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…

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8 thoughts on “Tarkin (BOOK REVIEW)

  1. So I have an unhealthy obsession with Peter Cushing and always loved Tarkin, love everything about the original trilogy and I wanna read this book… But aside from the original trilogy I’m a very casual Star Wars fan, remember basically nothing about the prequel trilogy, haven’t enjoyed the few novels I’ve tried, and know nothing about the fanon or expanded universe or whatever it is. Will this novel make sense with just the original trilogy as a base?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. It references the Clone Wars a bit. But nothing you won’t pick up on. The Expanded Universe is not referenced, as this is not a part of it. Disney began their new canon of books (which are all really good, I’ll admit). Tarkin ranks very high up. I’d say go for it.


  2. I’ve thought about The Tarkin Question a lot lately, when I showed my 5-year-old daughter Episode IV for the first time. I explained, without really thinking about what I was saying, that Governor Tarkin was in charge of the Death Star. This confused her, because what did the Death Star need with a human running it, when Darth Vader was right there? What was Tarkin *for*?

    This question led to a spirited debate on my Facebook page. Tarkin was probably the highest-ranking officer in the Empire. Vader was, as the Emperor’s right hand, outside of the military chain of command. Tarkin’s an officer, Vader is a mascot (with an iron fist). With Tarkin the ranking officer, Vader was there partly on Tarkin’s sufferance (which, as you say, creates the necessity for writing backstory explaining WHY they have a relationship that winds up being unique in the original trilogy), and partly as the Emperor’s spy (Alan Dean Foster in the Episode IV novelization has Vader muse that one day he’ll have to kill Tarkin).

    Of course, the *real* answer is that you’re not hiring Peter Cushing to play underling to anybody. Also, it’s Vader who gets the Death Star blown up — if Tarkin, as he wanted to, blew up the Falcon right away, R2 is vaporized, the Death Star plans are vaporized, and the Rebellion dies right there… he didn’t have to listen to Vader, and, come to find out, he shouldn’t have.

    Once Vader became the breakout character, of course, it’s OK to decide that he’s actually Luke’s dad, and give him his own Super Star Destroyer, and let him casually murder Admirals and Captains, in the next movie. But, as awesome as Vader is in Episode V, that doesn’t really change how much instant credibility Cushing brought to the franchise in Episode IV.

    Even if he was wearing slippers instead of jackboots during most of his scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great response. The novel definitely gives many reasons as to why Tarkin is higher in command. Yes, Vader is Palpatine’s lapdog, and doesn’t have a place in Imperial hierarchy, but is always at the center of the action. Also, yes. The Emperor does make a special position for Moff Tarkin to become GRAND Moff Tarkin, the first of his rank. He is personally tasked with heading the project to oversee and build the Death Star. So yeah, you’re pretty correct all around. Ultimately though, the reason Vader allows him to boss him around appears to be the great respect he has for the character.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. James Luceno is one of the best SW writers out there – his stories are always fresh, unusual takes on Star Wars. Sorely underrated, though he’s got his cult following. Welcome to the club 😀 Because of him, Tarkin was actually the book I looked forward to the most when they announced the first four SWEU titles last year.

    Liked by 1 person

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