In this Retro Review, we reexamine Claudia Gray's smash hit, Bloodline, three years after the novel's initial release.
The Empire’s been demolished, and the New Republic has risen from its ashes. But disarray continues to run its course within the newfound government, tearing it into two opposing parties: The Populists and the Centrists.
This is Claudia Gray’s Bloodline.
The Populists believe each system should rule itself independently while the Centrists argue a single entity should enforce peace and stability throughout the galaxy. Naturally, the Populists are hesitant to adopt a government that could give rise to another Emperor, but the Centrists cannot abide the idea of chaos returning to the far reaches of the galaxy. During a ceremony honoring the late Bail Organa for his heroism, the two parties bicker to each other enough for Populist Senator Leia Organa to finally settle on a retirement plan.
Before Leia steps away from politics for good, she decides to go on one final mission. The Senate brings a case of suspicious criminal activity to the floor, and she immediately claims the job with Centrist Ransolm Casterfo volunteering to accompany her. The crew travels to Bastatha where they encounter cartel leader Rinnrivin Di. Suspecting that a third party is involved, Leia sends Greer and Joph to Pamarthe where they discover an ancient group called the Amaxine Warriors. Leia believes these warriors are funding Rinnrivin's cartel.
Meanwhile, the Senate decides to create a First Senator role that will be responsible for regulating the entirety of the government. Leia decides to give up on retirement and run for the position to prevent that amount of power from falling into the wrong hands, but any chance that Leia had of winning the election is crushed when Lady Carise learns that her father was none other than Darth Vader and the truth is spread throughout the galaxy. Despite everyone turning against her, Leia continues her mission to Sibensko where she finds the information she needs to confirm everything she’s predicted thus far.
Ransolm convinces the Senate to allow Leia a hearing for her discovery and vouches for everything she says. In response, Lady Carise (who is revealed to be secretly working for the up-and-coming First Order) exposes doctored footage of Ransolm shaking hands with the killer of a recent assassination and he is sentenced to death. Furious over losing a respectable senator and good friend, Leia rushes to Carise to call her out on breaking her oath of secrecy and being responsible for Ransolm’s execution.
The political scene goes through a major change as the Centrists leave the New Republic to join the First Order and Leia meets with a few like-minded allies to form the Resistance.
Bloodline by Claudia Gray covers an integral moment in the Star Wars timeline, expertly setting the stage for the sequel trilogy. Over 30 years ago fans witnessed the fall of the Galactic Empire, but what did that mean for the galaxy’s government?
Bloodline answers the most obvious questions about this period of political rebirth along with some that we never thought to ask.
We now know that the government is split into the Populists and the Centrists, but Gray takes us deeper into that conflict by showing us those who had lost political role models like Bail Organa and those who had actually admired the fallen Empire. Seeing political figures with beliefs on opposite sides of the spectrum attempting to run the galaxy together is a visual that I didn’t know I needed, and witnessing it through the lens of a war veteran like Leia really hammers in the weight of their plight. The galaxy has been given a clean slate, and what they do with it will determine the future of its citizens.
Claudia Gray has proven her ability to portray the character of Leia through Bloodline and Leia: Princess of Alderaan, and that knack that she has for showcasing this multifaceted portrayal is the best part of this story. It’s fascinating to see how Leia’s experiences during the time of the Galactic Empire reflect the modern days of the New Republic, and as an audience, we get to witness her desperate attempt to stop the horrors of the past from resurfacing into newfound peace.
When the idea to create a “First Senator” role that will ultimately rule the entire Senate is put in motion, she doesn’t hesitate to place herself in the running because she’s seen firsthand what that kind of evil that level of power can usher into the galaxy. Leia’s decision-making remains fierce and determined throughout the novel, and no matter how much you may know about the last Princess of Alderaan, you can’t help but be surprised by the sheer intensity that radiates off of every single page.
Nearly anyone who’s been alive since 1977 knows Princess Leia and the fire and determination with which she burns. Bloodline by Claudia Gray presents Leia Organa long after the Battle of Endor, and she’s almost a completely different person from the one we see in the original trilogy. She’s wiser, more experienced, and suffering from a strong case of reality. Despite never losing sight of her resolve, she comes to understand that the galaxy may never be fully at peace.
Ransolm Casterfo was expertly designed to propel this story. Just as Luke taught Rey about balance and perspective in The Last Jedi, Ransolm’s view on politics isn’t as black and white as the rest of the Senate. When Leia criticises his collection of Imperial artifacts that surround his office, Casterfo specifies that he doesn’t admire the bad things that the Empire did but rather the idea of what good they could have done. Every act that Ransolm takes is always of his own volition, what he believes to be for the greater good, despite the desires of his fellow Centrist peers.
Although these two distinct characters argue over vastly opposing ways of thinking, their passion for the benefit of the people unites them in a fascinating relationship. Leia and Ransolm are a symbol for what the Senate has the potential to be, but their integrity is constantly being tested by a host of other characters (including the malicious Lady Carise) who represent the conniving side of politics which will forever persist.
"The best additions to the lore are the kind that open the mind to the possibility of future content..."
Claudia Gray is the queen of originality, never afraid to add something new to the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Rather than following the grooves of what's already out there, she enriches our awareness of daily life in our favorite galaxy by addressing things we normally wouldn't think twice about. Bloodline exemplifies this in a number of ways, showcasing how some unfortunate pilots are susceptible to bloodburn upon entering space or the magnitude of handwritten information being seen as an ancient practice. Little details like these are crucial when rooting the reader deeply within the book’s reality.
The best additions to the lore are the kind that open the mind to the possibility of future content, the most notable example in Bloodline being the Amaxine Warriors. The Amaxines are an ancient race that left the galaxy after refusing to make peace with the Old Republic. Despite the lack of Canon material based on the Old Republic, Claudia decided to create a link to that era in this novel with the mention of the Amaxines. The fact that these warriors left the galaxy is also a bold statement. I mean, what’s even out there? How does one get there? In a couple years, we might be able to look back at this article with answers. (Claudia if you’re reading this please write an Old Republic novel).
Claudia Gray is famous for her ability to formulate a story that easily flows while using captivating details, making her novels an easy and fun read for both new and veteran Star Wars readers. Very few parts in Bloodline fail to serve a larger purpose in the grand scheme of things with every passage either building on a character, revealing new information, or leading up to a future moment. Where lesser books occasionally contain filler scenes or dialogue, Gray’s characters constantly speak to the purpose which leaves room for even more greatness.
Bloodline by Claudia Gray manages to give an exciting edge to the political side of Star Wars with scandals, backstabbing, and deception at every turn with drama so juicy it’ll have you going, “Oh, no she didn’t!” There are also quite a few action scenes for a political-heavy story, and you never know when chaos will strike.
Something just blew up! Oh snap, he got slapped! Welp, that person’s dead. Didn’t see any of that coming, did you?
Leia may be the only original character with a prominent role, but the new characters are solid enough to keep you invested. We have First Order spies, criminals who are fronts for other criminals, an Imperial admirer with good morals, you name it! Some characters may grind your gears so hard that you’ll be begging for justice, and that burning rage will have you flipping through the pages so fast you just might tear them out.
I’d recommend any Star Wars book by Claudia Gray for both newcomers to the Expanded Universe and fans who mainly read Legends novels. Bloodline is an excellent addition for fans who love the politics of Star Wars as it covers an integral part of the timeline and sets up for the sequel trilogy, but I’d also recommend it for people who are not as much into politics just because this is probably one of the most fun political-heavy stories you’ll get in this franchise.
Give this one a try even if it’s the only Star Wars book about politics that you’ll ever read.