When he first appeared on-screen in 1977, Grand Moff Tarkin created and cultivated an air of superiority as the secondary villain behind Darth Vader. Tarkin met his end when Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star. It has taken the Legends expanded universe and the new canon format to expand his backstory. Written by James Luceno, Tarkin gives the Grand Moff the Darth Plagueis treatment.
Set sometime in the early years of the Empire, Tarkin heavily features key characters and other places and events that have made their way into the new Star Wars canon. As I discussed in my entry last month, the early stages of the Empire were more often than not run behind the scenes by Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Mas Amedda. In the novel Amedda is shown to be a thorn in the side of Tarkin. While Tarkin is off working at Sentinel Base, overseeing construction on the Death Star, Amedda calls him to Coruscant at behest of the Emperor himself. Soon after Tarkin arrives he attends a meeting with Amedda in which Vader is interrogating several underworld bosses. Tarkin is shocked to see that this is how events occur on the capital world while he is off on assignment. It is Amedda who is the one to clue him in on everything he’s missing out on.
Tarkin was only the second novel to come out following the reset of the unified canon and introduced more new things to the tapestry than it referred to other stories. What it also did was brought in several Legends references and materials due to its authors previous works. Luceno re-introduced many characters like the droid 11-4D, Ranulph Tarkin, Sate Pestage, Janus Greejatus, and Armand Isard, referenced others such as Darth Plagueis, Raith Sienar, Chancellor Kalpana, and Sistros, from Darth Plagueis. What Tarkin might be most famously known for is giving Emperor Palpatine his first name; Sheev. Never before had Palpatine ever been referred to anything besides that or Darth Sidious. The novel is able to also reference items from The Clone Wars television series since that finished its airing before its writing. The Trial of Ahsoka Tano, the Battle of Christophsis, the Battle of Kamino, the Battle of Mon Cala, and Tarkin’s imprisonment in the Citadel are all referenced throughout the course of the novel. In what seems to be a throwaway mention in the book, the Western Reaches are first introduced into the canon which would become the home of the planet Jakku from The Force Awakens.
The task that Tarkin had, along with A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, was to set the standard for what would come after it in the new era of canon with the Lucasfilm Story Group. Because the book takes place during the dark times it serves as a stepping ground for many other stories to take inspiration and borrow from. A lot of the motivation that we see from Tarkin himself in Rogue One can be found stemming from his thoughts and actions seen throughout the novel. While it isn’t a direct tie-in, it does serve well as a companion piece, especially with its close ties to Catalyst.
Tarkin was only the second Star Wars novel I ever read and it still is one of my favorites to this day. Have you any thoughts on Tarkin and its place in the storytelling of Star Wars? As much of a fan of James Luceno as I am? Don’t forget to comment below or you can email in.
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