Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gaunt's Ghosts: The Founding Review

Time and time again I have been thrilled by Dan Abnett's work, especially in the Horus Heresy but also in other works such as Lone Wolf or Titan. And being Imperial Guard the very first army I had back in 2nd edition (metal Cadians from the warp!), I couldn't resist to have a look at one of Abnett's most celebrated stories, Gaunt's Ghosts. This review covers the 1st Omnibus featuring the first 3 novels: First And Only, Ghostmaker and Necropolis plus a short story that serves as epilogue for the third novel, In Remembrance.

So who is this Gaunt and who are the Ghosts?
Colonel-Comissaur Gaunt is hardened Imperial Comissaur who happens to be also Colonel of the Imperial Guard, so is both a military and political leader. After many years of service he is awarded command of a newly founded regiment, the Tanith 1st. On the same day in which Gaunt was making planetfall to the planet Tanith to be put in charge of his new regiment, a Chaos fleet striked out of nowhere and there was no one to stop them obliterating the planet. Gaunt was faced with a difficult choice: stay with his new regiment and die fighting for Tanith, or save as many men as possible so they could live to fight back another day. Gaunt chose the latter and so happened that Tanith only every raised one regiment for the Imperial Guard, never to be followed by another. On one hand he saved about 3.000 souls for the Emperor's service but that also won the enmity of most of them, who were negated the choice of fighting -and dying - for their home planet and families.

With no planet to go back to, with no family to defend anywhere, with a catastrophic event they couldn't prevent, the Tanith survivors are really ghost soldiers that tread from one war theater to the next with a grim resolve of vengeance and the bitterness all is lost for them. Ghosts is also a nickname from their very special scouting abilities, for the Ghosts use black fatigues and camo cloaks, and are extremely skilled at remaining unseen if they want to. Most of them feature tatoos in their faces and have black hair, making them look as a ragtag band to other rival regiments.

The Ghosts - grim, silent, tatooed badasses!
The novels

First And Only introduces the Tanith 1st, the first and only regiment the planet Tanith ever produced. It is an introductory novel to Gaunt and some of the most celebrated Ghosts as they fight against a Chaos invasion on the Sabbat system.

The second novel, Ghostmaker, is more of a collection of small stories are centered about remarkable members of the Ghosts: sniper "Mad" Larkin, hulking "Try again" Bragg, young Trooper Caffran, Colonel Corbec, Major Rawne (who happens to want to kill Gaunt for leaving Tanith to die), Chief Medic Dorden, Gaunt's adjutant Milo and a few more get his time in the spotlight. Personally I feel it is too early in the series for this type of introspective, that it would be better once we know more about the Ghosts, but I also can see it working the other way and in later novels it certainly helps knowing more background about the main characters.

The third novel, Necropolis, is where the action really kicks in. The Ghosts are called to defend a hive city in a nearby planet, in which turns out to be - guess what - the actions of Chaos. This is a pretty intense novel that raises the bar from the previous two, in terms of complexity, number and depth of the characters, and tension. The closing short story In Remembrance acts as epilogue of the fight in the hive, a few days after the war is decided

Veredict: 7.5/10
The novels are great fun and 15€ is a great price. I guess it just feels... a little too plain after the Horus Heresy. Take the 30k era,  most characters lie in a blur grey zone- is Magnus a traitor or just can't escape his destiny? would Horus have turned evil if the Emperor would have been closer at hand? In the Ghosts series there is usually a clear distinction between the good and the bad, right and wrong. That said, I'm growing fond of the Ghosts and can't wait to read more of their adventures. If you are looking for something different to read, give them a try.

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