A New Dawn is a great title for this book in a symbolic sense. It plays off the fact that this is the very first in a series of new canon Star Wars novels, and what with the very first released Star Wars film being titled A New Hope, the title of the book also plays off fan nostalgia. It’s also the dawn of a new Star Wars franchise in that the characters introduced here will be further developed in the Star Wars: Rebels cartoon. But thematically, the title seems forced (pun intended). Twi’lek youth Hera Syndulla is in search of, what we come to find out, other like-minded individuals with a yearning to take the Empire down. She wants to insight a galaxy-wide rebellion, although for most of the book she seems under the impression that the people aren’t quite ready yet. When she realizes that there are, in fact, other rebellious individuals ready to heed her call to arms out there, only then does she refer to this as a ‘new dawn.’ And that just doesn’t feel right. It also seems a bit odd after reading Lords of the Sith, where we find that the rebellion has already taken root against the Empire (thanks to her very own father laying down the first seeds). This review contains some minor spoilers.
A New Dawn does begin quite powerfully however. We discover Caleb Dume’s origins as a character, particularly the fact that he was a promising padawan of the Jedi at the time when Order 66 went into affect and nearly wiped out all Jedi. We learn that it was a young Caleb Dume that originally gave Obi-Wan the idea to warn the Jedi away from the Temple, if there were ever cause for worry. It was an emotional beginning to the novel, one that ultimately put me in the best of mindsets for the rest of story to come.
We jump forward over a decade later to the planet Gorse, where Caleb Dume (now under the alias of Kanan Jarrus) flies a cargo-carrier for a living from the planet Gorse to it’s moon Cynda, a menial job that should help him avoid detection amongst the Empire. He’s long abandoned any thoughts on a return to taking Jedi action. But inevitably he is thrown into situations that occasionally require him to tap into the Force for aid. Unfortunately the book has very little of this, and even less lightsaber action. He’s more of an over-cocky Han Solo type of character.
We learn that the Empire’s mining of thorilide aids in the production of starships, particularly as a shock absorber for their turbolasers. The increased output required of the workers on Cynda could be hinting at the Empire’s preparation of their Death Star program, but this is never mentioned outright. But one (extremely annoying) human, Skelly, realizes the increased mining output is essentially crippling the brittle moon, and would likely blow it up if the Empire kept at it. Nobody believes him, odd enough. Even after showing his calculations to a number of other individuals, they all seemed to disregard him as crazy. Of course, this is the setup for the eventual climax of the novel. Also a bit unnaturally forced.
The villain of the book was a strong one. Many times, especially when it comes to Star Wars, the story is only as good as the villain is bad. Count Denetrius Vidian is a cyborg, like Grievous before him, but we actually learn more about his past than we do with Grievous (at least Episode III’s iteration of the character). He’s augmented himself with the latest and greatest of just about everything to increase efficiency and productivity. In charge of meeting the Empire’s insane thorilide quota, he is a one man reign of terror. And he causes plenty of trouble for our rebels.
Ultimately, despite a strong opening and closing, the meat of the novel just wasn’t as interesting as it probably should have been. I couldn’t find it in me to invest much in the characters, and I kind of wished the villain succeeded. The threat itself, while interesting, made for a slow and scattered plot.