Welcome to Book Reviews. In this series I will look to review any canon books that come out in the Star Wars galaxy. I am no expert in book critic or expert in writing (as you may be able to tell), so this is very much from a fan’s point of view. I will generally try to give a quick idea of what the story is about but avoid any spoilers. In each review, I will also try to point out a few “Moments in Canon” – moments that link into the wider canon and references to other canon stories – and also give my opinion if it is worth reading. Today I will be looking at John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn.
With Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, all previous Star Wars content other than the movies and The Clone Wars was re-branded as Legends and designated non-canon, while any works moving forwards would always be part of the canon. John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn was one of the first novels to release as part of the new canon, as part of the early tie-ins to Rebels.
A nightmare had begun for everyone, years earlier, and it continued in almost every way that mattered. The galaxy hadn’t awoken from it yet, and maybe it never would. But Kanan had always been about going to perdition in style, and Ghost was a great way to get there.
Set approximately 11 years before A New Hope, this novel works as a prequel to the TV show Rebels and tells of how Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus came to meet each other as she was investigating Count Vidian, one of the Emperor’s top efficiency experts, as he is assigned to improving production of the Thorilide mines in the Gorse system. The story is told from a number of points of view: Kanan, Hera and 2 other Gorse inhabitants, Skelly and Zaluna as well as Count Vidian and Rae Sloane, temporary captain of the Imperial Star Destroyer Ultimatum that Vidian used during his time in the Gorse system.
It was an odd feeling, like putting on an old article of clothing.It was like the leap, something he had sworn never to do. Not in front of anyone to be sure.
As a big fan of Rebels, I really enjoyed reading this novel. The characters of Kanan and Hera are similar enough to what we see in the show that they are recognisable, while also being different enough that we can feel these characters have evolved in the years between the novel and the show. Hera’s character is very similar to what we get in Rebels as her outlook and motivations have not really changed, but Kanan’s character develops in a natural arc through the novel as he goes from some thrill-seeking drunk who refuses to settle into a man who is willing to stand up for what is right. Zaluna feels right as a character whose world is turned upside down as she begins to realise that the people she works for may not have her planet’s interests at heart, while Skelly does feel like a man whose paranoia is stopping him from thinking logically. Count Vidian is another example of the tyranny of the Empire, considering innocent lives less important than Imperial quotas. Rae Sloane is an interesting character as she reminds me somewhat of Admiral Piett in the Original Trilogy: someone who is just doing there job to the best of their ability but for a bad organisation.
The plot of this story feels natural to me, from Kanan trying to hide somewhere that his natural abilities will not make him stand out as much. Hera comes to the Gorse system with a specific assignment, but neither of them feels that they can just leave as they find out the danger the locals are in – both for their own moral reasons. Vidian’s actions in trying to meet the quotas get increasingly desperate as the story goes on and the way that everything comes to a climax and is settled feels right for how the story has progressed. The chemistry between Kanan and Hera develops well throughout the story but considering the time still to pass between this novel and the beginning of Rebels, Miller does a great job of leaving space for the relationship to continue growing over the years.
Kanan knew he was anything but lucky. For Kanan Jarrus was Caleb Dume, the Jedi who never was.
Along with Ahsoka, this is one of the few stories where we have seen how a Jedi is trying to hide and survive during the Dark Times following the rise of the Empire and I love the route that Miller went down of Kanan actively trying to escape the Force by not using it, but also going to places that he thinks the Empire will never come and taking on dangerous jobs. This is a character who has gone off the rails, becoming a drunk who enjoys women and brawling every night. He has gone from a life of selflessness to caring about only himself and rarely letting anyone else into his life, yet we can still see that in the moment his instincts will push him to help others and risk himself in the process.
Should I read it?
If you liked Rebels then I definitely think this novel is worth a read as it is a great story of how the Kanan met Hera and became part of the crew of the Ghost. Being a big fan of the show, I think that this is a wonderful novel, but I think that there is also enough there for people who have not watched the show to enjoy.
He’d missed Vidian before. He wouldn’t do it again.
It’s very rare that we have had a sequel novel in the new Star Wars canon so far, but I would love Miller to be able to write a sequel to this novel continuing the story of these two characters and showing the creation of the Spectres.
Moments in canon
- Kanan (when he was still the padawan Caleb Dume) inadvertently gave Obi-Wan the idea for using the Jedi Temple’s recall signal to warn the Jedi following Order 66
- The Empire uses the excuse of industrial accidents for deaths on Gorse and Cynda, much like how the destruction of Jedha is blamed on a mining accident
- The character of Rae Sloane has since appeared in other stories including being a lead character in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath Trilogy. Much like in this novel, she does not blindly follow her superior’s orders if she does not feel comfortable with them
- Like many of the Imperial officers we have seen in numerous stories, Count Vidian and Baron Danthe are rivals for the Emperor’s favour
Have you read A New Dawn? What were your thoughts on it? Thanks for reading and May the Force be with you…