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Star Wars: Tarkin
by James Luceno
Del Rey, $28.00, 274 pp
Published: November 2014

The enigmatic, icy commander entrusted by the Emperor himself with the Death Star project finally gets his own story, and a great cover. The timeline of this story begins with the earliest days of construction of the Empire’s greatest weapon and ends with Grand Moff Tarkin poised to demonstrate its power, but much more is told in flashbacks.

These flashbacks are artfully placed to maximize their impact, and they alternate between the public and the private history of Wilhuff Tarkin. The first tells of his unlikely political rise to power, opposed by arrogant and entrenched aristocrats but quietly advanced by Palatine, who discerns iron resolve and rational ruthlessness in this young man. Tarkin is assigned to work alongside Darth Vader on a crucial mission against rebels who have previously proved annoying and are now upping the ante. (This storyline follows the events described in Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller.) Tarkin is able to deduce who Darth Vader is, or at least who he used to be, and realizes an old rivalry is continuing.

But the heart of this novel is the account, told tantalizingly in sections, of Tarkin’s childhood and the Tarkin family rite of passage that shapes him. Here is the soul of Tarkin, and Anakin Skywalker does not have a monopoly on searing back-stories.

Readers of Star Wars novels will relish this addition to the canon. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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