As a Star Wars fan who focusses primarily on Star Wars movies and television, it is hard not to move beyond those media, especially with all the new materials coming out in print form, whether they be novels or graphic novels. So, to that end, I recently read my first ever Star Wars novel. A friend of mine received a free copy of “Star Wars: A New Dawn” at Star Wars Celebration this spring and graciously lent it out to me to read. Having read it, I think I’ll be reading more Star Wars novels!
“Star Wars: A New Dawn” is set six years prior to the television series, “Star Wars Rebels” and features how Kanan and Hera met. Originally published in September, the paperback version (which was lent to me) was released at the end of March. It is also of significance, since, as the author John Jackson Miller, wrote, it
is the first story written in consultation with the Lucasfilm Story Group. The group has representatives who are in the loop on the new sequel movies as well as the upcoming Rebels TV series; their involvement means that events in new tie-in works from A New Dawn forward will be considered as having happened in a Star Wars movie or TV show.
Jackson further underscores the book’s importance:
A New Dawn has the important task of revealing how some of the central stars of a new Lucasfilm Animation television series came to meet. It wasn’t a tie-in story removed to a safe distance to avoid stepping on what was happening in the TV show, only name-dropping safe connections here and there. It had to tell the history that these characters carry in their minds as they grow and evolve on the TV show.
Now on to discussing the book, itself.
Kanan is presented as someone who just bounces from one place to another, avoiding developing emotional connections to people and moving on, which is apparently aided by his Jedi training. As Hera surmises towards the end of the book (379 (all page references are to the paperback edition)),
Kanan had gravitated toward a dangerous calling on Gorse, because, to him, it wasn’t dangerous. And it was a solitary trade, so he secretly could call on his prodigious talents if danger struck. She suspected that described all the odd jobs he’d taken on in his life. It was the strategy of someone trained in a certain discipline, and yet forbidden from practicing it. That, his nomadic nature, and his lack of family ties all added up.
When Hera comes into the picture, Kanan immediately is intrigued by her as well as attracted to her. He is ready to leave his planet and current situation and go on with her.
Hera, however, is not so sure about Kanan. Inasmuch as the book describes various moments in which Kanan is attracted to Hera, it does not describe her having any attraction to him, whatsoever. It does, however, describe her as being skeptical as to how useful and dedicated to her cause he would be and if it would even be worth it to have him be a part of her operations, such as this thought of Hera’s early on (123):
Even the human who’d helped her against the street gang – whom she now remembered as the man helping the old-timer on Cynda – might easily fit a ready template: the gadabout, looking for a brawl. That would be disappointing, if so, but not surprising: Like everyone else on Gorse, he was trapped in a role the Empire wanted for him. He’d never be a threat. It was too bad: He seemed to know what he was doing in a fight.
And it is not as if Hera needs the help in a fight, she is able to handle erself and fight, as seen when Kanan first sees Hera in action (107-108):
Kanan saw blasters being raised. His was already drawn. Six – no, seven against one. That’s about right.
But before he could fire, Kanan saw the woman suddenly twirl in place. With one swift motion, her cloak came off – and became a weapon she cast into the air like a net. Charko turned back to get a faceful of fabric, dropping his credits in the process.
The gang leader stumbled backward, victim of a high kick from his assailant. His friends turned and gawped at what Kanan now saw: a beautiful, lithe, green-skinned Twi’lek, holding a pistol in one gloved hand.
The Twi’lek shot one human Sarlacc point-blank in a single motion, and then rushed forward in the next. As the burly man fell backward, the Twi’lek used his body as a makeshift staircase, giving her the altitude she needed to leap for a horizontal strut on one of the scaffolds. Catching the bar with her free hand, she used her momentum to help her gain a perch, clinging to one of the vertical supports. Turning, she fired her blaster down into the astonished crowd.
Hera, we read, is also very concerned about strategy in her fight against the Empire, as we read an early thought of hers of whom to take on in her movement (123):
Political activism drew more than its share of crackpots. Some had been legitimately driven to madness by the forces they were fighting against; some had been damaged by war, as she suspected was the case with Skelly. Some had no excuse. But while such people were always the first to revolt, they almost never led successful revolutions. Action against the Empire would have to be carefully measured – now, especially.
While Kanan does use the Force a couple of times, he mainly does it with either no one seeming to have noticed, such as this early scene in the book (65-66):
Without thinking, he leapt.
Leapt, as he hadn’t in nearly a decade, farther than any mortal normally could.
