Black Library catch-up

Hey everybody!
It’s day four of my posting-every-day in celebration of 800 posts here on my blog, and today I thought I’d talk about some books along the Warhammer theme – got to keep it all neat and current, after all!

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First of all, I can’t believe I didn’t write up a blog for this one! After the second book in the series, I wasn’t sure if I would still enjoy Gaunt’s Ghosts, as I thought it was a little less than wonderful, but thankfully I was proven wrong with Necropolis!

Set on the planet Verghast, the story involves the clash of two huge hive cities on the world, Vervunhive (still loyal to the Emperor) and Ferrozoica (since fallen to the Dark Gods). Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only arrive to bolster the local militia of Vervunhive, amidst a gruelling siege from the forces of Chaos.

The book is actually really good, with some tremendous set-piece battles taking place. While planetary politics aren’t always the most exciting, it was an interesting change of pace for me to see a battle taking place amid the industrial politics of Vervunhive, and the city leaders jostling for power and money amid the war going on around them. Dan Abnett is obviously a firm favourite for many, myself included, and it felt very much like this book was a lot more firmly on track than the collection of short stories that comprised the second book.

The book, like pretty much all of Abnett’s writing that I’ve encountered thus far, features much that is both grim and dark, and that helps to give Warhammer 40k its distinctive gothic feel. Notable for me is the hive leader, Salvador Sondar, who is perpetually encased in a neurocasket and conducts his dealings with others through servitor-puppets that are decomposing on their wires.

In some ways, the plot reminded me a little of Warriors of Ultramar, although the storylines do diverge quite dramatically. There is something of the feel of impending doom as we wait for the besieging enemy to attack, and it helps somewhat that the story is never told from the point of view from the Ferrozoicans – much like with Graham McNeill and his Tyranids. Even the turning point of both stories involves infiltrating a massive control structure of the enemy…

Anyway! It’s a wonderful book, quite creepy in parts, but incredibly visceral as Abnett usually is with his war stories. Definitely one to seek out and enjoy if you can!

More recently, I read the fourth story in the Space Marine Conquests series, Of Honour and Iron. As with all novels in this series, it deals with the arrival and integration of the Primaris Marines into the regular infantry of the various (currently First-Founding) Chapters of Space Marines. I’d have thought the Ultramarines would have been more receptive to them, given that they were created on Guilliman’s order, but even here, there is mistrust from the regular Marines.

We get Genesis Chapter in this story as well, the first of the Ultramarines’ successor Chapters, and the guys that I had decided to paint up my own Primaris Marines as following the release of Dark Imperium last year!

The story involves Ultramarines and Genesis Chapter fending off an attack by an Iron Warriors warband – at the time, I’d just finished Dead Sky, Black Sun, so felt like I was continuing to read the same story! Clearly there is a lot of bad blood between the sons of Perturabo and those of Guilliman… The Iron Warriors are searching for something among the hive cities of Quradim, a world garrisoned by the Genesis Chapter, and the same world where the Ultramarines, led by Chaplain Helios, arrive on a special mission for Guilliman. Turns out, years ago there was a cache of virus bombs deposited there, and Guilliman wants to use them to kill off worlds to deny them to the Ruinous Powers in a bit to drive back the Cicatrix Maledictum. Or something like that. The Iron Warriors obviously want them to cause havoc, and something of a race across the planet takes place.

I felt like this was very much a story-by-numbers, for the most part, with the Iron Warriors coming across more like stock-villains than anything else. It was cool to see the Genesis Chapter having such a large role, for sure, and I do like seeing the larger 40k storyline advancing, though I similarly feel that it was a little bit pointless, and these books exist more to show the Primaris integrating into the regular Marines Chapters than anything else. (It doesn’t hurt GW to be able to point to these and say, “look! The Ultramarines/Dark Angels/Space Wolves/Blood Angels have now accepted the Primaris Marines into their ranks! Now buy these battle force boxes!”)


So what’s next from Black Library?

Coming up in February is the story of a female Commissar, Honourbound, which looks like it might be quite good. Notably, it’s a female Commissar who doesn’t feel the need to strut about topless or less. At the minute, I’m enjoying anything that involves a Chaos Cult, so it definitely ticks some boxes for me!

