James Luceno makes another fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe with the Tarkin novel. In the old Expanded Universe, now called Legends, he oversaw and wrote several books for the New Jedi Order series. He also wrote a prelude to the Phantom Menace, Cloak of Deception, and he did the novelization for Rogue One. The Tarkin novel tells the rise of Wilhuff Tarkin, from boy to Governor to Grand Moff, in a most intriguing way. How his upbringing shaped him, and what eventually led him to overseeing the Death Star project. But it also tells the story of him and Darth Vader working closely together for the first time.
In back-flashes the book describes the hardships he had to endure as a young member of the Tarkin lineage. And I have to say I became very impressed with it. When you see the old Tarkin in a New Hope, you don't think of him as a skilled hunter. You don't think he kicked absolute ass in his prime. But reading about his training in the jungle of his home, being pressed to hunt animals and eat their liver raw, it turns that dry old geezer who blew up Alderaan into a most impressive Imperial commander.
I also really love his relationship with the Emperor. Just like Anakin, he took young Wilhuff under his wing. He showed him the importance of friends in politics, using his influence to advance Tarkin through the ranks. Nothing Tarkin doesn't earn for himself, but little nudges to make sure that his achievements and talent are rewarded with ranks and titles. Specifically sticking out is that they're on a first-name basis, even though Wilhuff prefers not to call Palpatine Sheev.
Unfortunately the biggest part of the novel is the joined mission with Darth Vader. Not because that's bad or uninteresting, on the contrary; because his early years are such a fascinating read. I found myself a couple times re-reading early passages because I wanted to be absolutely sure that I correctly remembered what was being referred to, or to see if I missed something. (To possibly save you some time: the part about the Carrion Spike and why he named his ship after it comes at the end.) His interactions with Vader are pretty much what you'd expect it to be. Awkward at times, reluctant, professional, distant. How do you go about befriending a Dark Lord of the Sith? The answer: show him your own strengths and earn his respect.
The enemy they face is well written as well, although they're not given much page-space. They're smart, they have a solid plan, and there are moments where it seems like they win. If they were up against other opposition, they would probably succeed. You may consider this a spoiler but in a novel about Tarkin and Vader's mission it's hardly surprising that they emerge victorious. It's not a question if they win, but how. And all I'm saying about that is that it's very satisfying.
Article by: Joel “Mith” Storms