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.

Review: Star Wars: Kanan

Firstly, I need to start this review by saying that I do not like comic books or graphic novels. I actually have a harder time following the action when it is drawn out in pictures than when it is written out for me. Plus, if I’m going to read something, I would like to imagine it for myself, rather than have a picture somebody else came up with. For some reason, I feel that the images on the page cannot fully convey the emotion that books or movies can. Maybe if I grew up reading comic books, I would feel differently. That being said, I nevertheless enjoyed the two series of comics about Kanan Jarrus put out by Marvel Comics : Star Wars: Kanan, and Star Wars: Kanan: First Blood. There are a lot of tie-ins with both the shows Rebels and The Clone Wars, as well as a tie-in with the novel A New Dawn.

The first series of six issues begins with the crew of the Ghost on their way to the planet Kaller, to get supplies for the starved and needy citizens of Tarkintown on Lothal. Upon learning they are going to Kaller, Kanan gets lost in horrified memory—because this is the planet is the place where his Master, Depa Billaba, was killed. The first five issues are set in his flashback—remembering her death, remembering how he survived, and how he was subsequently hunted down by clones. The sixth issue cuts back to present day, where Kanan has to find the missing supplies and is injured in the process. The second series of issues begins with Kanan in a bacta tank, and we see his memories go back even farther to before he was chosen as Billaba’s Padawan. It shows how Billaba chose him and then how he was sent out to fight in the war. There is plenty of action and complex military politics (in a good way!), along with a great fight scene with General Grievous. The final issue, just as in the first series, cuts back to present day, and Kanan goes on a mission to help an old friend, along with the help of Ezra Bridger. I think what I liked best about the stories was that it was not just a direct, “Here is the history of Kanan Jarrus.” It was presented enveloped inside a story with its own separate plot. I have always enjoyed the “story within a story” format, so that was a definite bonus—it felt like I was watching an episode of Star Wars Rebels with flashbacks included. The plotting was tight and well done—no space or words were wasted or unnecessary.

The artwork is pretty good, though not being one for comics and graphic novels, I cannot say I am much of a reliable judge on the matter. Still, even for me, I was able to follow the action and story fairly easily. I liked that it felt enough like the show to be recognizable, but distinctly its own. The character proportions were drawn more realistically, particularly when it comes to the ratios of head size to body size—this is likely due to the fact that CGI has to skew proportions in order to avoid uncanny valley in a way that 2D artwork does not have to.

I also loved the characterization of Kanan. He is, as the title of the comics would suggest, center stage. I already liked Kanan’s character from the show, and the comics only reinforced that. I loved the introduction of the scalawag character Janus Kasmir, a ne’er-do-well who takes Kanan under his wing—even after delivering a great line where he says, “Kid, I get it. You’re used to following a master, so you’re in the market for a new one…trouble is, I’m not in the market for a padawan.” Seeing more about Depa Billaba’s story is really cool too—since I haven’t seen anything in the new canon about her other than her brief appearance in Episode I. The fight between her and General Grievous is really cool and well-drawn. I do have to say, I wasn’t as crazy about the way the Clones were represented in the comics. Firstly, they seemed like a completely different ethnicity than they appear in the movie and shows. Secondly, while the comic gives them some character development, they don’t really have enough depth when they reach the pinnacle of their character arc—at least in my opinion.

All in all, the Kanan comics are a fun read. I wouldn’t say they are a must-read, but if you are looking for something to fill the time while you wait for The Last Jedi and season four of Rebels, this is worth reading—even if you don’t especially like comics.

Image of Kanan comic books is taken of my own personal copies and used for editorial and review purposes only.