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Star Wars Books and Novels (Canon)

Tarkin - Books and Novels (Canon)

Title: Tarkin

Author: James Luceno

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Timeline: 18 years after The Phantom Menace; 14 years prior to A New Hope

Additional Reference: 5 years after ROTS; 9 years prior to Star Wars Rebels

Pages: 258

This is a full review and summary. Spoiler warning applies...

Review | Key Characters & Locations | Summary | Talking Points | Discussion

Five standard years have passed since Darth Sidious proclaimed himself galactic Emperor. The brutal Clone Wars are a memory, and the Emperor's apprentice, Darth Vader, has succeeded in hunting down most of the Jedi who survived dreaded Order 66. On Coruscant a servile Senate applauds the Emperor's every decree, and the populations of the Core Worlds bask in a sense of renewed prosperity...

Main Characters

  • Wilhuff Tarkin (male Human) - Imperial Moff overseeing Desolation Station and the construction of the Death Star
  • Darth Vader (male Cyborg) - Sith Lord, second only to the Emperor
  • Sheev Palpatine (male Human) - Sith Lord, Emperor, ruler of the galaxy
  • Teller (male Human) - Former Republic intelligence agent on Antar 4

Secondary Characters

  • Mas Amedda (male Chagrian) - Vizier to Emperor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate
  • Harus Ison (male Human) - High ranking member of the Imperial Security Bureau
  • Colonel Wullf Yularan (male Human) - High ranking member of the Imperial Security Bureau
  • Vice Admiral Rancit (male Human) - High ranking member of Naval Intelligence
  • Vice Admiral Screed (male Human) - High ranking member of Naval Intelligence
  • Anora (female Human) - Former political commentator and activist on the Holonet
  • Dr. Artoz (male Mon Calamari) - Former scientist, worked on the Death Star project
  • Hask (female Zygerrian) - Former producer for Anora
  • Cala (male Gotal) - Former intelligence asset on Antar 4
  • Salikk (male Koorivar) - Former intelligence asset on Antar 4
  • Knotts (male Human) - Independent broker for various items

Key Locations

  • Sentinel Station – Security station overseeing the construction of the Death Star
  • Rampart Station - Marshaling depot for supply ships bound for Geonosis (secret construction site of the Death Star)
  • Murkhana – Former separatist homeworld, now suffering the aftereffects of years of planetary warfare. Diseased and slowing rotting away.
  • Coruscant – Capital of the Empire, planet-wide city
  • Geonosis – Former separatist homeworld, now the construction site of the Death Star
  • Eriadu – Homeworld of Wilhuff Tarkin

Key Species

  • Human - The galaxy's most numerous and politically dominant sentient species with millions of major and minor colonies galaxy wide
  • Koorivar - A sentient species of humanoids distinguished by their banded noses and a gracile cranial horn that spiraled upwards from the center of their skull
  • Mon Calamari - One of the sentient species indigenous to the world of Dac
  • Gotal - A species of tall, hairy humanoid sentients native to the moon Antar 4. Their most distinctive features were the twin conical horns growing on the top of their heads.
  • Chagrian - A sentient species of amphibious humanoids native to the water planet of Champala
  • Zygerrian - The Zygerrians were distinguished by a number of bony spurs on their face. The species was well-known for its long history of violence, war, and slavery.

Legends made Canon

  • Imperial Security Bureau or ISB – Internal investigations and enforcers of Imperial Intelligence
  • 11-4D – Droid owned by Darth Plagueis, now in service to Emperor Palpatine
  • Galidraan – In the former EU this planet was host to a battle between the Jedi and the Mandalorians, who were led by Jango Fett.
  • Nam Chorios – In the former EU, this planet was infested with drochs and was central stage for the novel Planet of Twilight.
  • Armond Isard – Director of Imperial Intelligence, in former EU father of Ysanne Isard “Iceheart”

Tarkin is the second novel release in the Disney-verse, written by James Luceno. It also includes an excerpt from Heir to the Jedi. Tarkin was released on November 4, 2014 and is set just five (5) years after the events in Revenge of the Sith. Tarkin is unique in that it is in part a biography of Wilhuff Tarkin as a young man, but also tells the story in present day, of a band of dissidents seeking revenge after being punished for performing their jobs.

