Review: Tatooine Ghost, by Troy Denning

(Originally published on 8/18/2003)

tatooine ghost

Ever since the First Trilogy started coming out, I knew there would eventually be a novel where characters from the one series would come into contact somehow with characters from the other. It was inevitable, especially with the way fan tastes run, that somehow the two would cross. The only question was, how was it going to be arranged? Tatooine Ghost is the first real attempt to forge such a bridge, and I have to say, it is not only one of the best SW novels around, but one of the best novels of its kind I have ever read.

The focus here is on Leia, and her relationship to her father (her real father, namely Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader) and that side of her family history. She’s just recently married to Han, but is skittish about having kids, fearing that she’ll produce another Darth Vader. But a mission of importance for the newly resurrected Republic leads her back to Tatooine, and subsequently to a chance encounter with her father’s past — and most importantly of all, to a battered electronic diary containing the recorded words and musings of one Shmi Skywalker.

OK, there’s also a lot of gun play and intrigue going around, involving a piece of Alderaanian art long thought lost, and the action part of the story does take up a hefty percentage of the page count. But in reality, all of the action is merely a backdrop to a more important story, namely Leia coming to grips with her father and who he was. Along the way she is forced to re-examine him in a different light, to see the universe from the grim realities of Anakin’s upbringing and not from the vaunted heights from which he later attained. It’s a sobering transition, a realization that maybe her father wasn’t as completely evil as she had thought, and that there were very sound reasons for his choices. And through it all there’s Shmi, who never learns of what her son becomes, but instead continues to miss her little boy…

There’s a fair degree of heartbreak, and a lot of genuine emotion, something rare for an official media tie-in book. But Denning is not afraid to tug at an emotional level, and his success in doing so makes Tatooine Ghost so much better than your average Star Wars novel. It has enough action and adventure to keep a causal reader interested, while providing enough characterization and pathos for more thoughtful readers to appreciate. And above all, it is very, _very_ well written. This is the kind of Star Wars novel that you can hand to your friends who don’t read media tie-in books, tell them that it is worth their effort, and have them come back to you both moved and impressed. It is highly recommended.

5 Stars out of 5 Stars