Book Review: Thrawn

He’s back! A favorite character of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, now Legends, has been recreated in this new novel by the one and only Timothy Zahn.  I believe Thrawn was one of the greatest disappointments to numerous fans when Disney announced that the EU was no longer going to be canon.  Thrawn is amazing.  Seriously.  His tactical genius made him a beloved character, up there with Mara Jade.  Even fans who were not into the novels, had a general idea of who Thrawn was.

I can speak for a lot of fans that when Thrawn was announced as a new character in Star Wars Rebels, fans were delighted. Then they announced a new book with him as well written by Zahn and the fans went nuts.

This new novel is an origin story of Thrawn. It shows how he came to work with the Empire and evolve into one of the greatest strategist’s and commanders (or Grand Admiral) of the Empire’s fleet, overcoming obstacles along the way.  His chief obstacle was that he is an alien and as the Empire is, you know, kind of prejudiced against aliens, it’s quite a feat that he makes it as far as he does.

 

***spoilers ahead***

 

The novel starts with Thrawn being rescued by the Empire from being exiled by his native Chiss species. I use the word “rescued” loosely because Thrawn purposefully drew them to him to board their ships and let himself be seen and caught by them and we find out later, in typical Thrawn style, that it was never a rescue at all – he had planned everything. On the ship, he encounters a young man Eli Vanto, who is on the road to becoming a supply chain officer. Vanto helps translate for Thrawn at times since his Basic is rusty and also because Vanto was also brought up in the Outer Rim (therefore also slightly disliked by others because he is “backwater”). Thrawn immediately gets taken to Emperor Palpatine who puts him into the Imperial Academy on a fast track with Vanto.

Throughout the novel, Vanto remains at Thrawn’s side through the academy, to commanding posts, and missions. Thrawn sees potential in Eli though it takes a long time for Eli to also see it. Half of the novel follows Eli regretting that he ever met Thrawn as he only wants a quiet life in the supply department.

As a side story, we are introduced to Arihnda Pryce, whom we have also seen from Star Wars Rebels. Her path intersects with Thrawn’s later down the line but we get a fleshed out backstory for her (the later governor of Lothal).  She begins her story working at her parent’s mine – Pryce Mining – which gets ripped from her by the Empire. She resolves to get it back. How does she get it back? Through political scheming and working with the Empire. If you can’t fight them, join them. Her journey to that point is up and down along with lots of petty backstabbing.

As Pryce moves up the ranks in the Empire politically, Thrawn also rises as a commander. Pryce does not have too much involvement with Thrawn, but when she does she helps him and Vanto through favors with connections (the great Tarkin, who was written superbly) and Thrawn also helps her with his tactical, objective way of looking at things.

The end of the novel sees a culmination of a battle (where we know Thrawn will obviously come out ahead) where those who doubted Thrawn are now convinced of his genius, along with understanding the real reasons for…well…everything in the novel that Thrawn has done. The side twist belongs with Arihnda Pryce and how far she has gone down the path of corruption. Thrawn’s beautiful plan gets screwed up by her with unnecessary deaths, but she never admits to it and covers her tracks beautifully, though he knows but can’t prove it. Thrawn still comes out ahead, but it’s interesting to see that this is the beginning of Pryce and Thrawn’s working relationship that we see in Rebels.

 

Pros:

