Traitor General (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts) ★★★☆½

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Traitor General
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Words: 105K

Synopsis:

From WH40k.lexicanum.com

Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt is asked to lead a team of guardsmen on an infiltration mission to the planet of Gereon, held by the forces of Chaos in order to eliminate a captured traitor Imperial Officer who holds secrets pertaining to the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Gaunt leads eleven of his regiment to the planet where they are met by Jerome Landerson, a member of the Gereon Resistance. Landerson and the resistance lead the Gereon Twelve across the planet the fortress where the Imperial Officer is being held. Before getting there the team has to deal with chaos garrison soldiers, glyphs and wirewolves as well as the Chaos Space Marine Uexkull. To escape their pursuers Landerson leads Gaunt and his team into the Untill, home of the Partisans, an old rebel force who opposed the Imperial Government centuries ago. The Untill is a large dark swamp filled with poisonous creatures, the most notable of which being a large species of moth. The Tanith and the resistance meet with the Partisans and help defend them from Uexkhull and his squad of Chaos Space Marines. It is through this action that Gaunt is given Eszrah ap Niht, son by his father, the Chief of the Partisans. The Tanith and Resistance then leave the Untill and make for the occupation fortress.

Meanwhile the traitor or pheguth, as it is called by the Chaos forces is being kept prisoner by the forces of Chaos Magister Anakwanar Sek under the command of Mabbon Etogaur. The pheguth is protected by the life-ward Desolane, a sexless beast risen from birth to protect its wards with its life and brutally gruesome martial skills. The pheguth was captured by Chaos forces whilst on an Imperial Transport awaiting trial for desertion. However as the pheguth knew sensitive secrets the Commissariat psykers put a mindlock on him, locking away his memories and identity. The pheguth is then subjected to the prying claws of the Magister Sek’s psykers as they try to peel back the layers of psychic encryption on the pheguth’s mind. The process is excruciating but eventually meets some success. The pheguth remembers that he is in fact Lord General Noches Sturm, leader of the 50th Royal Volpone. Realising that he must of been betrayed by the Imperium and especially Gaunt, he begins to help Mabbon Etogaur form, train and discipline the Sons of Sek, a new chaos army modelled on the Imperial Guard. It is planned that the Sons of Sek will grow to rival the Blood Pact in strength, allowing Magister Sek to challenge Archon Urlock Gaur for leadership of the Chaos forces in the Sabbat Worlds.

Having reached the resistance safehouse near the location of the pheguth Sturm’s location, Gaunt asks Landerson to have the resistance gather their forces so that they may make a strike on the fortress. The resistance does so, getting slaughtered in the process but allowing Gaunt and his strikeforce to slip in to the fortress and fight their way to Sturm’s room. Upon Gaunt and his ghosts entering his room, Sturm finally remembers certain important moments in Vervunhive, concerning his desertion and his dishonourable conduct. Sturm, once again faced by Gaunt, asks once again for the right to commit suicide. Skeptically, Gaunt grants this request, allowing Sturm to finally regain some of his honour through blowing his own head off. Desolane enters the room at this point and is enraged at his charges fate, flying into a fury beating Gaunt and Mkvenner in personal combat, taking three lethal toxin-laden quarrels from Eszrah’s reynbow and is only killed by a close range hotshot from Feygor who uses Larkin’s sniper-pattern lasgun.

My Thoughts:

This was Grimdark, through and through. Yet I enjoyed every page. There is a lot of page time given over to Chaos and how it affects everything. I actually appreciated that, since I don’t play WH40K or have much reading experience. It helped fill in some gaps. Needless to say, Chaos is truly insidious and this book shows just how it warps everything it comes into contact with, even those directly fighting against it. I’ll come back to that.

There are currently 16’ish books in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series but without that knowledge, you’d think this was the last one. With Gaunt and a select few of the Tannith Ghost’s abandoned on a Chaos controlled world at the end of the novel, I don’t see how the story will proceed. I’ve assiduously avoided reading anything about the future books so as not to ruin the surprise of how they get out of this mess, but considering it is a Warhammer40K setting, I don’t imagine it will be easy or pretty. I’m guessing a lot of blood, guts and extremely dirty politics.

Back to the chaos. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m simply not going to learn much about the Emperor or how Anti-Chaos operates (it definitely isn’t Order, that is for sure). Sometimes those opposing Chaos are just as bad and you wonder, why bother to fight Chaos if this is what you’re going to have to deal with in return? The corrupting influence of Chaos is definitely showcased here, as the Resistance on the planet have had to take on the control worms (there is no better description for it) of the enemy simply to move around without being killed. Those worms change them, even in little ways and it is central point for Gaunt and his Ghosts about whether they can be trusted or not. I have a feeling that that idea of Trust and being warped by Chaos will play a bigger role in the upcoming books.

