Echoes of the Tomb ★★★☆☆

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Title: Echoes of the Tomb
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1.5
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF Short Story
Pages: 27
Words: 7K



Synopsis:

From The Black Library & Me

Ciaphas Cain battles alongside the Reclaimers Space Marine Chapter against a mysterious foe. Who turn out to be necrons.

My Thoughts:

short Story good. Grunk has spoken. * grunt * * grunt *

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sector Thirteen ★★★☆☆

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Title: Sector Thirteen
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #0.6
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF Short Story
Pages: 20
Words: 9K



Synopsis:

Ciaphas Cain battles alongside the planet’s custodians against the tyranid foe on the agri-world of Keffia.

Picking up what seems to be the relatively light duty of reprimanding a tavern/brothel where several of his men became drunk and disorderly, Cain is unpleasantly surprised to find that the place is actually the central nest for a Genestealer infestation. Awakening the mob of infected, Cain and company retreat to the local enforcers headquarters where they hole up under assault from the horde who manages to break in. Retreating upstairs and eventually to the rooftop, Jurgen spots re-inforcements in the form of Cadians arriving and driving off the Genestealer horde. Later at a ball, Cain’s reputatation is enhanced further by Divas who states that if Cain had not uncovered the infestation in the brothel then every regiment would eventually be infested and the war lost.

My Thoughts:

Cain once again runs away like a coward and ends up saving millions of lives and being the living embodiment of a Hero of the Imperium. Not sure what that title actually gets him though.

This was a little short story and I must say, reading one short story really hit the spot. Pick it up, 30 minutes later I’m done and yet I’ve still got a complete story under my belt. There’s a reason why the short story has survived the Sandersonization of the SFF world.

I’m happy with the time I spent here.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Caves of Ice ★★★✬☆

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Title: Caves of Ice
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #2
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 275
Words: 73K



Synopsis:

From wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/

Part One

About a year after the Gravalax Incident, the Valhallan 597th is deployed to Simia Orichalcae, to defend a vital promethium refinery from a maurading band of Orks. The Valhallans couldn’t be happier, being sent to an Ice World to combat their hated ancestral enemies, though Commissar Cain can’t muster much enthusiasm for either.

Despite his usual self-effacement, Cain is justifiably proud of his efforts to merge the formerly disparate elements of the regiment into a cohesive fighting unit. By now, the men and women of the former 296th and 301st regiments are so tight-knit that he has to deal with a fair share of disciplinary problems arising from excessive “fraternization.”

Cain and Jurgen have some early excitement while riding in the first shuttle heading down, which comes under fire from a stray band of Orks on the ground. A lucky hit from a Rokkit Launcha forces them to make an emergency landing which bloodies their noses but nothing worse. Mistaking the size of the landing force, the Orks come charging in, and are cut to pieces in an ambush.

In the first meeting with the refinery’s administrators, Colonel Kasteen cuts through their bureaucratic meandering and declares the facility to be under martial law, allowing her to dictate the measures for the defense.

After the meeting, Cain pulls aside Artur Morel, a representative from the miners’ guild who has been trying, without success, to get an investigation into the disappearances of several miners in some of the lower tunnels. Kasteen is worried that there may be a cave opening that will let the Orks bypass their defenses, and Cain volunteers to lead the search party, reasoning that poking around a tunnel system will be more comfortable and less dangerous than hanging around on the embattled front lines.

Cain makes his first foray into the caves accompanied by Sgt. Lustig’s squad, and Jurgen. Finding a set of tracks, they follow them to a steep depression, which Trooper Penlan is unlucky enough to fall down. Alarmed, she hears something in the tunnels with her, and Cain, assisting the effort to haul her up, slips and falls into the pit with her. Something big and mean attacks, but Cain is able to drive it off with a flurry of lasgun shots. Wounded but still alive, the beast retreats before they can get a good look at it.

Cain agrees to lead a second team, which still seems like the safer option, now that the Orks are attacking the defenses in earnest. To his surprise, a junior Tech Priest named Logash asks to come along, claiming an avid interest in xenobiology.

While reviewing the tactical situation, Kasteen, Ruput Broklaw, and Cain are alarmed to receive a report from the orbiting troop ship’s sensors: a Gargant is headed their way. It will not arrive for several hours, but Kasteen already knows the 597th has nothing in their arsenal that will even slow it down.

An extract from Lieutenant Sulla’s memoirs reports on the fight at the front lines, where the Orks are attacking ferociously, but being effectively repelled.

Part Two

Since Penlan is still recovering from her injuries, Cain and Jurgen take Sgt. Grifen’s squad with them, as they pick up the search from the pit where they stopped earlier. At first the tunnels appear to be deserted, but as the squad disperses to check the various exits, Cain hears something coming, and realizes that the beast is burrowing directly through the ice at him. Before he can run it is on him, too close for the rest of the squad to use their weapons, but Cain’s natural reflexes allow him to kill the thing with his chainsword.