James Luceno was one of the last authors to play in the sandbox of the EU before it was made Legends, and now he is one of the first to expand upon the canon universe. This opportunity is not wasted. I would suggest to anyone that before reading Tarkin, they read Darth Plagueis. Luceno has taken what he started in Plagueis and continued it in Tarkin. Many of the parts with Palpatine show his efforts to continue to build on the character traits he first laid down in Darth Plagueis. It is because of this that Tarkin works both as its own independent story and also as a sequel.

We finally get to learn more about who Wilhuff Tarkin is, where he came from, how he got there, and what influenced the famous Tarkin Doctrine. Even more we finally get an answer to a question many fans have had: Does Palpatine have a first name? If so what is it? In answer, yes he does. His name is Sheev Palpatine.

There are many references in the novel to events from the Clone Wars cartoon, such as the rescue from the Citadel, and the trial of Ahsoka. There is also references to the former EU that now are made canon, be it planets or characters. This is a book capable of pleasing fans of many stripes.

However, not everything about it is great. Unfortunately the stories about Tarkin as a child and young adult are almost sporadically mixed in. It could have worked better if everything from his past had been put together, save the story of his final trial. This would have made things more linear and more streamlined. That said, this is still an excellent book much more enticing to those looking to begin reading the new EU.

Final Grade 4 out of 5 Holocrons. Go read this one and enjoy it.

Character Reviews

Wilhuff Tarkin – Tarkin is a highly competent man, incredibly ruthless and intelligent, but also brash and reckless. When forced to slow down and fully evaluate things Tarkin is almost uncanny in his ability to piece together clues, which seem unrelated. However when he is personally affected, such as in the theft of his ship, Tarkin is prone to not considering the options. Character Grade B-

Darth Vader – We see glimpses of both Anakin and the ruthless Sith Lord Darth Vader. In dealing with his clone stormtroopers, Vader typically treats them more along the lines of Anakin. When dealing with anyone else, he is brutal and efficient. We see that he is still having trouble fully giving into the Dark Side. Pairing him with Tarkin is a nice recollection to both The Clone Wars and A New Hope. Character Grade B

Sheev Palpatine – We finally have a first name for Palpatine! All through the story Palpatine is much more focused on the Force than on truly running his Empire. A great many personality traits are carried over from the novel Plagueis and some even expanded upon. It would have been nice to see him actually put some effort into running things instead of handing it all off on subordinates. Character Grade C+

Teller – It took most of the story to really figure out Teller and who he was. A man loyal to his comrades and almost desperate in his desire to see them avenged. A former officer in Republic Intelligence, Teller is very capable in organizing and planning. I would like to see him make another appearance to further build on what he started here. Character Grade A-

Back To TopStory Summary

Chapter 1 – The Measure of a Man: Tarkin is reflecting on his present position within the Empire as he stands alone in his chambers designing a new uniform for himself to wear. While discussing options with a tailor droid, he is interrupted by a message stating that nearby Rampart Station is under attack.

Chapter 2 – Blows Against the Empire: As Tarkin reaches the command center, he is greeted with a barrage of information and a live holocall from Rampart Station. A vessel of unknown origin, made from parts of various Separatists ships, has arrived and deployed starfighters in an attack on the base. Tarkin, studying the holo transmission, notices something unusual about it. Claiming to send reinforcements, he instead dispatches the Star Destroyer Electrum to the outer edges of the system. Immediately upon the removal of the Star Destroyer, the mystery ship arrives and deploys droid starfighters. Under his command, Sentinel Station is able to repel the attackers. As Electrum returns, the mystery ship leaves. Tarkin establishes communication with Rampart station and discovers that their receiver had been down temporarily. The emergency call had been an elaborate ruse.

