Nixxa And The General

You guys voted and the result was unanimous! So today I’m posting the first small snippet of my Star Wars themed story, Nixxa and the General, a collection of short stories about a stolen ship-rat who knows nothing but darkness and the menacing man who might just give her the galaxy… Now this isn’t exactly a fanfic because there are no cross-over characters or locales or anything, it’s just more of the basic setting and the sci-fi feel that I don’t usually work with (I’m a historical fantasy romance writer so space is a big change for me!) and FULL WARNING: this is a steamy story so it might be posted on A03 in full instead of my actual analytical blog, I haven’t quite decided yet, but if the response is positive then f*ck it, we’ll just post it here lol! So if you like the intro and want more on the blog itself be sure to let me know in the comments!

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Nixxa and the General

She lay across the bed, her heart beating like a siren in her ears. The silken wisps of silver-grey cloth they’d clothed her in glided across her newly scrubbed skin, touching her in a thousand intimate places yet leaving nothing truly covered. Not that there was any point in hiding her body now, she reasoned, her eyes flickering to the door as her breath quickened instinctively. When would he arrive? this man whose bed she now occupied, the stranger she’d been chosen and stolen for.

The man, whoever he was, would be someone of little importance. That much she knew. Anyone of consequence could afford the experienced beauties of the Courtesan Class, those beguiling women born and bred to give up their bodies in the most carnal fashion. Only men of the lower ranks, soldiers too poor to rise or too cheap to pay, stole women from the bowels of the Dark City. She’d known many who’d disappeared for a day, two, maybe three before returning with a few coins or bruises or stories to tell around the glow of the photon beams. It was too common an occurrence to be frightened of, but still, she’d never been taken. Until now. With hair the color of dirty grease and skin coated in twenty some-odd years of grime, she faded into the blackness of the Dark City effortlessly and was easily over-looked. Or so she thought.

She looked at the pale skin of her exposed wrist. She hadn’t known the color of her own skin until they’d stripped her bare and bathed her to within an inch of her life, scrubbing her places she never thought needed scrubbing. Plunging her in pools of water – actual glistening water – before dousing her with some sort of bubbly concoction that was supposed to clean her from the outside in while the drink they gave her worked from the inside out. She’d felt funny then, itchy as though a thousand insect legs crawled across her, inside her, eating away at something she hadn’t even known was there. Though once it passed, she felt better, stronger than she ever remembered feeling before. Then they’d started over, scrubbing, dousing, and cleaning every inch of her until someone pronounced her clean.

They’d then attacked her hair, meticulously brushing and drying it before pressing one more strange drink into her hand. It was white with a sharp bitter smell rising from the metal cup. She’d hesitated, but the woman giving the orders was unused to being questioned. Drink it, she ordered. She drank. This time it was a needle piercing her belly, penetrating into the very depth of her femininity and she understood without being told that she would produce no children in her lifetime. It was a sudden loss, and not one she felt too keenly, at least not yet. Perhaps she would feel differently when all this was over, but just now she had other things to occupy her thoughts beyond the thought of phantom children she’d never wanted.

Now she waited, alone with her own thoughts in this strange place, so far beyond the world she knew. He was no one, she reminded herself, no one. But the quiet splendor of the room, the softness of the bedding that molded to her, and the pleasing scent that still clung to her skin and hair spoke of wealth, and wealth inevitably led to position, even someone as lowly as she knew this. She wasn’t sure why, but this thought more than any other frightened her. Why would someone with means, with power want a ship-rat for a bedfellow? Who was waiting on the other side of that damnable door?

**********

The door of his chamber opened with a soft whir, illuminating the darkness within, the silence he craved, and the woman stretched across the far side of his bed. He paused, confused until he remembered ordering a woman to be brought to him this evening. He’d been in a temper  and spoke before thinking about the reality of coming home to a stranger in the only private space he had aboard this blasted starship. He bit back a groan, what the hell was he to do with her now. She couldn’t stay here. He wouldn’t allow her fear to contaminate this space, his space. Damn it.

A curt dismissal was on the tip of his tongue when she moved suddenly, rising up on one arm, watching him as he watched her. A dark nimbus of ebony hair fell in gentle waves around her face, sliding down her neck and spilling over her shoulders, a stark contrast to the otherwise paleness of her skin. But it was her eyes that grabbed him, silenced him even before he spoke. There was no fear in their depths, just curiosity, intelligence, recognition, and just the smallest portion of apprehension. She knew him, or knew of him, and still there was no fear. One black brow raised questioningly and he realized he was still in the doorway staring. He stepped inside and the door closed behind him, taking the light with it, plunging them into absolute pitch. Only the darkness wasn’t complete, she marred it, radiating light from her crystalline skin. Stars, but he could see every inch of her.

A familiar tightening pulled from the pit of his stomach. With a silent growl he strode further into the room, tired of feeling like a stranger in his own chambers. She didn’t stir, but watched him. Let her watch. She’d get nothing from him. Let her watch.

 

Alright guys, make sure to let me know if you want more Nixxa and the General on the Whimsical Mutterings page!

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End Of The Month Review: Attack Of The Clones

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I can’t believe the second month of our year-long countdown to Star Wars Episode IX has come and gone my fellow SW fans and we’re already gearing up for round three! We’ve happily spent the past two months together exploring the fandom and breaking down the themes, characters, and meaning behind the first two films in the Skywalker saga: The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones – and I don’t know about you, but I feel like we covered some hella fun topics along the way!

