Star Wars: A New Dawn

Star Wars: A New Dawn

‘STAR WARS: A NEW DAWN’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

Welcome to a new dawn! The title of this book is appropriate for a couple of different reasons. It is a prequel novel to the Disney XD TV series ‘Star Wars Rebels.’ It is also a new beginning for Star Wars literature. As announced earlier this year, starting with this novel, all Star Wars novels going forward will be considered official canon. This is all part of a larger collaboration and filtering of information through the LucasFilm story group. As with a lot of things related to Star Wars, the news was celebrated by some and greeted with hostility by others.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
“The war is over. The Separatists have been defeated, and the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning.” (Emperor Palpatine)
For a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights brought peace and order to the Galactic Republic, aided by their connection to the mystical energy field known as the Force. But they were betrayed – and the entire galaxy has paid the price. It is the Age of the Empire.
Now Emperor Palpatine, once Chancellor of the Republic and secretly a Sith follower of the dark side of the Force, has brought his own peace and order to the galaxy. Peace through brutal repression, and order through increasing control of his subjects’ lives.
But even as the Emperor tightens his iron grip, others have begun to question his means and motives. And still others, whose lives were destroyed by Palpatine’s machinations, lay scattered about the galaxy like unexploded bombs, waiting to go off….
The first Star Wars novel created in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, Star Wars: A New Dawn is set during the legendary “Dark Times” between Episodes III and IV and tells the story of how two of the lead characters from the animated series Star Wars Rebels first came to cross paths. Featuring a foreword by Dave Filoni.


THE PLOT:

Canon is a funny thing. I don’t think people really think about what is or isn’t canon very often. The reason for that is when you read a mystery novel, the assumption is that it is canon. Canon really doesn’t matter to most people most of the time, unless you’re talking about an established franchise like Star Wars where it has used different mediums to tell a story. Previous Star Wars canon has been far too complicated at times for a quick explanation in this review.

This book, the third by John Jackson Miller in the Star Wars universe but only the second to hit audio, is the first novel to be considered official canon going forward. What does this mean? In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know that it means very much. But in an official sense, it means that in the Star Wars universe, this is now on the same level as the original trilogy, prequel trilogy, CloneWars TV series and the new ‘Rebels’ series for which this novel serves as a prequel. Issues of canon aside, the real question has always remained the same. Is this novel any good?

I am happy to report that not only is this novel good, it is quite excellent. It tells the story of Kanan Jarrus, Hera Syndulla and how they came to meet. Kanan and Hera are two of the focal points in the upcoming Rebels TV series.

The plot is fairly straight forward. The Empire needs a mineral for the construction of Star Destroyers. There are mining operations on the planet Gorse and its moon, Cynda, but they are not producing enough of the mineral for the Emperor’s liking. Enter Count Vidian, who is sort of an efficiency expert crossed with a motivational speaker in a cyborg body, to get things back on track.

There are people, some from within the Imperial inner-circle and others from outside who do not want Count Vidian to succeed in his plan. As the pressure to produce more of the mineral increases, Vidian decides that the simplest way to meet demand is to blow up Cynda.

This book has nice action scenes, strong character development and some political intrigue mixed in for fun. The cast of characters is kept small, really focusing on 6, with a couple other minor characters to move the story along.

The important thing in this novel for me was the handling of Hera and Kanan because of how they will be featured in Rebels. I ended up really enjoying both characters and the way they interacted with one another. Kanan is a drifter but he’s a drifter with a purpose. He has a secret he’s been working to keep, both because of a mission and because of what could happen to him should the Empire discover that secret. Hera is more of a mystery in terms of what her motivations are, but it is clear that her goal is to spark a rebellion against the Empire in any way that she can. The fact that I liked them both and that they are interesting characters increased my excitement for the TV series.

I thought that the plot was well constructed. As things revelations are made about the characters in the novel, they all make sense. Some revelations are easier to guess than others and some come earlier in the novel than others. But Vidian is clearly the star of the show in my opinion. He is the chief antagonist and his backstory serves to motivate a lot of the action.


