“Begun, the Clone War has” might be an ominous way to declare the galaxy at war, but what does that actually look like? This is a question that Queen’s Hope attempts to address. Whether it succeeds in the endeavour, however, will depend entirely on what you expect to get out of the novel.
The story begins in the first few days after the battle on Geonosis (aka the end of Attack of the Clones) with a certain senator and a certain soon-to-be Jedi Knight sneaking off to Naboo for a beautiful sunset wedding ceremony. But with war spreading across the galaxy, Anakin and Padmé don’t get to spend much time on their honeymoon before duty calls them back to the capital and away from each other.
While Anakin is deployed to the front, Padmé is pulled into a political investigation that requires her specific skillset: namely the ability to be in two places at once. Though her handmaidens from her days as queen have all moved on to their own ventures, Padmé calls her onetime decoy Sabé to ask for her help.
I had certain expectations of Queen’s Hope going in. I thought, based on the timing of the story, that it would be an account of the early days of Padmé and Anakin’s marriage. I also thought, after casting so wide a net in Queen’s Peril that the story might narrow down and refocus on Padmé once more. For better or worse, neither of my expectations were met.
In terms of a refocused story, Padmé is out of the book more than she is in it. She is “present” in the sense that she is on the minds of all the other characters, and their feelings for her is what motivates their actions – Sabé in particular. That, I could understand, because of what a large role Sabé played in Queen’s Shadow, but when the focus is pulled from the primary character to focus on another former handmaiden whose mission is tangentially related at best, that is where my frustrations really set in.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the political intrigue as a whole. That plus Sabé’s ongoing mission to free slaves on Tatooine – with the help of an unexpected ally – were the highlights of the book, and showed an interesting, quieter side of the war. But while the events themselves were interesting, three books in I’m not sure I know the characters any better than I did after book one.
Each interaction between Padmé and her former handmaidens has a particular quality to it, where the writing tries to convey a long history between them that works to mixed effect. Oftentimes, tough conversations are simply not had because the women say all they need to say with a look. I understand between old friends, sometimes things do not always need to be spoken, but in holding the reader at arms length like this, it does very little to endear us to these women and to their friendship.
As far as the wedding goes, it’s over fairly quickly. Padmé and Anakin spend most of the book apart, and when they are together they don’t particularly act like madly-in-love newlyweds. I understand the idea is they don’t know each other well, but neither of them seem all that interested in getting to know each other either.
It was hard to know what to expect going into the third and final Padmé novel from E.K. Johnston. On the one hand, I greatly enjoyed Queen’s Shadow for what it did in showing us a post-Phantom Menace Padmé first entering the political sphere. On the other hand, Queen’s Peril did both too much and not enough with its premise and left me feeling a little confused.
Now, at the close of this Padmé-centric trilogy, I think I am forced to admit that as much as I adore this character, these books simply weren’t for me.
Queen’s Hope is available April 5, 2022. Special thanks to Disney Books for the advance copy for review purposes.