Uncompromising and fierce, Commissar Severina Raine has always served the Imperium with the utmost distinction. Attached to the Eleventh Antari Rifles, she instills order and courage in the face of utter horror. The Chaos cult, the Sighted, have swept throughout the Bale Stars and a shadow has fallen across its benighted worlds. A great campaign led by the vaunted hero Lord-General Militant Alar Serek is underway to free the system from tyranny and enslavement but the price of victory must be paid in blood. But what secrets do the Sighted harbour, secrets that might cast a light onto Raine’s own troubled past? Only by embracing her duty and staying true to her belief in the Imperium and the commissar’s creed can she hope to survive this crucible, but even then will that be enough?

Definitely one to keep an eye on, anyway!

Also coming in February is the final novel in the Horus Heresy series, The Buried Dagger, which will draw the series to a close with both sides poised on the brink of Terra. At least, I think that’s where they’re poised. We’ll get to see Mortarion damn his Legion to perpetual infestation, while an insurrection on Terra erupts in advance of Horus’ forces. It sounds like it’s going to be quite explosive, I have to say, and definitely one of those novels that should stick in the mind.

I’d been expecting to see more in the way of Space Marines Conquests books on the horizon, but there’s nothing on the Upcoming page just yet. We do have the Corax novel in the Primarchs series coming out – that’s a series that I haven’t found myself being quite so invested with for the time being, as none of the stories have sounded like they’d really wow me, so I’ve only picked up three of the volumes for the time being – Perturabo, Lorgar and Jaghatai Khan, as they’re all Primarchs that I’m interested in. If they ever do a Horus novel, I’ll likely pick that one up, and I’ll also likely be interested in an Alpharius book, but I suppose we’ll see!

As it is, I still have rather a lot of Black Library novels waiting for me on the shelf, not just Horus Heresy entries but a lot of the books that were released sort of to advance the storyline. I think I’d like to get to some of those, and also continue along with Gaunt’s Ghosts while I’m on this Chaos Cults kick!

For the time being, I’m reading the short story Skitarius, which is inspiring me to continue with painting my Adeptus Mechanicus miniatures – make sure to come back tomorrow for a painting progress update blog!

Fear to Tread

This is a Horus Heresy novel that I’ve had on my shelf for a very long time now, back from when I had just gotten into the series and was excited to find out more about it. I honestly don’t know why, but the Blood Angels kinda fascinate me as a space marine chapter – I don’t own an army of them, and have no intention of doing so, but I’m still weirdly drawn to them. Space Marine Legions all seem to have their counterparts between loyalist and traitor, but the Blood Angels, while they’re more commonly compared with the World Eaters for their assault-focus and brutal efficiency in close combat, are also similar in so many ways to the Emperor’s Children in their artistry. I suppose they don’t pursue things to absolute perfection, but there is a strong link between the two… and I do rather enjoy the Emperor’s Children in a lot of ways!

At any rate, Fear to Tread is the 21st novel in the Horus Heresy series, and is the first to truly follow the Blood Angels to the exclusion of all other Legions. While Sanguinius did pop up all the way back in Horus Rising, he’s here very much at the centre of things. We follow the Blood Angels as they battle the weird alien menace known as the Nephilim, before Horus then sends the legion to the Signus system with the report that there have been Nephilim sighted there. Horus has also learnt of Sanguinius’ dark secret, that of the Red Thirst, and hints there may be the answer to that problem held on the planet Signus Prime.

The Blood Angels travel there, but instead find that the system has been truly taken over by the forces of Chaos: there are droves of daemonettes along with bloodletters under the leadership of the bloodthirster, Ka’Bandha. The Blood Angels are joined on this expedition by a small coterie of Word Bearers sent by Horus, and another small band of Space Wolves sent directly from Malcador the Sigillite. As it turns out, Malcador has sent the Wolves out to all Legions, as he suspects that more may have turned from the Emperor in the manner of Horus and Magnus.

The war does not go well, as Sanguinius is seemingly defeated in single combat by the bloodthirster, prompting a shared madness of the Red Thirst to break out among his sons. The fighting is particularly brutal, especially among Amit and the Fifth Company (later the Flesh Tearers), who actually kill the Space Wolves while in the grip of this madness. Sanguinius is revived when a band of former librarians goes against the Edict of Nikea to bring him back psychically, and he manages to defeat the daemons with the help of the apothecary Meros, who sacrifices himself to a Chaos ragefire that had been intended to consume Sanguinius himself.

