One of the biggest questions of Star Wars fans is what happened during the 30-year period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
Star Wars: Bloodline, aims to answer that. Authored by Claudia Gray, the novel focuses on Princess Leia and her role in the new government that replaced the fallen Empire.
If you want to know the backstory behind TFA, this is the right place. But if you’ve got an unfinished copy of the book, then stop reading now!
Major spoilers ahead.
Six years before The Force Awakens….
1. Leia has a kick-ass title
Leia finds out that someone has a holo-recording of her strangling Jabba the Hutt and uploaded it to the Holonet. This earns her the badass title “The Huttslayer” among the Nikto, many of whom worked as Jabba’s henchmen.
This is a nod to real-life events. Last year, Disney caused controversy when they planned to drop the “Slave Leia” merchandise. The massive fan outrage caused Disney to rethink the plan, while fans suggested a more gender-friendly name, “Leia the Huttslayer.”
2. Han and Leia have a long distance relationship
In the old Expanded Universe, the two got married after a tumultuous period of courtship. They eventually settled down on Coruscant, siring three Jedi babies.
In the new timeline, Han and Leia get hitched during the wild celebrations after the Rebel victory. But they also recognize they come from two different worlds. Leia continues her life as politician in the newly reorganized Senate. Meanwhile, Han continues his nomadic lifestyle in the Falcon, becoming, of all things… a space racer! Yep that’s right, Han now owns his own starship racing team.
3. Chewie retires
In the old EU, loyal sidekick Chewbacca never left Han’s side even after the Alliance victory. In fact, the smuggler duo continued their adventures right until Chewie’s death during the galactic invasion by the Yuuzhan Vong.
In Disney’s new universe, Han joins Chewie on a mission to liberate the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, which is a separate story for another time (actually the novel Aftermath: Life Debt).
After Kashyyyk is liberated, Chewie decides to retire and settles down with his family on his home planet. However, he continues to keep in touch with Han and Leia.
4. The Skywalkers find out more about their mother
With the Empire’s records now unsealed, Luke and Leia discover more details about their birth mom, Queen Amidala.
Leia in particular is enthralled by Amidala’s political life, from ruler of Naboo to member of the Galactic Senate. This inspires her to continue in galactic politics, no matter how frustrating it could be (more on that below).
5. Leia doesn’t become a Jedi
With Amidala as her inspiration, Leia decides that her calling is in the political arena. At one point someone asks her why she didn’t join Luke new Jedi academy and become a Jedi Knight. Leia answers that her life is devoted to politics rather than the Jedi way.
6. A political rival exposes their father
The Skywalker twins wisely keep mum on their real father. However, during a heated debate in the Senate, an opposition senator reveals that Leia was sired by Darth Vader.
This shocking revelation has disastrous consequences. Leia’s good reputation built over the past two decades crumbles in an instant. Even her closest colleagues drift away due to distrust and avoid the fallout, so that Leia ends up a politicial liability without any more influence in the Senate.
7. The Republic is once again divided
Twenty years after ROTJ, the new Republic government that replaced the Empire is once again in crisis. Just like its Clone Wars predecessor, the government is portrayed as being ineffective due to partisan infighting and bickering.
After the fall of the Empire, it is revealed that Mon Mothma became chancellor and and disarmed the Imperial machinery. A major disarmament policy saw the Alliance fleet disbanded after the signing of the Galactic Concordance. And to prevent power from being concentrated in the hands of a few, the new government was designed to be more inclusive, with the galactic capital rotating among member worlds every few years.
After Mon Mothma stepped down due to illness, two sides emerged. The Populists wish to continue her legacy of a peaceful and representative government where power is spread evenly. On the other hand, there are the Centrists, who wish for a more centralized government led by a First Senator, and a return to the stronger Republic Navy of the war years. The former see this is a possible return to tyranny, while the latter believe it will be more efficient and productive.
This political deadlock has left the Senate ineffective and mired in motions and rulings that are vetoed by the opposing side. At one point, it leads to an assassination attempt on the Populists:
Leia settled into her chair, picked up her napkin — and stopped.
