Queen’s Peril proves Star Wars stories are best told out of order

Photo: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

Queen’s Peril, the prequel to E.K. Johnston’s first Padmé-centric novel, is an empowering story made more impactful due to its place in the Star Wars timeline.

When fans first heard the news of a Star Wars book about Padmé Amidala, the wait seemed endless. The lead-up to the prequel to E.K. Johnston’s Queen’s Shadow seemed even longer than its predecessor — but the wait is finally over.

Queen’s Peril, set shortly before and during the events of The Phantom Menace, places readers alongside Padmê as she adjusts to her new life as the ruler of Naboo. And that’s just the beginning of a narrative about the power of friendship — and of telling stories backward.

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A 14-year-old girl may not need much help governing an entire planet. But she does need protection — preferably on her own terms, thank you very much.

Padmé’s head of security is therefore tasked with tracking down girls similar in age and appearance to Naboo’s newly elected queen. Padmé and her handmaidens may look similar, but it turns out they differ in just about every other way. That doesn’t mean they won’t soon find common ground.

What happens when you assign a group of ambitious, brilliant, and headstrong teenage girls to guard a monarch?

They befriend her, figure out how to seamlessly switch places with each other, and sneak out of the royal palace (almost) without setting off any alarms. Obviously.

They have no idea their shenanigans will actually save their lives when the Trade Federation arrives.

E.K. Johnston makes each Queen’s Peril character stand out

Johnston has become a unique and inspiring voice in the stories of Star Wars. Her books dive deep into the psyches of their main characters to develop not just their motivations for fighting in their respective wars, but their internal struggles, doubts, and desires as well.

While Queen’s Shadow mostly focused on Padmé and her relationship with her handmaidens at the conclusion of her reign on Naboo, Queen’s Peril takes the time to introduce and develop each handmaiden individually as Padmé gets to know them.

In the same way The Clone Wars highlighted the individuality of its respective soldiers, this book brilliantly emphasizes that while the girls work together as one forceful unit, each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Their own hopes. Their own dreams.

But the element that makes this book truly a masterpiece is its release date — specifically, the fact that it’s a prequel, set before the previous book even though it will be released much later.

Queen’s Peril thrives because it’s a prequel

Star Wars has always benefited from “backward” storytelling. While the original and prequel trilogies can each stand on their own, for example, the prequel trilogy finds strength in assuming the audience already knows Darth Vader’s eventual fate.

Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril thrive in the same way. Having read Queen’s Shadow first — yes, you should read the original first in this case — you know the woman Sabé eventually becomes, for example, and eagerly await the events that will begin her journey to that place.

You know, too, the kinds of sacrifices these girls are going to make for their queen; their friend. But you don’t know how it happens. Not yet.

Padmé Amidala has always been a fierce and relentless force for change. But she has a lot to learn before she can truly make it count.

Thankfully, she’s not in it alone.

Queen’s Peril is just the first of a handful of exciting new Star Wars reads heading our way over the next few months and beyond. Make sure you’re following us to stay up-to-date on the books and comics arriving this summer!

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Queen’s Peril is available today wherever books are sold. Will you be picking up a copy?