This was a great read for what it is and probably one of the best of the series so far. I’m looking forward to how the author is going to extricate Gaunt and Crew from the Chaos world and reintegrate them back into the larger group of Ghosts.

★★★☆½

Sabbat Martyr (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #7) ★★★☆☆

sabbatmartyr (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Sabbat Martyr
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #7
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Words: 104K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

At the request of the reincarnated Saint Sabbat, the Tanith First-and-Only is summoned to the remote and tactically insignificant world Herodor. The Civitas Beati, a holy city dedicated to the Saint, is under assault from a legion of Blood Pact, led by Enok Innokenti. While the Ghosts prepare to defend the city alongside the local PDF force, Gaunt learns the truth of the situation: the woman posing as the reincarnated Saint is Sanian, an esholi whom the Ghosts encountered on Hagia. Utterly convinced that she is Sabbat, Sanian has clearly lost her mind. Lord-General Lugo – whose career has been unstable since his disgrace at Hagia – plans to use her as propaganda, and does not care that she is an imposter; he believes that he will be forever remembered as the man responsible for a miracle in the Sabbat Worlds. As far as untold thousands of pilgrims, Imperial and archenemy troops are concerned, Sanian is the true Saint.

However, things take a strange turn when Sanian actually does become the host for the Saint’s spirit, after Sabbat’s true incarnation perishes in the assault. Innokenti deploys nine specialist assassins to the Civitas Beati under the cover of the invasion. Their purpose: kill the Saint and shatter the morale of the Imperials. With the Imperial fleet all but destroyed and surrounded by an enemy who has multiple advantages over them, the Ghosts face one of their most daunting challenges yet.

The title Sabbat Martyr is a reference to the psychic message experienced by a number of Ghosts in Honour Guard. Ultimately, it is one of the Ghost’s most beloved leaders who becomes a martyr in Sabbat’s name, as he gives his life defending her from the final assassin.

Sabbat takes down Innokenti and with the death of the Chaos leader, the Chaos forces retreat and are eventually destroyed by reinforcements. Cuu is revealed as the final traitor and is killed. The book ends with one of the Ghosts, who has been getting messages from himself that have saved innumerable lives, being handed over to the Psykers and his final message being “Help Me!”

 

My Thoughts:

For whatever reason, I struggled with this book. I had to check to see if it was written by Abnett because the writing just wasn’t zinging along like his previous books in this series. Part of it was there were a couple of space battle scenes and I don’t care two figs for space battles. I don’t dislike them, but it doesn’t draw my attention. However, even the ground pounder action felt almost like it was a gaming scenario from a WH:40K miniatures game instead of a battle in a story.

How magic is treated (I was going to say works, but that’s not accurate) in this universe still baffles me. It is supposedly of Chaos and therefore tainted. But then you have whole Departments of the massive army dealing with the magic, ie, the Psykers, etc. So why don’t they take in everyone with some talent and use them until they become too tainted by Chaos? Why put them “under the question”? Then you have the whole “Emperor Protects” thing, where the people are basically invoking the Emperor to protect them with his magic and you have reincarnated saint like Sabbath. How does that square with everything? All magic can’t be bad, but it is treated like it is.

The body count is pretty high and even with the injection of the Verdegast volunteers from a couple of books ago, the Ghost’s are going to need a fresh dose of people to keep things moving along. At some point though the Tanith Ghosts will lose their identity if that were to keep up. My guess is by the end of the series they’re chewed up to nothing and the few survivors are rolled into other units. We’ll have to wait and see.

Finally, the biggest reason this was dropped half a star is because of the end of Lijah Cuu. That miserable son of a gun has been a cancer within the ranks of the Ghosts and caused so much trouble that his ending should have been appropriately horrific. Instead, he’s dispatched like a rabid dog with just a couple of shots. Bam, he’s dead. No justice for the horror and betrayal he’s committed ever since we met him. That just stuck in my craw and was like vinegar and gall.

Even with all that complaining, I still enjoyed the book enough to continue on with the series. Obviously I won’t enjoy every single book and I guess this one just falls into that “I mostly enjoyed it but didn’t love it” category.

★★★☆☆

 

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Straight Silver (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #6) ★★★☆½

straightsilver (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Straight Silver
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #6
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Words: 107K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Still under the command of Van Voytz, the Tanith First is deployed as part of the Imperial Expeditionary Force to Aexe Cardinal, where a deadlocked land war has been raging for forty years between the Aexe Alliance (a handful of loyal nation-states) and the Chaos-corrupted Shadik Republic. Warmaster Macaroth insists that the Aexe Alliance is to remain in command of the campaign, with strained success. The Alliance employs methods of warfare considered obsolete and inefficient according to the modern standard tactics of the Imperial Guard.

