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Book Review- “The Last Wall” by David Annandale

Last WallI took a bit of a break from Black Library’s year long event storyline “The Beast Arises” after book 3, “The Emperor Expects.” Not because the series was bad. It was quite entertaining. It wasn’t as epic as I wanted it to be though. I got the rest of the series this past Christmas so I decided to go back to it with Book 4 “The Last Wall” by David Annandale. I’m glad I did because in this book Annandale turns things up to 11 by taking all that stuff that works in past books and amping it, as well as adding some new and very interesting twists.

One of the most interesting elements of “The Beast Arises” series has been the political intrigue and maneuvering. You get more of that in “The Last Wall” as Drakan Vangorich, the Grandmaster of the Imperium of Man’s Officio Assassinorum tries to protect his ally in the Inquisition and deals with the petty posturing for power of the High Lords of Terra. Annandale does a fantastic job drumming home how awful, narcissistic, and power hungry the various High Lords are in the novel. By the end it was clear that they’re just as big of villains in the story as the invading Ork forces are.

The political elements of the novel also stretched out to some other returning characters that weren’t part of that type of intrigue in the past like Koorland, the surviving Imperial Fist. In the few chapters he appears in you see him having to make nice and navigate the egos of the leaders of the Space Marine chapters that had descended from the Imperial Fists. You don’t often get to see that type of interaction between the martial minded Space Marines and it was pretty interesting to see.

Annandale also introduces a number of new characters and forces into the conflict. david_annandaleI would love to talk about one of the new forces, but it’s a big spoiler. I’ll just say that a major Warhammer 40,000 player I never thought I’d see facing off against an Ork invasion is forced to deal with an Ork attack moon (man that’s such a fun and METAL thing to type) in “The Last Wall.” It made for some really cool and interesting scenes and I never thought I’d be cheering the members of this faction on, but I was!

The bulk of the new characters introduced in “The Last Wall” are the humans of the “Proletariat Crusade” that a High Lord of Terra creates in order to deal with the attack moon hanging over the Imperium’s home world. Much of the action in “The Last Wall” involves the formation of the crusade which is composed of thousands of ships and the billions of average citizens and Imperial Guardsmen those ships are hoping to land on the attack moon.

So we get scenes of chaos on Terra, people coming together, and intense fighting, and all of them work. Along the way we meet some characters that I grew attached to like the crew of the Merchant ship Militant’s Fire, and my favorite new character Galatea Haas, of the Adeptus Arbites. She’s got a great arc that involves which duty she should devote herself too, and she’s part of some really nice action scenes. So she’s both very human and a bad-ass like a lot of the best characters in the Warhammer 40K universe.

The other element of “The Last Wall” I really enjoyed addressed one of my biggest criticisms of “The Beast Arises” storyline, the Orks. For the first three novels the Orks really felt monstrous, but they also felt like a force of nature. So instead of feeling like an epic tale of interstellar war “The Beast Arises” almost felt more like a saga of cosmic disaster, which was still fun, but not as cool or as epic as I felt the story needed to be.

Annandale changes that in the “The Last Wall.” There were several scenes where the Orks really did start to feel like a sinister invasion force. The most powerful and just plain “HOLY SHIT I DIDN’T EXPECT TO EVER SEE THAT IN A 40K NOVEL” though comes at the end of the book. I don’t want to say what it was, but that scene fully invested me in the characters and larger conflict of “The Beast Arises.” I can’t wait to plow into it, and finish the last 8 novels in the series.

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