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Title: Traitor General
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
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.
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.