Bewildered, Logash identifies the dead beast as an ambull. Native to Luther Macintyre IX, they have been spotted on dozens of worlds, but its native environment is a desert. With a sinking feeling, Cain looks closer and sees no lasgun wounds, meaning they are dealing with more than one such beast.

During the next meeting of the “Committee for the Defence and Preservation of Simia Orichalcae”, Kasteen informs the Administratum and Mechanicus heads of her plan to mine the ice tunnels under the gargant’s path, collapsing the ground under it. Worried about the risk of damaging or destroying the refinery, the Administrator demands that Kasteen come up with an alternative strategy. Kasteen’s curt response is that she is welcome to ”go outside and ask the orks to go away if she thought that would help.” As for Cain’s party, there is a risk of them being caught in the explosion, but Kasteen and Broklaw are reasonably confident that they will be back before then.

Pressing forward, Cain’s team encounters several more ambulls (Logash estimates their numbers at around half a dozen), but one of the Troopers, Janny Drere, is seriously wounded. Cain would like nothing better than to use that as an excuse to order the whole party back to base, but Jurgen finds an ork skull among the ambulls’ leavings. The conclusion is unavoidable: whether the orks know it or not, there is a way to the refinery through the tunnels, and the ambulls have picked off a few of them already.

Part Three

Cain decides they have no choice but to go on, though he divides the squad into fireteams, having Corporal Karta’s carry Drere back to the refinery for medical treatment.

Continuing on with Sgt. Grifen’s fireteam, they find the walls of an artificial chamber, made of strange dark stone and inscribed with xenos symbols. Logash is excited at finding previously-unsuspected archaeotech, but Cain is horrified to recognize a Necron Tomb. Over Logash’s frantic protests, he orders the team to use their demolition charges to seal the entrance to the chamber.

After the explosives are detonated, Cain’s first impulse is to rush back to the surface (followed by the troopship, and then hopefully a whole other solar system) and warn Kasteen of the Necron presence. But finding yet another relic of the Orks, a dropped Shoota, proves that there is still a way open into the tunnels.

Another extract from Sulla’s memoirs relates that the Valhallans are holding the line against the Orks, though not without casualties. After her platoon is relieved from the main defenses, Kasteen, to whom Karta has just reported back, details them to escort the sappers and engineers while they lay the mines in the tunnels, and retrieve Cain’s team, which is uncomfortably close to the planned mining route.

Cain’s team emerges on the surface at the other end of the tunnel, finding tracks that indicate the eaten Orks were Kommandos from the same scouting party, making it more than likely that the main body of Orks doesn’t know about the tunnel. When Logash unexpectedly disappears, they have to spread out to search for him, and see a terrible spectacle: a band of thirty Orks stumbles onto a pair of Necron Warriors, and are almost completely wiped out. The Necrons teleport away, while the remaining orks raise their heads from cover and see the tunnel. Cain orders the Valhallans to open fire, and the Orks are killed, but the team loses one of its own, Trooper Lunt. Cain reluctantly orders Jurgen to incinerate the body with his melta gun, since they can’t carry it back, nor can they leave any trace for the Orks or the Necrons to find.

Heading back down the tunnel, they pass the tomb and are horrified to see that one last ambull has tunneled another entrance into it (before being killed). Worse still, another band of Kommandos stumbles across them, and they kill two more of the troopers before they are dispatched. In the fight, a rock-fall cuts off their original route, and they have to find another way back – unfortunately, the only one available takes them through the now-open tomb.

With only Cain, Jurgen, Grifen, and Trooper Magot left alive, the team enters the Tomb with as much stealth as possible. The chamber is massive, and there are thousands of (mercifully dormant) Necrons inside. They hide when a party of Flayed Ones passes through the chamber, disappearing through a Warp Portal. Wherever they disappeared to, Cain is sure they will be back, and picks up the pace. To their astonishment, they find Logash, who escaped from their party to run back to the Tomb and take in its mysteries – completely oblivious to the danger. Cain is tempted to shoot the Tech Priest on the spot, but Logash pulls an auspex from his belt that allows them to find another fresh ambull tunnel that takes them back to the surface, just in time to meet Sulla’s platoon.

Part Four

After returning to the refinery, Cain briefs Kasteen and the refinery administrators, insisting that their only option is to evacuate the planet and call in the Navy to obliterate the Tomb from orbit.

Magos Ernulph, the leading Mechanicus representative, objects frantically, saying the Tomb is a priceless trove of technology that must be examined, not destroyed. Cain forms a terrible suspicion, and consulting some old survey reports procured for him by Broklaw confirms it – the refinery wasn’t built over the most plentiful promethium deposits on the planet, making it almost certain that someone in the Mechanicus knew the Tomb was there and built the refinery with the intent of giving themselves just this opportunity.

Cain insists that they all have only hours left; the spike in warp energy caused by the arrival of the Orks’ space hulk reactivated the dormant portal inside the Tomb, drawing a scouting party from wherever the Necrons’ home planet is. Now that their scouts have confirmed the presence of the Tomb, they will be back soon, in force, to awaken it. If the portal is left open, then it could disgorge hundreds of thousands of Necrons into the sector.

