political climate, Bloodline can easily be taken as a cautionary tale for our own world. A senate deadlocked and ineffectual, scheming and self promotion replacing service to a greater good, denial of any fact that doesn’t fit the current narrative, its hard not to see our own governing houses in the narrative. The book also doesn’t shy away from the cost of war. One of the big differences in this post-Lucas Star Wars is that war is not portrayed as a bloodless affair. Leia at one point muses about the “adventures” she had with Han and Luke but quickly remembers at the time she was terrified for herself and her friends lives.
It’s interesting to rethink the scenes we know by heart and put ourselves in their shoes. Han’s rescue of Leia at Echo Base is thrilling to watch, but the characters were running for their lives. Worse is when Leia describes her interrogation and torture at the hands of who she later learned was her father and being forced to watch the destruction of Alderaan. While Luke forgave Anakin and said he redeemed at the end, Leia doesn’t really give a shit. She lost far more than Luke ever did, and it has hardened her.
If you are enjoying the post Lucas Star Wars stories Bloodline should be on your must-read list. Not only does it answer a major question posed by The Force Awakens (What is the Resistance?), it wraps it in a deeply satisfying mystery that Leia is forced to solve because no one else will. She may be older and her reputation tarnished, but she is still a leader that will stop at nothing to do what is right, even if it goes against the New Republic itself.