Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at https://medium.com/@ianrbuck/a-new-dawn-star-wars-review-144fc3053ead#.ghn53fhme
April 25th, 2014 was a surprisingly important day in my life. On that day the Lucasfilm story group changed the definition of what is canon and what is not in the Star Wars universe for good. I was extremely unhappy with the announcement, in ways that would seem irrational to most people. You have to understand, though, that a huge portion of my childhood has revolved around reading as many Star Wars novels as I could get my hands on. My brothers and I can talk for hours and hours about all of the things we have read in the Expanded Universe. Before April 25th, 2014 if you asked me who my favorite Star Wars character was, I would have immediately said "Grand Admiral Thrawn." Now I don't know. None of the characters that appeared in the movies even came close. Imagine a historian who dedicated their life to learning all they could about a particular area of the world in a particular period of time. They are one of the world's foremost experts on the subject. Suddenly a document is uncovered that reveals almost all of the materials they studied up to that point are false. How would you feel as that historian? I suppose there is a bright side to this whole situation: for the first time in my life I actually have a chance of catching up on everything that officially happened in the Star Wars universe. Because of that motivation, A New Dawn is the first Star Wars novel I have read in years. So let's get into it.
Efficiency is a prominent theme in A New Dawn, and this extends to the book itself as well. It uses its time well: the story never gets bogged down by unnecessary details, all of the characters introduced have important parts to play, and all of the events that occur are there to move the plot forward. It was refreshing to read a book that took this approach, but there are a few side effects as well. For example, knowing that everything is important allows the reader to know several characters' secret identities well before their "big reveal". Or any time something seems like a strange coincidence, it most assuredly is not a coincidence.
The cast was fairly diverse, and most of them were interesting characters. Among the four main protagonists, half were female (in total it was a little less, five women to eight men), half were not human, and one was an amputee. I was quite pleased with Hera, a strong female lead who had her own goals and agenda and saved Kanan at least as many times as he saved her. I was significantly less impressed with Kanan: haven't we seen enough ladies' men with a penchant for drinking who pretend not to care about anyone in Star Wars?
I am having a hard time figuring out what age group this book is meant for. The supposed mysteries that were so easy to figure out point towards a younger teen audience. But then Miller goes and uses words like "coruscating" and "perdition" which I have never seen before. There is a very silly notion of what falling in love entails (Kanan hears Hera's voice and immediately his only goal in life is to find out who that lovely voice belongs to). But then there is the savage violence displayed by Count Vidian. I suppose I was reading more intense stuff at that age, but maybe I should not have been.
Should you read A New Dawn? That entirely depends on how much you care about Star Wars. It is a good book, but not really a must-read for those who do not care about keeping up with everything going on in the galaxy. It is meant as a setup for the Rebels show that just started, though I doubt you will be lost if you just start watching the show without reading.