Tarkin is perhaps one of the most menacing characters in the Star Wars universe. He’s a character of grandeur, gravitas, and he uses this to his advantage. But I didn’t expect to ever need any more development out of that character besides what is given in A New Hope. With James Luceno’s Tarkin, the second book to arrive in Lucasfilm’s new canon book series, I was deftly proven wrong.
As I mentioned, this wasn’t a book I was eager to grab a copy of and dive headlong into. Tarkin is a fantastic character, played perfectly by the late Peter Cushing. Could this book really do much to change or enhance my opinion of the character? I’ve debated this question ever since I began reading the new books. It was the novel I was most disinterested with reading. But it got to the point where it was literally the last one I had left to read, and I was desperate for more. Disney has me wrapped around their greedy finger. Oh well. So I read it. And I really enjoyed it.
It was a slow start for me. The buildup before the actual story took an extremely long time, and it wasn’t until about chapter 9 where I became fully engaged. The first third focused too heavily on his backstory for my liking, his being raised on Eriadu, and his life achievements. He achieved a rank and status of legendary amongst his imperial counterparts, to the point where he was spoken of as formidably as Vader himself.
The novel doesn’t really feel ready to take you on an adventure until he and Vader are together on a mission, and their team up truly is legendary. From here on, the novel is near perfect. Even making better the flashbacks to his youth, and how that truly made him, Tarkin, who he is. Wilhuff Tarkin is a genius tactician, capable of seeing through nearly any threat presented him. He’s capable of deducing the fact that Vader is likely Anakin Skywalker, and that the Emperor is likely a Sith Lord, without any verifying proof. This was a huge testament to his personality for me, as he knew these were some bad dudes to begin with and yet he chose to work with them for his own gain – and for his personal vision for the future.
We also get a few chapters in the Emperor’s shoes, as we learn what became of the Jedi temple – he’s made it his home. We also learn about the powerful Sith shrine that the temple was erected upon. Above all else, finding this shrine and having unlimited Dark Side power was his true goal, and it was tantalizing to hear his plans for it. I want to see more of this in novels going forward.
One thing that’s always bothered me was the fact that Tarkin seems to be above even Vader in rank, according to A New Hope, but we know this isn’t the case. He is capable of bossing Vader around in ways that never made much sense. Until you read this novel, anyway. Vader grows to respect the Moff profusely, for his intuition, and his impeccable adequacy.
We also see a rebel faction let loose upon the Galaxy, not yet unified as a Rebel Alliance. This novel takes place shortly after Lords of the Sith, where we see what is assumedly the first rebel faction – the Free Ryloth movement. The rebels in this novel are unrelated, but their aim to harm the Empire is as strong as ever. I hope we see a novel, or other where the Rebel nations become a united movement. Come to think of it, that would most likely occur on Star Wars Rebels.
This is the definitive Tarkin novel, and only serves to give better depth to the character we know of from A New Hope. Don’t shrug this novel off. It’s a worthy read. Now all I have left to read is the book that arrived this week, Battlefront: Twilight Company – which I’ve already started…