Chapter 3 – Cold Case: Having gathered several crashed droid fighters, Tarkin's staff are analyzing the droid brains. All the parts for the mystery ship, and the droid fighters, had been seized by Imperial sources and since reported destroyed or missing. Before the investigation is complete, Mas Amedda summons Tarkin back to Coruscant to speak with the Emperor.

Chapter 4 – A Boy’s Life: A brief history is given about Eriadu, and the Seswenna sector, explaining the prominence of the Tarkin family. A young child, Wilhuff is taken by his uncle Jova to the Carrion, an untamed wilderness area owned and protected by the Tarkin’s for the purpose of beginning his coming of age and manhood rights. Tarkin receives lessons in killing and the order of nature before returning to the city at the end of the summer.

Chapter 5 – Predacity: Tarkin waits until his ship, Carrion Spike, is in hyperspace before conducting a surprise inspection of the crew. After the inspection, he takes the controls on his ship and reflects back to his youth battling pirates in the Seswenna Sector as part of the Outland Defense Force. During his time serving in the sector defense force, he encountered a difficult pirate gang led by a woman named Q’anah. Despite many attempts to catch her, Outland was unable to stop her. Burying himself in studying her methods, Tarkin finally discovered a pattern and caught her. As punishment she and her crew were sealed inside and ore hauler and sent into the sun. All comm channels were left open so that everyone could hear the pirates slowly cooking to death before finally being incinerated by the sun.

Chapter 6 – Imperial Center: Upon landing at the Imperial Palace, formerly the Jedi Temple, Tarkin is met by Mas Amedda who then escorts him through the winding hallways of the palace. While walking through the corridors, Tarkin reflects back to his first meeting with Palpatine. Palpatine was already a senator, and was trying to convince Tarkin to go into politics instead of joining the judicial services. Tarkin instead chose the judicials, and a summary of events is given in which Tarkin served alongside the Jedi on the planet Halcyon. After several years, Tarkin went to Coruscant to accept Palpatine’s offer to join politics.  At the end of his reverie, Tarkin discovers he is not going directly to see Palpatine, but first to visit Lord Vader.

Chapter 7 – Masters of War: Taking a lift down, Tarkin and Mas Amedda arrive in a courtroom. Vader has assembled various underworld influences and is informing them of the new status quo under the Empire. Finishing with his audience, Vader confers with Tarkin about the progress made on the Death Star. Tarkin explains the many scientific and construction delays plaguing the project, and it is revealed that Tarkin suspects that Vader is the former Jedi Anakin Skywalker. At the pinnacle of the palace, Tarkin goes alone to speak with the Emperor. The Emperor reflects briefly on their shared history before questioning him about the recent attack.

Chapter 8 – The Emperor’s New Spies:  Tarkin and Palpatine arrive at a high-level intelligence meeting attended by Naval Intelligence and the Imperial Security Bureau. The briefing begins with Harus Ison bringing to attention a recent discovery of a large cache of Clone Wars era communications gear on the Separatists home world of Murkhana. Infighting breaks out between the ISB and Naval Intelligence about the equipment found before Tarkin steps in with information about the attack on his base. The briefing ends after Tarkin advises all Imperial signal encryptions be checked for tampering.

Chapter 9 – As Above, So Below:   Palpatine summons Vader to his chambers and orders him to go with Tarkin to Murkhana to investigate the cache of communications gear. Vader objects and is denied, and Palpatine further presses Vader by informing him that Tarkin had to pass many trials and was forged by Eriadu, similar to how Vader was forged by Tatooine. The next morning Vader and Tarkin oversee the loading of Vader’s hyperbaric chamber onto Tarkin’s ship. During the process Tarkin reflects back to his time as governor of Eriadu before the Clone Wars. During many meetings Count Dooku made overtures to try and convince Tarkin to bring Eriadu onto the Separatist side in the coming war. At their final meeting Dooku hints that they could find themselves on the same side by the end of the coming war. Sidious is meditating at a shrine to the dark side hidden beneath what was once the Jedi Temple. The droid 11-4D interrupts his meditation to inform him that the Carrion Spike has left for Murkhana.

