Author E.K. Johnston has been a fan of Padmé Amidala since she was 15 years old, watching the prequels and falling in love with the character and her story. “I still kind of want to be her when I grow up,” Johnston quips.
With the third book in her Amidala trilogy, a sequel to Queen’s Shadow, in Star Wars: Queen’s Hope Johnston will explore Padmé at her happiest, at the beginning of her marriage to Anakin Skywalker. “It was SO NICE to write them when they’re happy,” Johnston tells StarWars.com. “Obviously, the spectre of death hangs over their entire relationship, and it turns toxic because they never talk about their feelings, but these early days are light and optimistic, and I deeply enjoyed ushering them through it. Also there’s a thing at the end. That I like. A lot.”
Beyond the love story, the book gave Johnston a chance to explore the character in a new light. “I think the main difference between Queen’s Hope and the other two books in the trilogy is that Padmé is, in the end, a small part of a big galaxy,” Johnston says. “Before, she was central to the conflict and could play a direct role in fixing the problems. Now, she’s part of a system — an important part — that’s under a LOT of stress. She’s not going to be able to fix everything, though she is certainly not going to stop trying. It’s her best and worst quality. We know it’s going to get her killed, but she is never, ever going to give up on the people she loves and the causes she believes in.
“I hope that readers will come away from the book with new memories of Padmé’s strength and will to fight, even if it’s not in conventional ways,” Johnston continues. “I hope they will remember how she always got back up and tried again. And I hope they really like that part with Typho and the [redacted], because I want fan art.”
In an exclusive first look inside the pages of Queen’s Hope, we find Padmé swimming at the lake and Anakin paying his respects at the shrine to Qui-Gon Jinn as the two lovers prepare for their secret sunset ceremony as seen in the final moments of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones…
The sun had risen but not yet cleared the mountains when Padmé dove into the lake. It was her favorite time to go swimming, that moment when there was enough light to see by before the day had truly begun. The water was clear and cold, like always. The lake was fed by mountain streams, and the Naboo took care not to pollute it with agricultural runoff. Before the heat of the day warmed the waters, swimming was an abrupt wake-up. Padmé wanted a clear head.
It wasn’t that she felt muddled or unsure of what she was doing. If anything, her conversation with Yané the night before and the meditative hours spent sewing had made her more certain. What troubled her was that she had always thought of herself as a straightforward and honest person. Yes, she kept secrets, but they were for the sake of her planet, her people. And there were always some who knew the whole story. Now her truths were split, divided amongst those she cared about, and none of them had the whole picture. Only she did, alone and at the center of her own life.
She liked it. Even though she ached for her friends and missed her parents and sister, she loved the solitude of this moment, of knowing her decision was hers alone. It was contradictory, something else she’d never been, but she was growing up, and that was bound to change her.
For so long, her life had revolved around other people’s perception of her. What she should do and how she should dress. How her decisions would affect masses of people she had never met. It was a tremendous burden, and she’d carried it since she was a child. She hadn’t minded—at times she had reveled in the responsibility—but with the freedom of being unknown in front of her, she felt a surge of excitement. Anakin was going to be hers, and she was going to be his, and almost no one in the whole galaxy would share that with them.
Padmé dove down as deep as she could, staying under the water where it was quiet for as long as possible. When her lungs burned for air, she kicked up, breaking the surface with a cascade of water droplets glinting in the morning sun. Everything was perfect. The lake, the house, her spirit. She had built so many things in her life—houses and hospitals, alliances and accords—and now she’d have something that was just for her. Well, just for her and Anakin. They would be something new. And even though they would keep it to themselves, Padmé knew that their love would shine brightly.
The day was starting. She would have to go back to real life eventually. But the lake reminded her, as it always did, of the peace and quiet of home and the promise of places no one else could reach. She kicked toward the pier, refreshed and ready to face the day.
Anakin Skywalker was not entirely ready for this. Which, he realized, was not a surprise. His training had focused entirely on selflessness and detachment. That might be enough for most Jedi, but it was not enough for him.
Truth be told, Anakin had decided to marry Padmé in the kitchen at his stepfather’s house. He watched the way Owen and Beru moved around as they prepared lunch, handing each other things before they were asked and laughing when they bumped into each other. It was a connection that had nothing to do with the Force, and Anakin wanted it. His mother must have had something like that with Cliegg, too. It was clear from the way they all spoke of Shmi that she hadn’t been an afterthought in the Lars family. She had been the center. And he hadn’t been part of it at all.
That wasn’t true. They had known who he was the moment they saw him and had immediately taken him into their house. She must have spoken about him frequently and made it clear that if he ever came to visit, he was to be included. And they did include him. Like it was nothing. Like he was family. The Jedi had never given him that. And now he could build his own family.
There was a shrine to Qui-Gon Jinn’s memory on Naboo. Ten years had passed, but it was still a popular pilgrimage site. It wasn’t the right time of year for memorials, so when Anakin commandeered the house speeder and went out to see it that morning, it was mostly deserted.
Anakin took a seat in the middle of the stone floor and rested his hands on his knees. The metal hand was some-thing he was still adapting to—a protuberance, not yet a true prosthetic. Medically, everything was fine, and from an engineering standpoint, the hand was perfect. Anakin could feel the difference, though, more than the strange sensations that sometimes emanated from knuckles and joints that were no longer there. He already had a list of modifications he was going to make when he got back to the workroom at the Temple. The hand was his, and he was going to make sure it was exactly what he wanted.
He shrugged off his worldly concerns and reached out with the Force. He’d heard Qui-Gon’s voice in the desert, begging him to listen to his better nature, not to give in to his hatred. He hadn’t listened. At the time, he’d told himself he was imagining it, but he knew he was lying. If Qui-Gon was out there, somehow, Anakin owed him an apology. And he would always appreciate the Master’s advice.
