If you haven't seen Star Wars: Rebels yet, drop everything and go watch it on Cartoon Network. I couldn't bring myself to watch the Clone Wars series after the Prequels - which I deal with the same way I deal with the Matrix sequels, like this:
Turns out I may have judged too quickly; thank goodness the whole series is on Netflix now. For some reason though, I decided to try Rebels and was blown away. It was GOOD! I've always wanted to see what happened between the rise of the Empire and when we met Luke Skywalker and the show does that. Yes, it's for children but so was Avatar: The Last Airbender and that was one amazing cartoon. It's the very early days of the Rebellion and we follow a small group of people banded together by their dislike for the Empire and the tight quarters on the ship. My two favorite characters, hands down, are Kanan, a former Jedi, and Hera, a Twi'lek pilot. They are both wonderful but I love Hera - a kickass woman and the first Twi'lek woman I've seen in this universe that wasn't a slave dancer or arm candy.
So when I saw this book in the library with those two prominent on the cover, there was no hesitation. Discovering this was the story about how they met just made it better.
On the mining world of Gorse and her thorilide-rich moon Cynda, the former Jedi Padawan Caleb Dume - now Kanan Jarrus - works as a "suicide pilot" transporting baradium bisulfate. The miners call it "Baby" and they use the explosive to break apart the crystal holding the thorilide. Kanan has kept himself alive after the death of his Master Depa Billaba with Order 66 by roaming from planet to planet, never staying long and making no friends. On Gorse he's broke his rule though and stayed longer because of Okadiah, an older miner who runs the bar Kanan helps at and lives above. However, the Empire as at last arrived on the small world and it's time to leave.
Except that something keeps pulling him into the stupidest situations. Whether the Force he's tried to forget or his fascination with Hera, a pretty Twi'lek who seems to pop up everywhere there's trouble, Kanan finds himself drawn into a small resistance to Count Vidian's efforts to "streamline and raise the efficiency" of the mining companies as those plans become more and more twisted.
Will the man whose learned to stick his neck out for no one turn his back completely on his former life and training?
I think I can say this is one of the best Star Wars books I've ever read. While most of the "twists" were rather predictable, the writing was superb and I could sense the galaxy on a small and large scale changing into the Empire and yet also feel the seeds of Rebellion growing. That time I'd longed to see came alive and I loved every minute of it. Kanan and Hera were perfect and I could see the people they would become but I also loved the ones they were now. Most of the story is told by focusing on Kanan and through him we get some of that larger galaxy focus. Names of Jedi Masters familiar to us pop up and close to the beginning of the book Obi-Wan's warning to the Jedi after the Temple is attacked is reprinted. You can almost hear the desperation and feel the fear that would accompany it.
There's also plenty of action. Indeed, the last 150 or so pages have explosions, dogfights, shootouts, etc. Towards the end it does seem to come at you fast but it was lots of fun and I was reading as quickly as I could and will confess I made poor company for LL. The introduction of a less stable baradium or "naughty baby" at the end made for one of the most satisfactory yet sad endings in a Star Wars book I've seen in awhile.
I'd put this book up against the Thrawn trilogy and I consider that some of the best Star Wars Extended Universe books I've ever read. If this is representative of the newer books coming out, I think I just might have to start reading them again. I only hope there will be more of them featuring Kanan and Hera, characters I'd compare to even Han, Luke, and Leia!