Something was written on the paper streamer on her plate. Actual writing. Virtually nobody wrote any longer; it had been years since Leia had seen actual words handwritten in ink on anything but historical documents.
But today, someone had left this message on her plate, only one word long:
Leia shoved her chair back, instantly leaping to her feet. “We have to get out of here,” she said to the startled senators at the table. “Now. Go!”
But they didn’t move, even as she dashed toward the door. Varish said, “Leia? What in the world’s —”
“Didn’t you hear me?” Damn fools who had never been in the war, who didn’t know an urgent warning when they got one. Leia held up the paper so they could see it. “Run! Everyone get up and run!”
With that, she took off, running as fast as she could, finally hearing the others stir behind her. Maybe they thought the note was only a prank, but Leia knew better. The inchoate dread that had swirled inside her all morning had solidified; this was what her feelings had been warning her about.
As they dashed through the hallways of the conference building, Leia glimpsed an alert box and swerved sideways to hit it. A robotic voice said, “No detected hazards at this — ”
“Override! Evacuation alert now!” Leia resumed running just as the warning lights began to blink and the siren’s wail sounded. Immediately people began filing out of various other rooms, mostly grumbling but at least moving toward the exits — and when they saw her, they, too, started to run. The sense of urgency built behind her like a wave cresting, preparing to crash.
Leia’s breath caught in her throat as she pushed herself harder, running full out toward the doors, so fast they almost didn’t have time to open for her. In the square beyond, security droids had begun herding people away from the building, but too many continued to mill around, staring in consternation at the scene. The others evacuating flooded through the doors behind and around her, but once they were clear of the structure, half of them stopped, remaining stupidly within range.
Within range of what? She still didn’t know. But every instinct within her told her disaster was near.
Leia didn’t stop. She kept running as hard as she could, never looking back, until . . .
Brilliant light. A roar so loud it resonated in her skull. And hot air and debris slamming into her, knocking her down, rolling her over, erasing the world.
8. Leia’s arch-enemy has a classic supervillain name
So who is this rival that exposed the Skywalker lineage? An upstart Senator called Ransolm Casterfo.
The young politician becomes the head of the Centrists and thinks the only real problem with the Empire was that it had the wrong Emperor. It comes as no surprise then that Casterfo has a penchant for Imperial relics like banners, armor and Palpatine’s personal stuff.
9. The First Order is born from secession
After the remaining Imperial fleet is defeated in The Battle of Jakku, the Imperial Remnant signs the Galactic Concordance. This sees loyalist moffs and other warlords relegated to remote sections of the Outer Rim. Despite this, there are frequent reports of Star Destroyer packs and whole fleets vanishing from these monitored regions.
The biggest blow comes when the stalemate in the Senate comes to a head. The centrists, led by Leia’s rival, announce their intention to secede from the Republic. But unlike the old Confederacy, they find a powerful partner with whom to combine their territories and fleets: the banished Imperial loyalists.
This leads us to the birth of the First Order.
But while the Centrists and Remnant join forces to threaten the Republic, we also have a new hope. Towards the end of the book, Leia accepts that the current government was no longer effective, especially after it failed to act when the Centrists seceded. And since she has lost her political allies, she resigns from the Senate and prepares for the inevitable conflict, with the help of Admiral Ackbar and disgruntled officers of the Republic.
10. Ben Solo was kept in the dark about Darth Vader
This is the biggest surprise of all: Leia never told her son Ben about his grandfather.
This is because Leia was concerned over Ben’s potential to follow in his footsteps. Throughout the novel, Han and Leia worried over their son’s growing Force powers, and how best to tell him about his lineage. Unfortunately, all that was preempted by the expose of Leia’s rival live on the Galactic Senate.
In the end, Leia leaves a tearful holomessage for her son acknowledging the truth, but it isn’t shown how Ben reacted, or even if he received the message.
Whew, what a whirlwind! And all these occurs just six years before The Force Awakens! It does bring up a host of questions, such as Rey’s actual age when she was dumped on Jakku.
Anyway, Star Wars: Bloodline helps flesh out the state of the Star Wars galaxy and the fate of our heroes. And it also explains the saddest thing about The Force Awakens.