Fear to Tread

While there is nothing inherently bad about this book, I found it incredibly hard-going, and took over a month to wade my way through. I’ve noticed this with the last Blood Angels novel to pass under my nose, Devastation of Baal, which makes me wonder if it’s something about this particular chapter that I just can’t seem to gel with! I find it odd, though, considering – as I mentioned earlier – I do actually like the idea of and the lore behind the Blood Angels…

There are quite a few nods to other Horus Heresy novels, particularly the opening trilogy (the lone survivor from the planet Murder, brother Targa, was originally part of the ragefire that created the Red Angel, a daemon later presented to Horus by Erebus). Obviously, the use of the Space Wolves as the Emperor’s executioners also harkens back to A Thousand Sons, and the novel ends with Sanguinius arriving at Ultramar, which leads into the plans of Guilliman to set Sanguinius up as the head of the Imperium Secundus. It’s handy reading the novels in publication order, I feel, as things like this are a nice way of tying up the narrative.

Ultimately, I feel that not a lot happened in this book, and that it was essentially filler for what is already becoming a massive series. The whole point of the book is to test the Blood Angels, and attempt to bring the legion over to Chaos. Horus decides to eliminate Sanguinius lest his brother replace him as Warmaster, but none of that works. Yet the novel plods its way across more than 500 pages to do so. A lot of it just felt like padding, somehow, and I think it could have done with a trim.

I also haven’t really been convinced by Horus’ turn from the light of the Emperor in a lot of the novels where he directly appears, but here especially, his readiness to kill his brother seems to come out of nowhere. I think this is made especially glaring in that Horus and Sanguinius appear fighting side-by-side in the prologue; they have a very close relationship anyway, but not enough has been made of the break on Horus’ side, it just seems to be too much of a jolt. I know Horus is meant to be the bad guy, but sometimes (like here) he just comes across as evil for the sake of it.

It was good to have the Blood Angels and Sanguinius centre stage, but I do feel that a lot of the middle novels of the series tend to draw things out a bit too much.

The Devastation of Baal

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Well folks, it took me long enough, but I’ve finally made it to the end of this book! That’s not to say that I wasn’t enjoying my time on the Blood Angels’ homeworld during a Tyranid attack – the book is actually really good, with some tremendous action scenes, as well as being quite thought-provoking.

I think the main reason I found this heavy-going at times was just how arduous those action scenes can be. We get about 200 pages of space marines fighting Tyranids, and it did become a bit much after a while. There is enough peppered throughout to keep interest, don’t get me wrong, but I just found it difficult to want to return to that melee day after day.

Another reason why I found this to be quite heavy-going is the simple fact that I’m not that big of a Blood Angels fan. For sure, I enjoy the sons of Sanguinius as much as any other casual space marine fan, but I’m not overly interested in them to the exclusion of all else. And I think this is a major point for this book – if you’re a Blood Angels fan, you’ll absolutely love it. There’s nothing but wall-to-wall red armour where everything is named something to do with blood. We get a lot of Commander Dante, and learn what it’s like to be the oldest-living space marine of the Imperium.

So, the story is basically the attack on Baal from Hive Fleet Leviathan, in what often feels like a follow-up to the Shield of Baal series from 2014. Oddly, though, while it does feel like a follow-up, a lot of what is referenced comes from the campaign books, and not another novel, which just feels a little disjointed to me! Anyway, after a long preamble where the various successor chapters of the Blood Angels gather to accept Dante’s leadership, the Shadow in the Warp descends and the Tyranids begin their attack. After a gruelling battle, where Baal and its moons is basically devastated (well, it’s in the title…) the xenos are beaten back and Guilliman shows up with loads of new Primaris Space Marines.

A lot of people have already been talking about how Guilliman saves the day yet again, and have voiced their complaints that the novel falls down because of the over-use of this device. However, I have to say that I don’t really share this view. True, the Tyranid attack stops and the Indomitus Crusade shows up, but it doesn’t truly feel like Guilliman actually defeats them. Dante and his combined Blood Angels forces do the vast majority of the fighting, and Guilliman himself actually ascribes the victory to Dante. Instead, Guilliman really only shows up for the clean-up. The main turning point comes when Cadia falls, light-years from Baal, and the Cicatrix Maledictum basically destroys the Hive Mind’s synapse long enough for the Tyranids to actually be beaten back.

