Review: The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/07/2016
The Imperial Navy cuts through the chaos on Terra and strikes back against the ork invaders, in a daring plan that could turn the tide of war against the greenskins.

As ork ships lay waste to world after world, heading inexorably towards Terra, Imperial citizens despair. The High Lords become desperate to prove that victory is possible, no matter the cost. A massive Navy fleet is assembled – their mission to make a definitive strike against the orks at Port Sanctus, an area of enemy-held space. But when the Imperial armada arrives, they find themselves outclassed and outmanoeuvred – can human courage and faith possibly prevail against such terrible odds?
The Emperor Expects is the first book in the The Beast Arises series that I honestly enjoyed without that nagging feeling of something being off and somewhat unfulfilling about it. It did not blow me away, truth be told, but it made some solid steps towards progressing the series.

The Story:
"The Imperial Navy cuts through the chaos on Terra and strikes back against the ork invaders, in a daring plan that could turn the tide of war against the greenskins.

As ork ships lay waste to world after world, heading inexorably towards Terra, Imperial citizens despair. The High Lords become desperate to prove that victory is possible, no matter the cost. A massive Navy fleet is assembled – their mission to make a definitive strike against the orks at Port Sanctus, an area of enemy-held space. But when the Imperial armada arrives, they find themselves outclassed and outmanoeuvred – can human courage and faith possibly prevail against such terrible odds?"


The Review
The Emperor Expects had a sense of momentum that its two predecessors lacked. Things are moving more quickly and characters finally make their plays, rather than being stuck preparing. The Imperium is finally starting to move towards countering the Ork threat. Captain Koorland, last survivor of the Imperial Fists, takes an opportunity to convene with the other sons of Dorn. The Inquisition finally moves into focus and provides a different look on Terra's current state and politics.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Navy is gathering to strike back against an ork attack moon, featuring some very likeable characters next to some that deserve some solid shin-kicks.
It is the first real navy-focused book in a very long time, and I am quite alright with that, even though I was never particularly fond of the drawn-out stellar engagements on paper.
Still, Gav Thorpe executed the sense of void warfare as well as I could have hoped, and both his and the Imperium's gambits payed off for me as the reader.

Seeing captain Kulik's relationship with both his second in command Shaffenbeck and his mentor, admiral Price, develop throughout the novel was interesting and at times genuinely funny. The inter-navy rivalries and power plays that clog the system similar to how things have been going on Terra, really contributed to making this short novel enjoyable and relatable beyond what the previous books managed.

Back on Terra, the focus shifts from Drakan Vangorich to Inquisitor Wienand, who represents her order among the High Lords. She has featured in both previous books, albeit more lightly in the second. Following her entanglements with the High Lords' political plays and those of the Inquisition itself was entertaining and captivating. It is the first good look at the inner workings of the Inquisition post-Heresy, before the reformations that will shape them the way we are used to them from Abnett's Eisenhorn novels, for example. I honestly liked this plotline and the things that evolved from it. They add to the tension and provide another layer of intrigue.

On the other side, we have Captain Koorland of the Imperial Fists, who was rescued by the Adeptus Mechanicus in the prequel, Predator, Prey. Unlike that novel, he actually plays a role here. I found his interactions with the now-restored Magos Biologis Laurentis to be massively enjoyable, no less because it reflects a unique bit of.. friendship between Astartes and Tech Adept. Or probably the closest you can get to being friends with a hyperlogical machine brain at any rate.

Not just that, Koorland (also known as 'Slaughter') begins preparations for a conclave of Chapter Masters. He invites the successors of the Imperial Fists Legion to convene to discuss the Ork threat and stand in defense of the Segmentum Solar.
The previously introduced Black Templars and Fists Exemplar are in attendance, and joined by the Crimson Fists and Excoriators, both of which had previously been given the spotlight in the Space Marine Battles series. I am afraid to say that I have neglected both Rynn's World and Legion of the Damned in my reading, so I might not catch all the nuances between M32 and M41 versions of the Chapters in future novels. For now, though, that did not pose any problems whatsoever.
Introducing these Chapters was a logical step in my opinion, and just provides another angle to make The Beast Arises both familiar and alien in tone and theme.

As for the orks, I am happy to say that I finally felt they were a genuine threat here. There were some melee boarding engagements, but most of the waaagh for Port Sanctus was down to naval actions. The orks finally got the opportunity to show off their cunning against proper admirals and fleet commanders, resulting in more than just "they are so big and green" moments. The staggered realizations of the orks' strategical behavior were well executed and believable.

At the end of the book, though, I felt like there should have been a bit more on various points. I was surprised to see Koorland's plotline end so early in the book, and Vangorich, while having pretty good scenes, was a little underused. Not that this could really be helped, considering we know his destination and he will not reach it before the final two novels. Strong focus on him cannot be maintained on the same level without his arc being dragged out and repetitive, I think.
I would have liked to see some more AdMech scenes, as they only appeared early on in Koorland's plotline by necessity.

But then, those are nitpicks that did not drag the novel down much. I still enjoyed it a heck more than the previous two, and think that the series is finally rolling on, after the previous setup installments. The Emperor Expects is a genuinely good showing by Gav Thorpe, and continues the upwards tendency of the series so far.

The Emperor Expects on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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