This review contains minor spoilers.
Without a doubt, Claudia Gray's Star Wars: Bloodline is one of the absolute best entries in the new Star Wars canon. It's filled with mysteries, revelations, and wonderful characters.
Part of what makes Bloodline such an intriguing read is that it's not mired in the Original Trilogy or Prequel Trilogy. So far, all of the new canon has adhered strictly to a small space of time - with only Chuck Wendig's Aftermath exploring new ground - and even that is shortly after Return of the Jedi. But when it comes to Bloodline, new ground is being broken. It has been 20 years since Return of the Jedi and the galaxy is a new and exciting place for readers to explore.
It is utterly amazing how perfectly Gray captures Princess Leia's voice. I could easily imagine Carrie Fisher delivering Leia's lines in the book. It's great, because Leia is the key character in Bloodline. We do get small glimpses of Han Solo, and there are some intriguing mentions of both Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo, but these mentions (especially the latter) are very much designed to fuel speculation and it's delightful. It's been a long time since we've had a bunch of mysteries presented in Star Wars books, and it's a lot of fun wondering where the stories will take them.
There were some moments in this book that surprised me, most of which center around Leia's bloodline. In some aspects, Leia's dealing with her past was very surprising to me. Likewise was her struggle with why she did not choose to be a Jedi - something that is very much touched on in Bloodline. But perhaps most interesting to me was the fact that, at some point before the book takes place, Leia has already learned that her mother was Padme Amidala. This revelation is given as an aside, but it did make me realize just how much I would love to see more of that story. A political thriller, spanning generations and split between Padme's and Leia's perspectives, would be so much fun to read - especially with Gray at the helm!
The supporting cast of Bloodline is also quite excellent. Ransolm Casterfo, a politician on the opposite side of Leia's, really steals the show in the book. He's such a wonderfully layered character, and my feelings about him shifted throughout the book. That's the sign of excellent writing. Leia's companions, Greer and Joph, are also utilized to great effect in the book and carry their segments with a lot of excitement. Even the villains are given surprising depth. Gray doesn't just showcase them as the villains, either. She lets the reader understand their motivations, and come to truly loathe these characters. Her words can sway the opinions of her readers, which is an incredible sign of the power of her prose.
The politics in Bloodline are also very much a character in the book. There's a lot to unravel in Bloodline, as the political fight between the Centrists (Space Republicans) and Populists (Space Democrats) rages on. Gray does a wonderful job balancing the two viewpoints throughout the book and making it clear that there is no true right or wrong side. The infamous "There are heroes on both sides" line from the opening crawl of Revenge of the Sith really rings true here. Sometimes, the debate between Centrists and Populists, and the lack of anything substantial getting done by the Senate can drudge up recent memories of the U.S. political system and its current gridlock - and really, what better commentary for what could happen than to see it unfold before our very eyes in Bloodline. There is a chilling reminder here of what can happen when nothing gets done.
The story of Bloodline isn't easy to tell in a simple blurb. Yes, as the book jacket suggests, a lot of the story focuses on the election of a First Senator to lead the New Republic. But it's much more than that. Bloodline focuses on one of the key questions from The Force Awakens - what is the political landscape of the galaxy? - and answers it to glorious effect. It really sheds a light on so much of the political mystery, and helps to realize the ramifications of Hosnian Prime being destroyed. But the book isn't just politics. It also explores the rise of criminal organizations and cartels in the absence of Hutt strength and New Republic leadership. There's a lot in this book, and the mysteries unfold as wonderfully as the story itself.
Of course, some of my frustrations with the new canon books in general are still present here. The new canon stories do not give a timeframe from where the books take place, just their placement compared to when the films occur. It took quite a bit of digging to learn that this book takes place six years before The Force Awakens. Similarly, this book has a fairly large cast and a Dratamis Personae to revisit would have been immeasurably helpful. But still - these are my only frustrations with the book. These frustrations are not born of the content in Bloodline, but rather in the makeup of the new Star Wars books in general - which is feedback that I hope the publisher will take into consideration.
Bloodline is as close to perfection as Star Wars books have come to in recent years. It's an exciting and remarkable story, and the way it unfolds is just wonderful. Claudia Gray is a truly wonderful addition to the Star Wars universe. Her command of characters, both new and old, is perfect. I'm already eagerly awaiting her next book.