Leaving entire chapters-worth of Primaris marines behind does feel a bit like a forced ending, of course, as we essentially have the Blood Angels updated for 8th Edition. Now you too can field countless droves of Primaris marines in your Blood Angels army, because Guy Haley told you it’s what happens! Seriously, it’s not the worst way of bringing this development into canon. There is an interesting scene near the end between Dante and Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers, where Seth calls the Primaris replacements for the marines, and their lack of the genetic flaws of the Blood Angels means that, while they may wear the colours, they will never be true sons of Sanguinius. Which is an interesting way of looking at things, to be sure.

Dante’s reaction is similarly thought-provoking, as he seems to have a bit of an epiphany whereby his attempts to preserve the Chapter almost cause Baal to be lost to the xenos. It makes the reader question whether space marines are too caught-up in their own past glories, and whether they really are willing to lay down their lives in service of preserving the Imperium. It’s a subtle point, but I really found it intriguing.

Of course, fans have been endlessly discussing the scene between Dante and Seth, and whether there will be a civil war between the old marines and the new. While we’ve been seeing fractures already like this, I don’t think GW is going to go down this route too much, as I can see it causing further problems with the integration of the product line. People already hate them, it seems, so why encourage that divide? Doubtless, it would be interesting, but I don’t foresee anything too much just now.

Anyway, overall this was a good book, and fans of the Blood Angels will of course love it more than anyone!

Upcoming Black Library goodness

I’ve made a return to the Horus Heresy series, and a short discussion on Twitter has got me looking ahead for more on the latest and upcoming Black Library offerings…

Oh my goodness, this thing has gotten my interest! The Devastation of Baal looks like it should be a really good book. Guy Haley does churn out some great fiction, of course, and I’m really keen to see how the new 8th Edition timeline is going to progress, so I’m looking forward to getting this next month!

I’m not the biggest Blood Angels fan, of course, but I did really enjoy the Shield of Baal series back in 2014/15, so if it gives off this kind of vibe, then I’m all for it!

Also – Space Marine Conquests? Is this another series of Space Marine-centric novels? If they have similarly amazing stories as the Devastation of Baal seems to be, then I’m all for it!

Sons of the Hydra, coming in January, sounds like it could be a really interesting book. An Alpha Legion soldier seeking redemption for his legion? I’m more intrigued than I can possibly say! Of course, I have an Alpha Legion army that is still something of a work in progress, and definitely hold a soft spot for the duplicitous sons of Alpharius. It’s one of the things that’s interesting me so much about Deliverance Lost right now.

There are still plenty of new books (and some not-so-new!) that I want to get round to, mainly that I’m waiting to arrive in paperback, top of that list being Ghost Warrior and Shroud of Night. It’s going to be a very busy winter!

The Fall of Damnos

Damnos

Hey folks!
While I’ve been reading (and re-reading) all manner of stuff at the minute, I thought I’d talk today about a book that I read a few weeks ago, back when I was moving house and all that attendant nonsense. The Fall of Damnos is the main bulk of the Space Marines Battles: Damnos book, which follows the progress of the Ultramarines’ attempt to liberate the populace of the mining world of Damnos from the return of the Necrons.

To all intents and purposes, I should love this book. Indeed, I’ve thought of it for a long time now as the quintessential Necrons novel.

Boy, was I disappointed.

The story follows several of the Ultramarines 2nd Company, under the legendary Captain Cato Sicarius, as they struggle against the reactivated Necrons across the world. There is a token planetary defense force, but the main populace on the world are the miners who seemingly accidentally wake the slumbering Necrons. There are several battles described, but despite Sicarius’ charisma and battle prowess, it seems the Necrons have the upper hand as they attempt to reclaim their tomb world…

The narrative feels like a series of vignettes for the most part, and at one point actually came across like some kind of attempt to describe a tabletop battle. I’m not a huge fan of that sort of thing, as it often feels like the story is going nowhere as we get several descriptions of epic nothingness. Maybe I’m being too harsh…

Confusingly, one battle group of Ultramarines is referred to as the Immortals, which is around the same time we get the Necron Immortals entering the fray. Kyme even uses different words to describe these guys depending on the point of view – to the Ultramarines, they’re “larger warrior constructs” or something, whereas to the Necrons, they are of course Immortals. Necron Raiders are mentioned quite a lot, often in relation to what I assume otherwise to be Necron Warriors. While the use of Raiders might be a nice throwback to fans of 2nd Edition, I can’t say it held much appeal as a Necron fan.

