For book four in Black Library’s The Beast Arises series – The Last Wall – the baton passes to David Annandale to carry on the story started by Dan Abnett and continued by Rob Sanders and Gav Thorpe. At this point in the series Terra’s reeling from the shock of an ork moon appearing in orbit – with the Navy much too far away to intervene and the Imperial Fists wiped out, the home world is left essentially defenceless. Much to the relief of the population, and the bafflement of the High Lords, the orks don’t immediately attack, which gives Juskina Tull – Speaker for the Chartist Captains – the opportunity to put into action an audacious plan to arm the population and take on the attack moon with sheer weight of numbers.
As if that wasn’t enough of a momentous story line, Vangorich and Wienand are back in action back on Terra while elsewhere we see the Imperial Fists successor chapters uniting under a single leader, and we get a first glimpse of how the ork invasion is affecting the galaxy’s other inhabitants. Let’s just say it’s not only the Imperium who are taking a beating from the greenskin menace. All told it’s another book chock full of what’s quickly becoming the series’ trademark blend of action and political intrigue, the main event of the Proletarian Crusade taking centre stage but with Wienand’s increasing involvement inevitably drawing comparisons with previous Black Library stories of rogue Inquisitors on the run.
Annandale does a great job of picking up all the different dangling threads and weaving them in along with the key thrust of the book, introducing some likeable and nicely fleshed out characters while continuing to develop the familiar faces. He’s got a tough job with the Proletarian Crusade, balancing the powerful upswell of public movement with the sheer horror of attacking an entire moon with a fleet of civilian ships carrying civilian troops, but he pulls it off with style, and as a reader you’re left on the edge of your seat waiting to find out whether the madcap plan is going to work or not.
It’s another powerful page-turner of a book that sees the Beast Arises series continue to go from strength to strength and carries on demonstrating how well planned and executed the whole thing is so far. Where previous books have had numerous eye-widening surprises this one largely sticks to a single jaw dropper…and it really is a big one. Things are definitely not going to be the same after this, and it’s testament to both the series as a whole and Annandale’s work specifically that four books in the desire to keep reading and find out what happens next hasn’t waned in the slightest.