- "It's Padmé. It's the first round of handmaidens. It's Naboo. And a lot of it is giving Quarsh Panaka gray hair. Also, the Trade Federation is probably going to show up and cause problems."
- ―E. K. Johnston
Queen's Peril is a canon young-adult novel written by E. K. Johnston. It is a prequel to the 2019 novel Queen's Shadow, and it is set prior and concurrent to the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. The novel was published on June 2, 2020 by Disney–Lucasfilm Press, alongside an audiobook version.
When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she takes the name Amidala and leaves her family to rule from the Royal Palace in the capital of Theed. At a time of brewing uncertainty for Naboo and the Galactic Republic, she and her security advisor, Captain Panaka, devise a plan for the Queen's safety: the recruitment of multiple handmaidens. These handmaidens will be her aides, confidants, protectors, and even decoys. Each young woman is selected by Panaka for her particular talents, but it is up to Padmé to unite them as a group. Different though they may be, the handmaidens learn to work together in service of the one goal they all share: to protect the Queen at all costs. But when their peaceful world is invaded by the ambitious Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her brave handmaidens will face their greatest test— of themselves and of each other.
On Naboo, an election is held. The results for Queen are as expected, by people as varied as Captain Quarsh Panaka of the Royal Naboo Security Forces and the undiscovered Dark Lord of the Sith Palpatine, in his benevolent alter ego of Senator, not to mention the victor herself and her family: Padmé Amidala succeeds Queen Sanandrassa to take the throne. Panaka, ever professional at his job, has already lined up a handmaiden for Amidala, the youngest Queen in some time: a girl her age named Tsabin, picked due to her skills and strong resemblance to Padmé. It has been some time since any ruler of Naboo used a body double, but Panaka likes to be prepared. Padmé and Tsabin find themselves getting along easily, and decide that there should be more handmaidens so that Padmé potentially going undercover will stand out less. Padmé asks Panaka if he can find some more candidates.
After her coronation, Amidala gets down to business ruling her people. Her biggest concern is the isolationist policies of her predecessor, which she believes leave Naboo at a disadvantage and have alienated the planet from other worlds in the sector. Two weeks after the election, Panaka presents Padmé with four other girls he's recruited to serve as handmaidens: Rabene Tonsort, Eirtama Ballory, Suyan Higin, and Sashah Adova. Brought up to the Queen's rooms to meet each other, the girls share their particular skills, with Rabene in particular having a checkered past as an art forger, which Panaka thinks he can use as leverage against her. With the four new girls and Tsabin agreeing on their roles in Padmé's service, at Rabene's suggestion they all take on new names to match Amidala's given one, for privacy, loyalty and so a disguised Padmé will stand out less: Rabé, Eirtaé, Yané, Saché, and Sabé.
Over the course of months, the Queen and her handmaidens eventually grow closer together and begin to work better as a group, with Panaka's wife and fellow Royal Guard Mariek pointing out to him that he should have expected such camaraderie from bringing together a group of teenage girls. Eventually, Padmé decides to host a summit for all the other worlds in the Chommell sector that are full members of the Galactic Republic, as a way of rebuilding ties to Naboo's neighbors. But Padmé has no way of knowing of the dark plans in motion, hidden via apparently mundane taxation bills that keep popping up in the Galactic Senate. Dark plans masterminded by the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, publicly Naboo's very own Senator, Sheev Palpatine. Qui-Gon Jinn, a Jedi Master Amidala has never met, insists on having his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi go over these bills with him because he suspects something amiss. Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum also wonders to himself about the taxation bill in its many variants that causes the Senate such stress, but he believes that Palpatine is his ally.
And when Padmé makes the decision to host her summit, she naturally informs Senator Palpatine of her plans. This leads him to expedite his own plans, through the Trade Federation whose leaders are terrified of his secret identity even as he uses them as pawns. Only a few worlds send ambassadors to the summit, and Governor Kelma of Karlinus is the only head of state to come herself. Sabé strikes up a flirtation with Harli Jafan, a humanoid girl around her age representing her father and her planet, and eventually gets the idea to go to a concert at the Theed Odeon with Harli; the Queen and the other handmaidens invited, naturally, but they'll have to sneak out. Saché, feeling unwell, stays at the Theed Royal Palace while the others leave, Padmé and Rabé by ascension cable out the library window. At the concert, Harli hands out glitter-lits, but Padmé's breaks and spills glitter all over her hands. Padmé and some of her handmaidens are forced to return quickly after Panaka finds out they've left, thanks to a blood sensor and the cause of Saché's stomachache.
The next morning, Sabé is forced to stand in as the Queen at the summit to conceal Padmé having snuck out at night, as the glitter refuses to wash off easily and she cannot wear gloves to avoid offending the delegates from Kreeling. Posing as her own page, Padmé subsequently runs into Harli in the hall and is mistaken for Sabé, but, not knowing what happened between the two, unintentionally offends her, leading Harli to send Sabé a message telling her she never wants to see her again. When the Queen and her handmaidens are together again later, Padmé apologizes for what happened, but Sabé is not interested in talking about it.
