Necropolis by Dan Abnett is the third book in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. This novel brings the Ghosts to the hive world Verghast. Verghast has a bloody history of civil war between its powerful hive cities. This book gives the first glance at Imperial government. There is an undercurrent of corruption throughout the novel. It is obvious that Gaunt resents having to deal with the political side of the war and is frustrated with the red tape and closed doors.
I read this book in tiny increments, ultimately it was my downfall. This week I just wasn’t as driven to read or only started as I was going to bed. The book lives in a fast-paced war zone and thrives on jumping from squadron to squadron, making it confusing to read only a few pages at a time. I would open the book and had no idea where I was or who I was with. I learned that I have to dedicate more time to sitting down and reading in bigger sections. Once I recognized and changed my patterns it went much smoother.
What is interesting about this novel and sets it apart from the last two, is the inclusion of civilian perspectives. The opening of the novel is seen from several different citizens of Vervunhive. A mother on her way home on the train, a teenage street girl, a guild house leader (high-class businessman), the high master of Vervunhive, and the military commissar of the city. The novel jumps right into the fray when the hive is mercilessly attacked by neighboring hive city of Ferrozoica.
The Ghosts are sent to defend the important hive city Vervunhive. During this engagement, the Ghosts work beside rival regiment the Royal Volpone and the Narmenian Armoured. The tension between Strum and Gaunt is palpable throughout the conflict. And only made worse by the political tension already existing in the hive city.
The city is crippled in the first attack. Thousands die and the city is left in heaps of rubble. The situation is made worse because the High Master Sondar is absent and refuses to raise the shield to protect the city. He also resists asking the Imperium for assistance but one of his staff goes above his head and calls for help. When the soldiers arrive the city is already in a sad state with refugees attempting to get to safety. It does not take long for the trained eyes of the Imperial Gaurd to determine, this is not another civil war, it’s the work of chaos.
There is another interesting shift in the novel bringing a whole new view of Gaunt. He has a take no shit attitude for this mission. He has a short temper and is fed up with the corruption. This is a harsher Gaunt than we have previously seen. Throughout the novel I kind of felt like he was burning out, and that it was far too soon for this to happen. I don’t want everything I love about this character to disappear. I didn’t think I would like the Gaunt that emerged from the ashes of Vurvenhive. I should never have worried because when Gaunt gets tired of the bullshit and being pushed around he makes his move. Gaunt gains respect and takes control of the entire conflict. When this happens in the final push to save the hive, I realized his frustration and edge was warranted, and possibly the only chance of saving the city. I forgave the behavior when I saw that it was necessary but I do think this will be the beginning of seeing a harder Commissar. There is a conflict in Gaunt now, a delicate balance between following orders and doing what is right.
The battle for the hive is vicious and bloody. Lines of communication break down, there are moments of pure hopelessness, the city is suppounded. There is a real worry that Gaunt will not pull this off. And all the way to the last pages there is heavy doubt. The fast packed brutal fighting drives the story. The Ghosts take heavy losses and the city takes irreparable damage.
The fighting is different than readers have seen in other books. Hand to hand and desperate. But the Imperial Gaurd are not the only ones fighting. They fight along with an army already formed to protect the city, but these men have never seen battle. The Ghosts mostly resent the city soilders for being so naive about war. Then there are groups that surprise everyone. Sratch companies crop up in the outer habs of just normal citizens. Miners, gang members, anyone willing to help form messy guerilla groups to fight for their home. These rag tag groups are easy to love when they team up with the Ghosts to defend the city.
There is another short story at the end of this novel. Written from the perspective of an outsider to the hive travelling to the city after the battles are over. There are important points made about loss and greif, giving a fresh perspective to the well known Ghosts.
Overall it was another win in the Ghost’s series for me. Dan Abnett has broken into my favorite authors lists. The way he writes is just impecable. The detail he pours into these novels is unparalleled. I look forward to reading the next installment.
If you have read any of these books, tell me who your favorite character is in the comments!