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It is amazing how Luceno manages to take everything that Tarkin does, all his motivations and rationales, and makes them seem perfectly reasonable. I had never thought much about the character before. In A New Hope he simply struck me as an overconfident monster. Now he is one of my favorite characters in Star Wars, and it is all thanks to this book.
Part of it is that I always reading stories from the perspective of tactical geniuses (Grand Admiral Thrawn, anyone?) and part of it was learning about Tarkin's childhood through flashbacks. Not only are battles fun to experience from his perspective, but the wider mystery that they were attempting to solve throughout the book had me trying to think ahead and figure out what was going to happen. The flashbacks were extremely important in shaping who Tarkin is and how he reacts to various situations. The final flashback was hinted at throughout the book as something to look forward to, and it paid off satisfactorily.
As it turns out, Tarkin is a classy and polite individual. I remember him having a total of one argument in the entire book, and that was because the other person was getting in the way of Tarkin doing his job. Look, now even I am making excuses for him. But seriously, he was even polite to his enemies. Oh, and have I mentioned that the very first conversation in the book was about Imperial military fashion? Yeah, it includes this gem: "There is a marked difference between a uniform that 'fits' and a uniform that suits the wearer."
It was great getting to see Tarkin and Vader working together before they knew each other well. There were references to events in The Clone Wars (which I have not watched yet) but it did not affect my ability to appreciate their working relationship. In fact, it made me more interested in finishing that show.
Much more than A New Dawn, this is a book that I can recommend even to people who are not diehard Star Wars fans. If you have at least watched the movies you will appreciate this look inside the mind of one of the series' more iconic villains.