Tarkin: Star Wars Book Review
James Luceno is an accomplished author and a veteran in the legacy Star Wars Expanded Universe. Tarkin: Star Wars is his latest work in the Star Wars Universe, developed in collaboration with Lucasfilm Story Group, making it part of the new official canon. Reestablishing some of the legacy canon as well as developing new canon, Tarkin does not disappoint.
The novel is based around, wait for it, Wilhuff Tarkin, and one recognizes his foul stench from the beginning of the story. Ultimately, it is about a developing rapport between Darth Vader and Tarkin’s promotion to the newly created position of Grand Moff. Set five years after Star Wars Episode III, the story opens on the construction site of the very-unfinished Death Star, the first thing an avid Star Wars reader will notice is the new canon of the design and building of the moon… err I mean battle station. Gone is the scientist think tank hidden inside the Maw, the story holds true to the official canon presented in Attack of the Clones. Tarkin, of course, remains the man in charge of its construction.
An attack on the station leads Tarkin to be called to Coruscant to meet with Emporer Palpatine. Their history is revealed through Tarkin’s trips down memory lane, expanding on Tarkin’s insistence in the Clone Wars series that he is close to Palpatine. The whole story dovetails nicely with the canon established in the Clone Wars series. From many references to the escape from the Citadel to one-off mentions of battles, it is nice to see the research into the development of the story and essential to an immersive experience. Palpatine assigns Tarkin to a mission with Darth Vader to develop a better relationship between his top agents. Together, the two vilest men in the Empire must hunt down some dissidents intent on wreaking havoc and sowing discord in the New Order.
We also get a glimpse into the personal history of Tarkin. Born on the Outer Rim world Eriadu, Tarkin is raised in the household of what could be compared to country noblemen. His family is wealthy, wealthier than most in the Core Worlds, but looked down upon due to their quaint ways. He is taught that personal glory is the highest achievement. From a young age, he is taught how to survive in the wilderness, not through being one with nature but through conquering it. “It will look better with blood on it” is a recurring quote tying together Tarkin’s past and present. Even though it is Star Wars, this storyline is dark and bloody; it is a must-have in creating the Tarkin idea that it is better to rule through fear of force than through force itself.
All these plotlines are tied together nicely, creating an engaging story that gives the die-hard Star Wars fan character history without leaving the casual reader wondering about the importance of the history lesson. The characterization of the people we know well from the movies is spot on, rarely making me exclaim, “he wouldn’t say that!” This is essential to not kick the reader out of the story, as anyone who has read The Crystal Star knows well (if you haven’t read it, don’t). Consistency with the new canon is remarkable while reestablishing some old points of interest, such as Darth Plagueis being Sidious’s former master, doesn’t alienate the lovers of the legacy canon. It is a must-read for anyone that can’t get enough Star Wars, and a great work of sci-fi on its own.