Chapter 10 – A Better Womp Rat Trap: Upon landing on Murkhana, both Tarkin and Vader are overwhelmingly dismayed with the status of the capital city and Imperial forces stationed there. Arriving at the site of the communications cache, the clone troopers deploy probes and begin investigating the site. Finding nothing, Vader and Tarkin enter, only for Tarkin to spot a potential ambush. Reentering from the rooftop, they discover that the initial entrance was rigged with explosives, and that the communication gear is of the type used by Dooku to interrupt the Holonet during the Clone Wars.

Chapter 11 – Fair Game: As they travel deeper into the city Tarkin considers that this could have been Eriadu had he not warned the planet against siding with Dooku. At the end of his term as Governor he met with his ailing father to discuss the building war, and Tarkin’s doctrine of ruling through fear. Meeting with the planetary Ambassador, Vader proceeds to lecture her about her incompetence in overseeing the planet. They then speak with the local intelligence assets, a Koorivar name Bracchia, and discover he had not found the cache, but instead was sent to confirm it was there on an order received from Coruscant. Contacting their stormtrooper escort they find out that the troopers are back at the cache after receiving a fake call from Tarkin ordering them there. Hurrying back to the landing field they discover the Carrion Spike has been stolen.

Vader comes up with a plan to get a ship and leads Tarkin to the home of the local crime boss, the Sugi. After Sugi denies them quick cooperation, Vader threatens his family and Sugi caves to them surrendering the ship.

Chapter 12 – Burying the Lead: The thieves of Carrion Spike are outbound from the planet, discussing the features and abilities of the ship. While discussing their plans they detect a ship chasing after them, which should be impossible since they are cloaked. Tarkin and Vader are chasing after them in the ship they took from Sugi, the Parsec Predator. Tarkin is anxious to retrieve his ship. As they grow close the Carrion Spike jumps to hyperspace. Calmly, Vader starts entering data into the navicomp and Tarkin realizes that Vader is tracking not the ship, but his hyperbaric chamber.

Chapter 13 – Soft Targets: Palpatine is interrupted from his meditations to attend a call about Murkhana, learning of the theft of Carrion Spike, not from Vader or Tarkin, but from Ison. Ison continues briefing the Emperor, informing him that Vader and Tarkin have procured another ship and are in pursuit.

The Carrion Spike reverts from hyperspace, sets a new course and jumps again heading to Galidraan. Vader and Tarkin continue their chase and arrive in Galidraan in time to witness an Imperial Station under attack. Using the Force, Vader leads his stormtroopers in firing on the cloaked Carrion Spike. In the attack the Parsec Predator is severely damaged.

The thieves figure out that Vader is tracking his hyperbaric chamber and jettison it from the ship, before jumping to hyperspace. While awaiting pickup, Tarkin and Vader try to determine the next target and get in contact with Coruscant.

Chapter 14 – A Case of Do or Die: While Palpatine is watching a hologram of an intelligence meeting, the various directors and chiefs are arguing about the campaign being wrought by the dissidents in possession of Carrion Spike. While arguing they receive a live broadcast of another attack, coming in on Imperial channels from the Carrion Spike itself. The dissidents are broadcasting their attack to the galaxy.

Aboard the Star Destroyer Liberator, Tarkin meets with Vader to discuss a new plan, finally settling on a plan to trap the ship when it goes to refuel.

Chapter 15 – Negative Capability: The dissidents have learned that an Imperial force has been dispatched to one of two locations capable of fueling the Carrion Spike. They then speak of Tarkin’s abilities in guessing where they will be based on what they know of his past.

Tarkin is speaking with the commander of a refueling station and has him fulfill a special task. The station commander also alerts Tarkin to the identity used by the dissidents to order the refueling. Tarkin and Vader confer on their ambush, and realize that someone within the Empire is providing the dissidents with information.

As the dissidents finish refueling and undock with the station, a carrier comes out of hyperspace and deploys a squadron of fighters led by Darth Vader. Keeping the station between themselves and the fighters the dissidents manage to escape as the station explodes.

