Queen’s Peril by E. K. Johnston with cover art by Tara Phillips is an upcoming Star Wars young adult canon novel from Disney-Lucasfilm Press. While technically a prequel to E. K. Johnston’s 2019 Queen’s Shadow, the book stands well on its own apart from its predecessor. Queen’s Peril begins with 14-year-old Padmé Naberrie of Naboo’s ascension to Queen Amidala. This is just prior to the events of Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.
Queen’s Peril is a beautiful and deeper look into the hearts and minds of Padmé and her handmaidens than even Queen’s Shadow gave. This book gives a well-crafted, intimate peek into the toll living double lives has on these teenage girls, as well as the book’s other characters. Even if the Prequel Era isn’t your favorite era, the way the book frames its characters and their relationships amongst the grand scheme of the Star Wars saga is unique to the canon and superbly done. Whatever you do, do not dismiss this book before reading it.
The first half of Queen’s Peril is admittedly thin on plot and, as the book itself makes fun of, at first it is not always easy to remember which of Padmé’s handmaidens are which. However, each of the six teenage girls is quickly given their own opportunities to thrive as individuals. Their group dynamic is also a highlight. The book reminds us that Padmé may be a queen and Sabé, Saché, Rabeé, Yaneé, and Eirtaé her closest advisers, but they are still 12-14 years old. They spend every moment of their lives with one another, having given up their lives and identities to serve their planet, and in private they are more than entitled to be children.
It’s refreshing seeing young characters in Star Wars getting to live the kind of lives with the kind of emotions Padmé and her handmaidens do in Queen’s Peril. They get to have worries, hopes, and disappointments. They are allowed to have crushes, be jealous, and breakdowns in communication. They get to forgive one another, challenge one another, and love one another deeply. And beyond having emotions, they get to be fully-rounded people who have fun, have their period, and of course, work incredibly hard at their jobs.
What’s most refreshing is that their emotions get to stand on their own. There are no Jedi masters trying to tell them how to feel or romantic partners to tangle feelings with; there is just a close-knit group of teenage girls living and working together. It’s unique among current Star Wars storytelling and I hope more media continue to explore different group dynamics like Queen’s Peril does, or like The Mandolorian does with its adoptive father-son dynamic.
Padmé and her handmaidens are not the only characters in Queen’s Peril, and the perspective is constantly changing throughout chapters to keep section short. Sometimes the perspective changes are just to progress the plot with a different character. Sometimes, these perspective changes are just short interludes from familiar characters that show when in the timeline surrounding The Phantom Menace the book currently is. At first, the perspective changed a bit too often, Then, it didn’t change often enough and I was missing some of the interludes. By the end, Queen’s Peril hit a perfect balance and I loved every time it changed for whatever reason it changed.
One small disappointment was that the descriptions of Padmé’s famously elaborate and beautiful dresses don’t go into enough detail. There were many times where the handmaidens were dressing Amadala, and I just wished the dresses were described in a bit more detail. Sometimes they were, but not always. I did enjoy how much context Queen’s Peril gives to the politics of Naboo. Similarly to Queen’s Shadow, the book gives an excellent perspective to the events of The Phantom Menace.
That said, I can’t quite understand why this book was called Queen’s Peril and the previous was called Queen’s Shadow. There is a line in the book that specifically refers to the handmaidens as the queen’s shadow, and frankly, this book is much more about the handmaidens and Queen’s Shadow saw Padmeé in much more overt peril than this book did. Perhaps they originally planned to release the books in a different order with different names?
Nonetheless, the title’s meaning could be stretched to refer to the difficulty of living a dual life as Amidala in public and Padmé in private amongst her handmaidens. I loved this theme and how it extended beyond Padmé to virtually every character that comes up in the book. It makes for a different type of story in the Star Wars canon and I quite enjoyed and appreciated it. It’s a short, sweet addition to Padmé’s canon.
A beautiful and deeper look into the hearts and minds of Padmé and her handmaidens than even Queen’s Shadow gave