IMPORTANT: This is book ten in a series – there will be spoilers unless you’ve read I Am Slaughter, Predator, Prey, The Emperor Expects, The Last Wall, Throneworld, Echoes of the Long War, The Hunt for Vulkan, The Beast Must Die or Watchers in Death.
The Beast Arises reaches book ten of twelve with David Guymer’s The Last Son of Dorn, his second in the series. After the disastrous events of The Beast Must Die and the subsequent regrouping in Watchers in Death, Lord Commander Koorland now has a plan to defeat the Beast, albeit a desperate and as yet untested one. Making good use of the newly formed Deathwatch and the once-mythical Sisters of Silence he sets out on what is essentially a dry run, as his forces return to some familiar locations with something specific in mind.
For all its merits, this series hasn’t exactly been a bundle of laughs – it’s pretty bleak, in fact. The opening of The Last Son… however introduces a small but welcome dose of humour alongside rare moments of things going well for the Imperium, in a clever reflection of Predator, Prey’s opening scenes earlier in the series. The multiple missions take in locations reminiscent of book two, even returning to the Fists Exemplar home world Eidolica, before we’re whisked back to Terra to watch as Koorland continues to wrestle with the High Lords. After the initial split scenes the focus turns to Koorland as he puts his plan into action, before events rapidly progress and we’re thrown back into full on action mode.
We get to watch from the perspective of various characters, from Wienand and Vangorich to Urquidex and various Space Marines, but Koorland remains front and centre, clearly the focus of the book. Still grimly determined and self-deprecating, by this point he’s lost a lot of his self-doubt and has really started to accept his place in the unfolding events. Armed with a plan and an effective force, and increasingly coming to believe that it will work, he’s a powerful, inspiring figure. Of course this is still only book ten…
Despite being heavily action-oriented, somehow this feels closer in tone and satisfaction to the first few books in the series than any of the last four or five have. The politics and intrigue are fairly subdued for the most part, albeit effective and entertaining, but even when the bullets are flying it’s compulsive and enjoyable reading. Guymer has done a great job with the characters, weaving together the familiar faces with a raft of new or less well known names, and the whole thing fits together really nicely as a well-paced and plotted chapter in the wider series. Probably the best book overall since The Emperor Expects, it’s a great read on its own but also sets things up wonderfully for the final two instalments. It’s getting tense!