Gaunts Ghost is a long running book series written by Dan Dan Abnett. It’s the longest running series (alongside the Felix and Gotrek series) stretching as far back as the founding of Black Library publishing. The story follows the Tanith First and Only, a guard company who were the only survivors from the destruction of Tanith. They fight the forces of the Archenemy in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade through countless warzone across the Segmentum Pacificus.
I first started reading the series back in 2018 from September to December 17th. For four months I was reading the first arc, The Founding, a slow but enjoyable time getting to know the characters and setting in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade.
I had a difficult start reading the first book for the way Dan would write his first two books. I had to be a bit more focused when reading First and Only, but it was worth it as I got the characteristics of the chast in my mind.
The Second arc, The Saint, following on from the Necroplis introduced us to the deeper lore behind the religious mythology. Who was Saint Sabbat? What legacy did she leave behind her? And what drives the Archenemy againt the Imperial Crusade force?
This arc is a brutal and engaging series of books that would fool you into thinking this was just another Sci-Fi adventure. Lives are lost, bad decision are made and the consequences of those actions will forever run deep into the veterans of the Tanith First and Only.
The third arc, The Lost, is somewhat of a mixed bag for me. Traitor General is one of the arcs best books from a story and lore perspective, as it explores the dangers of a Chaos tainted world. You get to see how the Archenemy works from the back lines in terms of structure and politics. The Ghosts selected on this special mission to Gereon see at first hand what would happen if the Crusade failed and Worlds claimed back by the Archon.
Sadly, the rest of the books in the arc vary in quality. Some were unbearable to read whilst others had some potential with interesting plot developments.
Finally the current arc completed is The Victory. Wrapping up 20 years of plots and eclipses by the seeds sown in the first arc, the arc delivers the glory and damnation to the Ghosts.
Now I’m going to crunch down each arc in order of best to least favourite books. I think it’s impossible to choose my favourite book from the entire series, as there’s a lot of good books that I liked. But for simplicity I’m just going to do it by arcs.
On top of my list has to be Necroplis as the best of the arc. Dan Abnett at this point had grasped the strengths of his abilities as a writer and utilised his imagination to create a continent wide Hive City seige. From this book on much of the side plots are established and would go on to make many memorable characters the core of the Ghosts identity.
Ghost Maker is alright if somewhat a weird story at the end. The short stories on each character from the Ghosts are a great way of building the relationships, thoughts and motivations for these characters. I think this is what makes the book at least worth reading.
My least favourite would have to be The Founding; not because it’s terrible as such, but I find the story kinda generic with much work needed to be done. To be fair this was Dan’s first book for Black Library and at that time he didn’t plan to create an ongoing series of books. It was only when Necroplis came out that he could progress the series into a wider scope as part of a Segmentum wide crusade.
This was a hard decision to make as there were a few books I liked in this arc. However if I had to choose my favourite book it would have to be Honour Guard. We get to see how one stupid error by a high commander gets shoved on Gaunts shoulders as he goes on what might be his last battle with the Ghosts. We see Gaunt at his lowest as the tragedy of a prized location not only brings him to the brink of a ruined career (not even his record of the battle of Verghast will save him) but also spiritually broken.
I like the journey more than the destination in this story; you feel the loss the ghosts feel as they may never be as one again. The side story of Colonel Corbec and a crew going on their way to the same destination was an also an interesting story too.
For the least favourite; well I think most people who have read the series will know which book that will be. In fact this book was the only book I have never finished to the end. It got so boring and loose that I made the decision to move on. I might read the book again at some point in the future just for completion sake.
The Guns of Tanith and the last book are worth reading too, but they just fall a bit from Honour Guard.
Best book would have to be Traitor General for what it offers to the reader. It introduces Sek’s newest creation of the upgraded disciplined and organised Cultists called the Sons of Sek. How the Archenemy organises it’s hierarchy structure and how it gains knowledge from captured military turncoats. Finally, what is it like in the initial stages of a world tainted by Chaos? The book demonstrates one such event of how and what would happen over time.
My least favourite is a tough one as I would either say His Last Command or Only in Death. I really didn’t like both books as they felt like a grind to get through and the ending didn’t feel like it was worth the effort to read. At this point Dan was publishing Gaunts Ghosts yearly, and I think the quality shows with this arc going on to the last book.
There were many story plot potential with events and characters, but they were quickly done without needing time to develop.
Although I will say that the inclusion of Merrt back into the story was a great example of bringing back a named character in a meaningful way.
The last arc in the series with some of the best stories to offer. Even my least favourite book had some great moments in the story. My favourite?
No spoilers, but it really nails down the best aspects of the series and how Dan’s writing has evolved in 20 years.
My least favourite was Salvations Reach just because it felt too much like a filler throughout the story. However the Space marines in the story were absolutely amazing. The White Scar in particular got the job done!
That’s it from me, four years of reading one of Black Librarys longest running Warhammer 40k book series.
I hope you have enjoyed this post! It took me fours to get here haha, but I’m proud to have read the series nearly all the way through with the exception of one book. There’s some side sides set in the Sabbat Workds Crusade written by Dan and other writers too. I’ll be covering both Titanicus and Double Eagle at a later date.
Until next time,