Xathrodox86 reviews: "Predator, Prey" by Rob Sanders

I'm not gonna lie - I have a big faith in the new Black Library series, "The Beast Arises". First part was decent enough and showed what the Imperium looked like, a mere thousand years after the Horus Heresy. But what about its next installments? Are they just as good?

I don't know anything about Gav Thorpe's "The Emperor Expects", except for the thing that the title is pretty rad, but fortunately I did finished "Predator, Prey" by Rob Sanders. Now, I always considered Sanders to be kind of a mixed bag when it comes to Black Library writers. On one hand his AdMech fiction is extremely boring, at least to me. Too long, too overblown and too stale. On the other, he penned "The Serpent Beneath", a truly fantastic Alpha Legion story, in which the XXth are shown as competent and secretive, but not in the "we can do anything because we can do anything" sort of way, like most BL authors tend to portray them. He's also responsible for the "Redemption Corps", a book which no fan of the Imperial Guard in general, and Storm Troopers in particular, should miss. All in all, the dude had a rather good writing streak, so far. Will the second part of "The Beast Arises" be able to change that?

These covers are just getting better and better!

Absolutely not. In fact "Predator, Prey" is much better than the first entry in this series.

The novel starts with Lux Allegra, an ex-pirate now turned imperial commnader, on the world of Undine, rallying her troops against the greenskin onslaught. Undine is a planet covered with oceans, with a strong maritime feel to it. Allegra herself is a well built character, whose previous life as a pirate still surfaces from time to time during the intense action against Orks, and who is often considered a low-born scum by her superiors. Her initial mission, escorting the planetary governor off world, goes tits up, when the Orks get their groove on and absolutely curb stomp the imperial defenders. After that, her commanders give Allegra a new task - find the missing cache of exterminatus-grade weaponry from the times of Horus Heresy, and use it against the invaders in an act of suicidal spite...

Allegra was intended by Sanders to be the most human of all the heroes and this works really well. Not only is she an ordinary soldier, she's also pregnant and readers are presented with her doubts, about the future of her world and the unborn baby that she's carrying inside her. What I liked about her the most, was the very down to earth approach with her character. She's no super woman that defeats the Orks with one hand tied behind her back. Instead Allegra is simply trying to stay alive, fighting both for herself and her unborn child.

Next we have Captain Maximus Thane of the Fists Exemplar Chapter, who is fending off the Greenskin attack on his homeworld. Soon circumstances force him to become the de facto leader of the whole Chapter, as all other senior officers are killed by vile Xenos. Where Allegra's plot is about staying alive on a world full of alien invaders, while trying to reach a certain destination, Thane's parts are full of epic combat scenes, heroic last stands and punching Bolter sickle mags into Orks brains (I'm not kidding, he does that). The Fists Exemplar are not the only Sons of Dorn in this book tough, as we're also introduced to a handful of Black Templars, organising a Crusade against the Ork Attack Moon. Without spoiling a lot, I'll just add that it goes very, very wrong, but thanks to those circumstances, we are treated to some of the most interestingly written BT's, this side of Aaron Dembski-Bowden's "Helsreach".

There's also Tech Magos Urquidex, who's taking part in the Adeptus Mechanicus quest to understand the secrets of Greenskin's gravitic technology, while also staying as much from the fighting as possible. Urquidex is another great character, and proof that Sanders can really write, as he's a Tech-Magos with a consience. He feels ashamed of his order's decisions to distant themselves from the struggle against the Xenos and he often makes it known to his superiors. Reading about a Tech Magii who isn't all "beep-boop, glory to the Omnisiah" is very refreshing and I wish that more BL's authors would take this kind of approach with the servants of Mars.

The Adeptus Mechanicus cold and inhuman logic really shows, just how little do they care about the wider Imperium. Terra can burn for all they care and as long, as knowledge is preserved, the machine cult is satisfied. "Predator, Prey" really presented the side of the AdMech, that most of us never fully saw.

Finally there's this Blogger's favorite anti-villian, Drakan Vangorich. The Grandmaster of the Officio Assassinorum is taking things into his hands even further, as he's starting to run kill simulations against members of Senatorum Imperialis, the other High Lords of Terra. Vangorich is the only one who seems to understand how big of a threat, the Greenskins present to the Imperium, and tries to convince his fellow High Lords of organising a solid and impregnable defence against the invaders. Sadly, most of them are too busy playing politics and vying for personal favors to take him (and the Orks) seriously. Even the Inquisition is not that much concerned about the threat, posed by "The Beast". Their inaction, petty powerplays and lack of leadership can be felt in every sentence, written by Sanders, and I've soon found myself wishing for ol' Drakan to start popping fools, left, right and centre. Fortunately Vangorich and his right hand man, Beast Krule, are preparing to do just that and soon...

Finally there are the Orks themselves. While "The Beast" did not made an appearance just yet, his soldiers are presented as genuine, horryfing threat. Long being considered culled by the Imperium, the Greenskins have bided their time, and when they attack, they absolutely decimate the hapless servants of the Throne. Their Attack Moon is able to destroy whole fleets without much fuss, but once again Sanders reminds his readers, that their greatest advantage lies in the ineptitude and petty politics of Imperium's ruling council. If only the High Lords of Terra would get of their asses and do something about "The Beast", the Xenos menace could be stopped right after the disaster at Ardamantua.

"Oi! Wez cannot be stopped, ya stupid Git!"

Speaking of which, a certain Imperial Fist, thought lost on that planet, is still alive and kicking...

I honestly had a lot of fun when listening to "Predator, Prey". Solid action, memorable characters and a genuine, Xenos threat, all make a great story and one that is more than enough, to keep me wanting for more from this series. While "The Beast Arises" may not be as epic, as the Horus Heresy, it's shaping up to be a very solid position, available from the Black Library. I can't wait to get my hands on "The Emperor Expects". I hope it will be just as good, as this title.


-Tight, fast paced action.
-Memorable, complex characters.
-Excellent presentation of Imperium's inner politics.
-Orks being a real, genuine threat.


-Skipping from one plot section to another can be a tad confusing.
-Depressing at some points. Seriously, this book is grim AND dark.

Until next time!



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