Recommended for ages 14+
Who was the one guy who could keep Vader in check? Come on, not the Emperor – the one person on the entire Death Star for whom Vader had a grudging respect? That’s right. Grand Moff Tarkin. Remember that one scene in the original Star Wars (some folks call it Episode 4 these days), when Vader is force-choking Admiral Motti, and Tarkin says, “Enough! Vader, release him.” Does Vader hold up a second hand and force choke Tarkin, too? No. He says – almost bored – “As you wish.” Even Princess Leia calls it when she comments on Tarkin being the one to hold Vader’s leash.
Bottom line – Tarkin got kind of a raw deal, being (spoiler alert) blown up at the end of the first movie, along with the Death Star. Played by the immortal Peter Cushing, Grand Moff Tarkin had the potential to be a tremendous figure in the Empire. We got some glimpses here and there with the post-series novels, most notably the emergence of Mara Jade, who was, we discover, Tarkin’s – GASP! – lover before she was Luke’s wife. But what formed the man we loved to hate?
Thankfully, James Luceno gives us Tarkin’s story in the latest Star Wars novel, Tarkin. We don’t get too much of a childhood background here, and we don’t need it. We get the events of his formative years that gave him his cold, steel foundation, and then we get a brief history of his rise through the Empire’s ranks, thanks to a friend in the Senate. Named Palpatine. The meat of the novel takes readers on Tarkin’s first mission with Vader, as they look to bring down a group of insurgents and find themselves peeling back layer upon layer of conspiracy.
Star Wars fans will love this story. Old school fans will love revisiting a familiar character and filling in some background notes. Newer fans will appreciate, and be familiar with, the post-Clone Wars Separatist movement and the Empire’s struggle to cement themselves as the reigning power in the universe.
James Luceno tells a great Star Wars story – it’s no wonder, really; he’s written Star Wars novels and a dictionary. He also gives us the Emperor’s real first name, which almost broke the Internet upon its release about a month ago. Emperor’s monikers aside, Tarkin is front and center in this book. We see his true genius, his talent for making connections and inferences, and most importantly, his dedication to the structure, the law, the absolute-ness that the Empire stands for.
I loved this book, if you can’t tell. I haven’t read a Star Wars novel in a long time, but this book welcomed me right back into that magical galaxy far, far, away.