Review: Claudia Gray’s Bloodline is required reading for Star Wars fans, but you won’t mind

BloodlineIt’s rather refreshing to finally be getting some of the gaps filled in.

Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Bloodline, out today, isn’t the first to give us a look at the galaxy beyond Return of the Jedi in the new canon. (It isn’t even Gray’s first, technically.) But it the closest to The Force Awakens so far, set less than a decade before the film. It’s also the first to feature a major character in anything beyond a glorified cameo. This is, by far, the canon novel with the most mass appeal to Expanded Universe fans new and old.

And yes, it’s good. I admit, I am worried that those of us who got and talked (vaguely) about the book early may be overselling the novel. After all, that’s what happened to me with Gray’s previous Star Wars book, Lost Stars. There was no early copy for me there, and it was the last of the Journey to The Force Awakens books I read. And it was fine! But I suspect the unrelenting hype damaged it a bit for me. (I may also be extremely a tiny bit burnt out on YA-style romance.)

Bloodline, on the other hand, was a blistering fast read for me. The minute I got it, I couldn’t put it down. As anyone who was following me on Twitter may have noticed, I read it in three hours. I honestly can’t recall the last time I read a Star Wars novel at that speed. It might have been back in the ’90s?

Some minor spoilers beyond the cut.

It is unapologetically a Leia novel. Yes, there are politics – and Leia is just as sick of them as no doubt many readers would be – but there’s also plenty of old-fashioned adventure. And fans of original characters will be glad to note that Leia is supported by several new characters, most of whom get their fair share of highlights as well.

Yet anyone expecting every question raised by the new film answered is putting their hopes too high. Bloodline does answer a few, but by no means all of the things we’ve been wondering about since December. (We do still have two films to go!) Han/Leia fans in particular will be pleased to see they are still very much a couple at this point in the timeline.

Nope, not a surprise.
Nope, not a surprise.
That said, while the Darth Vader ‘reveal’ was by no means a surprise, it did feel like a bit of a letdown. Maybe it’s my perspective as someone who’s been harping on the old Expanded Universe for not letting the reveal drop with a bang? Bloodline certainly gives it that, but also makes it clear that Leia, Han and Luke aren’t as big players in the galaxy as they were in the Legends timeline. (They don’t need to keep selling books, after all.) And I have no doubt that it will reverberate through the franchise, with exploration of the greatest implications saved for the screen.

I expect there will be quite a bit of debate on what exactly Rian Johnson’s input here was between now and Episode VIII.

There are also hints – both subtle and not – at the roots of the First Order, though I don’t see how the most blatant of those leads to the New Republic’s apparently laid-back attitude on the faction come The Force Awakens.

And finally, perhaps my biggest question, or at least the biggest question I don’t see why the book doesn’t answer… What is Leia the senator of? It’s made clear she’s elected, but who exactly elects her?

Still, these minor quirks aside, I was quite pleased by Bloodline. It’s certainly one of the very best of the new canon, and a must-read for anyone who needs or wants background on The Force Awakens. Be sure to check it out.

Grade: A-

Bloodline is available now in hardcover and eBook. A copy of the book was provided by Del Rey for review.

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