What’s happening to me, personally, doesn’t matter. If it’s not the ideal time, well, it’s the only time we’ve got.”
As I was listening to a section about a third of the way into Bloodline I was struck by the deeply screwed up dynamic of the Skywalker family. Some friends and I joke that Anakin and Luke Skywalker are the biggest drama queens in the galaxy. Listening to Leia recount being tortured for hours by the man she now knows was her father, it doesn’t feel like such a joke. Princess Leia is the Skywalker who gets stuff done despite everything she has lost and sacrificed.
Claudia Gray’s Bloodline brings us a story of Leia Organa, Senator of the New Republic. The Senate has become fractious and gridlocked. Leia has lost her patience and is on the verge of retiring to spend more time with Han and Ben. While she is still serving what she hopes will be her last term, she undertakes an investigation with a young senator from an opposing faction, Ransolm Casterfo. Casterfo and Leia get off on the wrong foot, and only the forced proximity of the exploratory mission allows them to see past their differences and build trust. Gray knows that the most painful betrayals come from the people to whom we make ourselves vulnerable.
One of the great disappointments of my life was 1999’s The Phantom Menace. It’s greatest sin was that it was boring. So boring. As I listened to Bloodline, I though, “this is how you do political intrigue with action, George!” The political intrigue feels relatable (more so than trade agreements), and the stakes are believably high. Leia and Casterfo, along with Leia’s staff and a New Republic pilot, travel across the galaxy unraveling the plot to resurrect the Empire. The galaxy feels huge and unwieldy, hard to rule. It’s easy to empathize with both Leia and Casterfo’s points of view. Their personal investment in the New Republic, their visions for it’s future, and the secrets and betrayals give Bloodline a heart that The Phantom Menace never had. Even on a galactic level, politics are deeply personal.
Heritage, both biological and spiritual, are at the center of Bloodline. Leia is able to keep getting stuff done because she was raised to put duty first and she has a personally philosophy of not looking back at what is lost. Others around her view the past with nostalgia, take lessons from the past, or refuse to let it go. Leia has always been her own person, but her biological and adoptive fathers cast long shadows.
Everything I’ve ever been was erased in an instant.
For all that Leia doesn’t want to look backwards, I most appreciate that Bloodline ties the prequels, the original trilogy, and the trilogy of movies currently in production together. It enriches my memories of the original trilogy to hear Leia reflect back on what those experiences meant to her. I love having a Leia centered story. Gray did an amazing job of being true to the character and fleshing her out. She showed Leia as a woman with many facets: Senator, Huttslayer, wife, mentor and daughter. The supporting characters were well rounded, and the plot made sense.
I listened to this as an Audible book. I liked the narrator, January LaVoy very much. The production chose to add in background noises, which was occasionally distracting. But a lot of the time it was fine, even great when the Star Wars theme music would play in the background.
All those times you watched me kill Jabba the Hutt, and you never learned from his example.