Fans hold novels set in their favorite universes to a different standard than they would original works. At least, I assume they do, because if they don’t, people’s standards for quality fiction are even lower than I thought.
What I mean is, what passes for an “I’ll totally read this” book when it’s got “Star Wars” on the front and Star Wars characters and locations inside can get away with shoddier plotting, weaker dialog, and less polished prose. For me, at any rate.
If Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Bloodline hadn’t been Star Wars, I likely wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place, and I surely wouldn’t have finished it.
Not to say it’s bad. It isn’t. It’s just okay. But there are so many really great books out there I haven’t read that “just okay” isn’t enough place it above other titles in the reading pile. Except, again, that it’s Star Wars and covers events I want to know about, and has characters I want to spend more time with. So it gets a bit of a thumb on the scale.
Still, it could’ve been more. Alexander Freed’s Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company, the best book in the new canon, and by a country mile, managed the kind of nuanced and grown-up prose and characterization that makes Bloodline read like the work of a precocious high schooler.
Bloodline tells Leia’s story, as she slouches through a dull political career suddenly made livelier by uncovered secrets, unexpected betrayal, and a fall from grace. But the whole thing has a typically juvenile feel, like this is how an unworldly teenager thinks politics works or spying missions play out or adults talk to each other. There’s a lack of psychological plausibility, a lack of realistic emotional expression, and a lack of meaningful danger. And it’s all packaged in workmanlike prose that dulls the edge of whatever minor edge there may be.
Gray’s other Star Wars novel, Lost Stars, showed many of the same problems—though it was a good deal better than Bloodline. But that was intentionally pitched as a young adult book. Bloodline has the larger trim size and smaller type of a grown-up novel, yet it’s equally YA.
So, while not terrible, and certainly never outright boring, Bloodline gives little reason to actually read it, outside of that big Star Wars logo on the front. Which, I admit, for me, is reason enough.