Oh my goodness me, this book was amazing!
Having picked this up almost a year ago, I’d been putting off reading this book for so long, almost entirely because I’ve not been all that interested in the Rebels cartoon, and the cover makes it pretty clear there are some strong ties to that. However, I finally started it at the weekend, and it hooked me quite early on.
Set during that nebulous timeframe between episodes III and IV, we follow Count Vidian as he inspects the mining planet of Gorse, to see if he can make improvements in the Empire’s logistical chain. He is accompanied by Captain Rae Sloane, who was a central character in Aftermath. On the planet, he is stalked by the mysterious Twi’lek, Hera, who is trying to find out what he’s up to for her own nefarious purposes. We also meet Kanan Jarrus, apparently a down-on-his-luck drifter who works piloting explosives for the mine workings. So that’s the basic premise, I guess. It doesn’t really sound all that exciting, but don’t be fooled!
The book acts as a prequel to the Rebels cartoon, and due to both this and its placement in the timeline (though if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure where it’s supposed to take place, as there isn’t much specific history in there) I expected there to be the usual trite foreshadowing, as we see the big bad Empire at work, ad nauseum. In actual fact, while there are indeed a few references – in particular, to the Empire breaking up moons for the minerals contained therein that presages the original Death Star design – the narrative doesn’t make these things a huge focus as other books tend to do. In general, the sense of history is quite neatly described, and I think that, more than anything, is a huge thing in its favour.
John Jackson Miller is no stranger to the GFFA, of course, having written the long-running Knights of the Old Republic comics and the Knight Errant comics/novel, the Lost Tribe of the Sith stories and the full-length novel Kenobi. I thought it was nice to have an established Star Wars author at the helm of the first novel to be published under the new continuity – not that we have any massive departures from what can be considered “the norm” (much like Heir to the Jedi, really).
There is an episodic feel to the book, not really helped by the fact that the chapters are really quite small. Maybe it was just me, but I definitely felt it harkened to JJM’s comic-writing career, where story would be bite-sized to fit into individual issues. It doesn’t really detract from the overall feel, though there was a moment in the rough middle where I felt the book appeared to be winding down to a conclusion, then just picked up the pace again. It felt weird, but nothing major.
I think more than anything else, this book has made me interested in the characters from the cartoon series. There’s a Kanan comics series being published by Marvel that I’ve not been all that interested by, but I’m now going to buy in trade paperback, and I’m even looking into the DVDs for the show. If you’ve read my earlier post from when the cartoon was just kicking off, you’ll see just how much of a deal this is for me!
In short, this is definitely worth picking up!