Star Wars: A New Dawn was the first canon novel released. It is written by John Jackson Miller and focuses on Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus.
WARNING SPOILERS (if you haven’t read it)
If you love Star Wars Rebels then you have to read this book. A New Dawn is set five/four years before the series and tells the story of how Hera and Kanan met and therefore the beginning of their rebel cell.
The novel opens during the clone wars with a scene featuring Caleb Dume aka Kanan Jarrus at the Jedi Temple during a “class” of Obi-Wan Kenobi. This scene is very interesting as it gives us a hint at how Kanan was before being Kanan when he was Caleb – a boy curious and who always asks questions and wants to learn things. Then the novel goes directly to the story with Kanan living on Gorse and working on Cynda.
The way John described Cynda and Gorse allows the reader to get a pretty good image in their heads of what the two planets look like. Gorse a planet under the reign of night and Cynda a miner planet, two places good for adventures.
We get a good image of how the Empire behaves, they are ruthless, ready to loose a planet for profits and the man who embodies the Empire for the most important part of the novel is Denetrius Vindian aka Lemuel Tharsa. This character is fantastic villain with a complex story. Lemuel Tharsa a mere controller who is not a person being respected by others and who will physically transforms himself to become Count Vindian – 99% machine and 1% human – and be one of the most influential people in the galaxy. The secret of Vindian’s real identity is kept secret for a great part of the book and that is what makes his character so mysterious is that we know that something is not right with him but we are not sure why, we have doubts, theories until the reveal that he is indeed Lemuel Tharsa who he still uses the name as a controller for his own profits. In the end, Vindian ends up being and dies as an enemy of the Empire because they realize he made his interests pass before the interests of the Empire.
The other villain of the book is Rae Sloane, an imperial officer who wants to move in the hierarchy, if you want it in simple words the typical imperial officer.
Then let’s talk about our heroes Skelly and Zaluna Myder. Zaluna Myder is a female sullustan who worked at Transcept Media Solutions (a surveillance company)for 30 years, her job is to watch people through the cameras on Gorse and Cynda. She has valued her work over founding a family but this unlikely hero is left with no choice but in the end to work against the Empire when they are going to completely shake her life. She is going to pass from a passive person who watches people’s lives to the person who actually ights, it will cost her, her sight as she ends up being blind at the end of the novel but ends up being alive. Skelly is a male human who works at the mine as an explosive expert, not really Kanan’s best buddy, not Kanan’s buddy at all but they will end up working together. Skelly is the one realizing Cynda’s mines are very dangerous and could destroy the planet but he is the person that nobody listens and that causes him to do extreme things as blowing up a part of the mines to prove his point but it actually does the contrary for the Empire though Skelly still believes in the Empire until some point, until the point of no return when Vindian will not care about his words. Skelly is the crazy guys who makes things blow up but he wants to do things for the greater good. An interesting character who in the end dies and makes Vindian blow up with him.
Now Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus. Kanan is the man who is always here to help, who always wants to help people, it is his jedi side that talks for this part because the rest of his jedi side, he does not want to use it. He learned to repress his jedi self and does not want to have troubles with the Empire and the fact that he cannot face who he really is, makes him waste a part of his potential. As he explains, he was quickly able to forget some of the jedi rules as the attachment/romance, Kanan in the book is the charmer and funny guy and he actually tries his charming number on Hera and it does not really work. Kanan is also the man who cannot stay at a place to long, he moves from place to place and Gorse and Cynda is the latest place he’s been. Okadiah Garson is Kanan’s friend, they work together and Kanan lives at Okadiah’s bar. So Kanan’s life seems to be quite calm until it all goes down with the arrival of Vindian’s troops. Hera’s life is already more action-packed, from what we learn, she was already in her fight against the Empire and what lead her on Gorse and Cynda was Vindian. She is resourceful, intelligent and the best pilot. She believes in what she does contrary to Kanan at the beginning. We can see throughout the story that Kanan is in love with Hera, he has feelings for her, it is one of the reasons he goes with her and Skelly and Zaluna on the perilous mission against the Empire. Their relation is always a kind of relation of back and forth, we see that Hera is interested in Kanan as she sees he has potential for her cause and Kanan has feelings for her but the two ends up staying just friends. There is a great character development for them. When I read their dialogues I can hear Vanessa Marshall and Freddie Prinze Jr voices in my head saying these lines!
The story is very interesting as it deals with a planet under the Empire rule and how a group of rebels will end up saving this world, these two worlds that are Gorse and Cynda. I think the main story here is the characters development and how Kanan ends up being Hera’s ally and working against the Empire. It is really how Kanan finally accepts who he really is and how Hera will do this with around them different characters who will help them and others who want to kill them. To sum up, this is a great book introducing two of the main characters of Star Wars Rebels and giving us their first adventure together. A must read !