  • It’s Thrawn. Enough said.
  • But seriously, there is not too much changed from the character older Star Wars fans loved reading about. He is still a genius and still a masterful tactician…rivaling Palpatine in some respects.
  • How did Thrawn get in Palpatine’s good books so well that Palpatine fast tracked him through the Academy and military career? Anakin Skywalker. Yes – interesting twist. Thrawn says he heard of Palpatine through his “servant, Anakin Skywalker”. This implies a lot. It implies that 1) Thrawn met Anakin when he was a Jedi and 2) he could have caught on to Palpatine’s game of chess that he was already working on bringing Anakin to his side prior to the Empire existing. It’s not a stretch to believe that as Thrawn is able to deduce everything. The question remains though – does Thrawn know Vader is Anakin? My guess is yes though nothing is confirmed.
  • Each chapter begins with an excerpt of Thrawn’s diary which made for a fascinating read. Chapters are also interspersed with Thrawn reading people’s body language and giving insight on how he picks up on their next moves.
  • There’s a lot on Thrawn in here, obviously. But crazily, I still feel like he’s a bit of a mystery. Well done Zahn!
  • You can read this novel even if you are a Disney-hater; if you love the EU and refuse to acknowledge anything Disney related. It actually fits into both Legends and the current canon, which I admire, especially since it’s a backstory. And, amazingly, this canon backstory actually fits in perfectly with Thrawn’s original backstory in Legends.
  • This novel ties into Rebels nicely as well as the other new canon books, though it’s not hitting you over the head with it.
  • Most of the characters from the movies are spot-on with the writing. Grand Moff Tarkin was eerily written, to the point that I had no problems believing his character (which is unlike how I felt with the writing of Han in Bloodline). Palpatine was done pretty well too, not 100%, but well enough for the time he was in the novel.
  • The new characters are also well written, for the most part. Pryce ended up being one of my favorites after reading, though during the novel I kept wanting to go back to Thrawn and see what he was up to. But once I closed the book and mulled over it for a bit, she ended up being one of the most multi-faceted interesting characters to come out of it. The last scene/battle of the novel when she goes down a point of no return, and sees the look on her parents faces, you have to wonder…is it worth it? She did everything for them and their mine, but you can tell they’d rather she hadn’t if they had to sacrifice who Arihnda had become.
  • There are hints of the Rebellion littered throughout the novel, but for the most part, it’s extremely Empire-driven, which I very much appreciated. It’s hard to write about the Empire in a way that seems positive, or at least neutral, when you’re writing in the Star Wars universe. This novel did it brilliantly…and I feel a little disloyal to the Rebellion for liking it so much!
  • My favorite observation of this entire novel was that I didn’t actually feel like I was reading a Star Wars novel. I felt like I was reading a good sci-fi book. Again, a little hard to do with Star Wars, especially with characters we love in the book. But because there was no mention of the Force (I think; I don’t remember it) or mysticism, Jedi, etc., it felt like a great sci-fi, outer space novel.

Cons:

  • For me, I felt like it took a while for Thrawn to feel like Thrawn. There was a learning curve for him in the beginning of the novel as he learned the Empire, and nuances of politics. In a way, I thought he seemed very much like Spock in the beginning of this novel. It eventually leveled out and got to a point where he felt like the Thrawn I loved and remembered, so I’m not sure if that was a deliberate move on Zahn’s part or if it was him being a little rusty.
  • Some of the book was littered with little side plots that I thought could have been kept out entirely. It’s tough because some of the side plots do end up coming together at the end of the novel, but some had me thinking…oh that’s it? When they were resolved.
  • Not enough time with Thrawn and art. One of the most loved parts about Thrawn (for me) was how much information he gained from observing society’s artwork. Through their art, he was often able to bring them down. It was a final piece of the puzzle that other tactician’s didn’t have time with or feel was necessary. Unfortunately, there was only one scene in this book where art played into the success of Thrawn. It always lingered in the background and was mentioned often, but we didn’t get to see it enough in action. We get in Rebels, thankfully, but I was sad about there was not as much in Thrawn.
  • I didn’t love Eli Vanto. He was a main character but the ending of his story was a little unbelievable to me. I won’t say much, but I don’t think he has the chops for what the end of his character arc bestowed upon him. I believe he was created as a bit of a Watson foil to Thrawn’s Sherlock but I often wanted him cut from the story entirely. I think I may be in the minority here but he was blah.
  • I’m not sure I want to put this as a con but it’s a little interesting. Was there a plot? I’m not sure. It seemed more like a detailed timeline of events. There wasn’t a real antagonist, more of a mystery Thrawn wanted to solve but it didn’t seem too pressing. So if you need a plot and an arc and all that good stuff, maybe you won’t really get into this as much as you’d want to.

