In Star Wars canon, the 10 years between Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones don't receive much attention. You get hints here and there (and an occasional five-part comic) about what Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi got up to during that decade, but nary a mention of Padmé Amidala Naberrie. How exactly did she make the transition from queen to senator?
A new book by E.K. Johnston (Star Wars: Ahsoka), on shelves right now, answers all of those questions and more. Star Wars: Queen's Shadow provides insight into Padmé and her handmaidens and gives out a lot of connective tissue for the saga while doing so.
**WARNING: This article will contain spoilers for the book Star Wars: Queen's Shadow. I highly recommend that you pick up the book and read it before reading this article. It will be much more enjoyable that way.**
The book covers Padmé's last days as queen and goes up through her first year (and some change) into being a senator. Johnston makes it clear right from the beginning that Padmé and "Amidala" are not the same person — Padmé Naberrie is a real human being, and Amidala is a public persona.
It is a manicured creation. It allows the decoy system (seen in the first two prequels) to be used, but it also explains that everything from Amidala's wardrobe (it's blaster-resistant, with some robes actually providing an escape hatch) to her voice (developed in tandem by Padmé and her most loyal handmaiden/decoy, Sabé) was crafted with precision and purpose. The Amidala persona served well when she was queen, but now Padmé and company have to modify Amidala for the world of intergalactic politics.
Padmé often finds herself stuck (and even lost) when it comes to these two sides of her life, something that is also mirrored in her decoy (or shadow) Sabé. We got to know Padmé (played by Natalie Portman) in the prequel films, but we barely got to know Sabé, played in The Phantom Menace by Keira Knightley. The relationship portrayed in this book is much deeper than we would have thought — they are true friends, but Sabé would also die for Padmé without ever needing to be asked. Padmé knows this, she doesn't like it, but such is the nature of that bond.
Through Sabé (and the other handmaidens, which we'll get to), we get a very firm grasp on what the decoy system entails, and we also get some interesting backstory to some key moments from the first two prequels. One example: The line "We are brave, Your Highness," spoken by Padmé to Sabé in disguise in The Phantom Menace, is actually code, meaning something similar to "I can't say it out loud, but let's do this."
At times, Padmé gets so wrapped up in the persona of Amidala that she forgets what it's like to be Padmé, if she even remembers at all. Padmé wonders what a "normal" life would be like a few different times, and contemplates who she really is without the Amidala persona. She never wonders for long, because she truly is Leia Organa's mother — they are both completely selfless, and they put duty above all else. In many instances, this book reads like a companion piece to Claudia Gray's Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan. That's a very good thing.
All of Padmé's handmaidens get fleshed out here — not only her royal handmaidens, but her new senatorial retinue also. It's no coincidence that all of their names sound the same, because when they take these positions, they change them. They all love Padmé so much that none of them change them back when/if they leave her service. They are unconditionally devoted, and not just out of duty. They are loyal to Padmé to a fault, a quality that she tends to bring out in people.
Sabé stays in Padmé's service when the new queen asks Amidala to serve as senator, and the senatorial squad is filled out by newcomers including Dormé and Cordé. We meet them both in Attack of the Clones — Rose Byrne played Dormé, a master designer and dresser, who worries about Padmé's safety. Veronica Segura played Cordé, who assumes the mantle of official Amidala decoy in this book. Sadly, Cordé is really good at her job — she explodes within the first five minutes of Attack of the Clones when an attempt is made on Padmé's life.
A SHORT DISCUSSION ABOUT THE MONARCHY OF NABOO
Stay with me here, if you please. The book finally provides answers about why the line of Naboo queens in the prequel era appears as it does. For anyone wondering why Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith all featured different queens of Naboo, well, your long, private nightmare is over. Thanks to this book, we have a plausible answer.
Once elected, the queen of Naboo serves for two years, with the option to then run for another two. She may not serve more than four years, no matter how many people want her to do so. (In Padme's case, many did.) Sometimes the ruler in question can decide not to run again, but they have the option to run for a second two years later on.
Amidala is succeeded in this book by Réillata, who is doing that very thing after a previous two-year stint. She defeats Jamillia for the throne, but Padmé says that Jamillia can run again in two years. As this story takes place four years after The Phantom Menace (Padmé's rule was very young when the invasion happened, and she ran again, unopposed, for her second term), I am going to assume that Jamillia does run again in two years, and wins. This is mostly because Jamillia is queen in Attack of the Clones (played by Ayesha Dharker), and this is presumably toward the end of her two-term, four-year run — she would have fit in right after Réillata's two years were up.