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Before we jump headlong into Revenge of the Sith and all its epic heartbreak and darkness, I figured it’s only fitting to tie up our experience with AOTC with a little end of the month review! So, if you’ve missed any of March’s posts or are new to Whispered Mutterings in general, now’s the perfect time to explore the site and get all caught up before Episode III begins! Thanks for coming on this Star Wars journey with me – thank you for every view, like, comment, and share. You guys are amazing, and you make SW and the fandom amazing too!

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May the Force be with you ❤

February’s Attack Of The Clones Posts:

The Journey Continues: Attack Of The Clones

AOTC: The Last Rays of Light

AOTC: Stolen Moments And A Splintered Soul

AOTC: Master and Padawan

AOTC: An Unholy Alliance

AOTC: Naboo — The End Of The Fairytale

AOTC: Once Upon A Cautionary Tale

AOTC: A Voice Of Reason In The Darkness

AOTC: Shades Of Morality

AOTC: Fallen Heroes

Bonus Posts:

Delving into Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow

Star Wars Book Review: Queen’s Shadow

Top 11 Revelations From Queen’s Shadow!!!

A (possible) Star Wars Story

Attack Of The Clones: Fallen Heroes

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“I’m a Jedi… I know I’m better than this…” — Anakin Skywalker

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is beginning of the dark fall for the Force’s Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker. No longer the sweet, eager child that we first met on Tattooine, restrictive and emotionally suffocating dogma paired with constant suspicion and unrelenting correction have left our once-happy Ani with tattered nerves, shaken confidence, and the overwhelming will to prove himself. Often coming across as grandiose or whiney, Anakin’s dramatic shift in mood and temperament is a cry for help that remains unheard. The ground beneath his feet is crumbling, he knows something is wrong and everyone casts the blame in his direction. No one hears him save for Obi-Wan, who’s terrified and misunderstood help only exacerbates the problem, and Padme, the woman and influence he is not permitted to have. The Jedi don’t care if Anakin is floundering, they’ve built up an army to protect themselves against him, and Palpatine knows his best time to strike is when Anakin is at his lowest point.

“Young Skywalker is in pain. Terrible pain.” — Master Yoda

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Empathic by nature, Anakin is struggling right from the beginning of the film, with nerves, anxiety, and even nightmares – reoccurring dreams centered around the one person who he loves most in the galaxy, the person whose guidance and wisdom he is struggling to hold onto… his mother. Are the dreams a message from his own consciousness, alert to the fact that his mother is in peril, or are they sent by the darkside, by Palpatine to terrorize a child with the one thing he fears the absolute most? I’m not sure myself, but both instances have merit and either way, no matter their source, Anakin is being slowly and methodically tortured, every night, every day with the possibility that the person who loves him most might be taken from him more than she already has been. And having lived ten years surrounded by people who don’t trust him and blatantly do not want him amongst them, Shmi is one of the only people in Anakin’s young life who he truly feels safe with, who he knows truly loves him. Either he abandons her to her fate and must live with the knowledge that he has done so or he must go to her and in doing so prove himself unworthy of being a Jedi. The fact that he chooses his mother over the Jedi goes to show just how loving and pure Ani is at his heart, and how twisted and dangerous the Jedi mentality is when love is turned into an enemy.

“I know I’m disobeying my mandate to protect you Senator, but I have to go. I have to help her!”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have a choice.” — Anakin Skywalker

In the end, Anakin spends the length of AOTC apologizing for his actions, to Obi-Wan, to Padme, his mother… everyone he holds dear and cares about. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s an endless stream of apologies and the desperate need for forgiveness. He is drowning in the unceasing waves of fate, reaching out for some sort of lifeline and the only person who reaches back is Padme, and she keeps him above water…for a time. Because no matter how romantic the notion, one person is not strong enough to bear the weight of another for a lifetime unaided. Had Yoda and the other Jedi put aside their fear and rallied around Anakin, determined to at least let him know that they were there for him, that they appreciated him, Anakin might have survived. They all might have survived. But they didn’t. And that’s why they had to fall, why the Force sent Anakin to live this unbelievably hard and unfairly painful life, because the Jedi were not as they should be. The balance was skewed.

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And with the last episode of the Skywalker saga looming on the horizon, we find ourselves back on similar ground…with a boy, a girl, and a choice. Even before his birth Ben Solo was being hunted, his mind invaded by Snoke (a fact we learn from the Aftermath trilogy), and with our knowledge of Snoke’s maniacal cruelty, it is safe to assume that in one fashion or another, Ben was being tortured from the inside out… just like his grandfather. There has been little released regarding Ben as a child and no doubt that is purposeful, but we do know is that his parents sent him away to Luke because “there was too much Vader in him” and they kept the truth of his heritage a secret (Bloodline) which leads to the loneliness, isolation, and fear that Anakin endured at the same age.

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It’s little wonder that Ben became Kylo, that after enduring the same things his grandfather did, that they shared the same fate. If anything that teaches us that how you treat someone has a direct correlation to how they treat themselves and the world around them. Ben and Anakin were made to feel dangerous, they were treated with suspicion by those who should have loved them most and that isolation and fear of am I am bad person? drove them to disaster. And much like Padme before her, we now have Rey, a beacon of love and hope standing in Kylo’s path, the only one who hears the cries of help in the darkness. And valiantly, she does try to save him, but this time our heroine has some darkness of her own that she has to face, this time the journey is not completely one-sided. Rey and Kylo both need to be saved to some extent, they have reached out to each other, across time, the galaxy, and a war, but like Anakin and Padme they are not enough to save the other alone.

