Century, out now
Ten years after the destruction of the Jedi, the Empire’s grip on the planet Gorse starts to tighten – but Count Vidian’s schemes meet some unexpected opposition…
Reading John Jackson Miller’s new Star Wars novel took me back nearly four decades to the fourteen year old me who picked up a copy of Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye – in a way, I felt that same sense of excitement of a new adventure in the galaxy far far away that I got from ADF’s story. That was the first time (apart from the adventures of Jaxxon the rabbit… don’t ask!) that there had been new adventures for the heroes of the film I had seen multiple times the previous Christmas holidays, and I lapped the book up. A New Dawn serves much the same purpose for the new incarnation of the Star Wars universe, where the old Expanded Universe has become “Legends”, and an all-new canonical mythology is being established.
The book takes a little while to get started: we get a prelude set some time before Order 66 is implemented, introducing us to mouthy Jedi Caleb Dume. He asks some pertinent questions which haunt the book: what should the Jedi do if an order to scatter is given? As A New Dawn unfolds, we realise that Caleb is now known as Kanan Jarrus – someone who has more on the surface in common with Han Solo than he does Luke Skywalker – and he tries to do the right thing, while keeping his Jedi identity secret. We spend time learning about the society on Gorse, before the action really starts to hot up.
Jarrus, of course, is one of the key figures from the new Star Wars Rebels series, and this book acts as a prequel to that new animated show, as is the book’s other cover star, the Twi’lek, Hera Syndulla. The novel concentrates more on Kanan: it’s his friends who are catalysts for a lot of the events, and while Hera becomes increasingly more important to the story, we don’t learn anywhere near as much about her as we do him. (Which makes me suspect that a further prequel setting up her backstory will probably follow down the line.) Miller has clearly worked closely with the Rebels team to ensure that the story dovetails neatly into the show, but you never get that nagging feeling that something obvious is being bypassed because it has to be kept for the TV episodes.
Miller places these two alongside some neatly defined characters, including Count Vidian who makes for a different breed of villain for the saga. Business-oriented elements from Episodes I to III are as important to him as the more sadistic urges of Vader and his followers from the original films: there’s one particular death that may haunt your dreams. Captain Rae Sloane isn’t your ordinary Imperial officer, and I hope that we encounter her again.
There are plenty of action sequences both planetside and in space, and Miller uses his knowledge of the Star Wars universe to good effect.
P.S. – For those picking up the paperback edition, there’s a chance to see the new Star Wars timeline… rather a lot shorter (and in bigger font) than its Legends predecessor!
Verdict: An enjoyable novel which introduces the characters and tells a good standalone story. 8/10