Twisting faceup as he dropped, Kanan hit the ground. He looked up into the onrushing mass – and stopped it, with his mind.
It was an odd feeling, like putting on an old article of clothing. It was like the leap, something he had sworn never to do. Not in front of anyone, to be sure.
But now he had done it.
However, towards the end, when he really needs it to save Hera, he uses it again (363):
He recognized the obstacles between them – the debris and the bodies, lying across the fastest route. Without thinking, he swept them away from his mind, clearing a path. No barrier blocked him from Hera.
And he moved. He moved faster than when he’d saved Yelkin, faster than he’d remembered moving in years. All in the hope of grabbing her and diving beneath the doorway.
Except time moved faster, too – faster than his hopes. He reached her too late, just as he’d been too late to save Master Billaba. The Force had been too late for many that day. But it was with him now, as he slid to the floor by Hera’s side. Hera knowing the danger she was in, put her hand up as if to shoo him away, to safety. Kanan looked instead upward, waving with his hand –
– and suspending the giant catwalk in midair, centimeters from his and Hera’s heads.
She stared at it, dumbfounded – and then at him. Self-conscious, Kanan shoved at the air, pushing the levitated mass off to the side. It landed with a colossal crash.
Of course, this elicits quite the reaction in Hera, but Kanan is able to keep it under wraps (364):
“But-” she started to say. “But you’re-”
With a wry smile, Kanan put his finger to her mouth. “Shh. Don’t tell anyone.”
She looked at him for a long moment in wonderment before understanding came to her – and a gentle smile came to her face.
Kanan also thinks briefly about using his light saber, but he does not use it in the book. He really is trying to keep his Jedi training totally secret, which is understandable, since once Order 66 was issued, his life changed forever (359):
Responding to some command from the Emperor, clone troopers had eliminated the Republic’s cherished fighting force. It had been a dark day – by far, the darkest in Caleb Dume’s young life. Kanan Jarrus usually avoided thinking about it.
However, once he exposed himself to Hera as a Jedi, it makes her think (378-379):
When she was a girl, the Jedi had helped her people in the Clone Wars. Although she had been too young then to remember specific events from those days, her father had told her, time and again, of the Jedi in action. Later, she’d watched many historical holos – all of them now banned – of Jedi in action. She understood that Jedi abilities weren’t some suit of superpowered armor that someone could leave at home, or abandon in a garbage can. The Force influenced and enhanced every action of a person touched with it, whether they were conscious of it or not.
And no one but a Jedi could do the things she had seen Kanan do. The brawl in Shaketown, the escape on the hoverbus, the battle with Vidian – in each, she’d seen a man acting at the outer edge of human performance. And, in all cases, she’d somehow thought him capable of doing even more. It seemed as if he’d identified a line that he would not cross, and had stuck to it.
Indeed, while she was doubtful of him earlier on, she changes her tune (380):
Kanan would be a great asset to her in the days to come even if he never returned to the Jedi ways.
But she couldn’t help but wonder:What would happen if he did?
Of course, there are more characters, and other elements in the book, the central part of the story and the central significance of the book is the meeting of Hera and Kanan and how they came into league with each other (or, perhaps, how Kanan joined Hera). It is fascinating to see the contrast between Kanan’s focus on not standing out and just doing blue-collar work, trying to be invisible, while Hera is strategically thinking about starting a rebellion. Ultimately, Kanan is able to join her and her cause.
As I mentioned earlier, I was intrigued that this book is part of the canon, which encouraged me to read it, which is great, since, as Jennifer Heddle, the senior editor at Lucas Books, wrote, “A New Dawn is an official prequel to Star Wars Rebels, telling the story of how Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla met and joined forces. It’s considered just as much a part of the canon as the episodes themselves will be.” Heddle also points out that this book, while focussing on Hera and Kanan, is not exclusively about them, that it’s
also the story of Skelly, a Clone Wars veteran who spends most of his life trying to make his voice heard when no one is willing to listen. And Zaluna, a Sullustan surveillance expert who believes the Empire is a new boss same as the old boss — until her eyes are opened otherwise. And Rae Sloane, an Imperial captain determined to make a name for herself in this new order, if only to distinguish herself from her politician father. The world of Gorse is a character in and of itself, with only half of its lands ever seeing the light of day. And there’s a brand new villain to hate, with a story of his own.
I’m glad I read it and now I’m excited to read more Star Wars novels 🙂