Who is Padme Amidala?
That question seems obvious to any Star Wars fan, but is it? E.K. Johnston has crafted a wonderful follow-up novel to Ahsoka by focusing on the former Queen of Naboo. And like that previous book, this one features an element of Padme’s life previously unexplored. It bridges a gap in Padme’s life that had never been addressed. If you’ve wondered what happened between The Phantom Menace where Padme was Queen and Attack of the Clones where Padme became a Senator, this book fills in that gap – and in an exciting, revealing way.
Both aspects of Padme’s life, as Queen and Senator, are unfolded in the pages of Johnston’s story. Mostly revealed through her interaction with her handmaidens, these fiercely loyal bodyguards are more than window dressing, but are highly-trained, highly-skilled operatives who are so dedicated to Padme they will give their life for her – and some of them have. Johnston unfolds for the audience details that were glossed over in the films, like why Panaka is no longer her head of security and why Typho takes that title. We discover more about her relationship with the Organa family and how that developed. And we learn that Padme never forgot her visit to Tatooine and that the idea of a planet where slavery was still a form of commerce sickened her to the point she had a plan to do something about it.
Queen’s Shadow highlights the relationship between Padme and her most loyal bodyguard, Sabe. We find out how deeply these women are connected and the awesome responsibility that entails. We also learn far more about all of Padme’s retinue (and why their names all rhyme with “Padme”). Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the book for Padme fans is her desire for life beyond public service and what her relationship is with her family (did you even know she HAD a family?). The book delves into her hopes for the future which is both sweet and tragic knowing what ultimately happens to her.
As good as E K Johnston wrote the book, Catherine Taber does an excellent job of bringing the story in the associated audio book. As is the case with most Star Wars audio books, this one is highlighted by additional effects and music. But Taber does such a nice job creating differentiation between the different characters (and a nice job with Padme’s different professional voices). Of course, Taber is quite familiar with Padme, having done her voice over in the Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars. The opposite gender voices are always a challenge when it is one narrator, but Taber doesn’t try to fake a male voice but instead creates additional differentiation through tone and inflection. Her reading of the book is entertaining and does justice to E K Johnston’s work, making it engaging. The complete work of the audio book is like listening to a Star Wars movie and is done so well. If you’re looking for a good listen and you love Star Wars, this is a great addition to your library.