Why should you read Star Wars: A New Dawn? Because it will be your gateway to the continuing canon, in print. That’s the honest truth. If you care about canon, if you want up on your Star Wars canon, reading A New Dawn is a must. You won’t believe how many micro-questions are answered in this book. But more than anything, it sets the stage for the “dark times” era we’re finally exploring in depth.
The main reason you should read this book is to get to know Kanan and Hera, the parental unit of our cast in Star Wars Rebels. If you’ve been wondering what those heroes were up to for all that time before Star Wars Rebels begins, it not only makes it pretty clear, it also lets you experience how the heroes came to know one another. I’m sure at some point the series will reference it offhandedly, but it will be discussing this book.
I’m a fan of John Jackson Miller. I loved his last book, Kenobi. He has a strong sense of what the characters are feeling and thinking. He understands how the people of the galaxy conceptualize the universe after living through the Clone Wars and the rise of imperialism. He makes the universe very real, if not vivid. I do feel at times the book gets a little too dark and moody for the swashbuckling adventures Star Wars Rebels is promising, but what Miller gives us exactly what most Star Wars book readers want, grit, spirit and adventure.
With this novel we start are exposed to the new canon that lines up with the seven Star Wars films, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Star Wars Rebels. These new novels rest beside the films in importance. So you know what’s on the pages isn’t going to be erased because someone had a different idea. That means you get to take the text very seriously. Everything matters and that’s a nice feeling to have again.
We get to know two of the characters from the new series pretty well also. Readers get all of space opera wrapped up in a very classic Star Wars story for the most part. If you’re a Star Wars fan and you enjoy the books or have enjoyed a Star Wars book the spirit of adventure, you’re going to want to pick this up.
Honestly, for me, the best parts of the book were tidbits relating to Kanan’s former life as a member of the Jedi Order and his lineage (not spoiler, you should have been able to put that together)3. That was the stuff that was the most interesting to me, personally. As a fan of the collective saga, this is the prequel era and the original trilogy era merging, the bridging of those eras is of particular interest to me. Since I want to keep this review mostly spoiler free, I will say that it appears he played a part in the survival of the Jedi Order that is very interesting. For this reason (and many others) this is really Kanan’s back story book more than anything.
The biggest problem with the book itself is Hera’s character kind of comes into the fold sort of realized already. Really all that Hera seems to be missing is her rebel family we’ll see her have in the series. I felt like I missed a book telling us about Hera. Sure, Star Wars likes to just throw us in the adventure, and that’s fine. But Hera is interesting and I wanted more from her in this offering. Kanan is the one struggling with his past, Hera is on a quest or a mission so she’s basically just busy all the time. I found Hera to be sort of abstract in the book for that reason. She always has stuff going on and a tactical agenda and that’s nice, normally. But in this particular story, I would have liked more about Hera becoming the driven person she is. Since Kanan reflects on his past so often, I would have liked to have seen Hera afforded the same development, but she’s treated as the mystery to Kanan. It was a fair narrative choice on Miller’s part, I’m not knocking that. But Hera is just as interesting as Kanan, so I guess they saved that for another day, another book.
Another problem with the book is that Kanan is likeable. I mean that in a good way. He’s drinking, fighting, getting dirty, and looking for ladies. In other words, he’s kind of awesome. So what’s the problem? He’s a much different man by the time we get to the animated series Star Wars Rebels. So while I love the character in A New Dawn, I feel like the character in the series is a different person. I love both iterations, he’s awesome on screen, but I felt like A New Dawn made him too real in a way that just doesn’t interface with the show. They just have different spirits. It might wash out in a way where that’s for the best in the end and this book might be appreciated down the line for how different it is. The character does change over the course of the of the book. That said, I jumped from seeing the opening film of the series to the book and it was a huge jump that made it kind of hard to feel like it flowed together easily.
I loved the original characters though. Count Vidian is a great bad guy. As a cyborg bean counter that speaks like a Dalek from Doctor Who, I found him interesting and creepy without being a Darth Vader rip-off. Okadiah Garson is a good foil for Kanan. He’s just annoying enough in the right way to allow Kanan to have some great lines with him and the characters are different enough they actually have things to say to one another. When Vidian kills people, you honestly feel bad for them because he’s so rotten. Okadiah on the other hand is a fool for the most part, but you can see where he’s coming from and it honestly gives him some heart and drives the adventure. I also want to note that the character names are really good. There’s no one named Zyzhadfsahdsdfsda. Everything on that front is in the clear and the character’s name sound like Star Wars names to me.
I found the first half of the book to be a great read. I found the last half to be a bit laborious at times. I felt like Vidian had a great entrance into the story. I had a strong sense of him from the start because like I said, his entrance was solid. Then I felt like every minor character had to experience Vidian and we had to learn what they knew and didn’t know and it just became repetitious because it was more of the same. I also love the quips between Kanan and Hera, but there were times when it slowed the story down and got in the way. I just felt like the book was a little too long.
That said, I am absolutely not sorry I read it and I do recommend it. I feel like I walked away from reading A New Dawn understanding the climate of the galaxy and what the Lucasfilm story group is aiming for during this era of imperialism. It will require you unlearn all you have learned if you’re an old Expanded Universe reader, at the same time, you’ll see a lot of moments that pull from the good stuff in the old continuity and if nothing else, it will inspire confidence in the future of Star Wars storytelling, if you had any doubts.
Star Wars: A New Dawn is a good Star Wars story, it just might not be a classic Star Wars story. It has a lot on its plate and it accomplishes most of it, but it feels overlong due to its responsibilities to the new era and new television series. I’m just not sure it lives up to the television series it is interfacing with. It is well written, just a little long. I suggest picking it up and just breath in the universe, immerse yourself and enjoy the story for what it is. It competently tells the story of how Hera and Kanan team up and the ancillary characters are good enough you don’t feel like you’re wasting your time when the pages are not about Kanan and Hera. But who hasn’t wanted to read a book about a drunken Jedi “rebel-rousing?
Thank you Del Rey for an advanced reader copy of this book!