This Star Wars: Bloodline article contains MAJOR SPOILERS.
Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray gives a clearer picture of the state of the galaxy before The Force Awakens than any other new canon entry. The New Republic has been standing strong for almost thirty years, and the events in the novel will tip things toward the chaotic scenario we saw in Episode VII.
Books like the The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary told us some things that weren’t quite apparent in the movie, such as how both the Resistance and the First Order are splinter groups, but Bloodline is the first novel to actually be set shortly before Episode VII, approximately six years before the epic battle on Starkiller Base.
We’ve read Bloodline and gave it a positive review for the many cool, new elements that the book adds to the new canon. We made a list of some of the new things you should know. While we’ve made an effort not to outright detail any plot points, this article does by necessity contain spoilers.
The Populists, Centrists, and the First Order
When Bloodline begins, the Battle of Endor is history and the Resistance has not yet been formed. The Galactic Senate operates a lot like the Old Republic one did, except that the senators are largely divided into one of two political parties. The Centrists push for a powerful central government, while the Populists believe power should largely be distributed among the individual planets that make up the Republic. Although the Centrists have more connections to and parallels with the Empire, they aren’t portrayed as evil: the novel shows how both sides have their good and bad points.
While the major conflict in the book is between the two political parties and between Leia and a band of mercenaries, the First Order also rears its head. Don’t expect to see familiar characters like General Hux or Captain Phasma here, but you will be able to start putting together some of the puzzle pieces about how the First Order came to power.
Where is Luke Skywalker?
Although Bloodline doesn’t risk spoiling anything in the Sequel Trilogy by going into detail about Ben Solo and Luke Skywalker, Leia does mention that she hasn’t been in contact with them for some time. Are they alone or with a group of students? Is Ben already leaning toward the dark side? The two Force-users don’t actually get any screen time in Bloodline except for a brief flashback to Ben as an infant. However, we do learn something major—exactly how much Ben knows about his grandfather, Darth Vader.
Han Solo, Professional Racer
Han, on the other hand, gets some more screen time. He has apparently put his legendary status as a fighter pilot to use as a professional starship racer. He’s competing in a race called the Five Sabers, and it turns out he not only races himself but also mentors other members of the team, such as Leia’s pilot, Greer. Did you think the Han Solo of Return of the Jedi would end up with sponsor decals on his vest? Apparently so. Something big will have to knock him out of the circuit so that he winds up as a smuggler again in The Force Awakens, but we’re not sure what.
Leia’s Family Legacy
One of the big questions left unanswered about Han and Leia’s relationship has been whether they were married at all. They obviously had a child together, but the movie never mentioned a ceremony. Bloodline confirms that Han and Leia were indeed legally married. She goes by the name Leia Organa throughout the novel, and it’s established that the two are most comfortable living most of their exciting lives in different locations.
Leia’s Other Family Legacy
As the title suggests, Bloodline reveals exactly how much Leia knows about her own parents. Obviously, she pieced together the fact that Darth Vader was her father back when Luke told her in Return of the Jedi. But between then and Bloodline, she’s also researched her mother. She knows that Padme Amidala was her mother, and that Padme spoke out against the election of Senator Palpatine before he became the Emperor. She still holds a lot of hatred toward Vader, and has only told very few people about her lineage. The information isn’t public—and she hasn’t even told her son.
The Face of the Centrists
Leia’s sometimes-rival, sometimes-ally Ransolm Casterfo is probably going to be one of the most talked-about characters in the new canon. He has a collection of Imperial war memorabilia that makes Leia intensely uncomfortable, and insists that he can revere some of the political ideals of the Empire without condoning Emperor Palpatine’s rule of tyranny or the Empire’s cruelty during the war. Casterfo has his own history with Darth Vader, too, and his complex characterization and suave political maneuvering have given him fans in both the book and the real world. Author Claudia Gray fan cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Casterfo, so…there’s that.
The Mysterious Amaxine Warriors
Leia’s investigation into the crime cartel hassling Ryloth leads her to the Amaxine warriors, a group of highly trained soldiers. Ransolm Casterfo takes one on with a force pike, and it’s a nail-biting battle. However, the most interesting thing about the Amaxines is really where their name came from: supposedly the Amaxines were a culture which disappeared from the galaxy in the age of the Old Republic, itching for war but unable to gain any traction against the Old Republic. As well as being powerful hand-to-hand fighters, the Amaxines at the time of the New Republic have “a fleet of starfighters as fast and well armed as those of the New Republic fleet.” What part do they play in the formation of the First Order? No one knows for sure, but they certainly seem like a resource the First Order could use.
Along with having help from Casterfo, Leia also enlists the help of her aid Korr Sella and pilots Greer Sonnel and Joph Seastriker. Greer is world-weary, already retired from professional starship racing at a young age, while Joph is more impressionable and aspires to the kind of glory held by X-Wing pilots in the Galactic Civil War. The two bounce off one another well. As for Korr Sella, the woman who will eventually die when the Starkiller Base fires upon Hosnian Prime is a teenage intern here, one who is shocked to learn that Darth Vader is Leia’s father. You won’t look at Korr’s oh-so-brief scene in The Force Awakens the same after this.
Any Port in a Storm
Speaking of Greer, one of the fun new locations in Bloodline is Pamarthe, Greer’s homeworld. The average citizen of Pamarthe seems to be a risk-taking person who drinks stomach-curdling alcohol, a pedigree Greer and the young pilot Joph Seastriker have to prove. They visit a snowy, desolate city built on a series of bridges. No wonder so many people from Pamarthe are pilots. They’re used to risking their lives on the edges of cliffs.
The Old Blood
Another one of the villains of Bloodline is Lady Carise Sindian, whose ambition and love for royalty clashes with her loyalty to the First Order. Yes, Carise name drops the organization that will one day build Starkiller Base, although we still don’t quite know how important she is in the First Order’s formation. Keep an eye out for Sindian as we learn more about the First Order. I’d speculate that she’s an important piece of the puzzle. Carise hails from the planet Arkanis, where General Hux’s father, Brendol Hux, trained hand-picked students to be Imperial officers.
Megan Crouse is a staff writer.