I’m giving Thrawn 4/5 stars. It’s hard for me to rate any book 5/5 stars, and Star Wars books usually don’t make that cut. BUT this is still the best book I’ve read from the new canon.  Read it if you have EU nostalgia, love Thrawn, or want a good Empire-driven Star Wars novel.

Haiku Me Friday! Alderaan

Leia’s only home A planet that is no more The Empire destroys

Leia’s only home
A planet that is no more
The Empire destroys

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we get to see Alderaan on the big screen sometime soon?  We are going to see so many new anthology movies that this could become a strong possibility.  I can’t imagine them not giving us this planet after knowing that we never saw it in both trilogies.  Well, we kind of saw it in ROTS, but only briefly.  The Clone Wars gave us viewings of it as well, but, that wasn’t a full length feature film on a big screen.

I want to see it on the big screen and to get a better understanding of where Leia came from and how it influence her.  I’ve argued before that our environment influences who we become and I think this could only give more insight to Leia as a character.

I wonder if they’ll show it in Rogue One…

Rogue One has grown on me, I think.  I’m not sure why I was so hesitant yesterday.  Perhaps the “different” feel of it kind of threw me off.  Now that I’ve adjusted, I’m looking forward to it again.  It seems like there are a lot of EU nods and I like how they’ve drenched this in the ANH time period.  I feel like Abrams wanted to do that but could only do so much since TFA took place 30 years later.  Edwards doesn’t need to concern himself with that too much.

 

Over and out guys, have a good weekend.

Sorry, I Can’t Relate – I’m a Younger Star Wars Fan

Ever since The Clone Wars came out, I’ve considered myself an “in the middle” Star Wars fan.  I’m not one of the original Star Wars fans who got to see the Original Trilogy in the theaters, nor am I the youngest who have fallen in love with Star Wars through the TV shows and, now, the release of new movies.  I’m smack in the middle…one of the younger fans who grew up on the Prequels.  Maybe we’re not so young now, but I always feel young when I talk to the fans who were there when it all began.

As such, when I do happen to talk to the Star Wars fans who have known a world without Star Wars, I find that there are some things I just can’t understand in terms of experiences and annoyances.

I compiled this list in my head during the past week of feelings I can’t relate to as a Star Wars fan born post-Original Trilogy.

Midi-chlorians

For some reason, this is one of the strongest differences I find between myself and older fans.  I’ve read articles and talked to people who were absolutely heartbroken that Lucas “scientized” the Force.

qui gon jinn and anakinMy understanding is that when you watched ANH, it gave the impression that the Force was so mystical and anyone could use if they had the proper training.  It spoke to fans because they realized that they could have this power.  By the end of ROTJ, fans realized it could be genetic but it was still something completely supernatural.  It couldn’t be explained why someone had the Force and someone didn’t or if it always gets passed down through generations.

When TPM came out and introduced midi-chlorians as the reason for the Force, a lot of older fans were outraged.  They were, and still are, upset that the Force became something you could track and measure by taking a blood sample.

I’ve never been able to relate to this.  I was 12 when TPM came out and even though I had seen the OT beforehand, I never thought much about the Force.  It was just there.  Luke had it.  Vader had it.  It was implied Leia might have it.  So when Qui-Gon starts telling Anakin about midi-chlorians, I thought, “Ah, okay, that makes sense,” and it became part of my Star Wars knowledge almost instantaneously.  I accepted it and moved on.  When people get upset about it, I almost can’t remember a time before midi-chlorians so it doesn’t get me worked up.

Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s Father

Alas, I wish I could relate to the shock everyone felt when that was revealed.  But I can’t . I knew Vader was Luke’s father before I watched the movies for the first time.  Even if I was never directly told, it’s such a part of our pop culture that the misquoted, “Luke, I am your father,” is almost I am your father vaderomnipresent.

This is one of those things where I really wish I could have had that older fan experience.  I wish I could be in the theater watching it for the first time and think, “Wait, what?  Did I hear that right?  What did he say?”

But nope.  It’ll never happen like that because I was born post-1980.

