Force Friday: Handmaidens, Politics, and Senators REVIEWING Queen's Shadow

Welcome back to another Force Friday here at The Real World According To Sam! We're staying in the canon timeline today as we talk about a book that came out last year. It goes earlier in the timeline than the previous books I've reviewed here, so I'm filling it in.

The e-book of this book was given out for free by Disney Press for a limited time as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Naturally, when I saw that offer pop up in my e-mail, I jumped on it, because my library only has an audiobook copy. I've been pretty excited to read this one.

Now for the necessary general disclaimer:

My downloading this book for free in no way shaped my review. This review is 100% my honest opinion.

Queen's Shadow

Author: E. K. Johnston

Genre: YA Science Fiction (Media Tie-in)

Year: 2019

Queen's Shadow


When Padmé Naberrie, "Queen Amidala" of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo's representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen's shadow.


As mentioned in the synopsis, this book takes place AFTER Padmé has finished her term as Queen of Naboo. This is what occurs after The Phantom Menace, but before The Attack of the Clones. This is a movie bridging novel, showing how Padmé makes the transition from planetary ruler to Galactic Senator. Something important to note is that this is a bit of a "slow" novel, compared to other Star Wars books. It isn't as action-packed, which might eliminate some interest from fans, but it also creates a diverse range of books within the canon. This book was written by the same author that wrote Ahsoka, which I very much enjoyed. A link to my review of Ahsoka is located in the canon list at end of this review.

This book opens with Padmé hanging out on Naboo with her handmaidens and guards as the election for the next queen is occurring. The handmaidens talk about what they might do next in their lives, since their time of being royal decoys is over. Padmé is still considering what she is going to do. After the royal transition occurs, the new queen suggests Padmé becomes the new Senator for Naboo, since Palpatine upgraded to the position of Chancellor. Padmé accepts, gets together some new and old handmaidens, and they begin a journey to Coruscant and a different realm of politics. At Coruscant, Padmé initially proves to be...a bit of a laughing point and a sore thumb. Some Senators don't take her seriously (and the tabloids certainly don't), and others worry about her history of undermining traditional Republic procedures due to her vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum, which put Palpatine in a higher place of power. They worry that she will always put her home planet ahead of the rest of the galaxy. Throughout this book, Padmé has to figure out how to work within this new system, gain new allies, and show everyone that she can do more for the galaxy than they think.

One of the best components of this book is Padmé. We read a lot about her thought process and emotions regarding everything. We see her uncertainties and her struggle to find her new place. We also see that she really is a compassionate person who wants what is best for all people. She wants justice, fairness, and for worlds to be taken care of when disaster strikes. The main problem she faces is that the process for getting these things done is slow and often boils down to....politics. It is a bureaucratic problem where some representatives won't vote for propositions and aid without having a horse in the race for themselves, so to speak. If they aren't benefited or if you aren't their ally, then the odds of a motion being passed in the Senate becomes low. Add the vendetta that the Trade Federation has against Padmé and that's what she's dealing with.

Another great component to this book is the connection between Padmé and her handmaidens. The handmaidens do so much more than what they appear to. They stand in as decoys and can mimic Padmé closely, but they do it in a way that is almost elite-tier spy level work. Their skillsets are not traditional and would probably not appear to be highly valuable, but they are. For example, one handmaiden is in charge of taking care of the appearance of Senator Amidala and any decoys playing her. She does hair and makeup, but she is so good at it that quick switches can be made in limited time. The handmaidens are absolute masters of disguise. They are also incredibly loyal, protective, and helpful. They listen and observe more than anyone realizes, so they are able to help Padmé learn about her fellow Senators, or notice suspicious behavior in the background if Padmé is interacting with someone. They help her memorize names and provide intel. They read and discuss information together and the Senator role becomes more of a team effort than an individual role. The camaraderie between them all is remarkable, and in some ways probably unrealistic, but it's beautiful and fun. I really loved that aspect. The handmaidens don't get nearly as much respect as they deserve, because their full range of skills isn't on display and therefore their role is subdued and watered down.

As usual with these canon novels so far, there are also direct references to The Clone Wars animated series. We get to see conversations between Padmé and Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, and Mina Bonteri. We also have moments with Rush Clovis, who is a Senator associated with the Banking Clan that plays a prominent role in the show. This is before Padmé meets up with Anakin again, so there aren't many Jedi present, as the larger attacks on her life haven't happened yet.

The worst part about this book for most fans will definitely be the lack of action. There aren't really battles or fights going on. There isn't any espionage. This is a very laid-back book in terms of plot and conflict. Lightsabers are not at the forefront and neither is the force. This is a YA book that focuses on interpersonal relationships, social interaction, social expectation, and finding one's place in a larger area. This book is about Padmé and her handmaidens finding a new way of operating, while being true to themselves, each other, and the culture of Naboo. I had no problems having a change of pace for this one, and actually enjoyed it greatly. The universe of Star Wars is vast, so I really do think there is a lot of room to tell different kinds of stories. We don't always need to be within a military or resistance group, or with the Jedi or Sith. I think it is nice to have some stories that focus on the operation of the Republic or Empire, and maybe at some point a story about somebody who really isn't in any kind of prominent role like this. There's so much room for different voices and roles.

The main part of this book that I thought was lacking was the development of some of the subplots, but even these can slightly be explained by events that occur in later movies. For example, Padmé is against slavery and has one of her handmaidens begin investigations on Tatooine to try to find specific people. This is later dropped after brief complications, but because the movies explain what happens, I'm not sure how much more they could do with this plotline. Additionally, there is a plotline in which Padmé is targeted, but who planned it never really comes up. However, with later events in Attack of the Clones, I think we can make a pretty safe assumption. The subplots are really just filler that point to later things to come in the movies, but I generally didn't feel they were necessary or done as well as they could have been.

Queen's Shadow is a different kind of Star Wars book from all the others I have read so far. Some readers may see this as a weakness, but I honestly see it as a strength. The world around Padmé is really fleshed out, we get to actually see her as a full individual doing her own thing. We see what she wanted to accomplish before the Clone Wars arose and she reunited with Anakin. We get a glimpse at what her life may have been like had the Republic continued on. I give Queen's Shadow a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯✯. It was a pretty awesome book that I greatly enjoyed, but there were some points that could definitely have been improved or should've been edited out since they just fell flat by the end.

When I was younger, I thought Queen Amidala and Padmé were amazing. The Phantom Menace was a fun movie to me. Now I can see the various issues it has, but the things I loved about it then are still what I think are the best parts of it now (the pod race sequence and the whole Duel of the Fates sequence--fight AND music combined). By the end of the prequel trilogy, I was pretty disappointed with the way they dealt with Padmé, because I thought they were going to make her a stronger, more prominent character. The Clone Wars succeeded in developing her a lot better and this book picks up on what was started there. It adds more and shows she did indeed have more fight in her and more compassion than what we may have initially thought. This is the kind of book that young me would have been happy to have and I'm glad we finally got it. I hope we get more strong girl characters in their own novels like we have with Ahsoka and now Queen's Shadow. Last month, a prequel novel, Queen's Peril, was released, but I'm not sure when I will have a chance to read it. That book focuses on Padmé and her handmaidens during the time when she was Queen of Naboo.

For now, my Star Wars canon novel reading is on hold, unless I listen to the audiobook version of Most Wanted. I've never listened to an audiobook for a book I have never read before and therefore have never reviewed an audiobook. I often prefer to just read the books on my own, because I read fast. I like setting my own speed. Sometimes I have a harder time remembering things that I only hear. I might try it to see if I can manage, but I am not going to make any guarantees that I'll progress in THIS timeline anytime soon. I can guarantee a continuation within the Legends timeline, as I am currently reading Darth Bane: The Path of Destruction.

Star Wars Canon Novel 

      Reading Order

Queen's Shadow

➖ Queen's Peril

Dark Disciple 

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel



Lords of the Sith


➖ Most Wanted

This concludes another review here at The Real World According To Sam, where I bring the books straight to your screen and even provide my own two cents about them.