Book Review: Tarkin

Tarkin by James Luceno, Star Wars Expanded Universe

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly . . . and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation . . . or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy . . . and its enemies’ extinction.

When I learned about the upcoming release of Tarkin I got really excited, over the last year I have read more and more Star Wars fiction. These books however focused on either the Jedi or the Sith in their stories, from both of these some interesting perspectives were shown. In the case of the story of Tarkin, neither a Jedi or a Sith takes the lead, but a normal human, well normal is not really correct. Tarkin is one of the major players on the side of the Empire and has delved into business with Darth Vader a lot. He is also the one who was in charge of overseeing the build of the Death Star... and we all know what the power of this space station is. I enjoyed reading from this perspective and James Luceno involves shows a lot of background surrounding this pivotal characters in the Star Wars series. Definitely a must read for every Star Wars fan. James Luceno is a veteran when it comes down to Star Wars fiction, but this is my first book by him. 

The story of Tarkin takes place a bit after the Clone Wars but before the events of the Rebellion. As you can already make up from the synopsis of the book it focuses heavily on Wilhuff Tarkin. Right from the start you are thrown into a very action packed beginning as Wilhuff Tarkin's base of operations is being attacked by a rebel group of separatists. Together with Darth Vader (yes!), Wilhuff is send to track down these rebels and to quell the threat. Wilhuff is at the same time also overseeing the building of the notorious Death Star. As Wilhuff and Darth Vader make their chase to catch this left over cell of Seperatists they get lured into a trap and which causes Wilhuff to loose his precious space ship, Carrion Spike, after this occurence you readily see the conviction that Wilhuff has to bring this bunch of rebels to heel, he wants he ship back no matter the cost. The rebel Separatists do have an agenda of their own and with the stolen Carrion Spike they start to wrack havoc and attack several Imperial bases. This alone provided a fast (s)paced and enjoyable story but added to this we get another storyline, once that focuses on the background of Wilhuff and how he came of age, this wasvery neatly integrated into the background of the story. Switching the current timeline with that of several past events that had direct links with each other. Also since Wilhuff's history was more or less obscure for this really build his character for me and just as with the many trials that the Sith had to go through, Wilhuff had demons his own demons and tests to face. 

I really enjoyed the story of Tarkin it was something completely new for me and James Luceno sheds a bright light on the inside of Wilhuff Tarkin and what previous events made him in the character that we know from the movies. But even if you aren't familiar with Wilhuff's character or are even unfamiliar with the Star Wars series, James Luceno still delivers an action packed and highly eventful science fiction / space opera story. Since this is my first book by him, I cannot compare it to the others that James Luceno wrote but the writing style is solid and will get you in the mood for watching Episode IV once over!

For the main part you follow Wilhuff's character, which you comes to learn through and through. But besides Wilhuff there is one other important player that greatly builds the story of Tarkin. Dumdumdum, Darth Vader! It is just undeniable. He is just one of those characters that will always leave an impression in every story. When used right that is. In Tarkin James Luceno lets Darth Vader cast his ominous presence and evil meaning readily over the story giving that clear old school Star Wars feeling. This contrasted nicely with how Wilhuff was shown, Wilhuff is often times more diplomatic and understanding than the hot headed Darth Vader. These characters were a great duo to read about and played very well into each other. 

If you look closely at the other recently released Star Wars story A New Dawn some elements do come to the front and a main theme in this is rebellion but the difference is that you see it from the different sides, the first from how the Rebels see and experience and plan it and the second, in Tarkin as the Empire sees it happening. Another thing that falls to note is the cover art that features on both books and this is directly in the lines of the TV adaptations, these are focused on a young adult audience and I have to say that both Tarkin and A New Dawn are readily suited for the younger Star Wars readers, the books aren't overly violent, instead they portray a very nice picture of the good side and in the case of Tarking the nefarious en evil side of the Empire. There is a nice emphasis of an adventurous action packed story. 

Just as with A New Dawn, Tarkin is a well worthy addition to the Star Wars universe. Where many other books focused on a Force user be it either Sith or Jedi, Tarkin offers a unique insight into the life and times of an important character in the Star Wars series. Now you wont see rapid battles with lightsabers but a different kind of game, which is partly political. The whole story is closely reminscent to the classic Star Wars feeling but there is also an important twist and that is the introduction of Wilhuff Tarkin's coming of age story this for me really finished off this terrific story. Whether you are just starting out with reading Star Wars or if you are a hardend veteran I must kindly urge you to do pick up this book. Amongst the many Star Wars Expanded Universe books out there Tarkin is definitely one of a kind.


  1. Hmm, interesting. I wasn't sure how interesting a story would be with Tarkin at the forefront. There's no doubt he was a great character from the original trilogy, but he didn't have a lot to do outside of interact with Vader. Glad to hear his story is fleshed out well, and that it adds something to the overall expanded universe.

  2. Yes Bob, a non-Force user is, I think, always a challenge to write as you have to rely on other factors to make the story stand out. Tarkin alone offers a nice perspective specifically with his history, and Darth Vader is just bad ass ! Do you have a copy? Curious to hear your thoughts. Did you read A New Dawn already?


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