But Magos Ernulph cannily seizes on this very point: it would take months, or even years, for a naval strike force to arrive, so the only safe option is for an infantry team to return to the Tomb and destroy the portal, before any more Necrons come through it. Cain is horrified when Kasteen agrees, and asks him to lead the team, but cannot think of any plausible reason to refuse.

Cain is assigned a squad of stormtroopers, and Jurgen comes along as always, while Kasteen and Broklaw are coordinating the evacuation of the regiment. To his consternation, a vox call from Kasteen asks after the whereabouts of Ernulph, who has disappeared – obviously unwilling to leave the Tomb alone.

On the front lines, Sulla is momentarily stunned to witness the gargant being attacked by a flotilla of Monoliths, which begin tearing huge chunks out of it with their weapons.

Making their way to the Tomb, Cain’s team begin exchanging fire with another Necron scouting party; the warriors have started to awaken, thanks to Magos Ernulph and his followers. They find a tearful and babbling Logash, the only survivor of the Mechanicus team, the rest having been cut down. There are enough awake warriors now, and more emerging from the warp portal, to overcome Cain’s stormtrooper escort, leaving only himself, Jurgen, and Logash. Jurgen clears their path with his melta, and they run for the surface. Since the stormtroopers were carrying the demolition charges, there is nothing they can do about the portal now.

They emerge in the tunnels under the main processing center of the refinery, and Cain warns Kasteen over the vox that the Necrons are fully awake now, and on their way. In a sudden inspiration, he realizes they are in a position to open the promethium storage tanks, flooding the underground tunnels. Not only does the flood wash away the pursuit right behind them, but it will (hopefully) do the same job as the demolition charges, once it is ignited. Cain is almost ready to think themselves safe, until they return to the surface just as the (heavily damaged) gargant reaches the Imperial lines. Seeing a tear in one of its legs, Kasteen concentrates fire on it, and succeeds in toppling the war machine. Deciding it is an excellent time to leave, she orders the last company to board the last waiting shuttle and lift off.

From orbit, Cain and Jurgen watch as Captain Federer detonates the demolition charges laid for the gargant, which are close enough to ignite the promethium in the tunnels. The resulting explosion throws up a pillar of flame kilometers high, taking the refinery and the remaining Orks with it.

Epilogue

Cain spends a welcome few days with Amberley Vail, who is responsible for debriefing the Valhallan soldiers about the Necron presence, and swearing them all to total silence. As she is composing her report to the Ordo Xenos, he takes the liberty of ordering a room-service dinner for them. The main course is, naturally, ambull steak.

In a footnote, Vail states that there was no further sign of Necron activity on Simia Orichalcae, though the Tomb was buried too deeply to be certain, and no one was eager to dig down and take a look.

My Thoughts:

This was a rollicking good read, with plenty of action to keep my attention. Cain once again tries to avoid all the fights and in the process gets right in the middle of them all and comes out looking like a Hero of the Imperium.

The enemies this time are mainly orcs with a side of Necrons. With this series I am learning a lot about other threats to the Human Imperium, as Gaunt and his Ghosts mainly dealt with the Dark Powers and their ilk. Necrons are like Terminators on steroids that are on steroids. It was awesome! I just had them in my head as unskinned T800’s. That can teleport. How scarily awesome is that?!?

Part of me enjoyed this so much that I was tempted to bump this up to 4stars, but on the other hand it IS franchise fiction and as such, it has its own built-in limitations. Maybe if I only read franchise fiction I’d give this 4stars, but since I read Shakespeare and Rex Stout, well 3.5stars is pretty high praise!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Fight or Flight ★★★☆☆

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: Fight or Flight
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #0
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 22
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

A short story of Cain’s first assignment as a Commissar and how Jurgen was assigned as his aide.

My Thoughts:

Who would have guessed that such a short story would have spawned over 10 books in a series? In the foreward Mitchell tells how this was supposed to be a one-off for a Black Library anthology but that Cain ended up being so popular that he ended up getting a whole novel to himself, which then morphed into a whole series.

Not bad for a short story in a franchise fiction mega-series.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

For the Emperor (WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1) ★★★☆☆

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: For the Emperor
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 281
Words: 91K



Synopsis:

From Wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki

Part One

Ciaphas Cain has a problem; since leaving the Schola Progenium as an Imperial commissar, all he’s ever wanted is a nice, safe posting, far away from any action, where he can keep his head down and count the years until his retirement. Unfortunately, his unwanted reputation for heroism follows him wherever he goes, together with the risk of imminent death. Even a lofty posting to a brigade headquarters isn’t safe, since most general officers tend to see him as the perfect man to lead the most daring (i.e., suicidal) missions they can imagine. His only safe option, he reasons, is to request a transfer back to a serving line regiment.

He is saddled with the fractious Valhallan 296th/301st , the amalgamation of two Valhallan Ice Warriors regiments torn to pieces by Tyranids on Corania, while it is en route to Gravalax. The fact that the unit’s new and surprisingly young C.O., Colonel Regina Kasteen, is genuinely glad to see him (a Commissar) and Jurgen when they step off the transport, gives him an idea how bad things are.