Gaunt is quickly frustrated with the brutal strategies and lack of reliable intelligence, and disagrees with the deployment of the scout-specialist Ghosts as grunts in the trenches. Van Voytz and Count Golke – the Alliance/Imperial liaison – negotiate with Alliance Command and agree to a compromise: one half of the Tanith First is sent to the northern Montorq forests to scout the area, while the other is redeployed to the Seiberq Pocket – the most dangerous section of the war zone – where they are tasked with infiltrating the Shadik lines and destroying the enemy’s newly developed siege guns.

Straight Silver is the first novel in which the Tanith First does not see a campaign through to its conclusion: after successfully taking out the siege-guns in the Seiberq Pocket and repelling a Blood Pact flanking manoeuvre in the Montorq Forest, the Ghosts are withdrawn from the front lines and redeployed to Herodor.

 

My Thoughts:

Another book in the series that doesn’t disappoint. Action, politics within and without, drama, tension, this is everything I want in a ground pounder sf book.

The story line about Lija Cuu (who is an insane psycho who kills his allies as easily as the enemy) ramps up and Mad Larkin (a sniper who seems to be one of the better guys) pretty much loses it. Larkin is completely intimidated by Cuu though, so I’m not sure that justice for Cuu will come from Larkin. Cuu is definitely set up as the Bad Buy within the Ghosts. He cleverly kills another Ghost this time around and once again it is blamed on the enemy. Cuu makes me want to kill him (which is the whole point of the character, but still…)

The greater political game was good in that it put Gaunt in his place. Not that it was necessarily enjoyable to read about a competent man being over-ruled time and again and watching the bad decisions play out, but it keeps him from becoming a Candidate for Emperor in the reader’s minds. Gaunt is a great commander but he’s not in overall charge and the story does a good job reminding us of that.

While these books are not great tomes of literature, they are still well written, enjoyable and I can see why Abnett has made a name for himself as an author of franchise fiction.

★★★☆½

 

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Dance of the Dead (Ravenloft #3) ★☆☆☆½

danceofthedead (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dance of the Dead
Series: Ravenloft #3
Author: Christie Golden
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Franchise Fiction
Pages: 310
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Raoul Dumont, captain of a paddle boat, steams up and down the rivers of Ravenloft bringing cheer and entertainment to all the small towns he visits. His troupe of actors regular perform a play he has written and Dumont’s young ward, Larissa Snowmane, is growing into her role as the villain of the piece.

However, while staying at an elven town, the main starlet of the show turns up dead and Dumont suspects the Elven Lord. He and the Crew make a run for it and pass through the mists. They come to a small town that Larissa recognizes as the one she grew up in many years ago before her father abandoned her to Dumont’s care.

Dumont begins to show his true colors and tries to take advantage of Larissa. She escapes, meets a young man named Willen and finds out that Dumont has a group of magical creatures as slaves in the hold of his boat. Dumont’s goal is to find a magical creature in this small town and in this he is aided by a Necromancer named Lond. Lond begins turning the crew into zombies that are directly controlled by Dumont. Lond wants out of the town, as he has made an enemy of the Lord of the Manor, a vampiric necromancer of immense power.

Larissa escapes into the swamp, finds out her white hair (hence the name Snowmane) gives her a special connection and is taught by the Swamp Witch. However, before they can attack Dumont or Lond, they must get permission from the Lord of the Manor, as nothing occurs without his personal approval. He teaches Larissa the Dance of the Dead and sends her on her way.

A battle ensues between the gang on the boat and denizens of the swamp. Things aren’t looking good for Larissa’s friends as Lond is just resurrecting them and using them for his side. Larissa dances the Dance of the Dead (which she was told would allow her to control all zombies) only to find out that not only can she control all zombies but she makes zombies of anyone who watches the dance. Willen gets zombified and Lond kills Dumont to try to escape. Lond ends up dying in a contest of wills and Larissa’s group wins.

The book ends with the remaining non-zombies asking Larissa to be the Captain of the Boat and she begins making eyes at one of the men.

 

My Thoughts:

What an utter piece of tripe. This had every cliché and trope possible for “Young Heroine Comes Into Her Own”.

Also, nothing about this seems to actually be in the Realm of Ravenloft. If Dumont could travel willy-nilly through the mists, he could have made himself king. This was just a Grl Power fantasy book with the name “Ravenloft” stamped on it.

A stinker of a book. If the next Ravenloft book is anything close to this I’m done with the series. I always knew this would happen but I have to admit I was hoping it wouldn’t happen until later in the series.

C’est la Vie!

