Elaine’s Review – Star Wars: Bloodline By Claudia Gray


Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray is the best book in the new canon literature and will take you back to the Expanded Universe days.

Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray, the latest offering from Del Rey’s adult Star Wars literature division, is the best Star Wars book I’ve read since Disney and Lucasfilm established a canon timeline for the books, comics, and films of the franchise. A bold statement, but no less true for its frankness. Read on so I can tell you why.

This review will be spoiler free, so if you haven’t read Bloodline yet you can proceed without fear (and leave at the end without an excuse not to read it).

"The beauty and promise of the New Republic seemed to be laid before them all. “This is what we fought for.”Everyone applauded. Many cheered.Senator Leia Organa clapped along with the rest and thought, Too bad it’s falling apart."

For those of you who don’t like politics, you might be wary of Bloodline. Be forewarned, there are tons of politics in this book, but it’s all of the best kind: intrigue, machinations, corruption, and hints of a secret power rising to challenge the New Republic. Yes, there’s still a New Republic; the events in Bloodline take place five years prior to The Force Awakens, meaning Hosnian Prime is intact and houses a functioning senate (as much as a gaggle of squabbling politicians can function, that is). Leia Organa is now a senator, and she desperately wishes to bring order and a moral justice code to the failing governmental system.

The politics in Bloodline very much reflect what’s going on in our own world, particularly in the United States.: a senate divided into two polarized parties, known as the Centrists and the Populists in-universe, and very little good actually being accomplished. This analogy may sound a little too similar to what’s going on in the real world, which is what we generally try to escape when we read. But in addition to the fact that analogies help us to understand reality, I argue politics are a necessary part of Star Wars, and an element The Force Awakens sorely lacked. It’s important to understand why and how governments and regimes rise and fall, and how people are able to slip into complacency after a galactic war has only just ended twenty-five years prior. Bloodline also explains the rise of the Resistance, and what exactly it’s resisting against (hint: it’s not the First Order).

All that to say, Bloodline‘s story is one that is carefully woven, with every detail, every description contributing to the effectiveness  of the plot and the pacing. It reminds me of something Timothy Zahn, an alum of the Expanded Universe days, was particularly good at, which is rarely including any scenes or details which aren’t relevant to the plot in some way. I enjoy reading a book and knowing every sequence, every chapter is significant and shouldn’t be skipped over.

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Speaking of the EU, Gray’s method of telling a story also takes me back to some of the older Star Wars books, like the Heir to the Empire trilogy, which placed more emphasis on mystery than action, and cultivated a pace which allowed you to take just enough time in each sequence to absorb the atmosphere of your surroundings, and then move on to the more important dialogue or details. Bloodline is one of those books that’s a bang for your buck as a reader, because you don’t spend all your reading time focusing on one place or character or mystery. Yet, despite all the different places and people and perspectives, there is a satisfying unity between each scene that creates a cohesive story.

I can’t write a review without talking about the writing style (I’m an English major, what can I say). Gray’s style is simple without being scanty on details. She doesn’t overload your senses with descriptions, as I’ve found James Luceno (Tarkin) and Paul S. Kemp (Lords of the Sith) do, and yet she also doesn’t leave out anything important, as evidenced by the fact I was able to imagine and understand everything she was trying to get across to me. There’s no pretentiousness to her writing, no unnecessary big words or radical point of view change you have to read for a few chapters to get used to. While I am a supporter of Chuck Wendig’s choice in a third person present tense for his post-Return of the Jedi story, Aftermath (a story which will always be a source of controversy), I admit Bloodline was a more comfortable read for me because of Gray’s traditional third person past tense style.

However, it’s not fault of Aftermath that Bloodline is a more “comfortable” read, because the two are fundamentally different in nature. Aftermath is nearly non-stop action, while Bloodline is dependent on dialogue and description as well as movement. This requires a slightly slower pace, which makes it perfect for reading with a cup of coffee or tea while you lounge in an armchair.

But don’t make the assumption you’ll get bored with Bloodline, because I promise you won’t. There’s far more to the story than politics; it’s also about Leia, and how she deals with the traumatic experiences she’s been through throughout her life, her relationship with Han, her feelings about Ben (who, incidentally, hasn’t turned to the dark side yet), and what she does when she’s faced with the terrible secret of who her birth father really is.

Leia is, bar none, the strongest character in Star Wars, and Gray shows this strength over and over again in Bloodline while at the same time letting us see Leia’s vulnerability, that she’s a human being just like we are. The dynamics of her character are shown through her relationships with both old characters, like Han Solo, and new ones, like the charismatic Centrist Ransolm Casterfo. The results of all these elements coming together – the tightly knit story, the simplistic yet informative writing style, Leia’s depth and the expert characterization and development of all the new supporting characters – is a well-rounded book that I can find nothing to criticize about. And believe me when I say, that’s rare.

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Pick up Star Wars: Bloodline in hardback or in e-book format today.