8.5/10 – a fun, fast-paced preface about two beloved characters in Star Wars Rebels
After bingeing the entirety of the “Star Wars Rebels” animated series a couple weeks ago, I found myself sitting in withdrawal, craving more stories about the crew of the Ghost – Kanan, Hera, Zeb, Sabine, Ezra and Chopper.
Luckily – and even though I’m a little late to the game – I soon found out about “Star Wars: A New Dawn,” a novel by John Jackson Miller (Kenobi) detailing how Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla originally meet. And thanks to an awesome coworker, I was able to get my hands on a copy, which I devoured in a few days.
Miller’s A New Dawn follows the story of Kanan Jarrus (a.k.a. Jedi Padawan Caleb Dume) around 10 years after the downfall of the Republic and the Jedi Order – and five years before the events of Star Wars Rebels. You learn that he escaped an attack by the clone troopers he was serving with thanks to his Master, and soon transforms himself into Jarrus. He hides his lightsaber and Holocron and suppresses any use of the Force, choosing to conceal his Jedi past at all costs.
His mission? To not be discovered by the Empire.
Here we find Kanan is now a snarky, sarcastic and sometimes drunk young man that continuously travels for work. He’s currently on the planet Gorse but seldom makes real friends or connections and never stays in one place for too long.
Little does he know that his life is about to change drastically. Gorse is a crucial place for the Empire: they mine materials that help construct Star Destroyers in its nearby moon, Cynda. When a vindictive imperial business man, Count Vidian, lands on the planet, he aims to increase mining production no matter what.
Let’s just say that Kanan gets thrust into a situation where he’s facing off against the Empire with a motley gang made up of a Clone Wars veteran named Skelly, a Sullustan surveillance worker called Zaluna, and everyone’s favorite rebellious pilot, Hera.
The story starts a little slow, but Jackson takes the time to set up several characters and plot lines that are crucial down the road. And while it was interesting to see the small-scale effects of the Empire’s wickedness on the people of Gorse, the first chapters didn’t have enough going on… or enough Kanan or Hera for me.
By the second part, things progress much better and the characters’ choices begin to drive the plot, especially Kanan. Miller does such a wonderful job balancing his conflict between being the hero and fighting for his own survival. It’s inherent in Kanan to do good, but doing good in the Empire gets you noticed.
The book’s villain is Vidian, a frightening cyborg-human if you can call him that, who rebuilt himself into a metal, synthetic-skinned maniac after defeating a deadly disease. He reminded me a bit of General Grievous, but it’s clear his ego, greed and business sense are what keeping him going along with the need to stay in the Emperor’s favor. His foil is Captain Rae Sloane, an ambitious female Star Destroyer officer forced into an intriguing, competitive world where one mistake could mean no ship to captain, a demotion or worse.
Some moments in the story are confusing, mainly due to the mining terminology or chaotic events that happen regularly in the second and third parts. And while I wanted to know more about Hera’s backstory, it’s clear that Kanan should be the main focus for the reader. He’s constantly being pulled into a personality that he’s hidden away for years, but there’s an innate desire in him to see it all through to the very end.
All of my favorite scenes included Kanan and Hera, immersing myself in the progression of their relationship, finding how well they worked together. The moment Kanan hears her voice for the first time is something I’ll remember for a long, long time. Plus, Kanan’s own mini-reveal to her about who he really is, although brief, was perfectly written. I read it several times before moving on… what can I say? I ship ‘em all the way!
On a side note, Kanan’s charm and wits while dealing with Sloane also provide some of the best humor in the whole book!
Whether you decide to watch the Rebels series or read A New Dawn first, either choice will definitely add so much more to Kanan and Hera’s story and to your overall experience within the Star Wars universe.
And if you’re a die-hard fan like me, it’s a must-read.