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Builds to a hail-storm of a finish
on 8 February 2013
The book is 13th (unlucky for some) in a series following Imperial Guard regiment the Tanith First and Only, seeing them attempt a high-risk brigade-strength deep space raid on an enemy research base - in a ruse de guerre.
Who's in it: The Imperial Guard, a single marine from the White Scars, Iron Snakes, and Silver Guard chapters, the Chaos Sons of Sek and other Ruinous Power-related/ Archenemy cultists.
For those new to the series, don't start with this book, buy The Founding.
But for those asking if they should spend a fiver (& the rest) on this book, or whether Abnett is losing his touch - you should, and he isn't.
Dan Abnett is proving he's really comfortable writing about a bunch of much-loved characters and in showing he's still prepared to take risks with them.
It's a builder of a book and finely paced, with the introduction of sub-plots and the space marines maintaining interest, and for the first time there's a real sense of perhaps an endgame in sight for our Colonel Commissar Ibram Gaunt.
It's a four-star book because nothing beats Necropolis or the Gereon story arc.
Abnett's sense of the army barrack room relations is once again a revelation in a genre which suffers from being populated by dry writers in dusty suits thrilled by the workings of space travel but unable to flesh out a believable military character, and we shouldn't underestimate the skill and depth of research required to layer in the banter, the sheer level of constant mickey-taking of a regimental family.
What Abnett is never afraid to do is kill his characters - the Tanith aren't Teflon Tonys, and they live in a dangerous age so you cherish every book where the good ones get through, but with a believably healthy sense of sad loss which the regiment labours under, like when Colm Corbec bought it on Herodor. And yes, another one bites the dust in this book.
What Abnett is also never afraid to do is pen the hail-storming, blood-pumping tooth-and-nail fighting actions that have become his trademark. The infantry assault of the enemy base is as good as he's done, and there's a healthy dose of close quarters action straight from the pages of Necropolis' Vervunhive and the Battle of Ouranberg.
He's never trapped by simple attacks winning the day either, Abnett uses flanking attacks', suppressing heavy machine gun fire, rockets on hard points, and gives a real sense of the fluid nature of infantry scrapping, getting you toe to toe with the Archenemy, punching the knife in under the jaw and twisting it hard.
There's a storming of the barricades moment in this book which is just beautifully written and is easily the novel's action high-point. You'll know it when you get to it.
Now, with the death of the wickedly, satisfyingly bad Lijah Cuu a few books back, us readers lost a great sub-plot but guess what, there's a new conspiracy of fethers - one which is left hanging delightfully to continue into the book following Salvation's Reach.
Also, many of you loyal diehard Tanith readers will probably guess what Gaunt's plan is attempting to achieve - all is not quite as it seems, and that may be a weakness of the book if you guess it too early on, but it's a good ride getting to that last page to see how they arrive.
The story-arc of which this book forms a part is clearly building to a large double or triple cross somewhere, and we leave the ghosts victorious but way out behind enemy lines, nor has their handiwork gone unobserved...
Until then, Straight Silver.