Jar Jar Binks

Jar Jar binksThis may come as a surprise, but I don’t hate Jar Jar.  Like the midi-chlorians, since TPM came out when I was 12, Jar Jar became accepted into my Star Wars love with no issues.  It wasn’t until I was older and rewatch the movies that I think he’s annoying.  Yet in 1999, he was just a different alien that, in the end, helped the Jedi and Amidala obtain victory over the Trade Federation.

Even now, I can’t relate to the extreme hatred older fans have for this character.  The cruelness at which fans crucify this character and George Lucas for creating him is baffling to me.  I’ve read that people think he’s a Jamaican stereotype and cruelly berate Lucas in articles for it.  Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, but I don’t get it and I can’t relate to it.

The Feeling That Star Wars is Done Forever

I kind of felt like Star Wars as I knew it was over in 2005 after ROTS was released.  I didn’t know where my love for Star Wars would take me.  But even as it ended, there were rumors of an animated Star Wars TV show being released (keep in mind the original TCW, was an animated microseries,star wars comic 1985 ended in 2005 as well).  By 2008, we had a completely new Star Wars to watch, albeit a very different format, but enough to keep the spark there.

I don’t know what it feels like to feel like there is NOTHING.  Sure, Star Wars continued in the form of board games, comics, and some old school video games after ROTJ, but no one thought there would be new movies, TV shows, etc.  The Thrawn Trilogy wasn’t published until the early 1990s so there was a good 8-10 years where all fans had were comics and games.

Props to the older Star Wars fans.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be in a Jakku-like planet with absolutely no knowledge that there would ever be more Star Wars movies.

Practical Sets/Effects vs. CGI

This has become a huge debate in the past few years since Abrams was brought on board for TFA.  Any time he or Kathleen Kennedy was interviewed, they stressed about bringing back real sets, real costumes, real locations for the new Star Wars trilogy.  It’s clear that what they were saying is practical = Original Trilogy = what most fans love and CGI = Prequel Trilogy = what most fans dislike.

coruscantI disagree.   The PT is a large part of my life and I don’t think CGI is bad.  What I could possibly concede on is that a) too much CGI was used, and b) the scripts were not well done in the PT.  If you don’t have a good script or storyline, then the CGI is going to be more noticeable.

I loved seeing the planet of Coruscant, the ships in space, and all the interesting planets we got to see because of Lucas’ work with CGI.  One of my favorite scenes is when Artoo fixes the hyperdrive on Queen Amidala’s ship.  Can you imagine how crude that would look without CGI?  I also loved Utapau and the scenes with Obi-Wan riding the Varactyl.  That would not have been possible without CGI.

So I can’t understand where this aversion of CGI comes from.  It also baffles me that KK and Abrams went to such lengths to talk up their practical sets when the movie has a lot of CGI in it.  I’ve said this before, but if you are going to go in one direction or the other, go all the way.  I thought Snoke was one of the most out-of-place characters/moments/scenes in TFA and I know it was due to the CGI.  He might not have looked so out of place in the PT because our minds were used to the special effects.

 

If you’re an older fan, do you disagree with some of what I said?  If you’re a younger fan than me, is there something that perhaps you can’t relate to that I’ve written about?  If you are close to my age, do you agree with what I’ve written?

Begun, A New Era Has: My review on The Force Awakens

I predicted I would love the movie yesterday and not be able to say anything but great things about it. While I did love and like it a lot, it took a while for me to get into it.  Longer than I thought and I did find some parts that did not sit well with me.

The Force Awakens reminded me of a new pair of shoes.  It was a little uncomfortable at first, something different that I needed to get used to.  But once I had worn it for a significant amount of time, the shoes melded to my feet and I love them.  It tooke a while for me to accept that this movie was the beginning of a new era in Star Wars: new characters, ships, and storylines to get used to.

I felt like the first 2/3 of the movies was story building – a lot of it.  To the point that sometimes I felt that it was a little slow and it was uncomfortable.  Though we were in the universe of Star Wars, it was different.  The galaxy had aged 30 years, the Empire is resurrected in a new form as the First Order, and we aren’t sure what has happened to the Rebellion.  The war that we thought was over is far from over and the Resistance, surprisingly I thought, is still a small faction (albeit more organized) trying to overthrow a large government.

