Review: Star Wars: A New Dawn

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.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Dreaming Mask

Beauty itself.

Nothing else more aptly described the mask hanging on the wall in the Intergalactic Museum in the Ancient Arts section. Crafted by an ancient people indigenous to the Andromeda Galaxy and once held as one of their most sacred artifacts, it had finally come to rest here, vacuum-sealed behind thick unbreakable glass where nothing so unholy as dust or museum patrons could touch it.

Every hour, every day, hundreds of people of varying species milled through the museum, pausing for a moment to admire the breath-taking beauty of the mask. Deep blue-green, it shimmered with a different hue depending on what angle one viewed it from. Graceful feather-like decorations surrounded the eyes in a soft, purple halo, and purple and white gems sparkled on the forehead and cheeks. A mouth could not be found in the mask, however, for this species-the only telepathic race known in intergalactic history—did not have mouths. A placard explaining as much, as well as explaining how the race died out much like Ancient Earth’s Mayan people, hung next to the display.

A S’iovnen woman of the Triangulum Galaxy stood before the display, one hand on her chin, her three other arms folded across her chest. Something about the mask—labeled in Universal as “The Dreaming Mask”—held her so entranced she did not move on with the rest of her tour group. She had been staring at it for so long she did not even realize it until all six of her eyes stung from dryness. As she blinked and the mask flickered in and out of sight, the shimmering hues shifted in a full spectrum of color, ranging all the way from infrared to ultraviolet. Shocked, the woman squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. When she opened them again, the mask had returned its usual resplendent blue-green.

She shook her head, realizing that she needed to catch up to the rest of her group. She read Universal and spoke a little of it, but found it almost impossible to understand when others spoke it. Losing her group entirely would put her in an inconvenient predicament, to say the least. She hurried down the museum hall, finally catching up to the other S’iovnen tourists in the Milky Way portion of the ancient arts section.

As she tried to focus on the display which compared Alpha-Centauri arts to Terran arts, she found herself becoming drowsy. The world cycled through the spectrum of color in pulses like her heartbeat. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she tumbled over backwards, barely aware of the gasps and cries rising around her. A foreign voice danced through her mind in cadence with the shifting colors, musical and soothing. It blocked out all the other sounds flickering at the last surface of her consciousness.

Everything was color—beautiful, bright, pure color. The colors were musical notes. They were soft breaths of wind. They were the fresh earthy smell of the world before a rainstorm; they were raindrops against a windowsill. They splayed and danced and swirled, each one carrying meaning just beyond reach.

She felt. She saw. She existed in a way she had never existed before.

Slowly,the woman’s eyes rolled open again, rising to consciousness like a diver to the surface of a turbulent sea. She found herself surrounded by Terrans in medical dress. One of them said something in Universal, which she could not quite understand. The colors danced through her perception one last time like a lover’s farewell.

“Ma’am? Ma’am? Do you speak Universal?” one of the doctors asked.

“I saw,” she said, the words slipping from her tongue before she even realized it.

“What did you see?”

She closed her eyes and slipped back into her native tongue:

“Beauty itself.”

“The Dreaming Mask” copyright 2017 by A.L.S. Vossler.

What did you think? Share any thoughts or criticisms in the comments.

Creative Commons image courtesy of Karen Arnold through