THE AUTHOR:

John Jackson Miller is becoming one of my favorite authors to work in the Star Wars universe. As I mentioned earlier, this story really focuses on just a few characters. This plays to Miller’s strengths with character development. As I was reading the novel, I understood what motivated Vidian, Kanan, Hera, Scelly, Zaluna and Captain Sloane. I felt like I knew what their goals were, what motivated them towards those goals, and I cared about the journey that I was taken on with them.

In the cases of Scelly and Zaluna in particular, but the others to a degree as well, you get a sense of how the shift from a republic to an empire had an impact on them. Scelly felt like a pawn in the giant game that came to be known as the Clone Wars. Zaluna had the same job for twenty years only to realize that even though the task was the same under both regimes, the aims and end results were vastly different.

Miller does a good job making characters likable. The character of Okadiah Garson is a relatively minor character in the story, but I still cared about him. Miller was effective in establishing that of all the people that came in and out of Kanan’s life over the years, Okadiah was a genuine friend. When Kanan stands up to Vidian to save Okadiah’s life, it feels real, and that is even before the true depth of their relationship is known.

The other Star Wars novel that Miller wrote and was made in to an audiobook was 2013’s ‘Kenobi.’ The two novels have a number of similarities. They both feature a small cast of characters with well-crafted motivations that drive the story. They both feature a relatively small setting. ‘Kenobi’ is confined to the planet Tattooine and ‘A New Dawn’ visits 3 or 4 locations at the most. They both feature enough intrigue that you might wonder when the Star Wars galaxy’s version of Sherlock Holmes is going to make an appearance. I believe that ‘A New Dawn’ features more action sequences and they are well done.


THE NARRATION:

I believe that the narration of Star Wars audiobooks is often quite stellar. I have enjoyed the work of Jonathan Davis, Daniel Davis, Jeff Gurner and January LaVoy when I have listened to them read audiobooks from the galaxy far, far away. My favorite Star Wars narrator, however, is Marc Thompson.

A reviewer at Audible summed up my feeling on Thompson pretty well by saying: “That man is a genius.” Thompson is a wonderful narrator with a wide variety of voices that he can assign to a character. He always seems to pick just the right voice and accent for the character he is reading. In this novel, I found his voice for Scelly to be a little bit annoying and hard to listen to at times. That actually ends up working out quite well because to the other characters, Scelly is annoying and hard to listen to, and they just want him to shut up.

Thompson is an accomplished voice actor, including for one of my favorite shows of all time, ‘Daria’. So when he is reading, it isn’t just in a monotone voice. When a character is out of breath, Thompson reads it that way. When a character is in an intense situation, Thompson ramps up his own intensity. This is even true when he is narrating an action sequence. He seems to pick up his pace a bit and add a little extra urgency to the moment.

Whenever a new Star Wars novel is announced I always go out of my way to find out who will be the narrator as soon as I can. When this one was announced I was hoping that it would go to Thompson. I was not disappointed when I found out that he was tabbed for the reading, and the man delivered an enjoyable listening experience and then some.


THE PRODUCTION:

As is usually the case with these things, it is another wonderful production from Random House. The use of music and sound effects was well done and always fit the moment. It was never so powerful as to detract from the narration. It sounded great which is thankfully nothing new for a Star Wars audiobook.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

If ‘A New Dawn’ is a sign of what is to come for Star Wars literature, then it will be a good day. This was a well plotted and compelling story with some truly interesting characters. John Jackson Miller came up with the basic outline on his own, but got feedback throughout the process from the LucasFilm story group, including those who are directly responsible for developing Star Wars Rebels.

Knowing that this story is actually canon was quite interesting. I thought about it a lot in the beginning. I wondered if we would see references to it in ‘Rebels’ at some point or not. But after a while, I settled in and was able to enjoy the story without thinking about canon anymore. That strikes me as being the best of all worlds.

The bottom line is that this is a great way to start off this new level of storytelling collaboration. If ‘A New Dawn’ is a sign of what is to come in the future, then happy days are ahead in the Star Wars universe. I am hard pressed to come up with a better way to kick off this new era for Star Wars.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Final Score
Star Wars: A New Dawn John Jackson Miller Marc Thompson Random House Audio Science Fiction 09/02/2014 12 hours, 43 minutes 9.5/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘Star Wars: A New Dawn’ was purchased from audible.com for review.

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