Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller is the first Star Wars novel I ever read—and, if you’ve been following this blog at all this month, you’ll be able to guess why: it connects to Star Wars Rebels. It is the story of how Kanan Jarrus meets Hera Syndulla. It begins with Kanan living on the planet Gorse, working as a deliverer of explosives for the mining of Cynda, Gorse’s moon. He has worked hard to distance himself as much as possible from his past, and it’s sort of implied that he passes the time between shifts by drinking. However, he is unable to hide his naturally protective and compassionate nature, even if he tries to ignore it. The plot is set into motion by the arrival of Count Vidian, an efficiency expert tasked with the increased productivity of the mines on Cynda. He is a cruel cyborg who rules through fear and kills people as a means to motivate others. Meanwhile, Hera has come to Gorse to scope out a potential contact who might be willing to help with the rebellion. Much to everyone’s surprise, Skelly, a paranoid Clone Wars veteran demolitions expert sets off a major explosion in the moon as a way to prove the instability of the moon’s infrastructure, almost killing several people. It’s only thanks to Kanan’s efforts, tapping into the Force, that no one dies Kanan decides it’s time to move on, but meets Hera and becomes intrigued by her. The ensuing adventure involves uncovering a conspiracy that could destroy Gorse and Cynda forever, and it’s up to Kanan, Hera, and the allies they pick up along the way to save the day.
Things I loved:
There was a lot of action; it definitely felt like Star Wars. I thought that most of the characters and settings were well done—I had no trouble whatsoever envisioning the surroundings. The action scenes were well written and kept me on the edge of my seat. I liked the setup for everything, liked the twists and turns of the plot and so on. The writing picked up and gained momentum as it went, taking an already interesting plot and ramping it up. I didn’t put the book down except to eat and grab a little sleep—which is typically how I read when I enjoy a book.
Kanan, of course, is my favorite character, but I also really liked Hera. Kanan is painted pretty accurately as to how I imagined his history would be. Hera is too, but she doesn’t get as much development as Kanan. Surprisingly though, a character with a very minor role is the one I liked best—the Besalisk security guard whose wife is brutally killed by the evil count Vidian. He felt real and the emotion surrounding his character is intense and compelling. I would have liked for him to have a greater role.
Things I did not love as much:
I didn’t like Skelly—his dialogue never felt natural, and it seemed to undergo a massive shift halfway through the book. I didn’t like Vidian, who felt like a cast-off discount Vader. I also didn’t like how Kanan’s physical description was not accurate to the show or the comics—he is described as having black hair and ruddy skin with blue eyes. In the show, he has dark brown hair, an olive complexion, and green eyes. The description in the book more closely matches Ezra Bridger’s—Kanan’s padawan in the show.
I also didn’t like the frequent POV changes. Sometimes it seemed dangerously close to head-hopping. I prefer more space between POV changes, but that is a strict personal preference.
If you like Rebels, then this book might not be a must-read, but it’s pretty close. It offers some great history and universe building that will really enhance your understanding of the characters.
The book is fairly clean and should be friendly to younger audiences, though it’s worth mentioning that Kanan is essentially an alcoholic womanizer at this point in his life, which may be of some concern to parents if their young children want to read it. There is also some violence, including a woman being tossed into a vat of acid. I would probably rate this book as appropriate for people age 12 and older, depending on the individual.
For my first Star Wars book, this was a good one! I recommend it to any fans of Rebels.