Chapter 16 – Hazard Mitigation: The dissidents drop out of hyperspace after a short time. The ship is damaged from the battle and the crew is beginning to question what they are doing. The leader, Teller, makes it clear that they are working to spark a resistance.

Tarkin questions whether the fueling tanker should have been blown at the beginning of the battle to stop the dissidents. Vader disagrees stating that the Emperor wants all the dissidents trapped at once. Back on Coruscant, Palpatine listens to another argument between the intelligence branches before ordering Vice Admiral Rancit to cooperate with Tarkin and transfer an Interdictor Cruiser to the effort. Once alone he orders Mas Amedda to summon the intelligence assets who were responsible for finding the communication cache.

Chapter 17 – Zero Defects: The dissidents discover that a new tracking beacon was placed on their ship during refueling. Instead of quickly removing it, they make plans to have another ship take the beacon.

Tarkin waits aboard the Star Destroyer Executrix, in formation is an interdictor cruiser.  As the time approaches when Carrion Spike should arrive, the interdictor is powered up. Several ships are pulled out but none are the Carrion Spike. Tarkin orders that the ship pulled out closest to the estimated arrival time of the Carrion Spike be held.

Chapter 18 – Hung Upside Down:  Tarkin and Vader interrogate the crew of the captured freighter. From the captain they learn about a third party broker who has likely facilitated supplies and other items for the dissidents. Teller and Anora sit together discussing their contact within the Empire. Questioning the intelligence assets responsible for Murkhana, Palpatine discovers that the original information about the cache was a doctored holovid provided by military intelligence.

Chapter 19 – Footprints: Vice Admiral Rancit has been placed in charge of the task force hunting the Carrion Spike. Tarkin is alone deep within the Executrix trying to piece together everything about the dissidents. As he puts everything together he realizes that most of the conspirators come from his own past, a mission on Antar 4 shortly after the war, to punish them for having joined the separatist.

The dissident crew arrives at their new target and comes under heavy Imperial fire, having to escape before hitting their target. After escaping they conclude that their contact has betrayed them.

Chapter 20 – The Carrion Spike: Vader asks Tarkin why he chose the name Carrion Spike for his ship, and Tarkin answers him with the story of his final trial on Eriadu. Upon completion of the story Vader boards a shuttle and leaves.

Chapter 21 – Dissolution: The Carrion Spike has entered the Carida system and Vice Admiral Rancit is about to order it destroyed when Vader counters his command.  Vader has arrived to confront Rancit for his part in providing information to the dissidents. The full details and motivation are explained before Vader orders Rancit executed.

The mystery ship from the beginning of the novel is back and attacks a supply convoy headed to Geonosis. Teller leads the starfighters in the attack.  Partway into the attack, Tarkin arrives in a Star Destroyer to defend the convoy.  The mystery ship is disabled, but Teller escapes.  Tarkin speaks to each of the dissidents, confirming who they are and the part each of them played.

Chapter 22 – Red, in Tooth and Claw: Tarkin has been appointed the first Grand Moff, the various intelligence agencies have been streamlined, and those loyal to the Emperor rewarded. The Emperor, Darth Vader, and Tarkin form the Empires dark triumvirate.

Tarkin returns to Eriadu, to the Carrion plateau, after spending the day on there he comes down and finds Teller in a pit trap, Tarkin’s great uncle Jova overlooking him.  It is decided that if Teller can escape and make it off the plateau he will be left alive. Tarkin returns to the Death Star to test its engines.

Back To TopPoints of Discussion
  • How rampant is the feeling of betrayal and corruption within the Empire?
  • Would the broadcasts of the attacks on Imperial installations have done anything to garner support for a resistance?
  • Could Teller reappear as one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance?
  • Plenty of Easter eggs for Legends fans to pick up on, what were your favorite references?
External Links:
Added: December 13, 2015
Category: Books and Novels (Canon)
Reviewer: Ian Gebhard
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