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This is where I hope the story of Star Wars has been leading us, to the lesson that still hasn’t been learned yet… that it isn’t enough to call yourself a hero. You have to actually be one. Poe, Finn, Rose, the Resistance itself needs to do what the Jedi failed to do which is show compassion, forgiveness, and the determination to let go of their own fears and prejudices in the effort to help someone they perceive to be an enemy. They need to be real heroes, not battle victors, and act with the qualities they so loudly proclaim to defend. This time if the lightside is going to win the day they need to deserve it, they need to have earned it, and do what the Council of Jedi Masters failed to do: act with decency and love. This time, they need to be worthy.

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Attack Of The Clones: A Voice Of Reason In The Darkness

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I am not usually one to dwell on deleted scenes in films, for better or worse, if the director chose to leave specific things out to better convey the story that they’re trying to tell then it’s usually for a good reason. But every now and then deleted scenes will stick out in a way that even their absence changes the entire film. Star Wars is no exception. There are two deleted scenes that stand out this way to me, and funny enough, if they had never been included on the DVD we would have no knowledge of them, so it’s almost as if the director was like, look…this can’t be in the movie for whatever reason, but this scene or it’s removal is saying something

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One of those deleted scenes is from The Last Jedi and centers around Finn and Phasma, so I’ll save that one for later, but the second deleted scene that strikes me as incredibly important is from Attack of the Clones itself. And oddly enough, I’ve seen this movie countless times, but I only just recently (like earlier this week) stumbled across this scene, and it just really moved me and made me wonder…why was it removed from the film? What secrets did it give away or truths did it reinforce? This isn’t a ten second clip where someone walked right when they should have walked left, this is a scene of power.

We all saw the incredible lengths Padme Amidala went through to save her home-world in The Phantom Menace, we know she is no shirker of responsibility or the will to act. Padme saved Naboo, she saved her people, and she rearranged the entire Senate to do so. So, when we meet her again in AOTC and watch as she is nearly killed time and again for her voice in the Senate, we can safely assume that she is just as determined and unstoppable as a Senator as she was as a Queen. But oddly enough, we never really see Padme take the floor like she did in the previous film, we never see her exercise her influential range on the Senate for ourselves. We know she is a strong voice because we know her character, but we never see just how much she can truly impact the galaxy with just her presence and words on the senatorial floor. And after watching the scene in question I have to wonder why that is? Why take Padme out of the game before we see what she can do as a Senator?

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“Wake up Senators! You must wake up! If you offer the Separatist’s violence, they can only show violence in return. Many will lose their lives, all will lose their freedom. I pray you do not let fear push you into disaster. Vote down this security measure — which is nothing less than a declaration of war. Does anyone here want that? I cannot believe they do.”  — Senator Padme Amidala

And in this instance, I truly think it’s because it gave too much of the end-game away. Padme’s voiced boomed across the Senate, reaching her fellow senators with her clarity and wisdom until it was quickly sidelined by a very noticeably shaken Palpatine. The future Emperor of the galaxy saw firsthand that there was someone in the room who had the ability to derail his plans, because had they voted that day on the creation of the Grand army of the Republic with Padme’s cries of “Wake up!” ringing fresh in their ears the vote would have failed to yield the army – and the control – that Palpatine desired. Yes, Anakin Skywalker was the biggest threat to the Darth Sidious and the Jedi, but Padme Amidala just proved herself to be the biggest threat to Sheev Palpatine. He already had multiple ideas of how to handle Ani, with and without the help of the Jedi, but Padme could destroy everything on her own. Her voice reached across the stars, she could take the Senate from him just as easily as she took it from Valorum.

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Funny then, that she died so tragically – and let’s be honest – so oddly in the next film. It’s long been a popular theory that Palpatine used Padme’s life-force to keep Anakin alive after his devastating battle on Mustafar, thus draining and killing her in the process. A fellow SW fan and I have even been discussing it in the comments on some of my posts (hi Amy!). There’s a lot of evidence for this theory being correct and it does make a helluva lot of sense, but until Lucasfilm or Disney confirms or denies it one way or another, we’ll never know for sure. But with so many prequel books being released this year leading up to Episode IX and so many prequel characters rejoining the SW family this year at SW Celebration, I think it’s safe to say that in one form or another, the story is leading us back to the beginning, back to Padme and Anakin.

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And as it stands, the consensus is that Palpatine took Padme’s life to save Anakin, to save his apprentice, and to gain a firmer hold on him because with Padme alive, Sidious would always have come in second place in Anakin’s priorities. With her dead, Anakin is wholly Palpatine’s creature. And that’s all true. But I also think that if Palpatine did kill Padme Amidala, it was because she was capable of not only taking Anakin from him, but the entire Senate…and with that Senate, the galaxy itself. The Jedi and the Sith chose Anakin as their enemy, but Sheev Palpatine, ever the politician on the rise, chose a woman whose voice rang with truth that could be heard in every corner of the galaxy. He chose the woman whose cries of Wake up, would have stolen an army from him. He chose Padme Amidala, and this scene shows us exactly why.

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“My noble colleagues, less than an hour ago, an assassination attempt was made on my life. One of my bodyguards, and six others, were ruthlessly and senselessly murdered. I was the target. But more importantly, the security measure before you was the target. I have led the opposition to building this army, and someone will stop at nothing to assure its passage!” — Senator Padme Amidala

Top 11 Revelations From Queen’s Shadow!!!

