A New Dawn

“The stories we love may not always fit neatly into a single timeline, but they will always matter.”

-John Jackson Miller

A New Dawn marks the beginning of a new era for Star Wars books as the first novel in the new canon. Yet it also lays the groundwork for the new television series Star Wars Rebels. While some fans are worried about all the changes, be it the change in canon or the shift from Star Wars: The Clone Wars to Star Wars Rebels, the good news is that things don’t seem to be changing all that much. Take away all the hype and expectations, and A New Dawn reads just like many of the other great Star Wars adventures that have come before. John Jackson Miller takes readers on a journey to the Outer Rim, introduces them to Kanan and Hera, and sets them up against the corrupt violence of the Empire. There are blaster fights, stormtroopers, dogfights in space, a villainous cyborg and daring missions that push the characters to their limits. It’s all the fun elements you would expect from a Star Wars novel with a few surprises left in store.

Firing a manager inspired only the ambitious who wanted to take his or her place. But murder motivated everyone. It belonged in every supervisor’s tool kit.

-Count Vidian’s musings

One of those surprises is the villain of the story. Unlike Grand Admiral Thrawn, he’s not a tactical genius. He’s also not a powerful Force user like Darth Vader. Instead, he’s one part Count Dooku, one part General Grievous, and about eight parts of something totally new. The result is Count Vidian, a business mogul who has become the Emperor’s “fixer”, a go-to man who can bail out flailing enterprises essential to the Empire’s war machine. Beneath the surface, Vidian is a cyborg. His eyes, hearing and strength are all far superior to any normal human. With various implants, he’s able to communicate and see things instantaneously. But business isn’t the only thing Vidian is good at. He’s also a kilt wearing psychopath who isn’t hesitant about using violence to solve a problem, or to keep a secret hidden.

“We just met. I don’t even know what you are.”

“Ask anyone.” Kanan waved over the heads of the drunken mob. “Okadiah! Tell her about me.”

Unseen amid the drunken crowd, Okadiah called out, “A fine pilot, an occasional humanitarian, and a somewhat tolerable houseguest. Marry him, my darling!”

“That’s an endorsement?” Hera asked, straining to see where the voice had come from. “Can he even see me?”

-Kanan and Hera

Counterbalancing the darkness of Vidian is Kanan and Hera, two of the stars of Star Wars Rebels. We’ve been told that Kanan is a “cowboy Jedi”, a padawan whose training was incomplete. Hera, on the other hand, is the owner and pilot of the Ghost. A New Dawn thankfully sheds a lot more light on these two characters. Kanan is revealed to be a troubled, wandering Force user. He’s an individual with a great gift but consequently doomed by it. To use the Force to help others is what Jedi do, but to be a Jedi is to be a enemy of the galactic Empire. Hera is in a very similar situation, but without the Force. She’s seen the corruption of the Empire and its dirty deeds. More than anything, she would like to stop it, but like Kanan, she is outnumbered. However, she is hopeful that one day there will be enough people like her to make a difference. The book gives glimpses of their back stories and does a lot to show off their personalities.

“I need you to fly like a Wookiee whose hair is on fire—and who thinks everybody lit the match. Can you do that?”

-Kanan

Most of the story takes place on the planet Gorse, a mining planet crucial to the Empire. Hera and Kanan both wind up there, and Vidian is sent to crank up the production facilities. One thing leads to another, and that leads to a whole lot of fun. From witty dialog worthy of The Empire Strikes Back, to mad bombers, a crazy cyborg, escalating violence and well placed humor, there’s a little bit of everything. John Jackson Miller keeps readers guessing with an unpredictable plot, and ensnares their attention with a cast of heroes that mix laughter with intriguing depths of character. It makes for an entertaining adventure.

“Have a look around, if your spy’s here tonight, he’s blasted off his boosters!”

The female stormtrooper surveyed the cheering crowd. A blitzed Ugnaught, snout-faced and only a meter tall, was riding drunkenly around on the head of a similarly soused Ithorian. The brown-hided, hammer-headed titan had a pitcher in each long-fingered hand and was lumbering around trying to serve both himself and his small passenger at the same time without spilling any ale.

A normal night for The Asteroid Belt, in all respects.

When you boil it all down, A New Dawn is a tiny adventure with memorable characters. It’s not an earth shattering, galaxy ending plot and we all know Hera and Kanan will come out unscathed. The point is spinning a tale that entertains readers and A New Dawn does that well. The book has a lot of humor in it, from the descriptions of wild bar scenes to Kanan’s failed pick-up lines. Yet that humor is also mixed with drama. Count Vidian is not some cowardly, mustache twirling villain. He’s an intelligent, motivated individual with secrets and his brutal murder of anyone who gets in his way brings a very dark atmosphere to the story. While Kanan and Hera might be safe, that doesn’t mean everyone else is, and John Jackson Miller does a good job of making those other characters people you care about. By mixing those dark and light aspects of the story, it heightens each. The funny moments become funnier when juxtaposed to the dark state of the galaxy. On the other hand, the deaths and violence strike an emotional chord when set against those light hearted moments. It’s a great balance.

As a Star Wars story, A New Dawn is a lot of fun and a very enjoyable read. The characters are entertaining and some of the dialog will have you laughing out loud. As the first book to be considered Star Wars canon, I think it does a great job of kicking things off. This is our introduction to the characters of Star Wars Rebels, thus it ties into the greater picture. Yet the feel of the book is not something that will turn off long time Star Wars readers. It’s a natural fit with all those stories that have come before. John Jackson Miller packs in plenty of action and surprises. For a book with no lightsaber fights, A New Dawn still feels like the Star Wars we know and love. I give it a five out of five metal bikinis.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

 

 

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  1. […] opinions from the usual suspects: Tosche Station (who also did a Go/No-Go) Jedi News, EU Cantina, Roqoo Depot, Lightsaber Rattling and Making Star Wars […]


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