I read this book about a year after I saw 2 episodes of Rebels, and gave up on it. It’s a testament to this book that I associated it with vague positive feelings even after I’d given up on the media it was clearly meant to accompany.
I’ve since seen the entirety of Rebels (and loved it) so I was excited to revisit this book with the added context of knowing the characters and looking to see what I’d missed the first time. On that note: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller.
The story is set on the planet Gorse, and Cynda, its moon. The Empire sends Count Vidian, a cyborg with a shady past, to investigate the system’s mining output. With him is Rae Sloane, who will later become a major player in the Empire, but for now is serving her first posting as a captain.
Kanan Jarrus is lying low on Gorse after Order 66, until he gets swept up into the world of rebel espionage by Hera Syndulla. Hera, on a mission for the rebellion, is set to pick up some intelligence from a contact on Gorse. Her contact is found out and arrested, leaving Zaluna, his coworker at a surveillance firm to deliver the information to Hera. Unintentionally foiling them at every turn is mine worker Skelly, a would-be anarchist bomber whose heart is in the right place even if his head is not.
There are so many point of view characters it made my head spin at first. Each has their own plot thread and driving motivations, and as their stories begin to converge, they realize that maybe all this was bigger than they bargained for.
3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
What makes Kanan an interesting Jedi to me, over the course of Rebels is the fact that his training was cut super short and he’s had to define what being a Jedi means to him, all on his own. That journey starts in this book. By this point in his life, he hasn’t really settled anywhere since his master was killed. What he has done however, is push Caleb Dume (his name prior to Order 66) to the back of his head. Caleb operates as his voice of reason, the voice and impulse he would rather ignore.
When the Jedi Order was wiped out, he lost the only family he had, as well as whatever cause he thought they were fighting for, and decides not to invest in either again. But in this book, we see him slowly take the steps to become both the rebel and the Jedi we see later. Obviously he doesn’t jump into the Rebel Alliance wholeheartedly. He needs to take baby steps after all. He starts by investing in Hera and what she means to him. He doesn’t know if he’ll take up her cause but he’s certainly willing to try.
2. Hera and her cause
Let me just start by saying that I wish we more Hera in this book. For all that she’s on the cover of the novel, as far as heroes go this is definitely more Kanan’s story than hers.
But what we do get is still pretty great. We see her mostly through the lens of her cause, that of the Rebel Alliance, and how it affects her. Having a freedom fighter for a dad could not have been easy, and while she didn’t oppose him by sliding into full on apathy, she isn’t fully invested in the cause of the Alliance either, at least not initially. Her goal is to get in, get the info, get out.
When Skelly shows her a report and proof detailing the total disregard for human life that the Empire has, Hera hardly reacts at all. This is hardly news to her, and in any case, she has a bigger cause to fight for. She can’t bring it all to a grinding halt for the sake of the citizens of this one random planet. But getting stuck on Gorse, and really having to face the full scope of what the Empire is not only capable of, but totally willing to do in the name of glory and control, she gains a new perspective on the cause and starts to become the Hera we see in the series.
3. The Empire could not care less
Speaking of the Empire, they just do not care at all what people think of them, do they?
They consider every person and every corporation to be in the service of the Empire. They carry out acts of violence on those they perceive to be a threat to them. They spy on citizens and detain them for something they might do.
Skelly rigs a bomb in one of the mines to cause a cave-in and prove that the tunnels are unstable. His idea is to show the galaxy that the Empire harms its workers which…is hardly surprising to anyone. His suggestions are even taken and reverse-engineered by Count Vidian to mine planets more efficiently. These more efficient methods would probably kill everyone on the planet in question, but it’s not like any Imperial higher ups care about that so…
4. Count Vidian wants…what exactly?
I’ve tried to think how to distill my issues with Count Vidian and his plot, and honestly I’m having a hard time. It seemed pretty straightforward until about the last 20 pages, where it started to look like he and his rival were engaged in a game of 3D chess that I did not realize they were playing. The mystery about Count Vidian’s identity, as well as that of his mysterious Imperial contact Lemuel Tharsa are interesting enough on their own, and I could have done without all the emphasis on his rival on top of all that.
It’s also a shame because this comes at the expense of spending more time with Rae Sloane, who will go on to be a bigger player in future books (though maybe this is why she’s only mentioned as much as she is? Big shared IP and all that?)
Obi Wan teaching the kids all about communication systems is some of the cutest shit ever (yes I’m biased). I also think it’s sweet that Kanan put the idea of the message telling all Jedi to stay away in his head.
Someone observes that under the electronic voice amplification, you can still hear natural traces of Vader’s voice. Now I love Hayden Christiansen. And I love Matt Lanter. But neither of them sound even remotely like James Earl Jones and this line is hilarious to me.
Kanan is hiding out somewhere, bitterly thinking that Obi Wan Kenobi would never be hunkered down in some backwater in the middle of nowhere, which is such a specific thing to be bitter about it’s hilarious (and yes I realize it was done like this on purpose)
There is some dark imagery in Star Wars, and I think the “acid bath” in the refinery is some of the more messed up imagery in these books. It’s like the paint thinner scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit but like…way worse.
Zaluna starts out working for a surveillance firm that has cameras and recording devices of all kinds all over the planet and the moon. She sometimes drops offhand comments, like that privacy is an illusion, and that her corporation had previously sold information on other people to other corporations. All this to say that I don’t think I’ve ever heard the tech side of Star Wars sound so much like the scary tech side of our world.
Kanan + Hera = yet another Star Wars romance that leaves me crying. Why does all the romance make me cry in a not-nice way?