Hello again my fellow Star Wars fans, I’m back again for Part Two of my Queen’s Shadow review! Now Monday’s post was my overall “review” of the new SW novel Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, but today we’re breaking the story down a little more and delving into the actual details of the plot, so head’s up right now: SPOILERS ARE IMMINENT!!! So, if you don’t want to know anything that happens, or you want to read the book for yourself first then I suggest saving this post for later because I’ve got a lot to say about the details in this fantastic book!


Still with me? Good. Now I originally got this idea from a similar YouTube video that CT from Who Talks First (aka The Knights of Rant) did on her channel when Bloodline by Claudia Gray was released. I wasn’t sure it was a book I was going to read, I didn’t really like the cover or anything but once her video went up, I realized just how awesome the story sounded and it ended up being one of my most favorite SW reads ever. So, I figured I’d do something similar with the hopes that maybe this list will inspire someone else to give Queen’s Shadow a chance and maybe discover an epic new entry in the Star Wars fandom!

So, in no particular order as to importance, here’s my list of the Top 11 Revelations we learn from Queen’s Shadow:

1 – The occupation of Naboo in The Phantom Menace was A LOT more violent than we originally thought. Maybe this was just me and the fact that I first saw the movie when I was nine, but we never really saw too much of what was happening on Naboo before or after Padme left to find help, so I just assumed there wasn’t that much violence going on. How naïve, I was, let me tell you. I know they get that holo-message urging Amidala to come home because the “death toll is catastrophic” but I always assumed that was a ploy to get her to either come home and be captured or to send a message back and have the message traced to find out where she was. It never occurred to me, and we never really saw anything that made me think that the death toll was actually climbing, but in Queen’s Shadow we learn just how badly treated the people of Naboo actually were. The invasion of the droid army of The Trade Federation was devastating, and its impacts are still being felt 4/5 years later when the book takes place.

2 – Padme’s handmaidens were physically tortured during the invasion. This took me totally by surprise because I thought all of Amidala’s handmaidens were with her when she left the plaent to seek help from the Senate but apparently some of them had to stay behind. Sache, the youngest of the Queen’s handmaidens, was brutally tortured for information as to Amidala’s whereabouts. This brave young girl (who I think was twelve at the time) still bears the scars of their attacks all over her body, but despite their best efforts, Sache never broke. She kept her Queen’s secrets and saved countless lives, allowing Amidala’s spies to remain undiscovered by keeping the Federation’s attention squarely on herself.

3 – Qui-Gon Jinn is considered a hero and is honored by the people of Naboo. Considering Qui-Gon is my absolute favorite Jedi (which I know I’ve mentioned again and again) it was just nice to have his sacrifice be remembered and honored after the events of TPM. The way Padme describes her memories of Qui-Gon, her profound gratitude and respect, it just reinforces how much I adore this epic character and it makes me feel good to know that even after he was gone, his memory lived on with the thanks of an entire planet.

4 – The truth about Quarsh Panaka. I don’t know about you guys, but I really liked Captain Panaka in the first film, he was just so dedicated to Amidala and Naboo and was ready and willing to risk his life to help her help their planet. So I was always a little thrown that in AOTC we’re given a new character, Typho – who I also really liked – without any mention of our beloved captain. I assumed that he stayed with the new queen, that his role was specific to just guarding the Queens of Naboo, but then in Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan, we see Panaka again but in a new light. In POA he’s a shiftier character, a wealthy/possibly corrupt overseer of Naboo and its moons, and he comes face to face with not only Leia, but the currant Queen and he is totally and tonally different. We discover that he is now working for the Emperor in some compacity and I was left flabbergasted at how we got from TPM Panaka to this dubious person who has no respect for the royalty he once guarded so fiercely. Queen’s Shadow shed a little light on the situation. His break from the royal house began during Padme’s reign, when after the invasion, he wanted a more militant approach to planetary defenses, but considering Naboo is a pacifist planet, this militarization was denied, and he and Padme’s relationship was irrevocably broken. It broke my heart to see them so uncomfortable with each other, but at least we now have an explanation as to how Panaka could end up being a man who would knowingly give Leia over to the Emperor once he figured out who she really was!

5 – Padme searched for Shmi Skywalker! This was one of the first times I really freaked out when reading Queen’s Shadow, and OMG I just love Padme even more even though I don’t think that’s possible! It always irked me that after the dust settled, no one thought to go back for Shmi, like I know Ani couldn’t because of the Jedi rules, but how hard would it have been for the Council to go back and free her, just to bring peace of mind to the one they’re calling their Chosen. But here we have Padme immediately sending people out to scour Tattooine for her (once her time as Queen officially ended and she could mettle in another planet’s affairs) and not only that, she wants to help all slaves! It didn’t even matter that she never found her, just the fact that Padme tried – the moment she was free to act for herself, she sent help. That means something. It means everything. And it reinforces the kind of character she really is.

6 – Padme doesn’t like the Jedi! I swear it’s like this book was written just for me! Padme mentions several times throughout the novel that although she like Qui-Gon, she doesn’t really feel comfortable with the rest of the Jedi as a whole. They make her feel uncomfortable and uneasy, as though they look through her and not at her (rough paraphrasing here). And considering that Padme is a moral guide throughout the prequel trilogy, I think it speaks volumes that she is one of the few heroes we see that doesn’t particularly like the Jedi Order!

7 – Padme’s entire wardrobe is weaponized/defensive! That’s right, we all know Padme has the wardrobe of a goddess, but apparently, it’s not all for show! Every piece of clothing, jewelry, and makeup –down to her shoes! – is an element of keeping her safe. Her clothes have all sorts of protections built into them and even her makeup is used to help hide her true face and make it easier for one of her handmaidens to take her place when they need to! For anyone who says that fashion has no place in Star Wars, I say read this book and think again!