The day the delegates are departing for their homeworlds, Governor Kelma, as the one with the least amount of hyper-lag, is intending to leave last when the orbital sensors pick up something odd, prompting Panaka to request the Karlini pilot to expedite their departure. As Kelma's ship leaves, the Queen and her attendants hear a transmission: "What the hell?" Everyone rushes back to the palace, and Padmé summons her other handmaidens and Governor Sio Bibble to a meeting in the throne room. When everyone is assembled, Panaka is reporting that the planet's orbital sensors were buzzed by an unidentified small craft when the meeting is interrupted by a holographic transmission from Viceroy Nute Gunray of the Trade Federation, who attempts to threaten Amidala into signing a treaty, which she refuses. Once the Neimoidian signs off, Amidala, after confirming that the Queen is the only person on the planet empowered to sign it, asks Bibble to have his people look through it for irregularities, before contacting Palpatine to inform him of the threat. After the call has ended, Panaka reports that the situation is even worse: the Trade Federation has brought a fleet and blockaded the entire planet.
As the first week of the blockade drags on, Padmé spends much time trying to determine how Naboo can defend itself, while also trying to patch up her relationship with Sabé. At the end of that first week, an agricultural transport sent by the Karlini is turned away, leading Amidala to ask how much food the planet has in store; she is informed that most of the first yield was turned into fertilizer since it was weaker. And the public food they have on-planet is enough to support Theed for a month, but all of Naboo for only a week. Amidala orders for rationing to begin, hoping that the Chancellor's ambassadors, due to arrive the next day, will make a difference.
The next day, Padmé dresses regally to meet the ambassadors, waiting in the throne room with her retinue. After a few hours, Padmé sends Gunray a message reminding him about the dignitaries' visit, but the Viceroy seems to her rather too smug, leading her to attempt to contact Palpatine to find out who was sent. However, the transmission is cut off before any real discussion can occur, leading Bibble to declare that invasion must be imminent. Before any real decisions can be made about how to respond, the news comes that the Federation's ships are already landing. As the government officials split up, Padmé leads the way back to her apartments, deciding it's time for the decoy switch. Sabé is willing to swallow her pride and put their current dispute behind them for now, and the girls pull off the switch as fast as they can. While the other handmaidens focus on dressing Sabé, Padmé takes a moment to look over the city before transforming herself into a handmaiden.
From there, events move rapidly. The ambassadors, the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, rescue the Queen's party after sneaking into Theed with Gungan assistance, mainly in the form of the rather overwhelmed outcast Jar Jar Binks. The Queen is separated from some of her handmaidens, with Saché and Yané choosing to stay on-world with Governor Bibble as there is not enough room in the Naboo Royal Starship to take everyone. After the ship escapes, Padmé, in disguise and cleaning carbon scoring off the astromech droid that saved everyone's lives during the escape, wonders if she should make peace with the Gungans. Asked for advice, R2-D2 seems to approve.
On Naboo, Saché, Yané and Bibble are taken to their original destination of Camp Four. The governor doesn't stay, however, being escorted back to the palace by the battle droids. The girls find themselves in a tent with Mariek Panaka, Sergeant Tonra and some other guards, as the camp appears to be for government personnel. Mariek begins to plan, sending people out to scout out the boundaries of the camp and the guard patrols. She assigns the two handmaidens to figure out some sort of secret communication that the droids won't notice. Yané asks for Saché's silk underrobe, concocting a plan using a traditional communications code learned by all Naboo children.
Offworld, the Queen's journey has not gone as planned, as hyperdrive troubles have stranded them on the lawless Outer Rim planet Tatooine. With Qui-Gon planning to go into town in search of a replacement, Padmé contrives to go along, in disguise, although her handmaidens and Panaka are worried. Padmé suspects that the Jedi Master may be close to figuring out the decoy scheme, but doesn't know for certain. She goes anyways.
On Naboo, as the resistance brewing in Camp Four continues its work, Saché is grabbed by droids and threatened in front of Governor Bibble, who has been brought to the camp by Gunray. The young handmaiden slips "toll", another one of the girls' code words, into what she tells the governor he should send to the Queen. Some of the captive Naboo guards are impressed, but Mariek points out she always knew the handmaidens were good. Alone together, Saché and Yané admit that they've been trying to ignore how they feel about each other.
On Tatooine, Padmé, having trouble sleeping, finds Shmi Skywalker assembling a viewscreen the night before the race, while Anakin sleeps like a rock and Qui-Gon and Jar Jar sleep on the floor. Returning to bed afterwards, Padmé wonders: is it selfish to care so much about a world that is not her own, or is it that her perspective has been expanded?
The novel introduces Queen Sanandrassa as Padmé's predecessor as Monarch of Naboo, and establishes that she was preceded by Queen Réillata. However, the canon reference book Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded had previously named King Veruna as preceding her on the throne. It also contradicts the novel Tarkin, which has a mention of Naboo being ruled by a king fifteen years before the rise of the Galactic Empire.
- ISBN 9781368057141; June 2, 2020; Disney–Lucasfilm Press; US hardcover
- ISBN 9781368063258; June 2, 2020; Disney–Lucasfilm Press; US eBook
- ISBN 9781368077194; October 5, 2021, Disney–Lucasfilm Press; US paperback
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Notes and references
- The events of Queen's Peril take place immediately before and concurrently to the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, which Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates to 32 BBY.
- Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded