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.

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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.

Star Wars Rebels – Season One Review

I was really hoping to have a report on how the virgin Star Wars viewing went last week…but turns out my friend’s husband decided to get appendicitis that day so they were in the hospital and had to reschedule.  Really?  Lame excuse.

So instead I’m here to talk about the first season of Star Wars Rebels, my thoughts, what I liked and disliked.

*Thar be spoilers ahead!*

You can read my initial reactions on the first episode here.

Overall, I really liked Rebels, and I definitely liked it a lot more than I liked The Clone Wars when I first started watching it.  You guys have heard me mention many times that I actually was furious at TCW when they began the show (Anakin has a padawan?  What??  What are all these random storylines thrown in??).  I didn’t want there to be the recurring, older characters.  I wanted a fresh start.  Though I grew to love and enjoy TCW, we definitely had a rocky start to our relationship.

This was not the case with Rebels.  I loved these characters that were not in the movies and I loved the settings.  It was Hera and chopperdifferent from TCW in that the animation was softer, not as angular or harsh.  For the most part, I liked the animation style.  I thought the ships were done excellently, though I believe the people didn’t flow as well as I would have liked.  Most of the time they were good, but sometimes they seemed a little jerky.

The throwbacks in Rebels were also fun to watch.  I loved that they pulled from Ralph McQuarrie, especially for Lothal, and his touch was a constant, even with Zeb and Chopper.  The lightsaber fight in the last episode screamed of TPM (it was nice to see a Prequel nod) and characters like Lando were thrown in to remind us of the OT.

The storyline was also pretty good.  Out of the entire season, there was only one episode I really disliked and that was “Droids in Distress”.  Clearly it was an episode just to throw a bone to the fans who wanted to see characters they knew (Artoo and Threepio).  I didn’t like “Path of the Jedi” (I’m not a fan of Yoda speaking to people when he’s off on some far off swampy planet) or “Idiot’s Array” that much either, but I thought they had nuggets of character development that I appreciated.

My favorite episodes were:

  • “Breaking Ranks” – Ezra joins the Empire temporarily and befriends Zare Leonis, who later becomes a spy for thestar wars rebels zare leonis band of Rebels. I still think Zare is also Finn, but maybe I should drop that point for now.
  • “Empire Day” – I loved the political undercurrents in this, as well as finding out a lot about Ezra’s family. It gave us some insight into who he is and why he is so against the Empire.  It kind of put a purpose to his mischief, as opposed to someone who just caused trouble for the hell of it.
  • “Call to Action” through “Fire Across the Galaxy” – I understand why they can’t do episode arcs that much in the beginning of the season. First, they need to find out if they are going to get renewed.  No point in investing in characters and storylines if it gets canceled.  Second, you need to pull the viewer in and the easiest way to do that is with one-and-done episodes.  Everything is somewhat resolved by the end of the episode, but there are hints to a larger storyline.  But this episode arc was really great.  The Empire (including a steady appearance of Grand Moff Tarkin – whom I actually didn’t mind showing up at all) is getting uneasy with all the Rebels and Tarkin is upset that Agent Kallus and the Inquisitor have not been able to capture them yet.  By the end of the first episode, Kanan is captured, and the next two episodes show how the crew of Ghost come together to rescue him.  What I liked is not that it was a simple, “Yes, let’s go get him!” but there were doubts, especially from Hera.  She had to decide between the mission and Kanan.  It took some convincing from the rest of the crew (and disobeying her orders), including Chopper, to finally make her see that Kanan was worth going after.  At the end of the final episode in Season One, we get to find out who “Fulcrum” is … and it’s Ahoska!  I did a little squeal, I admit it.  AHSOKA HAS RETURNED!
ahsoka star wars rebels

Ashley Eckstein’s voice too!

 

So now that Ahsoka is back in the storyline and canon, I guess it brings up a lot of interesting questions.  Does she know Vader is Anakin, her former Jedi Master?  Does she know Yoda and Obi-Wan are alive?  Or is she acting on her own in this rebellion?  She has connections to Bail Organa, and Organa knows that Yoda and Obi-Wan are alive.  Do you think Ahsoka just assumes Anakin died in the Jedi Purge?

inquisitorMy favorite character was the Inquisitor and I loved him so much.  I thought he was actually kind of brilliant, though he actually created more questions for me than anything else.  Maybe I just liked Jason Isaacs voice (ahhh so hot).  But I understood why he had to die.  Grand Moff Tarkin made it quite clear that he would not suffer failure…so if Kanan got away (which he did), the Inquisitor would not have been a welcome guest at Vader and the Emperor’s dinner party.  But now they bring in Vader…this could be interesting.  If they keep Vader in Season 2 as a steady character, I hope they stay true to his character.  Don’t take away from his scariness, add to it.  Don’t be afraid of making him as ruthless as he seems to be in ANH.  Don’t show any sympathetic gestures from him.

I think Rebels has potential.  I’m interested to see if there are any tie-ins to The Force Awakens and to see how they link this back to ANH.  Already they have Tarkin playing a somewhat major role and Vader seems to be stepping into the picture as well.  I want to see more interesting episode arcs and less silly standalone episodes.  Perhaps I’m asking for too much, too soon, but I think they’ve been doing a good job, but I want to see it become great, like TCW did.

What were your thoughts on Season One of Rebels?  Did you like it?  Dislike it?  Will you watch Season two?

For some great reading on what Dave Filoni says about Season One, check out this article.