A claustrophobic, intimate and, ultimately, dark journey,
This review is from: Blood Pact (Gaunt's Ghosts) (Paperback)
"Blood Pact" is the twelfth book in the Gaunt's ghosts series. It's also very different in feel to the other eleven. Gaunt and the Ghosts are on Balhaut, scene of titanic fighting and the death of the former Warmaster, Slaydo. In the years which ahs passed, Balhaut has become a death world - but not in the usual sense of the word in the 40K universe. Balhaut is the centre for a ghoulish and macabre trade in the remembrance of death, a world in which the commemoration of the fallen is more important than the truth of their last battles.
To add to the uncomfortable setting, the world is cold and seems shrouded in mist and fog. While we learn the reason for the arctic feel and setting later in the book, the atmosphere is well cast and fits the mood of what is a claustrophobic, intimate and, ultimately, dark book.
The story starts with the Ghosts being mind-numbingly bored of the tedious garrison duties they perform on Balhaut. Things change quickly with the arrival of a high value prisoner from the Enemy, shortly followed by a team of assassins who are determined to prevent that prisoner divulging important information.
What follows is one of Dan Abnett's trademark tightly-written journeys through a variety of combat encounters. However, Abnett offers a lot more in this book than just vicious fire fights. As with the eleventh book in the series, "Only in Death", the evolution of character takes centre-stage for considerable parts of the text. Tona Criid, Daur, Rawne, Banda and Gaunt all have their characters developed. I found the deepening and evolving of Criid's and Gaunt's characters most interesting of all. Above all, there is a fascinating passage when Criid considers what might have been - foreshadowing, I expect, some of what will come in "Salvation's Reach" and the other books to come in "The Victory" quartet.
On the downside, I felt the end of the book arrived suddenly. One of the major Enemy characters is dispensed with apparently little difficulty, particularly considering her formidable powers elsewhere in the book. Little is made of the revelations concerning the Inquisitor featuring in the book, but perhaps this again may be returned to in a later book.
In all, a very enjoyable read, which flows well from "Only in Death", which echoes "Traitor General" in many ways, and which provides considerable context to Gaunt's journey in the aftermath of Gereon. It contains some wonderful passages, especially those describing Balhaut, even if in its final 30 pages there seems to be a relaxation of the tone and tension instead of an amplification.