8 – Bail Organa and Padme originally don’t get along! This one completely sideswiped me, I love Bail Organa and I was so waiting to see him and Padme become besties in the Senate, but damn, they sure didn’t start off that way. Not only is Bail dismissive and borderline rude, but Padme actually describes getting really angry with his attitude and I was like wait no, you have to love each other as friends forever and always…HE’S LEIA’S ADOPTED DAD, DAGNABIT!!! Thankfully we do see their relationship take a sharp turn towards the positive as the story continues and Padme even visits Bail and Breha on Alderaan, but those first few meetings left me biting my nails!

9 – There are more than one set of Handmaidens! It never occurred to me that the handmaidens we see in the first two films aren’t the same women guarding Padme Amidala, but damn if there weren’t two sets of these epic women in Queen’s Shadow. The Originals consists of Sabe, Eirtae, Rabe, Yane, and Sache, while the handmaidens that follow Padme to the Senate are Sabe (always), Dorme, Corde, and Verse. These women are so unbelievably loyal, brave, and powerful, and they utterly deserve the world! I want so much more information from these women, what are their stories, what truths do they know?!!!

10 – The Vote of No Confidence had unforeseen consequences! We all know that this epic vote led to the rise of Palpatine’s political career, bringing him a step closer to being “the Emperor” of the original trilogy, but what we didn’t know was how this affected Padme’s time in the Senate. What we see as the ultimate badass move on Padme’s part in TPM, actually leads to her being ostracized to an extent by her fellow senators. Because she flouted the rules and procedures of the Senate itself to save her own planet, the other members don’t trust her, and this is the first time we really see Padme struggle with not being accepted. She has to decide with is more important: her planet or the Republic and everything the Senate stands for. And that’s so much easier said than done. How can you defend something in the Senate that goes against your own planet’s best interests for the sake of the galaxy at large? How do you walk that murky ground of helping individuals and helping the masses?

11 – And finally, there is something truly suspicious about Padme’s death! Now I know personally, I always thought it was crazy that Padme just flat-out died in ROTS the way she did – like I’m sorry but that doesn’t make any sense. She was a dedicated fighter, even brokenhearted, she would have fought on even if only for her children. It almost seemed like Lucas just didn’t plan this part out well, as if she had served her purpose but she wasn’t seen in the originals so oh well, she has to go, but I like to think that such an elegant crafter of stories does better than that. There had to be something else going on and I’ve/we’ve just missed it. And I’ve heard countless theories as to what possibly happened and why Padme really died, but as none of them came from Lucasfilm, I wasn’t taking anything for sure. But the end of Queen’s Shadow definitely reinforced the belief that something wasn’t right about Padme’s death. This entire book we’ve seen just how much of a fighter she was, how she never quit, and yet suddenly she just gives up and dies of sadness? I don’t think so, and neither does Sabe. She speaks the words we’ve all been thinking for so many years: “She wouldn’t just die.” Sabe loves Padme more than anything in the galaxy and when the book ends, it’s with her setting off to find the truth, and with a new undisclosed identity waiting…

And there you have it my fellow Star Wars fans, my list of Top 11 Revelations from Queen’s Shadow! Did any of these spark anything for you? Do you plan on reading the book or have you read it already? Are there any revelations you gleaned from the story that I maybe missed? Make sure to let me know in the comments and remember: We are brave, your highness.

 

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Star Wars Book Review: Queen’s Shadow

Hello again my fellow Star Wars fans, I finally finished the new SW book: Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston let me tell you…it was one helluva emotional roller-coaster. Seriously, I’m not going to lie…I cried. Like a lot. It’s probably sad how emotional I got, but I’m a crier and I’ve come to terms with that. Anyway, I told y’all a few posts ago that I’d write more of a review once I actually finished the book and that time has come at last! That being said…MAJOR SPOILERS ARE AHEAD – so if you don’t want to know anything about the book or are planning to read it yourself, maybe save this post for later because I have some serious tea to spill and I’m not great at keeping secrets!

First and foremost, let me just say: Thank the Maker and E.K. Johnston! As a prequel and Padme fan, this book is one I’ve been waiting for since I first saw Padme onscreen when I was nine years old! We get so little of our favorite Queen/Senator in the fandom (in official avenues or otherwise) so I was totally ready for this book, especially since I heard about it almost a year ago and have been frantically patiently waiting for it ever since. Not only does it have one of the most stunning covers I’ve ever seen, but damn if Ms. Johnston didn’t capture Padme’s voice perfectly! I literally had chills the entire first chapter!

Coming back to this time and place and people that I left behind so many years ago and knowing what was coming ahead for them but not how they were going to get there was insane. It was like watching Ani fall to the darkside for the first time all over again: here was Padme just living her life and it was almost as if we could reach out and touch her, warn her of the terrors and dangers ahead. A beautiful window was suddenly open to a time before death and darkness had settled over the galaxy, and maybe, just maybe we could make a difference. Alter fate. But no, no matter how much we want to save our beloved Padme, we’re left helpless, our words of warning remain unheard and we know, once the book is finished, Padme will still die. But still, for the first time we have her perspective, her voice, her words. Padme is telling the story for once, and not the story we already know, but one in that time in-between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, a time of trial and change where she is becoming the powerhouse political advocate we know her to be. This Padme is preparing to give up her Queendom and life on Naboo to take on her next great challenge: the galactic Senate.