General Notes – Spoiler Territory Ahead

The strengths of this movie pulled from the Original Trilogy with its humorous quips  and little touches that devout Star Wars fans would notice (there were definitely some EU shout outs as well).  The humor mostly came when Han was on screen, so I’d like to see how they are going bb-8to keep the humor going now that he’s dead.  I’m guessing Poe since he had that bad boy funny streak.  The format was like A New Hope in that we followed BB-8 on this journey, similar to how we followed R2-D2 and C-3PO previously.  I loved BB-8 and I understand why everyone fell in love with Artoo when Star Wars first came out.  I want my own BB-8 droid.

The Falcon appeared early in the movie and was the main mode of transportation, but man oh man, does it get beat up.  I cringed every time it hit the sand, but it kind of brought a realness to the situation that I appreciated.

I did not notice the soundtrack as much as I thought I would.  I feel like all the other Star Wars movies had distinct themes that you could go return to and love.  Duel of the Fates, Imperial March, Luke and Leia, Battle of the Heroes, etc.  I didn’t notice anything in The Force Awakens that had me rooting for a new tune.

Once everything was established, and we knew and understood the new characters Finn and Rey, the story began to take off.  The last 1/3 of the movie was Star Wars fun, with a big space complex to destroy (round per usual, but this time in the form of a Death Star converted to a large planet), a lightsaber fight, and some loss of beloved heroes.

In typical Star Wars fashion, there were some plot points that were nicely glossed over that left me scratching my head.  Such as:

  • Where did they get Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber?  Maz Kanata smoothed that over and basically said it was “a story for another time.”
  • Why was the lightsaber “crying” and Rey heard it?  Is this part of the maz kanata lightsaberForce?  Why did it give her all those images?
  • I would have liked to know more about the Republic that was destroyed by Starkiller Base.  It sounds like it was established at the end of ROTJ, but was it an actual governing force in the galaxy?  Is the First Order still the reigning government, or was it similar to a civil war or the Prequel Trilogy with the Separatists and the Republic?  But this time the Republic is the smaller group and the First Order is the larger?
  • R2-D2 basically shutting down didn’t make sense.  It was a neatly thrown in plot point and then he conveniently “woke up” at the end to help the Resistance find Luke…huh?

Characters

I loved Rey.  Rey was my favorite character, no question about it.  They didn’t try to make her a forced “strong female protagonist” as most of Hollywood seems to be trying to do right now.  They made her relatable, a real human being where you understood her actions and the consequences.  She could be male or female, which is what I loved.  There was no push on the romance and even now, I can’t figure out if her and Finn are going to become an “item” or if they are just friends who’ve been through a lot.  I want to know more about her history.  I’m guessing her parents were taken from her?  But who was dragging her away?  Is she somehow related to the Skywalkers?

Mr. Reticent noted that he thought her being captured by Kylo Ren was a Rey Kylo Ren gif“damsel in distress” situation, but I highly disagree.  It made sense with her character.  It allowed her to battle Kylo in the Force, come out victorious, and feel the Force awaken within her.  If they captured Han, it would be a little pointless.  If they captured Finn, there would be so much hullabaloo with him being a previous stormtrooper that there would be too much First Order protocol involved.

I thought Han was still Han, though I did feel like the movie was staged for his death a little too much (who called that?).  I liked his quips, his camaraderie with Chewie was still the same, and I thought it made sense that he was separated from Leia due to their son going to the dark side.  We couldn’t have Han and Leia madly in love because his death would be that much harder.  Abrams and the writers wanted to separate the audience from Han, to not make it *that* hard on us when he died.  Though I didn’t cry when he died, totally expecting it, I did get teary eyed when Rey came off the Falcon and had that moment with Leia.