The 296th was a rear-echelon all-female regiment, while the 301st was a battle-hardened all-male one. The remnants of the two units openly detest each other, and the male troopers understandably resent Kasteen’s promotion (by virtue of simple seniority) over their more combat-experienced senior officer, Ruput Broklaw.

Less than a week after Cain’s arrival, a riot breaks out in the troop ship’s mess hall that leaves several troopers and naval provosts dead. Cain manages to stare down the rioters, preventing an all-out bloodbath from engulfing the rest of the ship.

In conference with the regiment’s senior officers, Cain declares that the regiment will never be an effective fighting force unless its troopers learn to work together, so he orders them integrated together at squad level, and, in order to preserve their pride, re-designates the regiment as the Valhallan 597th (296 + 301); the two former regiments, he explains, are not being abolished, only reborn and redefined. Kasteen and her subordinates are skeptical, but he lightly reminds them that another Commissar would have happily ordered wholesale executions to restore discipline, and that the Departmento Munitorum would be equally pleased to re-designate the regiment as a Penal Legion.

Gradually, the troopers begin to adapt to the change, and morale recovers. But it threatens to dive again when the captain of the ship demands that the worst of the rioters be tried for murder and shot. Cain has no authority to overrule the Navy, so he works out a clever compromise: the five troopers found to have committed murder are tried and convicted, but instead of execution, he orders them held until they can be transferred to a Penal Legion, or, failing that, “volunteer” for a particularly dangerous mission.

By the time the ship has reached Gravalax, the 597th is united in regarding Cain as one of their own.

Part Two

The regiment’s official mission is to police Gravalax and discourage the local populace from defecting to the Tau Empire, which seems set on annexing the planet. Right away, Cain notices the conspicuous lack of the respect, or fear, he is used to seeing among Imperial populations whenever a Guard unit makes planetfall. He also gravely notes the enthusiasm with which the people have adopted Tau styles of dress and architecture.

Soon after the regiment establishes its base, Cain is surprised to be hailed by an old friend, Toren Divas from the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery, also deployed to Gravalax. The two men spend a night out on the town, and Divas, half-drunk, mentions rumors that the situation is serious enough that an Inquisitor is poking around. While staggering home, they run into a gang of pro-Tau locals, and are nearly beaten to death, before a Kroot warrior, Gorok, appears and tells them to go home.

Cain and Kasteen are invited to a reception at the Governor’s palace, where they are introduced to the vapid (and, Cain suspects, inbred) Governor Grice, the local Imperial envoy Erasmus Donali, and a Rogue Trader named Orelius. Cain has heard enough gossip to suspect Orelius of being the rumoured Inquisitor, but he is most captivated by the young lounge singer providing entertainment for the party, Amberley Vail. They share a few minutes of conversation, and a dance around the room, before the footman announces the arrival of the Tau ambassador.

Moments after the Ambassador pays his respects to the governor, a bolter is fired, and the Ambassador falls dead. No one saw where the shot came from, but some in the Ambassador’s entourage accuse the Imperials of killing him. Cain steps in and narrowly prevents a firefight, pointing out reasonably that whoever killed the Ambassador is trying to provoke war between the two factions.

Unfortunately, news of the crime has already spread, and word comes in that there is rioting in the streets between pro-Tau and anti-xenos extremists. Kasteen voxes the regimental headquarters, ordering them to support the PDF in restoring order, but not to engage the Tau for any reason. When another hidden agent destroys the Tau’s transport skimmer with a rocket, Cain and his Guard escort reluctantly agree to escort the Ambassador’s party back to their compound. Doing so forces them to shoot an over-zealous PDF lieutenant and his squad that mistakes them for Tau sympathizers, but returning the Tau safely helps prevent open war, although the rioting that engulfs the city for the rest of the night is savage.

Part Three

Cain’s actions have brought him to the attention of Lord General Zyvan himself, who frankly is reluctant to draw the Imperial Guard into a protracted conflict with the Tau over a “mudball” like Gravalax. Instead, the Guard regiments are detailed to box in and neutralize the rebellious PDF elements who are still fighting, while Donali makes it known that Cain is heading the investigation into finding the Ambassador’s killer.

As Kasteen and the 597th are preparing to advance against a rebel stronghold, Cain invents a task that will let him absent himself – putting the fear of the Emperor into a loyalist PDF unit that is maintaining a somewhat slack perimeter around another rebel garrison.

Accompanied by Lieutenant Sulla’s platoon, including Sergeant Lustig’s squad (who escorted him and Kasteen from the Governor’s Palace), Cain visits the PDF, only to find that they are desperately holding their own against a much larger rebel force, having been instructed by “the inquisitor” to keep guard while the inquisitor was investigating something in the undercity. Cain acts quickly, igniting a promethium stockpile that starts to collapse the rebels’ fort on them, before receiving an urgent call for extraction from the Inquisitor’s party over the vox. Given the choice between charging into a burning building and taking the blame for an Inquisitor’s death, Cain chooses the former without much thought. With a borrowed Chimera, he and Jurgen extract the Inquisitor’s party under heavy fire from the rebels… only to be stupefied when the Inquisitor introduces herself – Amberley Vail.