But it’s not just Padme that we share this adventure with, it’s her handmaidens – those brave shadowy women that guard Amidala and put themselves in danger so that she may survive. Make no mistake about it, these women are ready to die for their Queen/Senator/Friend, and some of them actually do. To be a handmaiden is to stare into the face of death and say: take me.

Considering there are so few female characters in Star Wars, I have always been fascinated by these mysterious, brave women… I mean who are they? What are their stories? What are their truths? What have they seen and what secrets do they keep? Until now we’ve never known, but this book delves right into the heart of the handmaidens and their relationship with Padme and the outside world. Their voices and scenes with Padme are my absolute favorite part of Queen’s Shadow, they just radiate power and capability. These young women are badass, even if no-one else around them knows it – and when it comes down to it, that’s precisely how they’d prefer it!

It’s upsetting that the films never explored the lives of the handmaidens before, but in fairness, there was a much larger story to tell and only so much time to tell it. That’s why books like Queen’s Shadow are so important, they fill in the blanks for so many awesome characters and content that the films just don’t have space to. I truly hope that in the wake of upcoming shows like The Mandalorian, we get a live-action series about these fierce women who gave their lives and identities to their Queen and their planet. We are brave Your Highness.

Over all this book was everything I wanted it to be. It was empowering and emotional and I could hear Padme speaking through it. There wasn’t any huge flip-twist-surprise at the end like some other SW novels and I was completely ok with that. This reads as more of a character study than an action novel, we’re finally given time to understand how Padme thinks and feels and reacts on her own and in her own words. I would have been okay with more drama, but even without it, this story was superb! We don’t often get to see Padme outside of her relationship with Anakin or any of the other male leads, so with Queen’s Shadow she is finally given a chance to shine on her own, to dominate. And my God was she and her handmaidens fierce as hell.

**Stay tuned for the second part of this review where I breakdown the Top 5 revelations from Queen’s Shadow and their impact on the Star Wars legacy!

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Delving Into Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow

Hello my fellow Star Wars fans, I know I usually have the third post of the week up by Saturday afternoon but I’m going to be honest with you… I got the new Star Wars book: Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston and I am HOOKED! Seriously, first page in, I cried. Third page in, I cried again. There’s just so many feels!!!

The story follows Padme and her handmaidens after the events of The Phantom Menace as she leaves behind the mantle and responsibility of Queenship of Naboo and begins her new life as a galactic Senator in the bright media-laden spotlight of faraway Coruscant. Now I’m only halfway through so far, so I don’t know where exactly it ends but judging by the cover I’d say somewhere near Attack of the Clones so that’s pretty darn perfect for my monthly movie timeline!

I’ll definitely have more to say regarding the events and revelations of this book and how it impacts the story we know and the story we only think we know once I finish reading, but I’ll also definitely have my regularly scheduled third post up tomorrow! Between the book and the annual Celtic festival I go to every year, it’s been an wonderfully eventful few days and I am straight up exhausted 😂 Love you guys and thank you for your patience and I’ll see you again tomorrow!

P.S. Have you read Queen’s Shadow yet? WITHOUT SPOILERS…how are you liking it? Let me know in the comments!!!

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The Phantom Menace: A Mother’s Love and Legacy

One of the great tragedies of the Star Wars saga is that it is so epic and sprawling and continuously moving forward that sometimes great characters or ideas are lost in the unceasing momentum. True, this is occasionally rectified by tie-in novels, comics, or other mediums, but other times the audience is left with simply no other information or background but what their own imaginations can create. This is especially true for the Mother of the Skywalker line: Shmi Skywalker. Who is this amazing woman, what was her story? What was her life like before Anakin? Did she have any inkling of how his future would turn out? Would she have changed anything if she did? We simply just don’t know. But what we do know about this powerhouse of a woman is that she was kind, gracious, brave, and that she taught Anakin to be the best version of himself while he was in her care.


Shmi’s backstory is one I’ve wanted to hear since she arrived onscreen for the first time back in 1999. I mean, the mother of Darth Vader…it doesn’t get much more compelling than that. I still have hope that sometime in the future the full story of her life might come to light in one form or another, but just because she isn’t onscreen or visibly present for much of the saga doesn’t mean that she doesn’t play a key role in the entire future of her family line and the galaxy at large. Shmi’s interactions with both Padme and Anakin fundamentally change them and sets them on a path that brings fulfillment to not only their fated-destinies, but to their personal lives as well. Although she was just a slave on a backwater gangster-ridden desert planet, Shmi Skywalker’s influence is felt in every corner of the galaxy and continues to be present even in the time of the sequel trilogy.

“There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.” — Shmi Skywalker

As I’ve noted before, from what we can see, Shmi is given a life most would have cracked beneath. A female slave who bore a fatherless child into a world where they’re bought and sold, won and lost on the whims of villains and cutthroats… she very easily (and understandably) could have been portrayed as bitter and vindictive. A harsh presence that we as the audience would have wanted Ani taken away from and who would have made most of us go: yep, that’s why he turned out so bad. But that’s not what we’re given at all. Instead we’re presented with a strong, kind, and incredibly warm mother who only wants the best for her son and for the galaxy at large. Instead of letting the darkness in her life hold sway, she seeks out the light, seeks out the hope and the kindness and the best in people and that’s what she instills in her son. She teaches him that although the galaxy is harsh, people are still worth helping and that it is their duty to reach out a hand to their fellow people.

