I’ve been progressing through The Beast Arises series fairly quickly of late, this weekend making it through to the end of the tenth book in the series, The Last Son of Dorn. As a note of caution, this review does contain spoilers!
Like much the rest of this series, the book picks up directly where the last one left off. The book is written by David Guymer, who has previously written Echoes of the Long War for this series, which dealt with the storyline between the Fists Exemplar first captain Zerberyn and the Iron Warriors under Warsmith Kalkator. Going in with this knowledge, you’d expect to see a fairly action-dense novel, and you would not be disappointed.
Now that the Deathwatch are an official part of the war against The Beast, and this time we get successor chapters included such as Flesh Tearers, Koorland begins to formulate his plan for going back to Ullanor with a surgical strike against the Orks, as opposed to the full frontal assault that was attempted in The Beast Must Die. During the planning for this, we learn that the pict capture from the Black Templars under Venerable Magneric has led the Mechanicus to believe that the Ork psykers are the key to defeating the Orks, and so a number of raids are launched across the Imperium to capture as many weirdboyz as they can.
The book therefore opens with a series of raids led by the Deathwatch and Sisters of Silence, and I thought it was a really effective way to kick off this novel. In fact, I don’t think we’ve had this impressive a start to a novel in this series since the high-adrenaline of Throneworld. Anyway! They manage to capture three Ork psykers on worlds that we’ve seen in previous novels, which I thought was a nice touch to revisit these worlds. The psykers are kept under close guard from the Sisters of Silence, to nullify their psychic effects, before we travel to the Ork-held Forge World of Incus Maximal, and see the plan in action.
This plan is actually pretty silly, and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be the usual brand of tongue-in-cheek silliness that Games Workshop has been known for in the 80s and 90s, or if it is actually meant to be quite serious. Certainly, the rest of the book is pretty serious. But the idea is that if the psyker is cut off from the Warp, but the Orks around him are driven to a fighting rage, when the psyker can once again use his powers, he will be overwhelmed by the battle frenzy around him, and his energy will literally detonate both him and all of the Orks around him, their heads exploding. I was kinda reminded of the American Dad episode There Will Be Bad Blood, where Stan gives his explanation of Thanksgiving, and the exploding corn, you know? Well, anyway, there you have it!
The plan works, so the Deathwatch take a bigger weirdboy to Ullanor, and while the Fists Exemplar and others of the Last Wall lead what is essentially a distraction, the Deathwatch and Koorland transfer down and infiltrate the Ork palace complex, where they manage to get to the throne room and, after a prolonged battle that results in some significant injuries to Koorland and his team, the psyker detonates, and the Beast is killed. However, while Koorland and the others celebrate their victory, a much bigger Ork arrives with yet more greenskins, and crushes Koorland contemptuously under his boot before leaving the throne room – it turns out the Ork invasion has been led by six massive Orks, and Koorland and the others had merely managed to kill just one of them.
The novel ends with the broken remnants of the Deathwatch and other Marines transporting Koorland’s broken body back to Terra. While everyone around him says that he is dead, it is never actually stated in the narrative, which leads me to think we haven’t yet seen the last of the last Imperial First.
I really liked this novel. The story was quite dense, which is what I like from these types of books. Too many stories in this series have been fairly linear, with a straightforward story and little else. Here, we have all of the stuff going on with the Orks on both Incus Maximal and then Ullanor, which itself was pretty huge of course, but we also get more of the Zerberyn/Iron Warriors storyline, where it looks like Zerberyn is almost going native with the traitor legionaries, not entirely sure what’s happening to him, so I hope we get that storyline resolved in the next two books.
We also have the death of Ecclesiarch Mesring, who had been poisoned by Vangorich back in Predator, Prey, and has been hanging on ever since. He finally goes mad, and seems to be preaching conciliation/surrender to the Orks, which prompts Koorland to shoot him in the head while the High Lords are in session. I was surprised that more wasn’t made of that, actually, as it seemed like there was going to be more of a political side to the story as we saw the ramifications etc, but everything was just subsumed by the story of the Ork psykers. A missed opportunity perhaps, but there does seem to have been some kind of rule whereby none of these novels will exceed 250 pages in length. We do get some interesting machinations between Koorland and Bohemond, where the Lord Commander tells the Black Templar that his religious zealotry has no place in the ranks of the Astartes, so I’m intrigued to see if anything more happens there before the end of the series…
Overall, this was one of the best books of the twelve. There have been some turkeys along the way, but it’s been great to see how the story has been well worth sticking with up to this point, at least. Two more to go, so let’s see if it’ll be worth it overall! I’m going to forego my usual attempt to read something different in January and just plough through to the end with this series now, anyway, so stay tuned for the last two installments!