Meanwhile, Sulla manages to break the back of the rebel position with a reckless, albeit effective, charge, led by herself and her Command Squad.

Part Four

No longer hiding her real identity, Inquisitor Vail meets in private with Cain and Zyvan, and fills them in on the strategic situation: by itself, Gravalax is not worth fighting a protracted, bloody war with the Tau, especially when the Imperium’s military resources may be needed elsewhere, with ominous signs of a new Tyranid Hive Fleet on the horizon and Necrons awakening all over the galaxy. On the other hand, simply letting the Tau annex the planet would invite them to do the same to other Imperial worlds.

Vail concludes that the cleanest way to resolve the situation is to find and destroy the third party hoping to provoke war between the two sides. That will mean leading another team down to the undercity, which she was investigating when they were attacked. Since her original team was killed or injured, she needs Cain to supply her with another. With a sinking feeling, Cain realizes that she is “inviting” him along.

To Cain’s further dismay, the escorts she selects to accompany them are the five condemned troopers from the Righteous Wrath, promising a pardon to any who come back alive – and the terrible, patient vengeance of the Inquisition on any of them who get treacherous ideas. The one bright spot is that Jurgen volunteers to come along and watch Cain’s back.

But just as they are descending into the undercity, they receive word that the PDF has rebelled, attacking Guard and Tau alike. The Governor has panicked and ordered the Guard to mobilize, and the Tau are doing the same. War has broken out across Gravalax, and the Guard and Tau forces are only a hairsbreadth from opening fire on each other.

Under the city, they come upon a Tau scouting party on the same errand, which fortunately includes Gorok (the Kroot Cain encountered earlier). The two parties are able to broker a temporary alliance, and continue on together. Coming upon the bodies of some humans killed by their mysterious enemy, Gorok samples their flesh, and declares it “tainted” – which gives them the first idea of their true enemy: Genestealers, infiltrating the population and trying to throw it into anarchy and make the planet easy pickings for an incoming Hive Fleet.

Aboveground, General Zyvan orders the 597th to place the Governor under arrest, seeing it as the best way to pacify the Tau. However, when they reach the governor’s palace, they are opposed by a force larger, better-armed, and more vicious than any of them expected.

Stumbling onto a genestealer, nest, Cain and Vail’s party is all but wiped out, and the two of them are separated from Jurgen when a wall collapses on him, apparently killing him. Cain and Vail have to find their way back to the surface, relying on Cain’s innate sense of direction in an underground environment. For a moment they argue over whether he really knows where he’s going, putting him in mind of “a couple of juvies on a disappointing date” – an image so incongruous with their situation that both of them burst into hysterical laughter.

After this release of tension, they are able to focus on finding their way back to the surface – and neither of them can muster much surprise when a route from the genestealers’ nest takes them to a secret cellar beneath the Governor’s palace. Just then they are rushed by a brood of purestrains, and have to fight their way through. To Cain’s surprise and delight, Jurgen appears in the tunnel behind them, along with the last remaining trooper from their party. Then the trooper goes down, shot in the head by the Genestealer Patriarch: Governor Grice. Seeing the third arm extending from Grice’s chest, Cain swiftly realizes where the shot that killed the Tau ambassador came from.

Outside the Palace, the Valhallans are alarmed when the Tau appear in force – Hammerheads, Battlesuits, the works – and almost equally surprised when the xenos open fire on the traitor forces. Though it goes against the grain, the Guard forms up behind the Tau to fight their common enemy together.

Inside the palace, Grice drops Jurgen with a bolt pistol round to the head, though it ricochets off his helmet and the wound is not fatal. Amberley is narrowly saved from taking his next shot by her displacer field. While Cain tries to aim Jurgen’s dropped hellgun at the Governor, Amberley drops him with a poisoned dart from a digital needler concealed in her ring. The Governor dies after a few seconds of agony which go a long way towards relieving Cain’s feelings.

Cain, Vail, and the wounded Jurgen are escorted out of the Palace by the recently-arrived Valhallans, and it seems war has been averted. Further good news comes when two of the troopers from their party appear at the tunnel entrance, miraculously alive. Suspicious, Cain questions them about what happened, and they say they don’t remember clearly. Without further explanation, Cain draws his laspistol and shoots them both in the head. Kasteen and Broklaw are outraged, until Cain points to an identical wound in each of their sides, revealing that they were both infected by the genestealers. Understanding swiftly, Kasteen orders the bodies incinerated.

At the same time, two Pathfinders from the Tau party likewise miraculously appear, and are reunited with their own people. Cain is alarmed, but Amberley quells him with a look, and a secret smirk – if the Pathfinders are similarly infected, she has no intention of warning the Tau.

With Grice’s death, the war comes to an end, though the genestealer infestation remains a carefully guarded secret.

Epilogue

Cain and Vail dine at an exclusive restaurant, where she asks after Jurgen and is pleased to hear that he is recovering steadily.