That is one reason why The Phantom Menace is such an integral part of the Star Wars saga, it the only time we get to see what Anakin is like without Jedi-interference. Yes, he meets Qui-Gon and sets his feet on the path the Force has designed for him, but we also see that he is just a little boy who loves his mother and who genuinely and unselfishly wants to help people because that’s the type of person he was raised to be. This Anakin is the one most people forget about, the one that was told he wasn’t good enough by a council of grown-ass men because he understood his own emotions and wasn’t afraid to admit to his fear. This is the Anakin that Shmi raised, that she instilled her core beliefs in, and it is this Anakin that we mourn we he finally loses himself to Darth Vader. Without seeing Shmi’s Anakin, Shmi’s son, Vader is just a villain without a greater purpose. It is Shmi and her influence that ultimately humanizes the man we all thought to be the greatest monster in the galaxy. And it is the callous disregarding of her influence that shows us who the actual villains really are.

Even in the face of crushing sorrow, Shmi displays nothing but quiet strength and unending love, teaching Anakin to do the same. When Qui-Gon presents him with a seemingly better life without her, she doesn’t falter, doesn’t give into jealousy or act selfishly. She lets her son go and gives him the courage to leave her without looking back. And because of her example and her belief in him, Anakin can let go. It is only later, when the Jedi have instructed him to forfeit the teachings of his mother and suppress his feelings, that Anakin panics and latches on to the things he fears to lose. Even later, after facing abduction, torture, pain, and absolute primal fear, Shmi leaves the world – and Anakin – with words and expressions of love. She doesn’t rail against fate, or demand retribution or vengeance, she shows absolute joy and tells her son (with a mother’s affection) that he’s grown…and that she loves him. She leaves Anakin with one last example of how to face the greatest darkness in the world, and although it takes longer for this lesson to come to visual fruition, Anakin ultimately does the same for his son.

“Will I ever see you again?” — Anakin Skywalker
“What does your heart tell you?” — Shmi Skywalker
“I hope so. Yes… I guess.” –Anakin
“Then we will see each other again.” — Shmi
. . .
“Now, be brave, and don’t look back. Don’t look back.” — Shmi

Likewise, her influence on Padme is equally notable and equally long-lasting. Before arriving on Tattooine, Padme Amidala was a Queen in title, but as a person she was uncertain about her voice and how to use the great responsibility and power she had been given. Although intelligent and eager, she is untested and doesn’t know how to harness her power. In the larger scope of things, she is incredibly unknowledgeable about the actual lives and conditions of people outside her own world. She has no concept that the Senate might be powerless in certain places and doesn’t realize that the horrors and atrocities she thinks are things of the past in her privileged world, are alive and rampant on others.

“The Republic doesn’t exist out here. We must survive on our own.” — Shmi Skywalker

It is only after she meets Shmi and Anakin and experiences – even if for only a short time – the desolate, seemingly impossible, and hopeless nature of their lives, that she starts to truly assert herself. She finds her voice and uses it to win back her planet’s freedom and unite its broken populace. She goes on in the next two films to become one of the loudest voices in the Senate, demanding change and is even targeted with death-threats because she refuses to back down and remain unheard. Shmi gave Padme an honest view into a life she never could have known on her own world, and Padme spends the rest of her life being a voice for people like Shmi who otherwise wouldn’t have one to be heard.

Shmi’s example of kindness and resilience echo on through the galaxy through her son and his wife and later by their children. And as we saw in the closing moments of The Last Jedi, Luke and Leia have far-reaching influences of their own, and that influence of hope and kindness just further spreads their grandmother’s teaching across the vastness of space. From across the galaxy, spanning time and death itself, one slave’s influence and light reaches another slave and brings with it hope.

That is Shmi’s legacy. That is her gift to the galaxy and to the Star Wars saga itself: the knowledge that that even in darkness, there is light — even in hate, there is love. You decide how you see the world, you can choose to be a victim or to be a light for others in the darkness.

 

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The Phantom Menace: A Queen’s Victory

Obi-Wan Kenobi may have overcome the epic new darksider Darth Maul in the finale of The Phantom Menace with one of the most powerful songs in the history of film playing in the background, but I think it’s safe to say that the true victory of the first installment of the Star Wars saga is unequivocally Padme Amidala’s. With her unerring bravery, compassion, intellect, determination, and lack of self-sabotaging ego, Padme goes from a young Queen under attack to a bold ruler who negotiates and fights both on and off the battlefield to secure the safety of both herself and her world’s peoples. Even with the accompaniment of two of the order’s most capable Jedi sent to assist her, it is Padme who ultimately formulates the plan to end the Trade Federation’s unlawful occupation of Naboo and while doing so, mend the tattered relations with the other Sentient race of Naboo, the Gungans.

In a series that is so dominated by masculine heroes and ideals, I think it’s incredibly impactful and telling that the prequels begin the origin of the Skywalker saga with the victory of a woman, a Queen. I have no issue with Luke as the main hero in the originals, he’s the one I’ve rooted for my whole life, the man I emulated and hoped to be like. Leia was strong and fierce and amazing, but she is sometimes overshadowed by her twin brother and even that rascal who won her heart: Han Solo. The victories, even the typically more feminine emotional ones, were mostly male accomplishments. So when the first great battle of the new trilogy was won by a girl about my age, let me tell you, it made me feel so powerful, so capable of anything.

“I will sign no treaty Senator. My fate will be no different to that of our people.” — Queen Amidala

And what made it even more impactful was witnessing Padme’s frailty, her fear and hesitation, because not only did it humanize her, but it made her so much more real. Leia was ALWAYS the baddest b*tch in the galaxy and she knew it, but it was nice and important to see the perceived weakness grow into the strength that saves the day.

