onarchs are often remembered not by their beginnings but by their final acts. All the goodwill attained through the initial years of rulership can be dashed by eventual betrayals or acts of malice, or an inept leader can find glory and legend beneath the weight of a final conquest.
For Padmé Amidala, her final chapter was written not necessarily by the tragedy of Mustafar but instead by the pen of E.K. Johnston.
Queen’s Hope rounds out Johnston’s Queen Trilogy that has followed the adventures of Naboo’s most famous Senator and her fearless band of handmaidens. Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril took the Star Wars publishing community by storm by retroactively reshaping the prequel films through the lens of Padmé and her allies, and after such riveting success, Queen’s Hope had quite the legend to live up to.
Would Naberrie rise to the occasion or crumble beneath pressure of a foretold fate?
While not as neatly constructed as the previous series entries, Queen’s Hope delivers a wonderfully satisfying conclusion to Johnston’s work with the Senator by emphasizing the importance of relationships, trust, and purpose.
When the setting of Queen’s Hope was first announced, the Star Wars publishing community was atwitter with anticipation. Not only was Padmé returning to complete the first character-centric Canon trilogy not associated with Thrawn, but she was doing it amidst one of the greatest periods in the galaxy’s history:
The Clone Wars.
Johnston’s reverence for this massive galactic war is evident from the beginning of the book, and although not every character interacts directly with the battlefield, the weight of the ongoing conflict is felt consistently throughout the story. Despite the initial chapters of the book focusing on the historic wedding between Padmé and her forbidden Jedi paramour, the plot quickly detours to the harsh realities that the Clone Wars provide.
Padmé’s loving (and legal) reunion with Anakin is interrupted almost immediately when Skywalker is sent to the front lines to lead the Grand Army of the Republic, but when he does, the true plot begins to emerge. Padmé returns to the Senate to navigate the harsh realities of the war, and there’s only one person she can imagine by her side…and Sabé always answers.
Despite not occupying the same space for large swaths of time, the relationship triangle between Padmé, Sabé, and Anakin occupies a majority of the novel’s tension as Padmé’s dedication to her best friend and her husband threatens to tear her apart. This conflicted nature adds another layer of severity to Padmé’s every move in her fight against the Separatists, and it also makes way for some of the best scenes of dialogue in the entire trilogy that are far better experienced than spoiled in a review.
Sabé’s experience in this novel, however, is far more complicated than her acquiescence to Padmé’s requests. Although she is unwaveringly dedicated to her friend’s best wishes, Sabé has discovered a much deeper purpose over the course of the trilogy, and alongside Tonra and additional allies on Tatooine, she fights throughout the book to discover a way to eliminate the unforgivable scourge of slavery on the planet.
This pursuit is interrupted only by Padmé’s insistence of her aid in other areas that lead to additional scenes between the lead handmaiden and future figures of Rebellion like Mon Mothma and the endlessly wonderful Bail Organa.
It may be clear now that while the individual plot threads may not be the most crucial part of Queen’s Hope, they all exist to further the story of each relationship that Johnston has crafted throughout the trilogy. Each scene highlights character choices and how even our most innocent decisions can have consequences that ripple through friendships, alliances, and even marriages. While this tactic may not provide story beats as inherently thrilling as some found in Queen’s Peril, it nonetheless carries every character arc to its natural end while undeniably enhancing them along the way.
E.K. Johnston positively thrives in her character work. From the beginning of Queen’s Shadow, this trilogy firmly cemented itself as a beacon of character enrichment and expansion, and Queen’s Hope carries that tradition valiantly across the finish line. All of the returning characters maintain the clarity of voice that Johnston brings to each novel she’s written, and although some readers may still have difficulty keeping all the handmaidens straight, their presence throughout Hope and the trilogy as a whole remains a breath of fresh air.
However, the Senator’s friends take somewhat of a backseat in Queen’s Hope compared to their previous page counts, and in their place arise some of the best written characters Johnston has ever tackled like Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine. Despite the wealth of content available on these two, Johnston discovers new layers to them that practically bleed out over the page as both men attempt to navigate the tumultuous nature of the galaxy.
Palpatine’s barely concealed brutality and vindictiveness storms to the forefront of his scenes. Anakin Skywalker, on the other hand, is exposed as both the tender lover that Padmé fell in love with but also as the man who would rewrite the galaxy to protect her.
All of these character relationships, while marvelous on their own, are enhanced by the sheer amount of secrets that are littered throughout this book. Padmé’s marriage to Anakin, Palpatine’s true identity, Sabé’s antics as a decoy, the attempted destruction of the Tatooine slave market, and potential late story defector are only a handful of the secrets that can be found within Queen’s Hope, and within each character’s response to the secrets they encounter lies Johnston’s true mastery.
Throughout the Queen’s trilogy, the idea of trust between handmaidens has been a pillar of importance. Without absolute faith in each other, no plans are able to succeed, so to see every character experience some kind of deceit from an enemy or a friend is jarring at the least and devastating at its height. Whereas some of these plot points in the Prequel Trilogy could have been initially written off as “plot holes,” Johnston instead treats these secrets as the time bombs that they are and asks the most important questions that she can.
Could you really sacrifice the faith of those you hold dear all for a single mission…a single person?
The way each character responds to these questions of love and devotion to person and cause alike create some of the most tense - as well as some of the most beautiful - moments the series has seen to date. And while Johnston’s work in Queen’s Hope undoubtedly ties up a number of character arcs in the way she wished…it will be hard not seeing these characters beneath her pen for a very long time.
As opposed to some of the more recent Star Wars novels that fill their pages with new planets and lore mechanics, Queen’s Hope sense of originality lies within the additional dimensions it adds to pre-existing characters and relationships. The ability to create a character like Sabé that is now not only recognized but beloved after mere moments onscreen is a feat rarely accomplished so entirely.
