Tarkin by James Luceno

Tarkin may not be the most riveting character in the Star Wars galaxy, but he’s definitely interesting. The same can be said for James Luceno’s novel Tarkin. Set five years after Palpatine’s ascension to Emperor, the story pits Tarkin in a cat and mouse chase across the Outer Rim. Working alongside Darth Vader, they must find a group of terrorists wrecking havoc on the HoloNet and Imperial bases. While the galaxy isn’t quite at stake, the story reveals the nature of Tarkin and how he came to be.

Coming off the heals of Darth Plagueis, there’s a lot of expectations for this book. In a lot of ways, Tarkin is very different. There is a much tighter focus on the title character, whereas Darth Plagueis took time to spotlight Darth Sidious as well as Plagueis. There is also a lot less politics. While Tarkin does dabble in politics, his role in this story is that of a hunter. In fact hunting plays out as overarching theme for the book. Readers are given glimpses of Tarkin’s childhood and his peculiar upbringing. The lessons he learned then stay ever present as he turns his attention toward finding those who strike out against the Empire. Through his actions and thoughts, we see a side of Tarkin not revealed in the movies. By that token, the story sheds a new light on the films, but to a lesser degree than what Darth Plagueis accomplished.

Tarkin, however, is not the only character in this story. As evidenced by the cover, Darth Vader plays a role as well. He comes in a quarter way through the story and serves as a contrast to Tarkin as well as a bridge point between sagas. Viewers of Star Wars: The Clone Wars will recall that Tarkin was the one who got Ahsoka Tano imprisoned which in turn led to her exile from the Jedi Order. Yet by Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Tarkin and Darth Vader work together like old colleagues with no grudges. James Luceno takes advantage of this story to show how the two figure heads of the Empire cement their relationship. Tarkin uses his acute intelligence to outsmart their foes, while Vader uses his brute strength to obliterate all opposition. However, it’s worth acknowledging that there is a lot more hunting in this novel than action filled battles and confrontations.

Completing the hierarchy of the Empire is Darth Sidious. He plays a rather small role in the story, but a nonetheless significant one. Ever the manipulator, he is the one who sends Tarkin and Vader out together after the terrorists. He is the one keeping watch over their progress. And ultimately, he gets what he wants. Tarkin may be a hunter, but Sidious remains the alpha predator. Of even greater surprise is the rare glimpses we get into Sidious’ head as he reveals his ultimate ambitions for the dark side. It’s an excellent tie-in to Darth Plagueis, and a tantalizing story element that I hope we may one day see explored in another novel.

Like John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn, Tarkin is part of the new canon of Star Wars. Long time readers of Star Wars will be happy to know that this book does not feel any different from the previous stories we have enjoyed. James Luceno does not hold back when it comes to references to technology, ships, persons, places and past events. The long list of items and events in this book has single handedly restored a lot of the cherished canon many thought was lost. I think it’s also a great indicator of how much freedom the authors are being given when telling stories of the Star Wars galaxy. While there are some things that are being changed, some parts of the old history being rewritten, it still feels very much like the same world.

For those looking to expand their knowledge of Tarkin, this is a book worth checking out. As a Tarkin fan myself, I enjoyed it a lot. The story gives insight to his background, his thoughts on Vader, Sidious and the Empire, and provides a nice look at just how this character rose to the top of the Imperial hierarchy alongside the likes of Darth Vader. Through a detective like plot of cat and mouse games, Tarkin and Vader hunt down a group of dissidents. This leads to skirmishes with local crime lords, space battles with a renegade, high tech ship, and an intriguing exploration of who Wilhuff Tarkin is. I give James Luceno’s Tarkin a four out of five metal bikinis. It may not be the most exciting Star Wars book you ever read, but it will definitely hold your interest.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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