But he found nothing. Anakin looked deeper. There was so much fighting in his future, but it was all for the good of the Republic, for order. Maybe that was what Qui-Gon wanted him to see. There was always a way for him to make it right.
He felt centered. At peace. Yes, there was a war, and no, he didn’t know that much about being married, but he could see the path forward, and he wouldn’t have to walk it alone. Looking down at his Jedi robes, he wondered for the first time if he ought to have asked C-3PO to find him a nicer outfit to get married in. He was sure Padmé would have something. Amazing dresses seemed to just happen on Naboo. But no: he was a Jedi getting married. He would at least be true to himself about that. There were enough secrets in his future. He would be married how he wanted to be.
“Thank you, Master,” Anakin said, though he didn’t know if Qui-Gon had been responsible for anything he’d just seen and felt.
As he prepared to head back to the lake house, his thoughts turned toward Padmé again. He liked it when she was happy, and she had seemed so happy since they arrived back on Naboo. It was a side of her he had never seen before: carefree and casual. Even when they’d come to the lake house before, she had clung to formality like a shield. Now she was entirely relaxed, and they could be absorbed in each other in a way that wouldn’t be possible anyplace else.
Anakin strode out of the shrine, a man on a mission. It was his wedding day, and everything was going to be perfect.
Padmé was in no great hurry to do anything, so she stayed in her comfortable robe while her hair dried in the early morning sun. There were several comfortable seats on the lanai for just that purpose, and she was happy to take advantage of them. She did have a list of things to do, but she had plenty of time. As she watched the sun grow brighter on the surface of the lake, she heard the low hum of an approaching craft. Anakin had taken the speeder that morning, so she didn’t give it much thought until the craft came into view.
Even at a distance, Padmé could recognize a royal Naboo vessel. This one was for small traveling groups, something the Queen might use for a quick escape from the city or to send members of her circle on an official mission. It could only be headed for the lake house, Padmé knew. There were no other houses in the area where the skiff could dock. She secured her robe and coiled her damp hair into a low knot at the back of her head before making her way down to the pier.
Queen Jamillia disembarked alone, leaving her guards and handmaidens behind so she could talk to Padmé privately. She was dressed in heavy, dark red velvet, but her face was bare, and she didn’t have an elaborate headpiece over her hair. Whatever the subject of her visit, it wasn’t precisely formal.
“Your Majesty,” Padmé said, inclining her head. “To what do I owe the honor?”
“Senator,” Jamillia said, “I apologize for intruding on you while you’re healing. You are well?”
“Still a bit sore,” Padmé admitted. “But no complaints beyond that. Will you come up to the lanai with me? I haven’t had breakfast yet.”
“I can’t stay that long,” Jamillia said. “I have a favor to ask of you, if you’re willing to listen. It’s a bit sensitive, which is why I would need you to handle it unofficially.”
It never occurred to Padmé to refuse her. She knew Anakin would understand. He, too, served a purpose greater than himself.
“I am happy to do what I can,” Padmé said. “Please, tell me what you need.”
“Several members of the Torada Collective were off-planet when the war broke out,” Jamillia said. “That’s not unusual, of course, but five of them in particular are behind Separatist lines, and their parents would like them retrieved.”
The Torada Collective was an assortment of Naboo artists who didn’t fit in particularly well with their peers. Some wanted more wealth and recognition than they could get from Naboo’s art communities, some had political ideals that weren’t represented in the legislature, and some just wanted to rebel against their families’ wishes. They had a few compounds on the planet where they could live and work in peace, but many chose to travel frequently.
“Are they all together?” Padmé asked.
“Yes,” Jamillia said. “I can send you the coordinates. It’s possible that they aren’t in any danger yet, but I would like to be as prepared as possible. I know you had a Jedi escort back to Naboo, and I can’t send my own security officers to do this. There are Naboo all over the galaxy, and I can’t be seen to favor this group.”
“Of course,” Padmé said. She knew there was something Jamillia wasn’t saying, some reason the Queen was desperate enough to come to Padmé instead of using official channels. But Padmé also knew when to not ask questions. She had been in politics for a long time, and Jamillia was a person she trusted. “I can take a small team and have them back safely in time for dinner.”
It was a bit optimistic, but she and Anakin had planned a sunset ceremony anyway. People’s lives were more important.
“Thank you, Senator,” Jamillia said. “If you’ll excuse me, I must return to the capital.”
“Travel well, Your Majesty,” Padmé said.
“You as well, Senator,” Jamillia replied.
The Queen walked back onto the royal skiff, and it took off immediately. The vessel disappeared in moments, leaving only ripples on the lake’s surface to mark its path. Padmé felt like she had dreamed the whole thing, except that she had a datachip from the Queen, marked priority one, with all the details she was going to need for the journey.
Another hum became audible in the early morning air, and Padmé saw Anakin returning across the lake in his speeder. C-3PO was determined to keep them apart before the ceremony, but there was no way Padmé was going to undertake this mission without Anakin’s help. There were no other guards to take with her, for one thing, and more important, she was thrilled at the idea of working with him again. She watched as he docked the speeder and leapt gracefully onto the pier in front of her.
“What is it?” he asked. “I sensed something unexpected.”
“We have to take a quick trip,” she told him, a smile playing on her lips. His mouth twitched in response. “A bit of heroics, and then back here for the wedding.”
“I’ll break the news to Threepio while you get dressed,” Anakin said.
He offered her his arm, and they walked into the house together.
Queen’s Hope will release on April 5, 2022 and it available for pre-order now.
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