It’s difficult and I mean reeeeeally difficult to impartially review a book that feels like it was written specifically for you. It’s hardly a secret that I’m the token politics nerd and Alderaan die hard around here. There are only two things that this book could have possibly done to make me love it even more. The first would have been bringing Winter back into canon and the other gets us into spoiler territory. (The third would be bringing Padmé Amidala back from the dead but that seems highly unlikely in any scenario. This is Star Wars, not comics.) All this is to say that Bloodline by Claudia Gray felt tailor made for me and the two and a half hours I spent reading it were one hell of an emotional roller coaster.
Set in the years before The Force Awakens, Bloodline tells the story of Leia before the galaxy comes crashing down around her a second time. The New Republic is well established at this point and two distinct political parties have formed in the Senate. Senator Leia Organa, however, is kind of over all of it. The time is starting to feel right for her to retire and go spend more time with her family but first… one last mission shouldn’t cause too much trouble, right?
It’s not hyperbole to say that Bloodline is not only the best book in the new canon but also one of the best Star Wars books ever and I’ve read a hell of a lot of Star Wars over the years. Just like she did in the acclaimed Lost Stars, Gray weaves a fascinating tale that keeps readers engaged even though we know that Leia will survive whatever this and The Force Awakens throw at her. Most importantly though, this is a book about Leia and who Leia is. She’s not defined by her relationships to others and it’s refreshing to see a Leia book that doesn’t have a lot of Han since they often come as a package deal. What Bloodline does instead is a deep dive into the idea of family legacy and contrasts the difference between the family who loved and raised you and the family who gave you your DNA. (That, however, is a subject that requires an article all to itself.)
Gray gets a lot more than just the story and Leia right. The supporting cast really helps flesh out the galaxy. Korrie Sella is Leia’s adorable intern and Joph Seastriker is equally adorable with his enthusiasm for the mission and the desire to do everything right (and he has two moms!) Greer Sonnel is the well-rounded woman of color hero that this galaxy deserves. She’s a former racing pilot who used to fly for Han and now works for Leia as her Chief of Staff. Can you say best job ever? Everything about Greer just feels so real that I almost expected her to jump off the page.
Ransolm Casterfo though… RANSOLM CASTERFO. Ransolm is the character that you fully expect to be one thing until Gray slowly pulls by the curtain bit by bit to show that he’s so much more than that while simultaneously giving him a fantastic character arc. I could read 20 books full of his and Leia’s interactions. He’s the perfect sort of character for this new canon where shades of grey are the norm and black and white is so last millennium. Watching the evolution of Ransolm and Leia’s relationship (no, not a romantic one) is as fascinating to watch as the actual plot line and equally as integral to what makes Bloodline succeed.
If you’re not already sold on Bloodline, there’s not much more I can say. Except that this book is the political Leia book so many of us have been dreaming of for years. Except that Bloodline expands on what the galaxy is like closer to The Force Awakens. Except that the characters are all fantastically written. Except that this book is guaranteed to make you get emotional about Alderaan and the Skywalker family. Except that Claudia Gray makes magic happen with these 332 pages.
Star Wars: Bloodline gets a solid and enthusiastic 5/5 from me along with the strongest recommendation.
Thank you to Random House/Del Rey for providing us with a copy of the book for review purposes.