Christopher: We do know, strictly from the most canonical source possible (a first-season TOS episode) that in the prime timeline, Kirk took command of the Enterprise over a decade after the ship visited Talos IV under Pike's command. We also know, from a source that has regained limited canon status (a TAS episode) that Robert April was the first captain of the Enterprise, again in the prime timeline. So in the prime timeline, it was hardly fresh out of the shipyard when Kirk took command. And we also know that in the Abramsverse, James T. Kirk grows up near Riverside, Iowa, and the Abramsverse Enterprise is also built (as in fully assembled) there (as opposed to the prime Enterprise, which was assembled in orbit from modules built in San Francisco). And while it's been a few years since I last read Carey's "Captain April" novels, I remember them well, and don't recall any major conflicts with present canon or novel continuity.
And Rob, while I, too, found the story compelling, I did also find it a minefield of continuity goofs and out-of-character actions and utterances that were enough to knock it down, for me, from "Outstanding" to "Above Average."