Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston is the latest entry in the Disney-era line of Star Wars novels. It’s the second time that Johnston has penned a novel about Queen Amidala, after writing Queen’s Shadow last year. Whereas Queen’s Shadow found Johnston expanding on Padmé’s time in the Galactic Senate after stepping down as Queen of Naboo, Queen’s Peril bookends the Padmé story by going back to the time immediately after she was elected Queen. Johnston again focuses heavily on Padmé’s relationship with her handmaidens, and fans of the series are sure to recognize some familiar faces as the Queen assembles the group. Much like Queen’s Shadow, Queen’s Peril is mostly targeted at a YA audience.
The cast of characters in Queen’s Peril is largely the same as Queen’s Shadow. Most of the story is told through the view of Padmé, Captain Panaka, and Sabé, but the rest of the Queen’s handmaidens all play a large role, as well. The majority of the plot focuses on the machinations involved in Padmé’s taking over the role of Queen and the process that the handmaidens go through to be selected and vetted for their roles. The exploration of the relationships between Padmé and her handmaidens is the highlight of the book, for me. Later, the book turns to focus on the events of The Phantom Menace, re-telling the story from the point-of-view of Padmé and the other primary characters. While The Phantom Menace has been rehashed about a hundred times from what seems like a hundred different angles, this was a new one. Specifically, the focus on what it was like inside Theed during the blockade and occupation was a good addition to the canon.
One of the stranger elements added were short passages told through the eyes of characters who otherwise aren’t all that related to the rest of the story. We end up spending a bit of time with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul, and a host of other characters that appear in Phantom Menace. While it makes sense to provide this back-story if this book is a prequel/adjacent to The Phantom Menace, it’s a bit jarring when they do occur. I have to imagine most reading this would already have a working understanding of when the story takes place and the primary events of The Phantom Menace, and the choice to focus on those outside Padmé and her group of friends and advisors was curious. I think the book would have been more effective had we just stuck with the core group of characters.
I appreciate that under Disney ownership the Star Wars novels have begun to grow a bit more tonally different. From a fan’s prespective, it means getting some books, like Queen’s Peril, that aren’t necessarily targeted at me, but it allows for a more accessible world by providing a little something for everyone. Including Johnston, there is now a solid stable of writers (Gray, Zahn, Freed, etc…) who are being allowed to write Star Wars stories in a way that best makes use of their voice. This means there are YA books (like this one and Claudia Gray’s work), more traditional Star Wars novels, and novelizations of the movies from a more diverse cast of writers. The universe is better for it.
Queen’s Peril is a perfectly solid Star Wars novel. I found it to be about on par with Johnston’s previous Queen Amidala focused novel, Queen’s Shadow. It’s one of the shorter novels in the Disney canon and it covers a lot of ground within its pages. I enjoy Johnson’s writing of Padmé and her handmaidens. In fact, I think this one would have been better served trimming out the character point-of-views from mostly everyone but Padmé and company. Nonetheless, I’d welcome further exploration of the relationship between Padmé and her handmaidens and Queen’s Peril did provide some new perspective on the conflict in The Phantom Menace. I’d look forward to more Star Wars work from Johnston in the future.