As for the Tau, to general surprise, they are abandoning Gravalax. As Donali explains, they concluded that, if the Imperium was so determined to fight a protracted, bloody war to hold on to the planet, it would not “advance the Greater Good” for the Tau to give them the opportunity.

Vail has some surprising news for Cain: she has been observing Jurgen closely, including her psyker, Rakel’s violent reaction to him when Cain first rescued their party from the undercity. Jurgen, she explains, is a Blank — a staggeringly rare attribute that nullifies psychic or daemonic forces in his proximity. Cain is afraid that Vail will recruit him, but she confesses that the Inquisition is much more divided and factionalized than it appears on the outside, and most inquisitors learn to guard their resources jealously. She decides it is safest to leave Jurgen where he is, adding that she’ll know where to find them if she needs them. Cain is inwardly terrified at the idea of being recruited to any more Inquisitorial errands, but joins her in toasting “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

My Thoughts:

Having found that I got along tolerably well with Ibram Gaunt and the Commisariat, I asked around it turns out that Ciaphas Cain was another Commisar and as such was worth a look-see. From this first book, that would appear to be the case.

Gaunt and the Ghosts were of the Sabbat Crusade, on the bleeding edge fighting the forces of Chaos directly. Cain on the other hand seems to attach himself where ever he thinks the least danger is and in this book only deals with xenos and genestealers, neither of which are direct forces of Chaos (as far as I can tell). It shined a different light on the Imperium of Man, deliberately so and it made me wonder just how humanity had survived in space so long.

While Gaunt is serious and driven by duty, Cain is just trying to survive, cherry picking what he thinks are the easy jobs and doing what he thinks is the always the safest and easiest route. This is a semi-comical series in that no matter what he does Cain comes across looking like a Hero of the Imperium. It is fun to read about to be honest.

The main issue I had with this book was in its organization. It is from Cain’s journals, but they are being processed through the Inquisitor Vail and there are footnotes and addendums. It is a deliberately layered narrative that is relying on the unreliableness of both narrators to give the readers the clues they need to pick out the truth. That’s a lot of work for a franchise fiction book :-/ On the other hand, it adds to the overall amusement of reading these so I’m only mildly complaining instead of ranting.

There are 8 or 9 novels in this series and 4 or 5 short stories. I’ll be going through them all in the order they’re listed under, so the next couple of entries in the Ciaphus Cain series will be short stories. I don’t expect the reviews for those to be very long at all.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Anarch (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #15) ★★★☆☆

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 & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Anarch
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #15
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 372
Words: 137.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

On the forge world of Urdesh, the massed forces of the Imperial Crusade engage in a final bloody battle with the Archenemy commander known as the Anarch, and his elite warriors – the barbaric Sons of Sek. A victory for either side will decide more than just the fate of Urdesh… it will determine the outcome of the entire Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Ibram Gaunt – now serving at the right hand of Warmaster Macaroth – finds himself at the very heart of the struggle. His regiment, the Tanith First “Ghosts”, holds the vital key to ultimate success. But as the forces of the Imperium and Chaos square up for the final, large-scale confrontation, Gaunt discovers that the greatest threat of all may come from inside rather than out.

Mkoll, the Ghost’s top scout, is captured by the enemy and frees himself and 3 others. They make their way to where Sek himself is giving the final orders for the fight and ambush him. He escapes using the warp, but Mkoll follows and kills him. He makes sure to take his head as proof.

While this is going on, The Tanith are trapped in their barracks by one of the children who turns out to be a Woe Machine and a creature of chaos able to control physical reality. It’s a blood bath but Gaunt and an Inquisitor manage to defeat her. Only to find out that her older brother is also a plant. Neither of the kids realized what they were and so the older boy, now a Ghost himself, goes insane and gives in to his nature. He goes after War Master Macaroth himself and is barely stopped from destroying the whole leadership of the Crusade.

With Sek’s death and Macaroth’s survival, the Army of Humanity wins the Sabbath Crusade. Gaunt is now a big time officer and the Ghosts are his special regiment. No more little fights for them.

My Thoughts:

This was a good ending to the series. Gaunt is now a Big Cheese and as such won’t be leading from the front anymore. The Ghosts are a real mix of actual Ghosts, Vergastites and Belladons so them becoming Gaunt’s fist is good so they don’t get ground up and spit out like most of the Army of Humanity.

I did NOT like the little girl and the young Ghost being Woe Machines. They were never human, were simply in disguise but thought they were human the entire time. Having that ripped away from them was unpleasant to read about and even worse to contemplate. It definitely put the “grimdark” into this book. It was one of the main reasons I was glad this series ended here. I didn’t want to read more of this type of thing.

Overall, I have enjoyed this Gaunt’s Ghosts series. It has been great ground pounder action with almost no space ship battles. It was a fantastic entry for me into the Warhmmer40k universe since the Horus Heresy series left me dead cold. Gaunt himself was a good character to root for even while not hogging the spotlight. Plenty of other Ghosts survive each book for us to get attached to, but at the same time Abnett has no problem killing them off. That’s war for you after all.

