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.

8 Reasons I Loved the Star Wars Rebels Season Two Premiere

I’m honestly in shock at how much I liked the SWR season 2 premiere that aired this past weekend.  Not that I didn’t like Season One (you can see my thoughts here and here), but I thought the beginning of Season Two blew all of Season One out of the water.  I kind of wish I went to see it at SWCA with all the other fans now.

Here’s what was downright awesome about the premiere.

  1. Darth Vader. I was really, really nervous going into Season 2 that they would try to humanize Vader in some formdarth vader ezra SWR season 2 because, well, this is a kid’s show at the heart of it.  But they didn’t.  He was evil and ruthless and whooped both Kanan and Ezra’s butt.  When they fought him in the end, I thought there was no way the writers could have both escape without compromising Vader.  They couldn’t defeat him (they are both not even close to strong enough in the Force or Jedi training to take him on); nor would he let them easily escape.  Filoni and his team did a great job by letting Kanan and Ezra escape but still showing Vader as the complete badass that he is.
  2. Ahsoka did not have much screen time. Don’t get me wrong – I love Ahsoka and I’m so glad she’s back.  But this is a new storyline with new characters.  While I’m happy she’s back, I’m also extremely pleased to see she is less feisty and quieter, which shows character development and I’m happy she is not central to the Rebels team.
  3. There was dissention within the Ghost crew. Now, this was no mutiny but I think it’s smart to show children, and us, that working with a team is not always perfect. Kanan did not want to be part of the Rebellion…he wanted to be on their own again, whereas Hera wanted to be part of the larger cause.  She spoke to Kanan about it quietly on the side and maturely.  When he stormed off, she didn’t push the matter.  I really admired that.  Further, she later brought the subject up with the whole team to see what everyone thought.  Stay with the Rebellion or continue solo as they had been?  The vote was 3 to 2 to stay with the team.  But it showed us an important lesson that working as a team means that sometimes there are disagreements on how to move forward and talking about it without getting angry is a good way to resolve matters.
  4. Ezra showed major character development. Ezra is an awesome character and those that disagree clearly don’t remember what it was like to be a child.  He’s is slowly figuring out right versus wrong, good versus bad, just like many of the children watching the show.  He wants to be a Jedi, but he struggles in grasping the Force and controlling his anger.  Sometimes he’s unsure if he even wants to be part of the team, but in this first episode we saw him realize that there’s more to life than just him and his friends.  There’s a bigger cause and sometimes it’s worth fighting for, even if it means helping someone who was once your enemy (Minister Tua) and you’re unsure if they can be trusted.
  5. It was good, classic Star Wars fun, very similar to the OT. Throughout this episode, there were moments where I was just nervous and on-edge, not knowing how it would turn out, especially when they were trying to get off of Lothal.  Vader was this looming presence that seemed to guess their next move at every turn, something I was not used to with SWR.  I’m used to the good guys winning and getting away with it, with their cocky assuredness.  That was not the case with this episode.  Yes, they got away, but it was not a victory.
  6. The Empire is cruel. In this episode we see Minister Tua blown up and killed as she enters her ship because she contacted the Rebellion for help.  It’s also used as a trap to extract and possibly capture the Ghost   Later, we see an entire town burned to the ground.  Though the show was clear in pointing out that they had taken all the citizens out before burning it, I don’t think that’s what happened.  I think that’s what they had to say because it’s on Disney but the sense I got from it was they burned the entire town, civilians included.  It drives home the point that the Empire was an oppressive government and to take it on would be a huge undertaking.
  7. What about the people just doing their job? I always think I would be a character similar to Minister
    I'm just trying to do my job!

    I’m just trying to do my job!

    Tua if I lived in the Star Wars universe.  I would be good at my job, enough to get me promoted and make me think I have some power.  I would probably help the Empire because I wouldn’t want any trouble and it is what it is.  But when I failed or got sucked in too deep, what would happen then?  Would I pull a Minister Tua and ask for help?  Gosh, knowing my personality, I doubt it.  I would just continue to hope for the best and that I’d be forgiven.  And end up dead.

  8. “The apprentice lives.” This brought so many questions with it.  Did Ahsoka know that her and Kanan’s connection was with Darth Vader?  Vader definitely knew it was Ahsoka, hence those words.  All Ahoska does is faint, yet she gets even more quiet for the rest of the episode and seems very unsettled.  What does this mean??

I really wish most of Season One was like this first episode.  I couldn’t help but love almost every minute…even Lando’s random appearance didn’t completely rankle me.

ahsoka star wars rebels

If you saw the premiere, what did you think?  Share!

Friendship Shows Us Who We Really Are

I find that I’m really liking Star Wars Rebels.  One of the main reasons I think I love it so much is the camaraderie and friendships aboard the Ghost between all the crew members.  I love Kanan and Hera’s relationship, or more precisely: friendship.  Now, I haven’t read A New Dawn yet, but it’s sitting on my night table and is next in line once I’ve finished this epic fantasy series (for those of you who care, it’s The Kingkiller Chronicle).  So if I’m bringing something up that contradicts with the book, then I apologize.

I’ve gone into this a little bit with my “Not As Certain As Being Left Behind…” post from a year and a half ago, but I was re-thinking about friendship in Star Wars over SWCA.  The Star Wars movies are lacking some real, serious, admirable friendships.

Off the top of my head, this is what I can think of for friendships in the movies:

  1. Han and Chewie. Why it’s a bad example – Chewie has a life debt on Han.  Not that I don’t think their
    Tell me you kind of died of happiness inside when this happened. YEAH??

    Tell me you kind of died of happiness inside when this happened. YEAH??

    friendship is real or one of the best in the saga, but I don’t think their friendship stemmed from something organic.

  2. Han and Lando. Why it’s a bad example – Clearly, Lando betrayed Han.  But friendships go through rough patches, just like any relationship.  It just seems like Lando and Han were always uneasy around each other from the start.  Though I believe their friendship progressed further, we don’t really get to see it in the movies.
  3. Threepio and Artoo. Why it’s a bad example – they’re droids.  ’nuff said.
  4. Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan/Anakin, Anakin/Ahsoka. Why it’s a bad example – this is a little harder.  I have no doubt that a relationship with your Padawan breeds a great friendship.  But again, I guess I’m a little hesitant because it’s not that organic of a situation.  You are both placed together in a situation where you don’t have much of a choice.  You become friends in the way that I become friends with my co-workers…there’s no one else around, so might as well be friends with them.  And some of the friendships last a long time and are really sincere, but some are just situational.
  5. Padmé/Obi-Wan. Why it’s a bad example – I actually think this is the closest we have to a real friendship inobi wan padme Star Wars…with one tiny problem: The scenes that really exemplify her friendship with him were cut from Revenge of the Sith.  Unfortunately, a lot of the greatest Padmé scenes were cut from ROTS, but that’s a story for a different time.  I think if Padmé had lived, and if Padmé hadn’t been dealt the whole Anakin-is-her-secret-husband card, then her and Obi-Wan would have been the best example of a friendship within the movies.
  6. Anakin/Palpatine. Why it’s a bad example – Duh.  Well, at first I think it was a friendship of sorts, though Palpatine was clearly using and manipulating Anakin for his own ends.  But as soon as they became the two Sith, everything changed.  It was a relationship now based on fear, not anything sincere, that’s for sure.

the crew of the GhostBut with Star Wars Rebels, I love the crew of the Ghost because they all chose to stick together and become family.  I think it’s a great example of friendship in Star Wars.  They are all there by choice.  Every one of them can leave when they want but they choose to stay because this band of misfits are a solid group of friends that became a family.

More importantly, and I hope this never changes in the series, I love that Kanan and Hera’s friendship is not romantic.  If it was romantic at some point, then all the props to them because what’s even more amazing is that they were able to move past that and stay friends (I never figured that out with my ex’s. Ever. You break up with me and you’re dead to me.  See ya.).

But let’s suppose there was nothing romantic in their past.  It shows children, and all of us, that you can have a male/female friendship without romantic entanglements.  I think that’s missing heavily in our society.  We bombard children with ads, movies, books, and a lot of it is centered on something romantic.  Either male novels will be full of silliness that the male character gets in (ages 6-9ish) and then move toward action packed books where females play small roles (ages 10-15ish).  With female novels, it’s rare that I see a male female friendship.  Either the female is off on her own saving the world (with random love storylines thrown in) or it’s completely centered on a love story. This is not just the case with novels.  Turn on the Disney Channel or Cartoon Network and you’ll see something similar.

hera and kanan star wars rebels

Kanan and Hera show us that each can be a competent, unique person in their own right, with strengths and weaknesses, but also the ability to be best friends without falling for each other.  They are hanging out because they want to hang out, because of a situation that wasn’t forced upon them.  Not only is it so important for children to see, but I also think it’s a good reminder for us.

I really think Kanan and Hera’s friendship make the Star Wars universe a better place.

Where To Start?

There’s so much I’ve wanted to write about these past few weeks, but I don’t even know where to start.

In personal news – I’m thinking of starting my own business.  And by “thinking”, I mean, I’m actually in the process of looking everything up and I’m pretty serious about it.  I’m going to launch my own Virtual Assistant business where hopefully I’ll be getting my own clients and helping them with various administrative, creative, and organizational tasks.  All online and all from a home office…so essentially I’ll be running an online business.

This came about from reading Lean In and realizing that though women are gaining equality in the workplace, equality also comes from understanding unique differences in men and women and providing for them.  In this increasingly online world, corporate offices should be able to provide more flexibility to women (and men) who may want to take care of their children, but still be able to work the full eight hours required.  I understand that not every employee can work online, but often in my Executive Assistant career, the people I support have been absent more than present.  High profile execs are constantly traveling, and my job has unintentionally turned virtual for the majority of the time.

In my ideal world, if I have children, I would love to go to work from 8-1:00pm, come home and spend time with my children, and hop back online around 7 or 8pm for a few hours to finish working, while my husband puts the kids to bed.  And still get a full time salary for my work.  I just want the flexibility to be a working mother on my own terms.

Here in the suburbs of Boston, one month of childcare for one child is equal to my paycheck for a month.  Get that?   Wow.  So I could not work, and our income would still be the same.  This really got me thinking.  I love to work, I really do.  But for the time period in my life when I have young children, why would I pay someone else to take care of my children when I can do it myself and break even?  Why not still try to work, bring in money, but also take care of my children?

I don’t know if this will actually work, or if I’ll even get clients and be able to maintain a good income.  But it’s better than not bringing in anything and I feel like if I don’t try this venture out now…by the time I have children, I’ll be too busy and frazzled to try to start my own business.

This is clearly what my life will be like when my business is up and running. HA. HA.

This is clearly what my life will be like when my business is up and running. HA. HA.

Needless to say, I’ve been slightly overwhelmed as I try to juggle my full-time job and getting my VA business up and running on the side.  There’s so much to do!  So this blog has been slightly neglected as I focus my attention elsewhere, but I hope no one has really noticed.

Now onto Star Wars news!

Since my last update on Star Wars Rebels, there have been a few larger developments.  We now know the main crew of Ghost: Ezra Bridger, Hera Syndulla, Zeb Orrelios, Sabine Wren, Chopper, and former Jedi Kanan Jarrus.

Ezra Bridger is a human con artist and thief who has Force sensitivities.  Unknowingly, he’s used the Force to help him get out of situations before.  Kind of sounds like The Boy Who Lived, huh?

ezra bridger

Hera Syndulla is a Twi’lek!!  YAY.  I was all for seeing some Twi’lek love and super happy to see them finally getting some awesome screen time.  She’s the owner and pilot of Ghost.  Hera is described as the “heart” of the crew, “keeping the group together and bringing the best out of them.”  She owns Chopper and known to be independent, strong-willed and determined.

Hera_Syndulla

Zeb Orrelios is known as the muscle of the crew.  His species is a Lasat, and the species is based on early concept drawings that Ralph McQuarrie did of Chewbacca.  Though Zeb is trained as a warrior, he is also educated.

zeb orrelios

Sabine Wren is a Mandalorian who specializes in explosives, and is also a graffiti artist.  She is described as “spunky and feisty”.

sabine wren

Former Jedi Kanan Jarrus is a human who survived Order 66 and is in hiding (obviously).  He ends up mentoring Ezra in the ways of the Force and serves as the Ghost crew’s leader.

Your lightsaber is a dead giveaway, dude.

Your blue lightsaber is a dead giveaway, dude.

Female fans were a little upset that after all the hype around female characters in Rebels, there are only two so far, and they don’t seem to be main characters either.  My guess is that Ezra and Kanan will be the leads, with the rest playing supporting roles.   However, I think having Hera as a female pilot is great (kind of reminiscent of Starbuck in BSG) and I’m very interested to see what Sabine brings to the mix.  A talented graffiti artist who specializes in explosives?  I didn’t expect that.  Nor did I expect any artist to play a prominent role on a Rebel ship, so this could be a good thing for children to see.  It’s emphasizing that not everyone in this world is pure muscle and combat…you can also be creative and bring something to the mix.

There’s a rumor that Billy Dee Williams could be lending his voice to Rebels but reports are mixed on that (by the way – it was just announced today that he will be on the next season of Dancing with the Stars).  It’s worth noting that he IS listed on the IMDB page as a voice in Star Wars Rebels.  This rumor comes from when he was at Rhode Island Comic Con and said he would be a voice in a Netflix show called Rebels.  Netflix is not airing Rebels, so maybe he is in some of the unaired episodes of the Clone Wars?  Or he’s just darn confused since he’s 76 years old (can you believe that?!).

Which brings me to my next update…

The complete series of The Clone Wars is airing on Netflix this Friday, March 7th.  I already have a calendar reminder set up.  This also means the final episodes, “The Lost Missions”, that we haven’t seen are also airing with it.  Yay.  I can’t wait to check it out.   I’ve read up on The Lost Missions and been spoiled (why didn’t they write “spoiler alert”??) on some of the plot, which has bummed me out, but I’m still excited to see it.  I’ll let you guys know what I think…

TCW the lost missions

Finally, there are a lot of rumors swirling out there in regards to Episode VII casting.  People are swearing up and down that Adam Driver has been named the villain and that the original three are returning, but just as a reminder – until we actually hear it from LFL or Disney, they’re just rumors.  However, we are getting really close to official casting reveals!  Filming begins this May so they should already have some leads nailed down by now.

I’m the type that until it’s confirmed, I try not to get excited about anything.  What’s the point if we don’t know for sure?  I get excited knowing that something big is coming…like knowing that we’ll have some casting updates soon.

Have you guys been paying attention to the rumors?  Do you get excited or are you blasé about everything?