Retro Reviews: ‘A New Dawn’ by John Jackson Miller

April 29, 2020 at 12:02 am | Posted in Books, Random House, Regular Feature, Retro Reviews, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Greetings, my name is Jonathan Koan. The team here at Roqoo Depot has graciously allowed me to write some book reviews to put on the website. I am extremely thankful to Skuldren and the whole team for allowing me the opportunity.

Since we are now almost 6 years into the publishing process of the canon, I thought it would be prudent to go back and read through all of the adult and YA books released thus far. I’ll be analyzing how the book works on its own as literature, how the characters work, how it ties into the greater Star Wars universe and many other things. At the end of my reviews, I’ll be giving my personal rating on the book.

To start with, I am going to review A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, which was released in September of 2014. This book serves as a tie-in prequel to Star Wars Rebels and also serves as the first novel in the Lucasfilm canon.

John Jackson Miller did an excellent job with this book. There was significant pressure already, this being the first in the canon and a prequel to Rebels, but it was also the first novel released after Miller’s hit success Kenobi, which was reviewed and received well. Despite these hurdles, Miller produced not only a great work of tie-in fiction, but also a great work of literature.

One thing that A New Dawn does well is play on classic Star Wars and sci-fi tropes. Gorse and Cynda are a unique planet-moon duo. Gorse being half sun-scorched and half completely dark lends itself to really hook the reader, especially given the title of the book. As the characters hopped between the two settings, I was always acutely aware of where I was and what it was like on the surface.

Another trope played well is the reluctant hero in Kanan. He is depicted several times in the book as a gunslinger, which was originally an idea developed for Rebels, and is used here quite a lot. Kanan fits with the almost “cowboy” type character who knows the difference between right and wrong, but just needs a little nudge out of the door. Hera serves as a great nudge for Kanan.

While Kanan is explored quite thoroughly in the book, Hera is much more of a “locked door” as Miller has described in interviews. While in a vacuum, this would be somewhat frustrating, it is understandable that there was some information about her character that Dave Filoni and the storygroup desired to save for Rebels. I also thought that Miller had too many subtle nods to a more deeper relationship between the two in my first read through. However, after finishing watching Rebels, I believe that Miller did an excellent job at hinting at what was to eventually come. 

Skelly was, in my opinion, the most compelling character in the book, especially upon a reread. Miller did an excellent job of showing the poor treatment of veterans that can happen when wars end and also deftly showed minor elements of PTSD, which is something not commonly written well  in literature. Even though I thought he was foolhardy and a bit crazy at times, I understood where he was coming from and in a way wanted him to succeed.

Zaluna was perhaps the only character in the book that I felt needed more time on the page. I understood her involvement in the plot, but I wasn’t entirely convinced that she would so readily join Kanan and Hera. However, she proved to be an excellent foil to Skelly, and was used to show that people with completely opposite opinions can come together to reach a common goal.

Sloane is perhaps the most well known original character of this book, as she was picked up to be used in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy. I remember liking her on my first read through of the book and thought that her representation of the new generation of the Empire was something that, up until this point (2014), hadn’t been explored. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her unease at Vidian’s machinations and her desire to simply do what she thought was right to help the empire. She didn’t have ulterior motives, although keeping her command was certainly present in her thoughts. She shows the heart, and perhaps what could be considered the good part of the Empire.

Personally, Count Vidian is the best villain in the literary canon. I loved how from his first appearance on the page, he was utterly brutal and effective. The reader understands his reasoning, disagrees with him, and is ultimately terrified of him. He is not simply a run-of-the-mill Imperial, but is a force to be reckoned with. Having an in-universe “Gordon Gekko” or “Larry the Liquidator” was humorously intriguing and I hope that he makes more appearances in future books. 

There were some minor details that I thought were interesting. Dave Filoni’s forward was touching and sweet and really works well as some of the first written words in the canon. I also thought that it was smart to start the prologue with Obi-Wan, since he had just written the popular Kenobi. It was also fascinating to learn that Caleb Dume (Kanan) came up with the idea to warn the Jedi away. I also thought it interesting to utilize the mining background for Kanan, as several novels in the Expanded Universe (Legends) included mining backstories for their main characters. 

If I have one really minor quibble with the book, it’s that Kanan Jarrus is depicted on the cover with an illuminated lightsaber, and he doesn’t ignite it once in the novel. It’s more of a marketing design, to pull in the reader by the idea of a Jedi, and also to reinforce the idea of the Jedi from Rebels. Compared to problems the book could have had, this one was pretty minor.

As a whole, I thought A New Dawn was fantastic. John Jackson Miller knocked it out of the park with this book, as he has done with almost every single book he’s written. I’d give this book 5 out of 5 metal bikinis. A solid start to the canon.

My next review will be of James Luceno’s Tarkin, one of the shortest books in the canon. 

Written by Jonathan Koan

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