Review: Queen’s Hope gives Padmé, her handmaidens the stories they deserve in trilogy’s conclusion

Queen's Hope book cover. Photo: Disney Books.
Queen's Hope book cover. Photo: Disney Books. /

The final piece of E.K. Johnston’s Padmé trilogy is finally here, and fans will not be disappointed with the nuance the author brings in Queen’s Hope.

Character studies have been the strongest aspects of each of the Padmé/Queen books – from Queen’s Shadow to Queen’s Peril and now Queen’s Hope. The films and The Clone Wars introduced us to Queen Amidala and Senator Amidala, but Johnston’s books made us fall in love with Padmé.

And along the way, we also fell in love with her handmaidens, the previously unnamed cloaked companions of the queen and the senator who were her shadows, her ears and her hands. That’s especially true for Sabé, the actual queen’s shadow, who donned the elaborate makeup, dresses and headpieces to be the decoy Queen Amidala at key points during Padmé’s reign on Naboo.

Sabé, once again, is the co-star of the story of Queen’s Hope alongside Padmé. We also get updates on Saché and Yané, who are now married and foster children together. And just like in Shadow and Peril, Johnston sprinkles in points of view from other prequel-era characters throughout Queen’s Hope, though a bit more sparingly in this book.

Queen’s Hope is set after the events of Attack of the Clones. So, the book begins after the Battle of Geonosis, which kicked off the Clone Wars, and Padmé and Anakin Skywalker’s admission of love to one another. That’s where we find Padmé, struggling with a massive secret and working to put together her wedding gown for her quickie marriage to Anakin.

The scenes of Padme preparing for her wedding and grappling with the inner turmoil of whether or not to tell her closest friends set the tone for the rest of Queen’s Hope. The book is chiefly about growing up and growing apart, but not losing sight of what and who matter most. It’s also about conflicting loyalties and learning how to find yourself outside the shadow of another who defined much of your young life.

While this book is about Padmé, Sabé takes much of the spotlight. Up until this point, her life has been largely defined by Padmé. Sabé’s love for the queen-turned-senator was unconditional and built on a foundation of hard-won mutual respect and empathy. But now that the two women are in their 20s, they find themselves on different paths.

These deep dives into the intricacies of Padmé’s and Sabé’s psyches and their relationships with others – set against the backdrop of conflict – are the brightest spots in the trilogy. The character development Johnston has done for Padmé is a gift to the Star Wars fandom. Couple that with the character studies of each of her handmaidens, and it’s hard to fathom a world in which we didn’t know about Sabé’s abolitionist efforts on Tatooine or the admirable sacrifices Saché made to protect Naboo during the invasion.

As the conclusion to a trilogy, Queen’s Hope works incredibly well. It gives us even more of that signature Johnston character work we’ve grown to love in the previous two books. Before this trilogy, Padmé’s character was beloved, but the films and TV series didn’t do enough to flesh out why she is the way she is.

Johnston’s novels brought her character to stunning life, making her both real and relatable.

But the drawbacks of Queen’s Hope are similar to the other two novels – the plot is often not strong enough to keep the story going at a steady pace. There are key moments throughout the book that seem to fall flat except for their exposure of more character feelings and motivations. Even the undercover mission Padmé embarks on with Typho feels distracting and like it would be better suited for an episode of The Clone Wars.

And I might be the minority in this one, but I wanted more details about Padmé and Anakin’s weeks on Naboo for their recovery and wedding. Yes, the Clone Wars just erupted, Anakin is about to be Knighted as a Jedi and this is a YA novel. But the transition from the brilliant and bittersweet beginning to the core of the novel – which featured Anakin sparingly and involved some drier political intrigue – felt too abrupt.

Overall, Queen’s Hope provides an excellent ending to the story Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril started. All three books have remained consistent in using the characters and their interrelationships to drive the story forward. We already know how Padmé’s story ends, but Johnston’s trilogy adds nuance and depth to the hope-filled tragedy.

Even before the story of Queen’s Hope begins, Johnston’s dedication set the stage for an emotional, character-driven conclusion to the stories of these extraordinary Star Wars women:

“To all of the queens who are fighting alone,
Baby, you’re not dancin’ on your own…”

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