This enhancement of all of the handmaidens has been a main attraction of these books since Queen Shadow’s release, and although Hope doesn’t feature as many bombastic leaps forward in character attachment as the previous novels, the strides completed by Johnston are still marvelously impressive.
Further elements of originality can be found within Johnston’s treatment of pre-existing factions and species; particularly the Trade Federation and a group we see far too frequently nowadays – Wookiees! The Trade Federation has been a fearsome monolith throughout Padmé’s career in every medium, but Queen’s Hope offers a side to them that we quite literally have never seen before. This specific exploration does exactly what great Star Wars novels strive to do when it comes to preexisting material: it enhances our point of view without diminishing the impact of previous story beats.
However, Johnston is not solely concerned with the expansion of preexisting storylines as her own creation of Sabé’s Tatooine mission receives a rather large amount of attention throughout Hope. Although the scenes, themselves, can threaten a slight amount of repetition near the end of the story arc, the grand scope of Sabé’s fight against slavery benefits greatly from the addition of some quite familiar characters. This passion of Sabé’s shines through every action in this novel, and upon its completion, it paints her journey throughout the trilogy in a whole new light.
Finally, Queen’s Hope is unabashedly a story about love. Real, unadulterated, multifaceted love.
Without love, Star Wars ceases to exist, and the power of Anakin and Padmé’s love is reinforced continuously throughout this book in a way we haven’t seen in quite a while. Nonetheless, Padmé’s love for her friends, her purpose, and the galaxy at large also remains on display and further shows why she continued to affect every life she touched long after her passing.
E.K. Johnston has never been afraid to live fully within the minds of her characters. Simply put: the characters in Queen’s Hope continuously feel real because they are. Johnson captures the essence of each character she writes so well that, for a time, you can feel the joys and pains they are experiencing as a reader. This intense sensation of connection harkens back to Daniel José Older’s Midnight Horizon in its execution, and the results are just as profound.
The fact also remains that E.K. Johnston is exceptionally good at crafting her unique style of prose. She’s able to convey a wonderful amount of emotion, introspection, and even humor through a deceptively simple yet crystal clear voice. If Emma Mieko Candon’s Ronin prose was like sipping a whiskey, Johnston’s work with Queen’s Hope is a clean, crisp, white wine that manages to be beautifully flavorful without hitting you over the head.
This clean, effective style of writing also provides a means for some of the most emotionally devastating moments this trilogy has ever seen. For two books, Johnston has been setting up pins, and throughout Hope, she knocks them down time and time again in ways that simultaneously break your heart and convince you that there was no other way for that moment to end.
Without spoiling too much of their effectiveness, we have to address the spellbinding interludes that sparingly populate the book. These isolated moments outside of the main narrative bring outside elements of the saga directly in line with Padmé’s legacy, and the results are stunning. Johnston’s use of a classical storytelling style within these sections add elements of folklore and mysticism that force you to stop a moment and ponder their true significance.
Even in these sections without Padmé in the driver’s seat, Johnston ensures that her passion leads the way. Couple that passion with some of the most devastating one-liners this side of Coruscant, and you can’t help but hope that another trilogy from Johnston’s mind is already on the way.
The desire to read an E.K. Johnston book in a single sitting is a feeling many readers have known for years, and Queen’s Hope continues that trend marvelously. Even though the action sequences don’t possess quite the level of cinematic flare and triumph as some of the previous scenes in Shadow and Peril, the way that Johnston crafts this book chemically commands you to turn page after page after page.
Aside from the borderline obsessive nature of progressing through the chapters, Queen’s Hope also provides a sense of expansive entertainment wholly unique to the Queen’s Trilogy. In our review of Queen’s Peril, we discussed the biological need to watch The Phantom Menace after finishing that book for the first time, and Queen’s Hope provides a similar feeling with the entirety of The Clone Wars.
As you read through Hope, it almost feels like Johnston’s foray into writing an arc of the television show rather than a continuation of the films. Although this approach can cause some of the chapters to feel a bit more low stakes and episodic than usual, it also releases a boost of serotonin only found previously by indulging in Padmé’s animated adventures.
Queen’s Hope construction also brings to mind previous political thrillers within the Star Wars Canon like Claudia Gray’s Bloodline. Even though the entertaining action doesn’t always take place on a battlefield, the political machinations constantly provide layers of intrigue that keep the story moving.
That being said…Padmé definitely knows how to handle herself in a firefight.
Only two characters have had their own Canon trilogies. Thrawn and Padmé Amidala. With Queen’s Hope, Padmé further asserts herself as a mainstay of the Star Wars galaxy, and E.K. Johnston does the same for her place in the hierarchy of galactic authors.
The Queen Trilogy has delivered something truly special in the Star Wars lexicon. Over the past few years, we have witnessed the story of a young girl who worked hard and loved harder to make the galaxy better than when she found it. She has put her faith in those she trusts without hesitation, and she has taught generations about how to wield power for those that do not have it.
We are stronger because of Padmé.
We are kinder because of Padmé.
We love harder because of Padmé.
And while Queen’s Hope may bring an end to this particular trilogy, it still represents only the beginning of her legacy. If you’re missing these characters already, Greg Pak’s current run on Darth Vader may give you just what you’re looking for, and Mike Chen is already teasing quite a bit about some connections within Brotherhood.
But even if you read nothing else after this, the lessons learned within these three books will stick with you every time you turn on the Prequels. To watch a girl from Naboo. To watch a leader in the Senate. To watch a woman fighting to save the love of her life. Because she is teaching all of us through these stories all these years later.
To escape our shadows.
To triumph over peril.
To never lose hope.