Review: The Beast Must Die by Gav Thorpe

Posted by DarkChaplain at 7/29/2016
The time has come – if the Imperium is to survive the ork invasion, it must strike at the heart of the greenskin empire. Their home world has been identified, and Koorland, aided by a primarch, leads the assault…

The Imperium has been brought to the edge of extinction by an ork invasion of unprecedented scale and depth. Piecemeal strikes against the invaders prove ineffective - for every ork fleet destroyed, five more appear. The only solution is to find and kill the orks' warlord - the Great Beast. Surely if its leader is killed, the greenskins' empire will fall apart in agony of infighting and confusion. Lord Commander Koorland assembles a mighty army, but when they arrives on the orks home world, the forces of the Imperium discover they have disastrously underestimated the might and ingenuity of their enemy.
Back from vacation, so let's go back to Ullanor and pay the Great Beast a visit!

The Story:
"The time has come – if the Imperium is to survive the ork invasion, it must strike at the heart of the greenskin empire. Their home world has been identified, and Koorland, aided by a primarch, leads the assault…

The Imperium has been brought to the edge of extinction by an ork invasion of unprecedented scale and depth. Piecemeal strikes against the invaders prove ineffective - for every ork fleet destroyed, five more appear. The only solution is to find and kill the orks' warlord - the Great Beast. Surely if its leader is killed, the greenskins' empire will fall apart in agony of infighting and confusion. Lord Commander Koorland assembles a mighty army, but when they arrives on the orks home world, the forces of the Imperium discover they have disastrously underestimated the might and ingenuity of their enemy."

The Review
The Beast Must Die takes the fight back to the orks for good. It is full of action and, oddly enough, development for the orks and the Great Beast. The latter makes it one of the coolest ork focused books in Black Library's stable (at least as far as 40k is concerned), which is at least in part due to Gav Thorpe's attempts to feature old and forgotten pieces from the background.

Political intrigue is at an all-time low. I expected to be bummed out by that and end up lukewarm on the book, but while the High Lords aren't on the stage for almost the entire book, their appearances in the first chapter, and their confrontation with Primarch Vulkan therein, left me excited and satisfied regardless. It is down to Thorpe's excellent pacing and raising of the stakes throughout the rest that I never really felt like a change of pace via Terra-based politics was necessary.

The rest of the book, meaning chapters two to twenty-two, are set on and around Ullanor. I highly anticipated the Imperium's strike at the Beast's home world, especially for how much of a symbolic value that planet had during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy series. Seeing the orks build a new empire of their own springing from the place of their greatest defeat at the hands of Horus and the Emperor was such a promising idea, it would have been easy to deliver an underwhelming novel that didn't meet my expectations.

Thankfully, The Beast Must Die met them. Indeed, it is one of the top novels in the series so far, despite its heavy action focus.

Most of the chapters are prefaced with the introspections of Primarch Vulkan. I've seen people call them "emo", and indeed, they are depressing in many ways, but oh were they telling and fitting for a character like Vulkan. For all his legendary status, he is weary of life and seeing the Imperium's decay. He has a heavy cross to bear (see: Vulkan Lives and onwards in the HH series) and it makes perfect sense for him to take these mental turns over the course of one and a half millennia. Considering he was always presented as the most human of the Emperor's demi-god sons, I fully approve of how Thorpe depicted his inner turmoil.

Even on the active side, Vulkan's depiction is spot on. He is aloof where he should be, reminiscing about the glories of a lost age in places, and feels very disconnected from the rest of the Imperium. He rarely utilizes the authority inherent in his nature, but when he does, he moves the plot and characters forward in clever ways. In one chapter, he defends Chapter Master Koorland's authority as Lord Commander in a way that made me smile and cemented both Vulkan's subtle genius and Koorland's suitability in his role for me.

In other situations, Vulkan is a mighty warrior who goes head to head with mighty war machines - something we have seen in The Hunt for Vulkan already, but here he feels both less and more like a one-man-army. More, because he isn't fighting on his own anymore and leaves the Space Marines with him watch on in awe, and less so because he actually coordinates with them. Where The Hunt for Vulkan aimed to excite and awe the reader with how mighty Vulkan is, here it becomes clear that despite all that, he cannot fight this war alone.

The ork civilization meanwhile is sketched with great detail and should appeal to longtime fans who have seen old editions of 40k come and go. Many ideas and concepts long scrapped are alluded to, and the greenskins of Gorkagrod are far from the usual brutes. Unlike most Black Library novels, we see orks living in "peace", as a functioning society. It is a chilling prospect that bodes ill for the Imperium, but manages to elevate the ork threat of the series to even higher levels.

This is also the first time since the first book that we get a direct confrontation with the Great Beast. If you have been waiting for that, this is your book. Whatever you expected: Go bigger.
That final confrontation of the novel was excellently handled, and leaves the reader with a bit of a blown mind. Personally, I am not sure where the series can go from this. David Annandale's Watchers in Death has a big task ahead of it to continue on from that cataclysm.

The Beast Must Die is an excellent book. The series needed it, both in regards to plot, reveals, resolutions of subplots and moment to moment action. Seeing the Imperium act as a truly united force against the biggest threat since the Heresy was glorious, especially after all the backstabbing previously. Of course, there are still intrigues going on behind the scenes, but they are secondary here. The Beast Must Die, or all shall fall.

The Beast Must Die 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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