Earlier today, the Del Rey Star Wars Facebook account released a teaser of the upcoming, CANON novel, Tarkin, by James Luceno. The teaser was pretty much just a review, and from the praise they gave, the book sounds very promising. I then took to Twitter to voice my opinion that this story about the clever, cunning master of the Death Star will actually play a significant role in the new Star Wars canon, as opposed to being just a random story about a random character. Then my thoughts went to speculation, as they sometimes do when it comes to upcoming canon. Of course, the new canon has the advantage of being able to pull from the old canon, so naturally I moved to the possibility of Expanded Universe characters making appearances in Tarkin. And my first idea was: Natasi Daala, the ambitious officer who rose through the Imperial ranks as Tarkin’s mistress, and eventually came to be a leader of the Empire post Return of the Jedi.
There was a lot of interesting feedback on this from Tweeters. Most of the responses, though, made the same point: Daala’s main lure, as a character, seemed to be that she had sex with Tarkin. Outside of that, she was incompetent and constantly failing, (see her Wookieepedia page and read about her countless, fruitless attempts to gain traction as a powerful Imperial force) and therefore, was not very intimidating. Some people even think that that relationship in and of itself was totally out of character for Tarkin, simply because more emphasis was put on his physical attachment to Daala, as opposed to being impressed with her on a more intellectual level. So, if Daala were to make an appearance in Tarkin, what changes could Luceno make to her character to make her relationship with the Grand Moff more plausible? And not only that, but would it even make any sense to include her in canon at all?
There is actually a pretty easy solution to all this that would make Daala fit in quite well in Tarkin’s backstory, in my opinion. It is as follows: The non-canonization of the pre-Heir to the Jedi Expanded Universe has opened up a lot of opportunities for storytellers. One of those opportunities is taking a character (say, Daala), and keeping their name and elements of their personality, while discarding other, less desirable elements. So, let’s say that Daala is still Tarkin’s mistress in Luceno’s book; Luceno could easily change her character to be: intellectually brilliant, evil, cunning, harsh, cruel, vindictive, whatever. This would make her more plausible as a partner for Tarkin, because he would be attracted to her aggressive, ambitious qualities as opposed to just liking her for physical reasons. This might make their relationship more “in character” for Tarkin, thus allaying any fears from fans on that score. Personally, though, I think that Tarkin is exactly the sort of man who would have a mistress. In addition to wielding a lot of power (Death Star, anyone?), he is also quite egotistical and weaselly. For a man like that, it’s easy for me to imagine that he would have someone like Daala around, both for her body and her mind. Yes, it’s disgusting, but that’s the point. He’s a low individual, very cruel and unfeeling (he blew up a planet, for goodness’ sake), and putting someone like Daala in his story just enforces that idea (not that I’m looking forward to any mushy stuff for those two, but I’m just saying; having Daala in there could work very well for the story).
Now to the most intriguing (and most irritatingly mysterious) thought of the day on this subject: a Mara Jade appearance in Tarkin. Tweeter Alex Rybak (AKA, @Chewbacca89) posted the opinion, “I think we will see Mara Jade in this book…” When I asked him what made him think that, he replied, “A mixture of gut feelings and the whisperings of someone involved in it.” (now if that doesn’t rile of Star Wars fan up, I don’t know what will). He went on to say, “Yea the person I talked to won’t confirm either, but the fact that it’s possible is exciting!”
Frankly I couldn’t agree more. And though I wish Alex would tell me where (or rather, WHOM) he got his information from (he said if he told me, he’d have to kill me), just the very possibility that Mara Jade could be entering the ranks of official Star Wars canon is too good to pass up. Of course, the same canon theory that would apply to Daala would also apply to Mara, so who knows just how much of Zahn’s character we would actually see? Maybe just a little, maybe a lot, or maybe none at all. She could be a totally different person. If she does make an appearance in Tarkin, though, I think there might be reason to hope that she would make an appearance in Star Wars Rebels, as well (maybe not in the first season, but perhaps the second?). Especially if she turns out to still be the Emperor’s Hand; Palpatine might send her out to assist the Inquisitor, or maybe she’d even be an inquisitor herself. The possibilities are, as with everything else in the Expanded Universe these days, unlimited. But I think that we can be confident that, if either Mara or Daala (or any EU characters, for that matter) appear in Tarkin or any other future canon, they will be integrated and revamped with a lot of thought and care. Mara, especially, is a character very dear to many Star Wars fans, and the story group would be unwise to alter her too greatly.
In short, I am very excited Tarkin. From Del Rey’s teaser, I think we can expect some insight into Tarkin, as well as Vader and Palpatine, and how those three interact with each other. We might even see some familiar EU faces, as well (though only time will tell if the rumor of Mara Jade is true or not).
Tarkin hits book shelves and e-bookstores November 4th, 2014.