★☆☆☆½

 

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Knight of the Black Rose (Ravenloft #2) ★★★☆☆

knightoftheblackrose (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Knight of the Black Rose
Series: Ravenloft #2
Author: James Lowder
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 324
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Lord Soth was the highest in the Order of the White Rose. He was brave, virtuous, courageous and was a paragon. Until he committed adultery with an elf maid, had his first wife killed and then in a paroxysm of jealous rage burned his castle down killing his elven wife and new born son. For hundreds of years Soth wandered the land of Krynn as the Black Knight, a cursed, powerful, undead being in the service of the dark goddess. Soth met a beautiful general and even though she died, Soth plotted to bring her back. His plans went awry when he and his seneschal were sucked into the alternate realm of Ravenloft.

Told of a portal that will let him escape, Soth attacks Count Strahd’s enemy, a vampire duke of another portion of Ravenloft. Surviving all attacks, Soth survives only to find the portal is a fake. It leads nowhere. He heads off into the mists to force his way out. The dark gods of Ravenloft present him with a choice, renounce his pride and return to Krynn once again as a warrior of Light, or hold on to his damnable pride and be the owner of the Red Rose, a new portion of Ravenloft. Soth damns himself and vows vengeance against one and all.

 

My Thoughts:

I had read a Forgotten Realms book by Lowder a while ago, the Ring of Winter and it did not impress me. Therefore I lowered my expectations, already pretty low from the first book, and I made the right choice.

The first book was about a noble sun-elf turned vampire but he was still a good guy fighting against Strahd’s machinations. In this book we have someone even worse than Strahd and I was hoping to see some anti-hero action from Strahd. Vampire versus Undead Power Knight. A clash of Dark Titans, powerful destructive magic unleashed across the land. Nope. Strahd is a manipulator and he doesn’t change. He gets Soth to do some dirty work for him instead of clashing with him.

Soth wasn’t bad for a villain. He’s powerful, motivated by pride, hate and lust and yet has never forgotten his origins as a Knight of the White Rose. Unfortunately, he’s also as flat as a pancake. He had a few instances to shine darkly but his power was wasted. I don’t know if I hope he returns as a nemesis to Strahd or not.

Considering that Ravenloft seems to grow at the whim of the unnamed dark gods’ whims, I have this feeling Ravenloft will soon be full up of ultra-powerful badguys, who do nothing. Somebody powerful needs to die and they need to die spectacularly. Killing off gypsies just doesn’t cut it.

★★★☆☆

 

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Plague of Spells

PLAGUE OF SPELLS
Forgotten Realms: Abolethic Sovereignty #1
Bruce Cordell
Epub-290 pages
3 Stars
Fantasy-

Taking place sometime soon after the death of Mystra [recorded in the Lady Penitent trilogy], the world has changed. A blue fire plague has changed the land, the magic and made it possible for ancient evils to possibly return.

Deals with one small sample of the twisted magic that can recall the Aboleths. Having a new set of characters for each sub series in the Forgotten Realms doesn’t sit well with me. I understand it, but the only continuity provided is on a world wide scale, which is too big for me. I’ll keep plugging away at the Forgotten Realms books, but as backups, not as primary reads.

A typical Forgotten Realms book. Not good enough to get excited about, but not bad enough to stop reading the series.

I really enjoyed the War of the Spiderqueen and the Lady Penitent series, so knowing that this series follows up the demise of Mystra, that is the main draw for me.

Decision at Thunder Rift

Decision at Thunder Rift
Battletech: Saga of the Grey Death Legion #2
William Keith
SF
3 Stars
Epub, 298 Pages

a young mechwarrior survives a surprise attack on a back edge world and leads the fight to take it back, so as to give his clan a chance to survive. Looks to be the start of a sub-series about this particular branch of merc mechwarriors.

The Sword and the Dagger

The Sword and the Dagger
Battletech
Ardath Mayhar
SF
3 Stars
Epub, 248 Pages

Introduces us to a galaxy where humanity has spread, then splintered into factions, with each trying to rule the whole. Follows one plot to remove a king of one “clan” for the furthering of another clan. Nothing special, but enjoyable with promise for a huge amount of stories.

Having never played Battletech/Mechwarrior, I am just getting into this universe. I thought the introduction did a good job of summarizing the galaxy to date.

The Devil’s Hand

The Devil’s Hand
Robotech: The Sentinels #1
Jack McKinney
SF
2 Stars
Epub, 133 Pages

about the SDF3 going off into space before the Masters came to earth. Lots of characters from the Macross saga along with a host of new ones. Minmei is still around sadly, and Rick, even though married to Lisa, hasn’t got much of a spine. Will see how this sub series turns out.

About the same level as the Macross saga. So Minmei is as spoiled and selfish and useless as ever. Rick is as dashing, spineless and brave as ever and Lisa is as dependable and rock solid as ever.
Then the new bad guys, made me roll my eyes. If I had been Rick Hunter, I would have shot all the southern cross contingent and continued with just the RDF people. Would have solved a lot of problems 🙂