My next WH40K series will be the Ciaphas Cain series. Cain is another Commisar, so I’m hoping it will be all ground pounder action as well. But with how this Gaunt’s Ghosts series ended, I need a breather from the bleakness of Warhammer40k and so am going to start a different Mil-SF series altogether. Probably get back to the Warhammer40k universe some time in late ’22 or early ’23. Preventing burn out is every book blogger’s duty after all.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Warmaster (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #14) ★★★☆☆

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: The Warmaster
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #14
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 287
Words: 103K



Synopsis:

From Warhmmer40k.fandom.com & Me

After the success of their desperate mission to Salvation’s Reach, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and the Tanith First-and-Only race to the strategically vital Forge World of Urdesh, besieged by the brutal armies of Anarch Sek.

A bad warp jump takes them away from the universe for 10 years.

However, there may be more at stake than just a planet. The Imperial forces have made an attempt to divide and conquer their enemy, but with Warmaster Macaroth himself commanding the Urdesh campaign, it is possible that the Archenemy assault has a different purpose — to decapitate the Imperial command structure with a single blow. It is also possible that Sek is after the Eagle Stones rescued from Salvation’s Reach.

Has the Warmaster allowed himself to become an unwitting target? And can Gaunt’s Ghosts possibly defend him against the assembled killers and war machines of Chaos?

My Thoughts:

This book exemplified everything about why I don’t read much Warhmmer40k. It was dark, brutal, gory, filled with despair and in the end hopeless.

I probably would have dnf’d this if this series was going to keep on going. However, I’m pretty sure that the next book, Anarch, wraps up the series. So I kept telling myself “Ok, you’ve enjoyed the series to date, so one bad book shouldn’t derail the whole thing”. It was a close thing though!

I did not enjoy this. Many people are plotting against the Warmaster Macaroth because he’s not doing things how they want. Gaunt has to deal with this. The Ghosts are being torn apart by evil scum like Merin and pathetic drugged out losers like Commisar Blenner. Saint Sabat has possessed one of her followers and is leading the charge personally against Anarch Sek.

Which leads me off down another rabbit trail. The whole Human Empire is based on the idea that anything supernatural comes from the warp and is therefore tainted by chaos and therefore evil. And yet they have Saints left and right and mystics and nobody bats an eye when a girl claims to be possessed by a dead saint. The inconsistancy is what annoys me.

The biggest issue that got me down was the fact that it appears that one of the children (the Ghosts have a whole retinue along with them, their families, etc) might be an agent of chaos without even knowing it. I’m really hoping I’m wrong, but WH40K books aren’t known for their deep and intricate plottings. I hate when children are used in stories like this, even potentially.

The story itself was good, the fighting was FANTASTIC and Abnett’s writing was up to snuff. That being said, I am looking forward to this series ending. I am wondering about pushing up my rotation and reading Anarch sooner than I normally would just to get over the goal line.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Salvation’s Reach (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #13) ★★★☆☆

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 & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Salvation’s Reach
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #13
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 311
Words: 108K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Following the events of Blood Pact, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt and his Ghosts are returned to active duty, and are given one of their most formidable assignments yet; a mysterious space hulk known as Salvation’s Reach. According to the turncoat Mabbon Etogaur, the Sons of Sek, a breakaway faction within the Blood Pact commanded by the warlord Anakwanar Sek, have secretly been using Salvation’s Reach as an R&D installation; concealing their activities there from all factions, even their overlord, Archon Gaur.

If Sek’s covert operations are brought to light, it will shatter the uneasy alliance between Sek and Gaur, sparking an internal feud that will tip the balance of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade in the favour of the Imperium. The Tanith First – reinforced with additional troops drawn from Verghast and Belladon – and a trio of veteran Space Marines are sent to neutralise the facility at Salvation’s Reach and gather as much intelligence as possible before they destroy it. However, Gaunt must also see to the protection of the incarcerated Mabbon, deal with the malcontents within the Tanith First, and cope with personal issues that he never anticipated.

A sub-plot in Salvation’s Reach follows Doc Dorden’s battle against terminal cancer, and his determination to serve the Tanith First until the very end. Another sub-plot explores the relationship between Captain Ban Daur and his new partner, Elodie. Through the latter, readers are granted an insight into the lives of the wives and other civilians that follow Imperial Guard regiments around the galaxy. The novel also features the appearance of Brother Kater Holofurnace of the Iron Snakes, a Chapter of Space Marines that previously appeared in Abnett’s novel, Brotherhood of the Snake.

My Thoughts:

I knocked this down half a star because there were some space battle’y scenes and I just don’t care for spaceships slugging it. It wasn’t bad or anything, I just like groundpounder action.

There’s a lot of “hinted at” threats that I sometimes wonder if anyone is going to survive. The rot within the Ghosts, which is typical for most of the armies of man, is really revealed here. It makes you realize WHY the Commissariat exists in the first place and that the Ghost’s have been a pretty exemplary unit. The bad apples are starting to bob to the top though. With this being Warhmmer40k, I half suspect that the entire unit will die by betrayal and fail in a critical mission. That just seems like WH:40K flavor :-/

Dorden dying was no surprise given his cancer. However, it seemed like it was supposed to be poignant or something, like previous characters dying. The problem is, you know people are going to die because this is war and what’s more, this is an ongoing, intergenerational war.The emotional punch has been removed because it is the ordinary, not the extraordinary.

