Black Library’s ongoing The Beast Arises series moves one step closer to completion with book 7, David Annandale’s The Hunt for Vulkan. Annandale’s second contribution to the series, it focuses primarily on Chapter Master Koorland of the Imperial Fists who, after forcing the Adeptus Mechanicus to reveal the origin of the ork invasion – legendary Ullanor, calls for aid from other First Founding chapters. Recognising that the Imperium needs a powerful figurehead if they are to strike at the heart of The Beast’s forces, an unlikely source points him in the direction of a mythical figure who might just fit the bill.
The title sort of gives the game away, so there’s no avoiding one spoiler – yep, Vulkan’s back. In a series full of brave decisions this is a big one, but bearing in mind the events up to this point it’s really quite in keeping with the series so far. Annandale jumps right in at the deep end, opening with what starts as another vision of disaster for the Imperium but soon becomes an explosive, grin-inducing early glimpse of the big man himself. After that he pulls things back and builds up slowly to a meeting of the two most powerful warriors in the Imperium, seen mostly through the eyes of Koorland or Thane of the Fists Exemplars, but also touching upon a few other characters both familiar and new to the series.
After the bleak Echoes of the Long War this feels a little lighter in tone – still full of the series’ trademark sense of impending doom, but just starting to hint at a little bit of hope. It’s probably the most action-focused instalment so far, with a disappointingly small amount of Vangorich and the labyrinthine political maneuverings of the Council of Terra, but there’s enough pace and variety in the action scenes to keep the pages turning from start to finish. Annandale has a good handle on Koorland, especially his disgust at the role he’s being forced to play, and does a great job of introducing Vulkan and showing the impact a primarch has on the post-Heresy Imperium. He doesn’t try to explain Vulkan’s presence, or how he came to the attention of the wider Imperium, but this ambiguity helps maintain a sense of wonder around the mind-boggling implications of his presence, and poses some intriguing questions which will hopefully be answered in due course.
More than any of its predecessors except perhaps I Am Slaughter, this feels like it would have made a magnificent story told over a full-length novel, or maybe even two. Stripped down to its bare bones to fit the reduced word count of this series it’s an entertaining page turner that does a good job of keeping the pace of the series up and introducing a hugely important new arc, but despite all that there’s just a sense that this might have deserved a little more room to breathe. Nevertheless, despite a lack of jaw-dropping revelations (unless you didn’t read the book’s title) it’s another enjoyable chapter of a series which continues to impress.