Jamillia being almost done with her service makes sense because, in The Clone Wars, Naboo is ruled by Queen Neeyutnee. If she became queen right at the start of the Clone Wars (great timing), then she must have been a one-term queen. Whether she decided not to run again or ran for re-election but lost, she would only be in the position for two years before being succeeded by Apailana, who we see briefly as queen in Revenge of the Sith, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes. Whew!
CLONE WARS CONNECTIONS
For fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this book is loaded with great material related to that series. Padmé meets Mina Bonteri for the first time (from the episode Heroes on Both Sides), and she's already of the mind that the Republic is useless. She can be seen talking to a shadowy figure over the holocoms, and it's clear that the seeds of Separatism are already taking root.
Padmé also reconnects with Senator Onaconda Farr in this book (known from the episodes Bombad Jedi, Senate Murders, etc.), who is a friend of her father's, but the other big Clone Wars connection here involves none other than Senator Rush Clovis, the slimiest piece of worm-ridden filth in the saga.
He enters the Senate at the same time as Padmé, and it's obvious to everyone that he is "into her" from moment one. He forms an alliance with Padmé (though she's already worked hard to cultivate connections to Bail Organa and Mon Mothma), and he proves helpful … but then he makes the mistake of kissing Padmé without her consent.
Yeah, she doesn't go for it. She says "no" at least three times before this sleemo hits the bricks.
She does talk about the possibility of letting someone in at some point (though she says it could be "catastrophic" if she did, hint hint), but it's clear that she has no romantic interest in Clovis. Mace Windu may have said that they were "close" in the episode Senate Spy, but that must have been some of that famous "Windu hyperbole" at work.
Just for fun, here's Anakin beating the snot out of Clovis when the awful sack of poodoo comes back for more in Season 6:
The loyal Captain Panaka, played by High Quarshie in The Phantom Menace, doesn't stick around for the rest of the prequels. In terms of the story, we now know why — after the invasion, he and Amidala grew distant when the issue of planetary defenses came up. Panaka was in favor of big-time advances, while others were happy with the addition of an ion cannon. Padmé went with the cannon.
Panaka retires when Amidala's term is over. His wife takes his place, and her nephew joins the senatorial guard team — that nephew is none other than Sergeant Typho, who we see (promoted to captain, and played by Jay Laga'aia) in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
We know that the ion cannon project eventually gets completed, because it is put to good use in the Shattered Empire comic and Star Wars: Battlefront II. As for Quarsh Panaka, well, didn't he seem really happy when Sheev Palpatine was made Chancellor in The Phantom Menace? Yeah, he is made governor (or "Moff") after the Empire replaces Queen Apailana with a puppet queen, and he becomes the voice of Imperial power on the Naboo. This book builds up to some of those events, but it's not until Leia, Princess of Alderaan that we see him wearing the darn uniform and toeing the Imperial line. We also see him get blown up in that book, so there's that. Bye-bye, Quarsh!
THE SEARCH FOR SHMI
Before Padmé is asked to serve as senator, she intends to spend the rest of her life getting rid of slavery on Tatooine. She is fully prepared to go and deal with things herself, and even when she becomes senator, she doesn't give up on the idea. She tries to address it in the Senate while Sabé hits the sand on Tatooine and tries a more direct approach. Neither is successful, but it is made clear that Padmé is interested in one particular slave above all others — Shmi Skywalker.
Sabé fails to locate Shmi, as she has already been sold. Still, the idea that Padmé actually attempted this is huge. The name Anakin is not mentioned by her, not even once, but she does wear a handmade necklace that is very precious to her. It's not a big stretch to guess that this necklace is the japor snippet token that little orphan Ani gave to her for "good fortune."
Anakin's name is mentioned one time in the epilogue, and not by Padmé. The omission of her even thinking the name (yet wearing the necklace and searching for Shmi) means that Ani is very much on her mind. She's gonna be in a prime place to fall for that temperamental sand-hater when he re-enters her life in Attack of the Clones.
SO VERY MUCH MORE!
All of this is barely scratching the surface of the layers that this book adds to the entirety of the Star Wars saga. I haven't even mentioned the Depa Billaba cameo, the build-up to the talented Mr. Binks becoming a representative, or the specialties of all of the various handmaidens. There's also one huge reveal that I won't spoil here ... let's just say that a character survives through to the epilogue (right at the end of Revenge of the Sith), and their continued presence in Star Wars could be very interesting. If you are a fan of Padmé, Amidala, handmaidens, or all three, then this book is for you. There are no lightsabers and very few blasters, but it's rather exciting all the same.
Star Wars: Queen's Shadow is available now. "We are brave, Your Highness."