Force Friday: Empire, Eriadu, and Explosions REVIEWING Tarkin

Welcome back to a Force Friday review here at The Real World According To Sam!!

Today we're talking about a Star Wars canon book!


Author: James Luceno
Genre: Science Fiction
Year: 2014



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, 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.


Well, that was a pretty lengthy synopsis, that doesn't straightforwardly say what the book really encompasses as a story. So here is my breakdown of it for you: Governor Tarkin is assigned to supervising the building of a super weapon (guess which one...), up until an attack by an unknown group occurs. Tarkin evaluates the situation and then is called by the Emperor to investigate, alongside Darth Vader. The two go off and try to figure out who is behind the attacks and how to best catch them. Additionally, the book provides information about Tarkin's personal history, and how he came to be where he is. It is predominantly about the development of Tarkin (as the title would suggest), but also about his relationship with Vader, and the methods by which the Empire investigates and takes care of potential threats and insurgents. This book takes place five years after the rise of the Empire. 

The best part about this book is definitely the background on Wilhuff Tarkin and seeing him in action. Tarkin, being the main focus of the book, is the most fleshed out part of it. Darth Vader we already know. The Emperor we already know. Tarkin we don't know much about. My favorite parts about this book were the parts that focused on Tarkin working through the mystery at his hands and on the challenges presented to him in his youth, that made him into such a force to be reckoned with.  

The weakest part of this book really is the background cast of the story. This book focuses on the Imperial side of things. I wasn't rooting for the Empire, could you? They're trying to eradicate an early semblance of rebellion, and generally speaking, we love the Rebellion and the rebels of the Star Wars universe. I don't want to see them fail. At the same time though, this isn't THEIR story. With this book, I felt like more of an observer to events than an active cheering reader for any particular side. I know I just said that we love the Rebellion, but the crew that we have here seems to pre-date the official one we know. Furthermore, it isn't a very fleshed out crew. We learn some names and see them interact with each other as a crew, but we don't learn their backgrounds until much later and by then, it almost feels too late to really care. They are the main conflict for Tarkin to deal with, but I didn't feel like I really knew them well and that felt kind of odd. I would have liked a better, deeper viewpoint of them, because they felt like a really weak link overall. Fearsome enemies should have strong opponents to face down and conquer. 

Darth Vader, while included, doesn't get to be at his ultimate level of being Vader. This story isn't about him, so for the most part, he takes the backseat. He still has moments where he gets to shine or where you can see him being tactical and intimidating, but it doesn't happen as often as in other books or in the movies. This is the Tarkin show, with Vader as a companion or director of plans to keep the story progressing. The good thing about including Vader, is seeing the comparison between his methods and Tarkin's. They operate kind of differently, even though they have very similar aims. They both focus on fear and tactical strategy, but they were shaped by different experiences and it shows when they're thrown into this conflict and told to work together. 

Another thing to note about this book is James Luceno's writing style. Personally, I enjoy it. Some people may feel that it is bogged down or perhaps even pretentious at some level. Luceno uses words that are not used commonly in conversation and he focuses on description a lot. For example, when introducing Tarkin's home planet of Eriadu, it is described as the "cynosure" of the Outer Rim sector it is in (p. 31). I have never heard anyone casually use the word cynosure, and this isn't the only uncommon word used. I loved it, because I like getting to see a change in words used and seeing unfamiliar words. I also enjoy having more description in general, particularly in Star Wars books. Star Wars is a film spectacle and I like when the books provide enough visuals and descriptions to make it feel more fleshed out and in front of you. This book also has a decent range of aliens, including some that are less used (ex: Koorivarn). 

This book focuses on space travel, chasing, and combat. Any planetside action is mainly limited to Tarkin's history. Here we have a lot of focus on ships and deducing strategic target locations or tactics for taking down an enemy. There are no Jedi here and no planetside battles really. I also liked this, because it diversifies the literary offerings of the expanded universe. Some stories can focus on the Jedi or on hand-to-hand combat. Others can focus on insurgencies on one or two planets. In this case, stories can also be predominantly in space, going from location to location to track down rebellious units. It is different than the other books in the canon timeline that I have read so far, so I do like the diversity in story types and plot lines.   

Overall, this was a fun read for me. I enjoyed the change of pace that it provided. I also enjoyed seeing what Tarkin went through to get where he is. It is interesting to see how the Empire handles semi-quieter troubles within their system. It isn't as great or exciting a story as some of the other books in the timeline, and I didn't feel like every important group of characters was developed well enough, despite this being an Imperial-centric book. I give Tarkin a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯ & a half. It's a nice insight to an important character with a previously untold story, with interesting space battles, but it does waste a bit of its potential at times. I would still re-read it, because as a character Tarkin really shines even if his opposition is a bit lackluster, from my perspective.

Star Wars Canon Novel 
      Reading Order

 Queen's Shadow
 Queen's Peril
➖ Most Wanted

Next week, the plan is to work back a bit in the reading order and talk about Queen's Shadow.

Thanks for joining me for today's Force Friday here at The Real World According to Sam, where I bring the books to your computer screen and even put in my two cents about them! See you at the next review!