When first seen in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the people of Naboo seem to have a different culture. Queen Amidala is quite young and was elected Queen by the people. We’re not given much background on how this happened. Was it a fluke? Is their peaceful society one that only sees this as a figurehead position? Nothing is made clear.
In Star Wars: Queen’s Peril, we get a few answers. This is the first in a series of young-adult books that are enjoyable for adults to read as well.
As a young girl, Padmé always wanted to serve the people. She has a sense of duty and commitment to helping others that outstrips many people I know. To keep her safe, she recruits a group of handmaidens who are her confidants, bodyguards, decoys, and friends. Most of the story focuses on recruiting these other girls, all of who have differing abilities that help craft their deceptions and protect Amidala.
When Padmé decides to hold a summit to reach out to Naboo’s neighbors, her overtures are met with little consideration. Only a few worlds send Ambassadors to her summit, although there seem to be some connections made between some of the staff and the handmaidens. Just as the last Ambassador is leaving, the Trade Federation arrives and blockades the planet, demanding Queen Amidala sign a treaty with them.
The remainder of the story parallels events in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. There’s a little more depth here, but since it’s not a book completely focused on those events, it’s also a bit concise. There is also a resistance growing in the camps on Naboo and two of the handmaidens left behind when Padmé makes her escape to bring their case to the Galactic Senate play a big role in this.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this young adult novel, even as an adult. There is so much more development of Naboo society and of the characters we see in the films. In particular, I liked seeing Captain Quarsh Panaka have a much larger role than the brief scenes of the film. He has a wife, as well, and she counsels him a bit about dealing with teenage girls.
Star Wars: Queen’s Peril seems to be aimed at those teenage girls, with a lot of talk among Padmé and her handmaidens about typical girl things; hair, makeup, romance. However, Padmé carries a big weight on her shoulders and that is important to all of them as well. They rely on each other and counsel Padmé when she has hard decisions to make, although the choices are hers and hers alone.
There’s also more of Senator Palpatine’s background as well. Author E.K. Johnston really focuses on fleshing out these characters that were dropped into Star Wars: The Phantom Menace with little background. The result is a book that drew me in and kept me reading, even though much of the story was one I knew already.
If you have a negative view of the prequel trilogy, I think this book could change your mind. For girls interested in the Star Wars universe, they will find one of their strong heroines in some great moments but also acting like a typical teenager. It fits in well with Star Wars canon.