As the world prepares to figure out who the”The Last Jedi” refers to, jump back in time to the beginning, and experience the Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void!
One of the best parts about Star Wars is how universal the themes are. Good stories capture the heart of these themes, no matter what the surrounding context is. Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void captures family drama, all under the veneer of a historical jaunt.
I recently learned that at the tail end of the Legends canon, most of the comic series were released as a sort of multi-media event. This was the case for The Lost Tribe of the Sith and Knight Errant, but that was apparently not all. So, come to find out, Dawn of the Jedi was also a multi-media event. Thankfully, even not really knowing this, I never felt like I didn’t know what was going on in this novel. Despite being in an entirely unique station (25,000 years before the Battle of Yavin), I never felt as if the foreign nature of the context was too hard to grasp. Tim Lebbon writes this novel as if you are a complete beginner: which is great, because most of us are! You can go ahead and check out the comic after or before this book, but thankfully, it is not required reading.
I was, honestly, really worried about a comic focusing on the foundation of the Jedi Order. Legends is notorious for answering questions we weren’t asking. The history of the Order, separated by millenia from the movies, seemed like the top of the unnecessary list. One of my biggest concerns was that they would tell the same stories that we’ve heard before under the cover of a different setting. Thankfully, I was dead wrong on this case. The stories were interesting, and the Je’daii of Tython were developed completely differently than the “modern” Jedi that we came to know from the Prequels.
The novel focuses on Lanoree Brock, a Je’daii Ranger. In the recent past, the Je’daii had separated from Dark Force users and founded a school on Tython. Here, the Force was strong and practitioners were quickly able to harness its power. The planet is surrounded by dangerous terrains, scary beasts, and special Force tests that became a great spot to earn the rank of Je’daii and explore the depths of the Force (Readers of Complete Locations will be excited to see that Tython was canonized as an early Jedi Temple, too!). Tython proves a wonderful background, and a stark contrast to the Temple on Coruscant. I’m thankful that in an era that desperately tries to tie itself to the films, we at least have a new planet to explore.
The concept of the early Je’daii are fascinating, and it opens up a lot of philosophical discussions on the nature of the Force. Some discussions (which are hard to encapsulate fully in a brief synopsis) bear further discussion, which might have played out had Dark Horse had more time to develop the era in their comics. As it stands, interesting comments on the nature of the Force are left sadly underdeveloped. Philosophically minded readers will easily find a lot to like in this book for this reason alone.
Lanoree is a Ranger, or a Je’daii who is tasked with exploring the galaxy. Instead of the wide open galaxy of the films, this novel is set in an age before hyperspace travel becomes a real possibility. I thought this was interesting, and it kept the novel very intimate. It had to be: most of the story follows Lanoree as she chases her brother, Dalien, across the known galaxy. Had the full galaxy been open for explanation, it would have been hard to imagine that the story would be too believable.
But the early Jedi philosophy as taught on Tython is not the only thought provoking aspect of this book. Dalien’s early reticence toward following the ways of the Force opens up doubts in Lanoree’s mind. For one of the few times I can remember, the main character has to deal personally with what it means for someone to hate the Force. This introduced a lot more thought-provoking elements, and even the climax is focused on these thoughts. As Lanoree finishes the fight with her brother, she wonders about how he would change if his lot in life were different. If he had the Force, would he had turned evil? Would he have tried so hard to find the Gree transporter?
The Gree transporter becomes a sort of MacGuffin in the book. With hyperspace travel so limited, Dalien becomes interested in rumors of a Rakatan energy source that would help him explore the galaxy. It was cool to hear another mention of the Rakatan Infinite Empire, a concept that I’m not sure many super-fans of Star Wars are familiar with. It is very cool to hear about this and then think about the Star Forge from Knights of the Old Republic, another Rakatan invention. Lanoree is again forced to reflect on the galaxy at large and the ethics of using these types of tools. Though this is by far the least interesting conundrum she faces, it is still very cool to know some author is thinking about it.
I may sound like I’m beating a dead horse, but there is yet another thought-provoking element to the book. Twi’lek rogue Tre Sana is tasked by the Jedi to help Lanoree find her brother. As the adventure moves along, Lanoree discovers that the Jedi have knowingly messed with Tre’s mind to get him to comply with their missions. Fans of The Clone Wars are not strangers to seeing criticisms of the Jedi, but having a full book-length discussion of this criticism is very cool.
Really, it doesn’t matter how interesting the plot is. Thankfully, the plot is interesting. The book is split in two parts: Lanoree and Brock’s early Je’daii training, and Lanoree’s current mission. The flashbacks do a good job of setting up both sibling’s characters and explaining how we got to the present situation. This is entirely a personal pet peeve, but I don’t like going back and forth between these stories. When the character learns a lesson in the past, they learn a similar lesson in the present. By putting these stories right next to each other, I feel like the story is robbed of its chance to naturally develop. I would love to see these put in chronological order and seeing the characters develop rather than being shown, at convenient intervals, how they develop.
All in all, Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void is a fascinating read, exploring the earliest history of the Jedi. I never thought this was a story that I needed, but thankfully, Tim Lebbon expands the history into something interesting.
Canon Novel Reviews:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars Young Reader Reviews:
Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape (Prelude)
So You Want to be a Jedi?
Beware the Power of the Dark Side!
Poe Dameron: Flight Log
Princess Leia: Royal Rebel (Backstories)
Darth Vader: Sith Lord (Backstories)
The Force Awakens: Finn’s Story
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Reviews:
“A Hero Discovered” 1×01 | “The Mines of Gabralla” 1×02 | “Zander’s Joyride” 1×03 | “The Lost Treasure of Cloud City” 1×04 | “Peril on Kashyyyk” 1×05 | “Crossing Paths” 1×06