Bloodline is the standout among Star Wars canon novels.
Many fans were left devastated when the Expanded Universe – now dubbed Star Wars Legends –was declared non-canon in April 2014. This included a rich variety of novels such as Timothy Zahn’s popular Heir to the Empire trilogy.
Fortunately, from James Luceno’s Tarkin to the recently released Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, many captivating novels have entered the canon since 2014. However, none of these novels have emerged as triumphant as Claudia Gray’s Bloodline, which is arguably the best canon novel so far. Let’s explore three areas that make Bloodline so special.
Perfectly written Leia
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Despite being one of the most all-time important and beloved Star Wars characters, Leia doesn’t always get as much focus as she deserves. Thankfully, this was not the case in Bloodline, a novel that is all Leia’s story.
Claudia Gray has a remarkable understanding of Leia as a character. From beginning to end, Gray’s writing makes Leia feels as real on the page as she does onscreen, seamlessly allowing the reader to imagine they’re seeing and hearing Carrie Fisher in the role.
Leia is a true Renaissance woman and she gets the chance to show that in this story. She’s a masterful politician who dares to forge alliances with those who don’t share her same beliefs. She covertly undertakes dangerous missions – with only a few trusted allies – to expose the corruption brewing in the galaxy and the New Republic, corruption providing the first major hints to the existence of the First Order. All the while she’s also a mother and wife. Ben Solo is away training with Luke, but he is often in her thoughts throughout the book, her relationship with him and his struggles weighing on her heavily. As if this isn’t enough, Bloodline also tells the story of how all these factors lead to the creation of the Resistance.
The novel also allows Leia to grapple with the things she’s so often been denied the time to deal with in the films like the destruction of Alderaan and the revelation that Darth Vader is her father, the latter of which is crucial to the plot and plays a major role in Ben Solo turning to the Dark Side.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm
Political context for the sequel trilogy
One of the overwhelming questions of The Force Awakens was that of political context. Only 30 years pass between the original trilogy and sequel trilogy, meaning a great deal of the galaxy was old enough to remember living through the horrific tyranny of the Galactic Empire. This made it difficult to imagine how the First Order could rise to such a powerful position by the beginning of The Force Awakens. The relationship between the Resistance and New Republic was also kept rather vague in the film.
Bloodline does a remarkable job providing political context for The Force Awakens and the sequel trilogy as a whole. Set six years before The Force Awakens, the novel shows a galaxy politically divided into Populists and Centrists. Populists believe each planet should have their own sovereignty while Centrists believe all planets should be governed by a stronger executive government than the current New Republic.
It is through this divide that Bloodline becomes a highly immersive political thriller, all the while clarifying how the First Order rose to power, how the Resistance was born, and how the New Republic was already crumbling from within years before the Hosnian System was obliterated by Starkiller Base.
The novel succeeds at weaving an entertaining page-turner while also providing tremendous insight and world-building into the sequel trilogy.
A new side of Leia and Han’s relationship
As wonderful as it was to see Leia and Han reuniting in The Force Awakens, it was also difficult to know they’d become estranged after their son’s fall to the Dark Side. In the original trilogy, their relationship was largely a tale of impassioned romance.
Bloodline provides the middle ground between their epic love story from the original trilogy to the old lovers reconciling after years of estrangement in the sequel trilogy. Leia and Han are each busy doing their own thing – politics for Leia, racing for Han – but they come together when they need each other most, whether it’s emotional support or Han showing up to save Leia’s life and fight alongside her during one of her covert missions. The emotional support is particularly fun to read when it comes to Han as it shows a sensitive side that only emerges for fleeting moments in the films.
This isn’t the only canon novel to show Leia and Han’s relationship between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The Aftermath novels and Last Shot show their relationship in the early years of the New Republic and when Ben is a small child, though, years before things fall apart. Bloodline gives fans the best look at what their relationship was like shortly before Ben’s fall to the Dark Side.
There’s certainly a lot to celebrate with Bloodline, a story that stands among the best new Star Wars stories in recent years. It will be intriguing to see if any future canon novels can surpass the brilliance that is Bloodline.