We’re now a few months into the “New Canon” of Star Wars, and November sees the release of the second novel in this fresh start of Star Wars canon with James Luceno’s Tarkin. The author who should be very familiar to Star Wars fans from his New Jedi Order novels and his great book on the early days of Vader now tackles the early days of another Imperial favorite, Grand Moff Tarkin.
Set just five years after the formation of the Empire in Revenge of the Sith, Tarkin is roughly in the same timeframe of the last Star Wars novel, A New Dawn. Except where that book showed us how Kanan and Hera of Star Wars Rebels met, this one gives us a glimpse into the character of Tarkin and how the Galactic Empire is structured and operates. These are the formative years of the Empire, and seeing that side of things is a real highlight in the book.
As you’d expect from a novel about Tarkin set during this time period, the building of the first Death Star is taking place under Tarkin. The secrecy of the project is definitely mentioned, and you get some brief backstory on it. Nothing major, but lore buffs will enjoy the references to Poggle the Lesser in Episode II and the origins of the moon-sized station. When a new threat is heard about, Tarkin is suddenly summoned to Coruscant to see Palpatine and that’s when the 288-page novel really takes off.
We get backstory on Tarkin and his youth, but to be honest I wasn’t the biggest fan of these flashbacks to young Tarkin. Only because how his relationship between the Emperor and Vader as shown in the book was much more interesting to me. It establishes a lot of new stuff in the canon for that relationship, and yes Palpatine is given a first name. It’s not a big deal in the novel, only mentioned once in passing, and it no where near the disaster that those seeking attention made it out to be on social media.
Prior to the release of the book there were a lot of wild rumors flying around about how it would affect canon going forward. The one most heard about was that Mara Jade would be introduced in the novel and thus be canon. None of those were true at all, but in a way Tarkin is one of the most important novels so far in regards to how it affects the new canon and the movies that are coming.
There has been a lot of insane resistance to the idea that there could still be a Galactic Empire in Star Wars Episode VII. Most of this comes from EU-devotees who are so hopelessly tied to the concept that when Palpatine died the galaxy entered a period of peace under the New Republic (thus taking the “Wars” out of “Star Wars”). History with large empires, such as the Roman Empire, shows that there is always another Emperor to “take the throne” and that they don’t just vanish overnight.
Tarkin doesn’t set up a successor for Palpatine, but it does give you a very good idea of how the Galactic Empire is organized and how that even when Palpatine dies in Return of the Jedi, it doesn’t mean that the Empire dies with him. Those doubting the existence of the Empire in Episode VII could do themselves a huge favor by reading this book. And at 288-pages, it’s a pretty quick read.
Aside from some of the “young Tarkin” stuff that I didn’t find as fascinating as the Tarkin/Palpatine stuff, the book delivered on what I expected. I can definitely recommend Tarkin to Star Wars fans, and of the two books currently out in the New Canon I’d say Tarkin has a bit of an edge over A New Dawn.
Note: An advanced copy of Tarkin was provided for this review by the publisher.