The inclusion of 3 Space Marines (super beings from another age) didn’t do it for me either. They talk a lot about past glory, blah, blah and then toss in how technology has been lost or something for making more of them? I’m not up on my lore, so I don’t see why the Empire can’t churn them out like candy. Even if “something” has been lost, fething find it or rediscover it again! There are hundreds or more of worlds not being assaulted by Chaos, use them for research and development. I am sure the people directing this franchise have taken care of that issue but it wasn’t adequately explained to me at all in this book and just pissed me off with their defeatist attitude.

The fight scenes were what really saved this book for me. The infiltration of the base, finding and disarming boobytraps, then the retreat, it was all in the great groundpounder format that I like.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Blood Pact (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #12) ★★★✬☆


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 & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Blood Pact
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #12
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 243
Words: 99K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

After the gruelling events on Jago, the Tanith First is removed from active service for the first time since its founding and sent to Balhaut to perform garrison duties. Two years on, however, the Ghosts are becoming restless from the lack of combat and purpose. A number of them go as far as turning to petty crime and other bad habits to amuse themselves. Ibram Gaunt himself becomes increasingly idle and distracted, but remains confident that the Tanith First will return to the front again soon.

Events turn as Gaunt is summoned to Balhaut’s Commissariat headquarters. A senior officer of the arch-enemy has been captured, and refuses to speak to anyone but Gaunt. The Inquisition is attempting to secure custody of the prisoner so that they may handle him their own way. The prisoner insists that he wishes to help the Imperium, but this claim is met with speculation by Gaunt. However, he is forced to protect the prisoner and go to ground in the city when a Blood Pact insertion team storms the facility in an attempt to silence the prisoner. With heretical witchcraft influencing the populace and a determined hunter pursuing them, who can Gaunt turn to for aid? And what information does the traitor general know that prompts the enemy to openly assault an Imperial stronghold?

The Inquisition gets involved and is as much after Gaunt’s blood as the Blood Pact members. There is a running battle for a day before the Ghosts come to Gaunt’s aid, destroy the Blood Pact, reveal the Inquisitor to be an agent of Chaos and generally kick butt and help destroy the city. Gaunt gets rewarded and everybody prepares to go back to the front lines instead of going stir-crazy on leave.

My Thoughts:

2 years is a long time. Since it happens between books it is really hard to accept and fathom. It doesn’t “feel” like 2 years so you’re just kind of left dangling and have to accept it as authorial fiat.

When I started this book I was pretty meh and wondered if my reading rotation had let me down. I really considered dropping this for a rotation and move on to the next book. Thankfully, I stuck to it and I was not let down. Once I got past the “Oh, it’s been 2 years and we’re going stir-crazy being on leave and leading a peaceful life” and things started happening, wham, it was game on. I loved the mirror image this was to Traitor General and seeing the Ghosts in a slightly more relaxed environment was fun.

I ALSO liked seeing how the Blood Pact insertion team worked and how their magic was conducted. When the Inquisition got involved I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe a battle of Techno-Magics but whatever I was expecting, I did NOT see the ending coming, not by a long shot. It was great though!

Abnett continues to impress with his writing here. While not an indepth character study, he’s able to reveal new little tidbits that help flesh Gaunt out (hahahaa, get it? Flesh out, Gaunt? Never mind). The revelation that Gaunt could possibly have been Warleader of the Crusade was a real stunner for sure.

Overall, another thoroughly enjoyable entry in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Iron Star (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #11.5) ★★★☆☆


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 & Bookype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Iron Star
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #11.5
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 58
Words: 10K



Synopsis:

From the Publishers & Me

Set between the events of Only in Death and the forthcoming novel, Blood Pact, The Iron Star follows Colonel–Commissar Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only across an unknown and mysterious warzone. Here, they face the their old foes, the Blood Pact. But how are long–dead Ghosts able to fight at Gaunt’s side against the enemy, and who are the watchers? The key to it all lies in unravelling the mystery of the iron star.

This short story ends with Gaunt waking up from surgery after being rescued by the Tanith from the Blood Pact. He’d been tortured almost to death and only the efforts of the Ghosts keep him from crossing the bridge into death.

My Thoughts:

I knew this was a short story but for some reason I had completely forgotten that Gaunt had been taken by the forces of Chaos in “Only in Death”. So while I knew this was some sort of dream, I was pretty confused without the salient fact of HOW Gaunt was on death’s door.

I really should have read this immediately after Only in Death instead of waiting my usual time between books in a series. Abnett was aiming for the discombobulated, drugged out feeling and by george, he did an admirable of conveying just that. I was weirded out the whole time I was reading this.

For 58 pages I think these couple of sentences covers all that needs to be said.

Rating: 3 out of 5.