Though the driving force of the movie was Luke Skywalker, it was frustrating how little they spent on where he had been in the past 30 years.  I know he disappeared due to the failure of his training and starting a New Jedi Order, but it was rushed.  It seems a little out of character for the Luke we know…wouldn’t he have at least stayed in touch with his sister and Han?  I hope we find out much, much more of his backstory in the upcoming films.  When I saw the last shot, I honestly thought, “Oh darn, the movie was just starting to get good.”

Finally, Kylo Ren.  Or, Ben Solo (interesting EU nod).  I went back and forth throughout the movie on whether or not I liked him.  On the one hand, he was not nearly as imposing or intimidating as I’d expect Kylo vs. Finnsomeone on the dark side of the Force to be.  On the other hand, I loved the character struggles he seemed to go through.  It added more layers to a dark side character that we’ve only really seen in Return of the Jedi.  Knowing Kylo was once good and even admits that he’s struggling when it came to his father was an interesting twist for Star Wars.  Vader never admitted he struggled with the light side.  I’m confused as to why he wore the mask, other than to emulate Darth Vader and his obsession with him.  Funnily, and I’m not sure if Abrams meant this, but the tantrums Kylo Ren threw were so much like Anakin that I wanted to pat him on the back and tell him he’s more like Anakin than he knows. I loved Adam Driver’s acting when it came to that moment when he killed his father.  I felt there was a real struggle within him, but when he made his decision, you could see this slight change in his face and oh, it was so perfect.  By the end of the movie, I wish we had more of Kylo and I’m interested to see where he will go in his training with Snoke.

Supreme Leader Snoke.  Where do I begin?  This was my one major gripe with the movie.  I thought he was a horrible addition.  It looks like he jumped straight out of a Tolkien novel/movie, with some zombie thrown in.  I can’t figure out if it was because he was so large or because of his species (whatever he is), but I thought he wasn’t believable.  Every time he came on the screen, the movie felt disjointed and took a step back, instead of forward.  I am curious as to whether it’s because he was so large, which made me think he just looked stupid.  When we see him in future movies, I hope that he is a normal height and not a hologram.  I wanted to see more of Kylo Ren and less of Snoke throughout the movie.

General Hux was like he came straight out of an EU novel: a typical Imperial General.  What I liked most about him was that he seemed to be an equal to Kylo and had no problems calling him out, another difference from the Empire in the Original Trilogy, where everyone was terrified of Vader (shhh…don’t tell Kylo that).  Captain Phasma didn’t have as large of a role as I was hoping, but I appreciate the shout out to female stormtroopers and the fact, again, that Phasma could have been male or female.  Maz Kanata was a nice replacement for Yoda/wise mage, but I’d like to see more of her.  I hope she continues to pop up throughout the new sequels, but is a true guiding force.  General Leia was not given as much screen time as I would have hoped.  She was the same, yet different, but they didn’t explore it much.  She had more of a cameo role than an actual part.  Poe Dameron was interesting and I hope we see more of him in the future.  I think he will be a really strong character, but more please.  More of Poe in the next movie.

star-wars-7-force-awakens-kylo-ren-captain-phasma-general-hux

I believe it took a while for the movie to establish itself, but once the foundation was built, it took my breath away.  Abrams did a great job clearly defining that the baton was being passed onto a new generation, which was one of my highest hopes.  I did not want a movie that only focused on Han, Leia, and Luke again – and this did not disappoint.

The only parts where it fell short for me was the lack of the mystical in the Force and Snoke.  I felt that the Force has always been such an important factor for Star Wars and guides all the movies, so to say, but it wasn’t strong within this movie.  I think we’ll see more of it coming up in the sequels and I certainly hope so.

Overall, I give The Force Awakens a solid B+/A-.  I’m seeing it again tonight so will hopefully have a better understanding and opinion of it once done.

 

Okay, phew, done.  LET’S DISCUSS.

 

Book Review: A New Dawn

a new dawn book cover

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.

**Spoiler Warning**

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:

Pros:

  • Kanan and Hera’s relationship stayed strictly as friends. You can tell Kanan wants something more and finds her SloaneKananattractive, 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.

Cons:

  • 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 ANewDawnbe 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.