This book was not what I expected it to be. Sure, I got answers to many of my questions, but not the answers I was expecting. Upon reflection, I'm okay with that. Dawn of the Jedi takes place way before even The Knights of the Old Republic period, but does tie into the rich history that Bioware gave us. Set during the days of the Infinite Empire, back before Hyperspace travel was discovered, we're introduced to a much harsher galaxy and the Force-wielding beings who would eventually become its guardians.
Actually, I rather liked that this series changed up the formula and gave us the Je'daii, who are not at all the Jedi we all know and love. At this point in history, the Je'daii are really both the Jedi and the Sith orders combined. The literal Sith race is there hanging out with them! Things like tapping into anger or wielding some Force Lightning are not frowned upon, though the Je'daii are constantly worried about maintaining a balance, never straying too far to either extreme. These revelations threw me off my game but made me hooked to see how this series will address those separations and further hammer out the order to become the Jedi and the Sith we're more familiar with. This idea of a middle path, instead of going to either extreme, has been explored in Star Wars fiction before, and there's a bit of irony in the fact that that's where the two orders began.
While the change up in philosophies is cool, I wasn't initially happy with the reasoning for the Je'daii's origin. In many ways, it's more mythological and more old school sci-fi than any logical explanation, but after some more thought, I came to realize it's as good an answer as any, and is certainly better than going the more detailed, midi-chlorian route they could have taken.
But, Dawn of the Jedi isn't just a history lesson. There's an actual main plot, which takes place a few centuries after the group's founding, with hints that important moments, like the invention of lightsabers or the splitting of the Jedi and Sith, are right around the corner. When the Je'daii are just starting to gain a reputation in surrounding star systems, the Infinite Empire becomes aware of their existence and seeks to wipe out the Force users. This main story does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the original trilogy, managing to inject humor in between its dramatic scenes instead of going overly dramatic and dark as many Star Wars tales have been guilty of doing lately. The three main characters have a great repertoire with one another and defied the usual set-ups for Star Wars protagonists in demeanor. I was pleased to have strong women in the forefront, and I'm glad the creative team isn't wasting the opportunity to use a member of the Sith race (not the order) as a good guy.
This book deserves some props for taking Bioware's idea of moving the Star Wars universe back several millennia and using this to shake up everything we ever knew about the setting. I'm as eager to go forward and learn more about this era as I was to bounce around the galaxy in the Ebon Hawk or the first time I saw the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . .”