First of all, if anyone wants my copy of A New Dawn, I will gladly send it your way for free. Yup, I’ll pay for shipping too. If I’m not going to read a book again, I like to share the love and give it to someone else who may appreciate it. And from there, I hope the book karma continues.
A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller follows the life of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla before they had formed the crew of Ghost as we know it in Star Wars Rebels. The novel shows how they met and how they decided to stay together as a team. Watching SWR, I always loved Kanan and Hera’s relationship. They have a great friendship and my hope is that Disney does not take it in the direction of a romantic relationship only because I think that it’s so rare to see examples of male/female friendships on TV and in movies…so I love seeing this one that works. And it works so well.
But how did it get to that point? When did they first meet? That’s what A New Dawn goes to show us. The novel has its moments, and I enjoyed some of it, but there were parts that really bothered me as well.
We start off by following Kanan and learning that he’s kind of this lone ranger guy (didn’t see that coming). He works hard at very standard, physical jobs but doesn’t stick around in a place long enough to make lasting friends. At one such job, there’s a man named Skelly, a former Clone Wars veteran who knows how to build explosives and understands the workings of the planet Cynda and the damage the Empire is doing to it by mining out thorilide. Kanan realizes it’s finally time to start leaving this planet because he’s been there too long when the Empire starts showing a special interest in its raw material and sends Count Vidian (cue bad guy music) there to make use of it. Skelly makes a mess of things and Kanan is forced to stick around a little longer than he would have liked, and by mistake, gets attached to Skelly as the story goes on.
Hera enters the story because she is already part of the Rebellion and they want her to find out what Count Vidian’s up to. Now, it might not officially be the Rebellion yet, but let’s keep it at that for simplicity’s sake. As she follows around Count Vidian, she inevitably meets up with Kanan and Skelly where they have a bunch of adventures trying to stop Vidian from destroying Cynda. Skelly dies, as does Vidian (naturally), and Kanan and Hera go off and form a team together. Though reluctant to have Kanan as her partner, as she also operates alone in missions, Hera does eventually give in and see the advantage of having Kanan with her due to his personality, ethics, and quick thinking in tight spots. Having the Force probably helps too.
There’s the basic story. My real thoughts are:
- Kanan and Hera’s relationship stayed strictly as friends. You can tell Kanan wants something more and finds her attractive, but Hera keeps him at a good distance. Going into this novel, I was most worried about a romantic back story, but none of that happened.
- A good amount of female characters. We see a female commanding officer of a Star Destroyer in the Empire: Captain Sloane. There’s also Hera, Lal Grallik (a woman Besalisk manager who mines thorilide), and Zaluna, a Sullustan Imperial spy, but not by choice. She ends up turning on the Empire and helping out Kanan and Hera. She was my favorite new character in the novel. Oh yeah, and there are female stormtroopers. Not sure how I felt about that one as I’m not sure it makes sense. I always assumed the Empire was largely misogynistic at that point in the timeline.
- Weirdly, you kind of root for the Empire in a strange way towards the end. Miller does a good job at showing the reader that it’s not always cut and dry, good and bad. When Sloane plays a part in stopping Count Vidian, despite all the promises he threw to her, you cheer for her even though you have a moment of, “Oh wait – but the Empire is bad.”
- Kanan does a good job at hiding his abilities in the Force. I think as an author, it can be tempting when you have a character with “superpowers” to bring these into the story consistently. If I remember correctly, Kanan only showed his Force abilities 3 times in the novel, and twice would make it seem questionable to an outsider. The last time, he saves him and Hera from impending death (of course) and it makes her see him in a new light. Though the last instance was somewhat predictable, I didn’t mind as much because I knew it had to happen eventually.
- Not enough time with Hera. We did get into her point of view occasionally, but didn’t find out much about her background. There was a lot more of that with Kanan and I felt that though the author could have set out to make this a Kanan/Hera story equally, it felt like there was WAY more emphasis on Kanan. So in the end, it was a male driven story.
- The story line as a whole seemed like it was trying just a little too hard and playing a little too safe. Miller wanted to make it as Star Wars as possible, but instead it got boring at times and felt predictable. The plot was very convenient and set up in a way that things fell nicely into place. He wrapped it up in a nice little box that says “Star War Novel”, when instead, the stories that stand out in the EU are the ones that broke new ground and gave us something different, but felt similar.
- Speaking of predictable, the main nemesis, Count Vidian was not that interesting. I felt like he was General Grievous all over again. Intelligent, cyborg-ish, and ruthless. Whenever we were in his point of view, I realized I just didn’t care.
My main gripe with this book is that I wanted more Hera involvement. I wanted to understand her character, what drove her to be so passionate about getting rid of the Empire, and what her past was like.
The best thing out of this book is getting to know a lot more about Kanan and understanding that while the Empire is evil, there are some beings within it that make it even more evil. And sometimes you have to pick between a lesser evil and greater evil, which was what happened at the end of the novel. You may not be able to take out the entire Empire, but maybe taking out one horrible Count is enough of a small victory.
I’d give A New Dawn 3/5 stars. It’s a solid book and there are parts of the novel that felt really Star Wars to me, but there were also quite a few times when I thought Miller was trying a little too hard.
Want to read this book? Let me know. I’ll mail it to you.