Indeed, there isn’t really much here for fans of the undead space robots. There’s a mad Overlord, a scheming Cryptek, and the usual insane Flayed Ones, then the most part of the army consists of Warriors/Raiders, and Canoptek Scarabs. Monoliths make an appearance at one point, which is nice, and there may have been a Tomb Stalker mentioned for one incredibly brief moment, but otherwise it’s quite a one-dimensional foe for the brilliant Ultramarines to fight.

As for the Ultramarines themselves, they’re a weird mix of politicking folks who seem to be out for personal glory above all else. Weird, right?

Damnos dates from 2011, and feels very much like “the old” Black Library. Sure, they still put out clunkers and filler-type novels, but in the main, they definitely feel like they’ve upped their game since these days, where they were basically a game company tie-in. We may not be getting Shakespeare now, of course, but we’re getting novels that are actually enjoyable to read, and are worth reading for their own merits, and not merely because they describe the deeds of the plastic men we push around on the tabletop. The Necron lore in particular felt badly written in this one, which put me off it pretty much entirely, but even with that aside, I can’t think of any reason why you’d want to pick this one up today.

The Beheading

Well folks, I made it! It’s been a little over five months since I started reading The Beast Arises series from Black Library, and I’ve finally made it through to the end of the twelve book series at the weekend. I want to take a look first at the final installment, before putting down some rambling thoughts on the series as a whole for you all to enjoy, so sit back and see what I’ve made of it all!

I said in my blog on the previous novel, Shadow of Ullanor, that the series felt done right there, and I was a bit curious as to why we needed a twelfth book when the saga of the War of the Beast had pretty much been wrapped up, but The Beheading deals with the political fallout of the war, and in that respect, it is very much required reading.

We start with the return of Maximus Thane to Terra, where he takes up the position of Lord Commander at the political manoeuvring of Vangorich, however the space marine has no intention of remaining on Terra, and appoints the Grand Master of the Assassinorum as his regent. Vangorich, despite his protestations of wishing to remain behind the scenes, promptly goes about removing all of the High Lords and replacing them with his own puppets, which forms the main portion of this book – and, indeed, the ‘beheading’ of the title. With little check on his power, Vangorich goes insane and, after a century of despotism, Thane returns to put an end to the assassin’s rule.

Of course, coming at the end of a twelve-book series, there is rather a lot going on in the middle of all this, and we get closure on pretty much all of the plot threads, so far as I could see. Firstly, the Fists Exemplar/Iron Warriors storyline is resolved in fairly explosive fashion, with Zerberyn joining forces fully with Kalkator, and leading to the removal of the Fists Exemplar Chapter from the records of the Imperium. I was not actually expecting the story to turn out that way, and was actually in open-mouthed horror when I read it, which I suppose is the mark of a well-written plot!

Another plot twist concerns the death of Inquisitor Veritus, and the reveal of his real identity. I don’t want to spoil it here (despite spoiling pretty much everything else!) but it was nicely done, and I suppose not entirely far-fetched. I did like the fact that we get to see the Grey Knights at last, but I thought it was a bit weird how the final chapter forms a quite abrupt jump in the narrative, as we move from Titan to a century later. Discussing it at my local store, a lot of folks think it leaves the door open for more story later on, which I suppose makes sense, though Black Library did market this as a self-contained series that would be told in twelve books and that would be all. Hm.

There have been many cinematic moments throughout the series, such as the pursuit of the Harlequins through the palace at the start of Guy Haley’s previous entry Throneworld, to the co-ordinated assaults of the Deathwatch in The Last Son of Dorn, and to those can be added the central episode of this novel, the assassinations of the High Lords. I also think the confrontation between Zerberyn, Bohemond and Kalkator, and that scene’s terrible conclusion, is one of the highest points of drama I’ve read in a 40k novel so far. It unfolds over only a handful of pages, but that tension becomes almost unbearable – I only hope we get something comparable when the Horus Heresy series concludes.

