Spoiler warning for both The Force Awakens and the Star Wars: Bloodline novel
Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise has led to a series of new content within the iconic sci-fi universe. Most prominently, we have a brand new trilogy, kicked off by The Force Awakens last December. Still, the new film left a massive 30-year gap of untold stories. Enter the new-canon Star Wars novels, kicked off first by Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath and most recently with the Princess Leia-centric Bloodline.
Much of Wendig’s book focuses on new characters, with our main players hanging out on the periphery (or not at all in some cases). Bloodline puts Leia and company right in the thick of things though, tracking her progress approximately 24 years after Return of the Jedi. At this point in the Star Wars timeline, Ben Solo is still under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker, and has not yet turned to the Dark Side to assume his new identity as Kylo Ren. The First Order isn’t even in the picture themselves, with New Republic believing itself to be in a time of unprecedented peace. Bloodline represents the first steps toward the main Force Awakens story, and we’ve broken everything down for your reading pleasure.
1. The politics of the New Republic
In the wake of the Empire’s defeat at the hands of the Rebel Alliance, a power vacuum was left in the galaxy. That vacuum was filled by the Senate of the New Republic, consolidating all the various systems and planets back into the fold to govern themselves together. Mon Mothma was the original chancellor, having served a long and successful career as the peacekeeper among the various factions in the new Senate. In Bloodline, Mothma has retired due to illness, and the Senate has been thrown into chaos.
The New Republic now finds itself divided into two factions: The Centrists and the Populists, an idea given to author Claudia Gray by Episode VIII director Rian Johnson. Centrists favor a strong, unified government, believing the defunct Empire’s vision of unity to have been a good idea corrupted by the evil of Emperor Palpatine. The Populists, living in fear of another Palpatine seizing power, generally support a hands-off approach to governing that allows individual systems their own autonomy. We find Leia on the Populist side of the debate, driven by her own experiences as the commander of the Rebel Alliance.
2. Han and Chewie
In most of the original trilogy, Han and Chewie are about as inseparable as it gets (Han’s brief run frozen in carbonite excepted). Bloodline though has the two living separate lives. With his home world of Kashyyyk finally liberated, Chewie has returned there to settle down and raise a family. This leaves Han to own devices, and although he’s still married to Leia, he’s out training and mentoring young racing pilots while she remains on Hosnian Prime to help run the Senate. There’s no mention of the Millenium Falcon either, meaning it’s already been stolen from its original owners, and could be well on its way to Unkar Platt (if it hasn’t arrived already).
3. Luke and Ben Solo
As noted in the introduction, Star Wars: Bloodline takes place six years before The Force Awakens. Although it appears that Ben Solo hasn’t yet turned to the Dark Side, Han and Leia have already sent him away to train with Luke, where the pair is apparently out of contact with the rest of the outside world. We know that Leia looks back on sending Ben away as the moment she and Han lost their son for good, so one can reasonably assume there were issues with him that preceded his Jedi training with Luke. Additionally, Leia only recently her son he’s the grandson of Darth Vader, a revelation we imagine shakes his world (we don’t get to see his reaction, since she breaks the news in a recorded message).
4. The rise of the First Order
The First Order “rises from the ashes of the Empire” as described in the opening crawl of The Force Awakens, but the greater story goes far beyond that. The early days of the First Order actually come courtesy of a Centrist Senator in the New Republic, secretly utilizing illegal cartel money to build and fund the military force. Much of Bloodline involves Leia investigating this, unaware that she’s actually uncovering the next great threat to the entire galaxy. Worth mentioning as well, Supreme Leader Snoke doesn’t come up in conversation at any point, meaning his existence is as much a secret as the existence of the First Order itself.
5. Why Leia didn’t become a Jedi after Episode VI
The assumption many had following the events of Return of the Jedi was that Leia would eventually train under Luke as part of the next generation of Jedi Knights. Her Skywalker lineage gives her a connection to the Force that few other families have, and in the original Expanded Universe novels (which are no longer canonical), she actually does eventually train with her brother. Bloodline shows Leia involved more in politics than connecting the Force though, creating a curious situation, where she eschews her potential to be a powerful Jedi in favor of governing the galaxy as a Senator.
The novel shows us Leia reflecting on this very dilemma, telling us about how she felt the place she could do the most good for the galaxy was in rebuilding its government, not going off to become a Jedi. We find her at a time where she’s jaded and frustrated by the Senate’s inability to cooperate, and yet still, she’s also one of its most respected and influential members. Obviously, her frustration leads to her leaving the Senate to form the Resistance, with the seeds of that being sown in Bloodline.
6. How this connects to all our Rey theories
While Rey isn’t even mentioned in passing in Bloodline, the book does a lot to establish a solid timeline of events leading into The Force Awakens. One of the more prominent Rey-related theories posits that she was one of Luke’s Jedi students, but escaped Ben Solo’s turn to the Dark Side, and was dumped on Jakku with her memories wiped when she was around 5 years old. In Bloodline though, two things are clear: Ben Solo hasn’t yet become Kylo Ren, and Rey has already been on Jakku for almost 10 to 12 years now (since it’s set six years before TFA). That means she arrived well before Ben Solo turned evil, and that it’s unlikely she was ever actually a student of Luke’s.
Star Wars: Bloodline is available in stores and online now
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