At San Diego Comic Con, early reader advance copies of the first novel in the new aligned continuity were given out (signed and handed out by the author, John Jackson Miller, at the Del Rey booth). This is the pre-proofread version and I only found 5 or 6 little issues, nothing major, but it's possible there are still changes to the final so it's requested we don't quote from it.
Anyway, it's nearly 400 pages long and took me a bit of time to finish. It starts strong, focusing on Kanan Jarrus from the upcoming SW Rebels tv show, and the story is essentially how he ends up meeting another main character of the show, Hera Syndulla. The book spends nearly all of its time on the muddy planet Gorse and its crystal moon, Cynda, concerned with mining operations and the sad lives of those who inhabit that environment. Part of my problem is how much time is spent in this always-night planet, the story takes place over the course of a few days and we spend nearly all of them on Gorse, a blatant stand-in for an old west-style town. Gorse is mildly interesting, but there's simply not enough going on there to spend this much time with.
I was really disappointed that Hera got no character development in this story, she's an enigma moving the tale forward through her actions which are poorly defined and even less care given to their foundation. The book feels like it's about Hera and Kanan, yet only Kanan ends up with character development and a backstory, Hera is defined solely by her actions and one or two lines vaguely hinting at a tragic backstory which led her to this mission.
Kanan gets a quality backstory and even character development, some of it feels rote and some borrows too heavily at times from existing SW archetypes ("let's put Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in a blender, adding a dash of Quinlan Vos") but overall it's at least satisfying to get this sort of Mary Sue character in an OT environment.
The plot early on does a fairly good job building up the idea of the Empire doing things to daily lives which would lead to a rebellion, early on you get a good look at a few characters and how the Empire has changed things.
Unfortunately, there's still 2 more parts to the book after that and they're the standard "robotic supervillain destroying the world must be stopped by infiltration" storyline that we've seen way too many times before. Once you realize certain characters are going to be in certain places, the end result is easily called and disappointing.
A few supporting characters are thrown into the mix who we get to know a little, and it's only a shame that there aren't more character moments inhabiting this story.
Overall, I feel like this is a 3.5/5 and not really "new" storytelling, just the first in a line of new continuity. I fear that light touch with new places and new characters is a result of that aligned continuity storytelling though, that there is too much concern over not treading too heavily so as to not inform nearly at all upon the backstory of other stories, and that's too bad because there are kernels of ideas that deserve to be developed in the audience's eyes.