I loved this book. I am thrilled that I started reading this series. As soon as I finished the first book, I tracked down the next. And by tracked down I mean, asked my boyfriend to borrow his copy. Of the eight books I have read so far this year, it is absolutely my favorite. I never expected a novel about futuristic space traveling soldiers to move me to tears. Once again I am cheering for the Ghosts at every turn.
Originally, this novel was a group of short stories each published separately in a magazine. This makes the format unique and very enjoyable. For starters, the first 80ish pages are a stand alone story depicting the founding of the Tanith regiment. In the first novel this event was referred to numerous times and now we get a glimpse into what they have been talking about. It is an important starting point because it answers questions lingering from the first novel. More importantly, it gives a starting point for the ghosts. Gaunt becomes the Ghostmaker and the men of Tanith become soldiers, before training and before glory. During the events of the founding, the men lose everything in one day with no warning. Although many were prepared to potentially never return home, it is damaging to know there is no home to return to. From here I can better understand the individual feelings of the men and their growth. For example, some Tanith men resent Gaunt for the events on their home planet but grow to respect and love him. This is the character development that makes the book for me. Dan Abnett takes the time to show not tell. He has taken every care to nurture his characters, to build them into real people. There is no doubt that anyone reading this series will become friends with some of the characters. My favorite so far is Milo. His role in the Founding story is different than any other Ghost.
After the short story of the Founding, the novel jumps to present day, following Commissar Gaunt as he strolls the camp where his men are waiting for battle. Once again Abnett displays his affinity for setting description, with heavy visualizations of the planet where the Tanith are stationed. His description left me feeling as gross and damp at the Tanith felt in the swamp lands of a strange planet. As Gaunt walks through camp and engages with each ghost, there is a flashback for that character. This creates a sentimental feel in the storytelling. It solidifies the feeling that Gaunt cares deeply for his men.
The amazing depth of the characters is what sank the hook deep into me. His characters are going to keep me coming back. The brilliance of using the second novel in the series to build dimensional characters is not lost on me. The first book drew me in with the soul of the regiment and their charismatic leader. It got me interested with an intense battle and was a smooth introduction into the Warhammer universe. The second novel filled in the gaps, beefing up the history and characters. Each character is three-dimensional, you really get to know them, their past, what drives them, their fears and strengths, I could go on. This style creates a real connection with men who would otherwise be a single soldier in a two thousand man regiment. Even for soldiers that I do not like I left the book with a better understanding of their behavior and even their capacity for good. One of the stories gave me another favorite character and got me misty eyed.
Towards the end of the book, the flashbacks stop and you learn where the camp Gaunt is walking through is and what he is doing there. The novel takes a dark turn at this point and gains a little bit more of a horror vibe. The ghosts have arrived on Monthax to defend the jungle planet from chaos forces. The battle quickly becomes disorienting and dark. The Tanith are plagued with psychological warfare. The men are convinced they are defending their home planet of Tanith, bringing this novel into a satisfying full circle. Before you can enjoy the satisfaction, be prepared for a lot of anxiety. The men get split up from each other and are cut off from the ability to retreat. My heart rate was definitely high during these battles, especially when one of the lovable characters ends up alone surrounded by enemies.
In this book, we are introduced to two more Warhammer groups. I will only tell you about one to preserve what I viewed as a twist at the end. The Ghosts are joined on this mission by an Inquisitor. I am deeply interested in this group. They are tasked with rooting out chaos in the ranks of the Imperium. This character is the first female featured in the Ghost series and I find her very interesting. Although everyone acts jumpy and fearful around her, I loved her. She is strong and intimidating but she is still human with a soft spot. She is similar to Gaunt in her honorability, putting the cause before herself.
Overall Dan Abnett has delivered again and I am convinced, I want to read all of his books. I haven’t been this excited about a series of books in a long time. The writing is just so detailed and story driven. I look forward to getting to know the Ghosts more as I progress through their stories.