At any rate, the book was a decent end to the series.

The series as a whole, then, was pretty uneven. To start with, I think there were some bad editing choices – I’ve mentioned it before, but it seems like there’s some kind of rule that these books absolutely could not be more than 250 pages in length, which led to some instances (such as the aforementioned leap of a century) that felt oddly disjointed. Even those books that weren’t nearing the limit felt like they could have had some more material to help them along a bit. Watchers in Death in particular felt a bit weird towards the end there.

However, I also feel that the series as a whole was oddly padded sometimes. I’ve made no secret of the fact I really disliked the second book, but throughout the series there have been instances where it felt a little like the story was being dragged out. I think it’s entirely possible that the original plot line for this could have been ten novels at most, and someone then decided to drag it out over twelve to do the one-a-month release thing. I’ve read that the Black Library have had the series in their vaults for years, which I do entirely believe – I mean, how else could they get these books released on time like that? But it does kinda sadden me when little inconsistencies, and extended sequences of padding slip into the narrative.

Anyway!

All of that said, I thought the overall story was pretty decent, more for what we learnt along the way than anything else. It annoyed me that we never really get an explanation for why the Orks are so technologically advanced here, whereas everywhere else they’re described with something akin to madness in their engineering. They can launch co-ordinated assaults across the galaxy, using teleportation technology that the Mechanicus cannot quite get the hang of? What caused this development? How did the Orks manage to get such huge numbers when the Imperium thought they had been crushed at (pre-Heresy) Ullanor? There were a lot of unanswered questions about the Beast, for me, and it really irked me as the series went on that we never get the Orks’ perspective. Sure, I should have expected it, but there was just too much missing for me to adequately maintain my interest over the series. The closest we ever came was Beast Krule’s infiltration of Gorkogrod, but one moment of insight across a twelve novel series does not really make up for it, in my view!

What I found interesting here, though, was the way that several important elements of the 40k lore were bound together into the narrative, which really seemed to lead to the sense of this series being an Event. For years now, fans have known that the Imperial Fists were almost decimated to a man and had to be rebuilt from successor chapters; we’ve known about the shadowy beginnings of the Deathwatch and the Grey Knights, and all the rest of it. Something I hadn’t actually realised was that we’ve even known Vangorich would eliminate the High Lords of Terra in an event known as The Beheading! Shows how much I’ve read those timelines of events in the rulebook!! All of these strands are brought together into one narrative and, despite all of the criticisms that I’ve just leveled at the series, I’ve actually really enjoyed seeing them all come together in one place!

Along the way, we get some really compelling characters. I was always surprised by the choice of Koorland as something of the central character, as he was never someone I had pegged as all that interesting. But then, I suppose that’s part of the problem with space marines – while the Horus Heresy has done great things to show us some very interesting sides to the superhuman warriors, they are a bit boring. Put them among the political shenanigans of the Council of Terra, and they come off even worse. But even so, I was surprised at how much I warmed to him as the figurehead of the series, and was shocked to see him go. Thane, who takes over the mantle, always seemed even less interesting than Koorland, but I do like how strident he could be.

While Zerberyn and Kalkator are hardly going to feature very prominently in any top ten space marine characters list, I was nevertheless totally sucked into that storyline, and found myself missing it when neither appeared. Worried about how it would be concluded, I was pleased to see it take a suitably dramatic turn at the end. There are so many shades of grey in the Imperium, I thought it was really interesting to explore this post-Heresy brother against brother kind of tale.

Over time, I also found myself enjoying the Mechanicus side of the storyline. We never truly know what’s going on with the Lords of Mars, of course, but even so, I enjoyed some of these scenes much more than I’ve previously enjoyed any story featuring them (Mechanicum, for a start), and have even found myself looking into collecting some Skitarii! Inevitably, I found myself most enjoying the scenes that showed the Inquisition and Vangorich. I’m a huge sucker for political skulduggery, so this should’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I vastly preferred to read about the machinations of the High Lords to any extended battle sequences. Wienand really interested me at first, while Veritus annoyed me to hell with his zealotry, but I think, having now read who he really is, it makes a lot more sense.

