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.

Only In Death (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #11) ★★★✬☆


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: Only In Death
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #11
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 237
Words: 100.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

On the fortress-world Jago, Lord-General Van Voytz addresses the Tanith First personally. He ‘asks’ the Ghosts to secure an empty stronghold to the east of Elikon, the central Imperial bastion on the planet. It is clear from the start that Gaunt resents these orders. After six days of marching through Jago’s desert-like terrain and enduring dust-storms, the Ghosts reach their objective: Hinzerhaus, dubbed the house at the end of the world.

As they attempt to secure the fortress, the Ghosts make numerous discoveries. There is no water source on site, the maps that they have been given of Hinzerhaus are inconsistent and incorrect, and strange echoes fill the halls. Many of the men become convinced that the place is haunted. These findings only cause more issues when the Blood Pact attempt to storm Hinzerhaus, and the Ghosts are forced to mount a defence against a superior foe. At the same time, strange apparitions begin to eat away at the courage and morale of the men…

The title of the novel is part of an old Imperial proverb; only in death does duty end. The beginning of each chapter opens with an extract from Commissar Viktor Hark’s field journal, which is written in a font which resembles handwriting. This style changes slightly at points when Nahum Ludd scribes on Hark’s behalf. The novel re-introduces Agun Soric, who was absent from the previous books in the ‘Lost’ arc.

The book ends with the Ghosts holding out until reinforcements arrive and it is revealed that all of the hauntings have been the result of one of the former Tanith Ghosts, now a chained up Psyker, trying to reach out to his old friends. He asks to be killed and Nahum Ludd, as the acting Commissar, fulfills the request.

My Thoughts:

If ever a book should have been an October/Halloween book, this was it. It was just filled with ghosts of the Ghosts, creepy old faceless women, wurms that grind through solid rock that only some of the Ghosts can hear and a general disquietude that conveyed an understated dread and painted everything bleak. It was perfect. For Halloween. For Pre-Christmas, it wasn’t nearly so good.

I still did enjoy this. The Ghosts continue to get ground up like hamburger, death is not only present but the only reality and the creatures of Chaos just keep on coming. Where do these creatures come from? I know some Chaos creatures are turned humans, but where do the rest of them come from? Where is “Planet Chaos”? If something exists and it can be killed, figure out what kills it and do it. Don’t fight the spread, fight the source. To me, WH40K has always been a bit weak on the where’s and whyfore’s of this kind of thing. Or it might just be that I’m not well read enough in this universe. This isn’t my Bible after all! 😀

Overall, this was another good entry in this series and I have no real complaints. It’s not the book’s fault that it should have been read in October, hahahahaaa.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Armour of Contempt (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #10) ★★★☆½


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 & Bookhype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Armour of Contempt
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #10
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 340
Words: 92K


Synopsis:

This is the story of the liberation of Gereon. The book starts out by introducing us to a new character, Dalin Criid, the adopted son of Tona. He’s going through training and the plan is for him to get into the Ghosts once he graduates.

The Ghosts, along with a bunch of others, are tasked to retake the planet Gereon. It turns out High Command thinks there is something special about Gereon that resists Chaos and they hope to discover what that is and to replicate it.

Dalin is not sent to the Ghosts and must endure his trial by fire with a lowly group of reject Guards. He survives but hears the voice of his adopted father Caffron several times giving him advice which saves his life.

The Ghosts are tasked with retaking a small village and establishing contact with the remnants of the Resistance. High Command then imprisons all of the resistance to test them for the ability to resist Chaos. There is nothing Gaunt can do. At the end of the book, when the Ghosts are leaving, the Resistance is spirited away by the remaining Ghost Resistance scout MkVenner and head off into the wilderness to hide and survive.

My Thoughts:

I think this was the grimmest Gaunt’s Ghosts book yet. Dalin being introduced as a character and his trying experience, we really get to see how the men in the trenches experience warfare. They’re cannon fodder, nothing else. We also get to experience a Commisar that is more typical than Gaunt. Both of these experiences make the reader realize just how unusual both the Ghosts and Gaunt are.

I guess this was a contrast book. So far the Ghosts series hasn’t been that grimdark and I’ve almost slid into thinking that maybe the Warhmmer40k Universe wasn’t that bad. This was a stark reminder that yes, it is a horrible place and even the supposed Good Guys aren’t really Good Guys, they’re just not as horrific as Chaos. Heck, if I was even a semi-powerful force I’d be trying to liberate my own corner to live in. Feth the Emperor and feth Chaos. In my system every child would have a pony, there would Free Pizza Friday every Friday, all the woman would wear long skirts, all the men would have curly beards and wear suspenders and we’d all sing Nordic’ish songs with lots of “j”s in the words.

But back to THIS book. Caffran dying at the end, at the hands of a terrified child, well, that just was the grimmest part. The person he was trying to save is the one who kills him seems to hold the very essence of what Warhmmer40k is all about. I’m just thankful all the books haven’t been like that and I hope the rest aren’t. We’ll see though.

★★★☆½

His Last Command (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #9) ★★★☆½

histlastcommand (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: His Last Command
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #9
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 361
Words: 98K

Synopsis:

Gaunt and most of his crew make it off Gereon after 16months of fighting a guerilla war. Suspected of Chaos Taint, the entire team is slated for execution without hearing one word of whether Gaunt’s mission was a success or not. One lone Commissar believes Gaunt and gets him an audience the man leading his sector, the man who sent Gaunt to Gereon in the first place. Due to their actions and continued suspicion of Taint, Gaunt is stripped of his field command becomes just a Commissar again. The other Tanith’s are folded back into the regiment that the rest of the Tanith have been integrated with.

The current battle is to take some sacred domes that appear to be made in the Emperor’s honor from the 31st millennium. Gaunt proves that the whole setup is a Chaos trap to end the Sabbat Worlds war. A last minute evacuation allows the space forces of man to wipe the planet clean. Gaunt is proved correct and the suspicion of Chaos, by the Inquisitors anyway, is removed. Whether Gaunt is given back his Colonel’cy remains to be seen.

My Thoughts:

Well, Abnett just ignores how Gaunt and his get off Gereon. Ok, he gives it some lip service and a mention of their guerilla warfare but really, it is just glossed over like a cutscene from an old video game. I do have to admit that Gaunt came across as rather dumb in the beginning. He acts like he’s never dealt with chaos taint or what things look like from an outsiders view. And honestly, given how severely the Empire deals with taint, he should just be thankful they did make it out alive.

Other than that, I had no complaints about this. The Tanith and Vergestites are folded into yet another undermanned company and make up a full company. The leader of said company is loved by all and gets killed, so you know that in another book, two at most, Gaunt is going to take over and make them all Ghosts. If the Ghosts were chocolate pudding in the first book, by this time they’ve had so much vanilla pudding added that they are neither chocolate or vanilla. But they aren’t tapioca, so that is all that matters!

Lots of action and fighting, so absolutely no issues on that front. Thankfully, that side of these books is staying pretty consistent.

Ps, I am going to start hosting only the bigger pix on google drive. 22K covers are not going to be an issue. That way I don’t have to change the way I write my reviews, which is the worst of sins in my book (hence why I am so against the block editor).

★★★☆½

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

traitorgeneral (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: 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