Over the course of the film, we are visually bombarded with similar scenes of Padme trying to stand her ground and make life or death decisions while her councilmen, pilots, head of security, Jedi ambassadors, senators, and even the lackluster Supreme Chancellor all vie to make their opinion her decision.

Even after being whisked away by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Padme is lost and noticeably alone amongst her troupe of male saviors, but she doesn’t let that fear keep her from acting. (Yes, she has her handmaidens by her side some of the way – and yes, they are hella epic – but onscreen we don’t get too much of them.) She refuses to be left behind while Qui-Gon scouts Mos Espa for supplies to fix their ship, and it is her determination to see the world for herself and her curiosity of life outside of her own limited view that leads her to understand the issues of the galaxy at large – which later impacts her decision to remain in the political arena once her term as Queen has ended. She meets with people who have no voice, people who have no choice in their own lives… it’s not surprising that afterward she becomes one of the loudest voices in the room.

“I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!” — Queen Amidala

It’s here that Padme meets the only other impactful woman in The Phantom Menace: Shmi Skywalker. Shmi is a slave and an only mother raising an extremely gifted young son on a planet where she is considered cattle to be bought and sold, won and lost to the highest bidder. She easily could have been portrayed as bitter, a spiteful shrew how hates the galaxy for doing her wrong, but instead we’re given a powerful, peaceful woman who sees the evils thrown her way and stands tall with pride and compassion. I have more to say about Shmi, but that’s for another post…suffice it to say, we see a noticeable difference in Padme after she encounters the Mother of the Skywalker line.

“The Republic doesn’t exist out here. We must survive on our own.” — Shmi Skywalker

The Padme that emerges from Tattooine is more grounded, surer of herself and the actions she must take. She still doesn’t know how to right the wrongs of the Trade Federation, but now she sees the plight of others outside of herself and her people…which in time leads her to Jar-Jar and the hidden strength of the Gungan army. Padme’s decision to appeal to the Gungans showcases the greatest lesson she’s learned since leaving her home-planet: that great evil can be conquered not only by force, but by intelligence and compassion. It is her humility and lack of ego, something she learned to put aside on Tattooine, that convinces the Gungans to help her, and it is only with their combined efforts that they free their planet.

“I ask you to help us… no, I beg you to help us.” — Queen Amidala

This is Padme’s greatest victory: a battle for justice and peace hard-won by brute force and intellect, her compassion for life as well as her passion for her planet, her selflessness as a woman, and her power as a Queen. A true middle-ground, a shade of gray, placed here in the first movie as an example of what can come of later is others follow in her footsteps. I can only hope to see her legacy live on in her grandson, another leader who has the greatest lesson to learn and everything that matters to either win…or lose.

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The Phantom Menace: The Reign Of A Queen


“I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.”  — Queen Amidala

I remember being in awe of Padme Amidala the moment she appeared onscreen in The Phantom Menace. She was — for lack of a better word — just epic.

Like everyone else in the packed theater, I didn’t know she was actually Leia’s mom, but between her unforgettable fashion and her unwavering bravery, I knew I had found a new Star Wars woman to look up to and I was captivated.  She was only a few years older than me (back in 1999) yet she seemed so much older and wiser than my lackluster nine-year old self. Padme was fearless, steady, intelligent, and elegant — pretty much everything I ever wanted to be. When she first appeared onscreen before the Trade Federation she was unflinching and unbreakable; she refused to accept defeat, and instead held her head high as she fought against the illegal invasion of her home-world. Simply put: she was a badass. I mean it’s no wonder Leia was such a spitfire princess and rebellion-leader!

Even on Naboo amongst her own council Padme stands stalwart and alone amidst a sea of men, each telling her what he thinks she should do, vying for her attention, and forcefully declaring their opinion to be the only valid one. Visually, it’s a powerful scene and as a woman it’s even more so because it would have been so easy to have her listen to one of them, to have her admit defeat, and then wait to be rescued by the heroic Jedi knights. But instead we see her hold her ground, frightened and alone as she is, she stands up for her own point of view — expressing herself elegantly but forcefully. And most importantly, we see this determined young Queen actively decide her own fate.

It is Padme’s choice to leave Naboo and appeal for help abroad, it is her choice to follow Qui-Gon into the desert-swept town of Mos Espa, and then to step before the galactic Senate and speak the truth that no one else wanted to hear. And when no help was offered from said Senate, it was Padme’s choice to humble herself before the other occupants of Naboo and ask for their assistance securing the planet. Every step of the way, for good or for ill, Padme is an active participant in her life, she doesn’t shirk decision-making or side-step taking the first step. She evaluates situations as they arise and she alters her course to ensure that her people and her planet are cared-for to the best of her abilities. She is no figurehead Queen. Padme is a battle-tested monarch, a woman born to rule and brave enough to do it.

With a blaster in hand and a razor-sharp intellect, Padme Amidala is one hell of a role-model for the prequel-era generation – or any generation at that. She makes mistakes like everyone else around her, she wrestles with fear and sorrow, and struggles to beat back political oppression and manipulation but through everything thrown her way, she never stops believing in herself or the power that inherently resides within her. She even stands up to my favorite Jedi: Qui-Gon Jinn when she believes his judgement to be skewed. and if that’s not self-assurance and bravery I don’t know what is. She is a woman I proudly modeled myself after then and now, and when I think of the prequel trilogy it is her iconic lines that run through my head, her wisdom that shapes the way I see the story. Her life may have been unexpectedly short, but it’s impact stretched to the far reaches of the galaxy and her strength, determination, and bravery were nevermore present than here, right from the beginning in The Phantom Menace.

 

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