This, however, brings me back to what I’ve said earlier, the series is just too over-long for my tastes. I think showing three attacks on Ullanor really goes to show this point, but the fact that we have some mysteries that are dragged out, and some that we didn’t even know about until the end, it just feels like this series has outstayed its welcome. I’m glad I made it to the end, and I’m glad I’ve read it for its impact on the lore of the 40k universe, and while I’d recommend it to anyone who likes 40k for that reason alone, I don’t think I’ll ever bother reading it again.

Let’s end with some favourites, though!

Favourite book: The Last Son of Dorn
Favourite character: Vangorich sounds like so much of a cop-out, so Wienand 🙂
Favourite moment: Pursuit of the Harlequins to the Eternity Gate (Throneworld)

How about you? Have you made it to the end? Let me know what you thought of the series in the comments!

The Last Wall

The twelfth and final book in The Beast Arises series is available on Saturday, but I’m only now a third of the way through, having this morning finished reading the fourth in the series, The Last Wall!

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Like previous installments, this book picks up directly after the last one, with the Ork battle moon in orbit over Terra. Initially in panic, the High Lords of Terra unite behind the plan put forth by Juskina Tull, speaker for the Chartist Captains, to basically throw as many bodies at the Orks as possible. The Proletarian Crusade is born, and amid a smattering of Astra Militarum platoons, millions of civilians enlist to go up against the greenskins. Meanwhile, the Inquisition intrigue continues, as Wienand reaches the polar fortress of her order and, despite Veritus having effectively replaced her on the Council, seemingly manages to convince her colleagues that she hasn’t lost sight of the threat of Chaos, merely that the Ork threat is more immediate and must be tackled now. Some disturbing news reaches her there, however, that Ork activity around the Eye of Terror may be causing a Chaos incursion.

The Crusade doesn’t end well at all, which is somewhat to be expected, and three Ork “ambassadors” arrive at the Imperial Palace, demanding humanity’s surrender. When the High Lords refuse this, the Orks leave, condemning the population of Terra, however a massive detonation signals the arrival of yet another xenos threat: from the Eldar!

This book was actually pretty great! I enjoyed seeing the continued intrigue among the Inquisition, and while the overall politics among the High Lords still doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, it was nevertheless interesting to read and immerse myself in. Something that I particularly enjoyed was seeing actual Ork characters finally in the series – we’ve been three (and a half!) books now with the story only being told from one side, and while I don’t think we’re really any further forward in knowing why the Orks are suddenly attacking humanity on all fronts, the intrigue has been dialed up a notch in that the Ork ambassadors appear unlike any greenskin yet seen in the Imperium. Coupled with the ongoing investigations of the Mechanicum that keep getting hinted at, this is slowly proving to be an interesting aspect of the series.

I felt a bit cheated that the story didn’t involve the astartes more heavily – the book is called The Last Wall, which we know is the failsafe from Rogal Dorn to reunite the various chapters back into the Imperial Fists Legion should the need arise. Yet we only get (I think) one chapter that dealt with this! It seems like maybe a wrong choice for a novel title, though I admit that the Proletarian Crusade was referred to as a last wall also. Hm.

Speaking of astartes, there was a very interesting chapter that showed some Iron Warriors fighting against the Ork tide, and I was convinced at first that it was a typo for Iron Hands. But no! I don’t know much about the Iron Warriors, and haven’t really met them yet in my Horus Heresy readings, but I thought it was really interesting to see these apparently loyalist space marines from a Traitor Legion so long after the Horus Heresy. I wonder where their story is going…

I get the impression, from a lot of these vignettes, that the authors are trying to develop the setting for perhaps some more stories later on – whether around the same timeframe, or else in subsequent years. So we’re seeing a lot of things just for the sake of establishing that setting, rather than having any meaningful part of the actual story. I could be wrong, of course, but it’s just the sense of having things sketched in and whatnot.

Maybe the much-anticipated 8th edition Warhammer 40k will have options for historical narrative play or something? Who knows!

At any rate, I thought this was a really enjoyable book, and one that I found myself engaged with more so than some of the previous books. With the threat of the Eldar poised to further complicate the issue, I’m going to move on directly to Throneworld now, anyway, so watch out for the next book shortly!