Hot on the heels of the last one, I’ve lurched onto the fifth book in The Beast Arises series, getting through it in a long weekend and, I have to say, it was a really great read!
Throneworld has one of the most dynamic – and dramatic – openings of any Warhammer 40k novel I’ve yet read. As we learnt in the closing paragraphs of The Last Wall, the Eldar have arrived on Terra while the Ork battlemoon hangs menacingly in orbit, and while I’m no fan of space elves, I was really intrigued as to what’s going on with them. Throneworld picks up a tiny bit before the end of The Last Wall, and we see the Eldar Harlequins moving through the webway and into the Imperial palace, on a mission to deliver an important message to the Emperor. The shadowseer Lhaerial Rey moves through the palace and makes it to the doors of the throneroom itself, and is about to be dispatched by the Custodes when Vangorich and Veritus step in. She is taken to the Inquisitorial fortress and interrogated by Veritus and Wienand, and reveals the Eldar have calmed the Warp in order to allow the Space Marines to return to Terra and aid them against the Orks.
We then follow Koorland and his Last Wall of Imperial Fists successors as they storm the Ork moon, liberating prisoners and attempting to destroy the teleportation device within the moon the Orks have been using to provide their infinite supply of troops up to this point. Their efforts are supplemented by the Mechanicum, who have their own agenda for getting inside the moon while they’re working on their “grand experiment” of teleportation – are they really trying to teleport Mars out of the Sol System?
Meanwhile, the Iron Warriors under Kalkator land on Dzelenic IV to take on supplies from a secret store, and find it has been breached by Orks. While they’re fighting their way out, they’re assailed by the Black Templars under their zealous dreadnought-marshal, Magneric. The situation becomes untenable for both armies in the face of the Ork fleets on the world, and both traitor and loyalist marines join forces to slay the greenskins under a flag of truce.
This book was great! As I said at the start, I don’t remember the last time I’ve read such a dynamic opening, and was propelled through the first half of the book as we follow the Eldar sneaking onto Terra. The action was really great, but unfortunately, the rest of the book kinda tapered off for me after that. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of action going on in this book – the assault on the moon, the Iron Warriors stuff – but none of it comes close to that first sequence.
I was a bit dismayed at the fact that we don’t actually know what Lhaerial Rey wants to tell the Emperor, either – something important, but we don’t hear it here, and it makes me a bit sad because the overall effect does cheapen the earlier scenes. But I’m really nit-picking with this.
The stuff with the astartes assaulting the moon above Terra kinda made me think it should have been in the last book. I mean, the last book was called The Last Wall – it should have been about those marines! Instead, we get the bulk of that story here, and it feels a bit weird. But anyway.
The Iron Warriors stuff is deeply interesting to me, I have to say. It was really neat to see the two opposing sides come together to fight the Orks, especially in the face of Magneric’s fanatic hatred of Kalkator. I especially liked the fact it was addressed here that the Black Templars, in their veneration of the Emperor, go against his Imperial Truth of the Great Crusade – and so, the question is posed, who’s the greater heretic? Some interesting debate about the nature of religious hypocrisy was cut short by fighting waves of Orks, but it’s always good to see these sorts of things talked about.
Overall, this was probably the best book in the series, even in the face of those points I mentioned about the niggling details. I’m certainly glad I’ve stuck with this series after the second book, however!!