As a person who has spent a disproportionately large chunk of her childhood (and adulthood) reading Star Wars novels, guidebooks and comics, I was, let’s say, apprehensive when Disney announced they would reset the canon and relabel the “old” novels, comics, video games and other non-movie ephemera as “Legends.”
The purpose of doing this, Disney says, is to ensure that all Star Wars content from here on out will be consistent.
The first novel in this new canon, Star Wars: A New Dawn, came out in the beginning of September. I bought it, like I’ve bought every other Star Wars novel that’s come out since forever, with few exceptions (example: I wasn’t alive in the 1970s when the first Expanded Universe novel, Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, came out, and I was only six in the early 1990s when the Expanded Universe began in earnest with the release of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire).
A New Dawn sat on my nightstand for weeks while I looked at it, picked it up, flipped through it and read the jacket copy. I could not bring myself to read it for fear of being horribly disappointed.
When I finally did force myself to begin, I didn’t find some strange and unfamiliar new world, but the same worn-in universe in which I’ve been letting my imagination roam free for, well, most of my life.
As a tie-in to the new animated show Star Wars Rebels, A New Dawn tells the story of how TV show characters Kanan Jarrus, a former Jedi apprentice now wandering from one dangerous job to another, and Hera, an agitator for rebellion, meet and deal a significant blow against the Empire.
Written by frequent Star Wars novel and comic author John Jackson Miller, a majority of the tale takes place on a newly-introduced planet named Gorse, which has a moon rich in a substance essential to star ship manufacturing. The Emperor’s efficiency expert Count Vidian is sent to increase production of the substance.
Hera has come to Gorse to learn more about how the Empire is spying on its citizens and to get a closer look at Count Vidian. Kanan is flying mining explosives from Gorse to the moon every day. They meet when a disaffected Clone Wars veteran, Skelly, tries to demonstrate that the moon will be destroyed utterly if mining continues, to disastrous results.
While I wouldn’t call this, or any Star Wars novel, high literature, it is an excellent Star Wars novel and an excellent adventure novel. Its short chapters always end in cliffhangers, pulling you along. The characters feel like real people instead of the caricatures (the hero, the sidekick, the romantic interest, etc.) that sometimes appear in franchise writing.
We learn more of Kanan’s background than Hera’s, but I imagine this will be addressed in either future Rebels tie-in novels or, more likely, the show itself. The novel’s cast is also evenly divided between women and men, with one of the prominent characters even being a woman of color (this kind of equality has been more present in Star Wars novels and comics than Star Wars movies, but I’m still glad to see it continued here).
The era between episodes three and four has rarely been touched upon by the Expanded Universe, so Miller’s job in writing this book must have been relatively easy canon-wise. While my opinion of the new canon is rosy so far, none of my favorite “Legends” characters have been written over yet. The next test will be Star Wars: Tarkin, which came out last week. The biggest test, of course, will be Episode VII, the title of which was recently revealed to be Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
So with cautious optimism, I await the next chapter in this new, but strangely familiar, Star Wars universe.