Reviewed by Emma Harvey
Where to begin with this review?
This book was a total breath of fresh air for me, having been a fan of Star Wars since childhood (literally as long as I can remember) I feel we as fans have been given a bit of a short thrift lately. The universe has been badly mishandled with terrible choices, poor movies, atrocious TV shows and terrible video games. Granted a scant few of the games have been worth your time but there is literally nothing George Franchisacide-Lucas will not totally ruin with his incompetent misunderstanding of what makes the universe great.
So it may come as a surprise for me to tell you that this book is totally and completely amazing! Think about it for a minute… Jedi’s and Boba Fett… That’s basically all the universe expansions concentrate on nowadays.
This book totally breaks the mould by not only concentrating on someone from the Imperial side but is also massively overlooked in modern Star Wars culture.
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin was originally portrayed by the late-great Peter Cushing in what was simply put, a masterful performance of mystique, confidence and above all total believability.
The book takes this character whom until now has only really been an inside fan favourite and overlooked by most and expands upon him, providing back story, character insight and even a view into his psyche. It is written in a confident and easy prose that at the same time as being accessible is complex and detailed enough to be a fitting part of a franchise people are becoming fiercely protective of.
I remember being excited about picking this book up but not expecting too much from it so as to not get my hopes up but James Luceno handles it brilliantly, he has obviously put a lot of work into characterising the character of Tarkin and everyone else involved, the characters are so well written (even ones already established in the cannon) that the book fits so seamlessly into the narrative that I would actually rate this a more enjoyable experience than watching Return of the Jedi.
This journey will take you from an interesting back story to a career so filled with excellence he really – beautifully – depicts the (fan) beloved villain that is only one of two people in the known universe by the first film Episode IV A New Hope that is actually confident enough to actually command Lord Vader AND lead a space station so massive, so filled with destructive power that he is literally second only in power to the emperor himself, this book will take you by the hand and literally hurl you face first into an universe so deep you may become lost in it, gone are hours of supposed-to-be-working, hours of sleeping and even my attention span at a doctor’s appointment where I actually missed my name being called, it is only a good job I never had it with me in a traffic jam.
At time of reading there has been no lapse in prose, there have been no boring bogged down slogs through unbelievable dialogue, nothing at all in fact for me to say negatively about it, the chapters are perfectly sized if you are the “Chapter Reader” type and if you are not then you will simply be drawn in by the strength of the writing as the words tumble upon you like a waterfall.
My overwhelmingly positive response to this book may seem strange to some people but let me just say, normally I read high-fantasy, science fiction is something I save for the cinema, but my love for Peter Cushing’s wonderful performance made me devour this book almost cover to cover in a matter of days, I may even re-read it once I have finished.
My final statement on this review will hopefully shine out to anyone undecided on this issue; this book has the potential to revive the franchise… Seriously, it is written with such passion and almost pride that Luceno had the privilege of expanding on such a prestigious character that it may encourage others to actually take some quality control over the dross (I’m looking at you Star Wars Dance Off) that has dribbled out of its brain damaged mouth over the past two decades, if this work inspires even one (Knights of the Old Republic 3 please) project of similar strength then there is hope for Star Wars fans yet.
Don’t give up hope… And don’t dare miss this one!
RRP: £8.99 (paperback) / £19.99 (hardback)
available to buy from Random House here.