Gaunt's Ghosts is a book series written by Dan Abnett. It is a military science fiction series, set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
The series spans eleven novels, in which the efforts of the Tanith First-And-Only during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade are documented. There are dozens of named characters, but the protagonist is Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, one of the few political commissars of the Imperium to be awarded command of a regiment.
Other major characters include Colonel Colm Corbec, Major Elim Rawne, Sniper Hlaine Larkin, Brin Milo, Scout Sergeant Mkoll. The series alludes to other series by Dan Abnett, such as Eisenhorn and Ravenor, and has resulted in two spin-off works.
The series began as a continuing set of loosely connected short stories in the Black Library magazine Inferno! (issues 4, 8, and 30). Their popularity was such that what was to be the next short piece, entitled "Vermilion Level", was written out to novel length as First and Only and published as the Black Library's first original novel (the book line up until that point consisting of reprints of novels from the pre-Black Library days and anthologies of short fiction taken from Inferno! magazine). The original short pieces subsequently appeared as flashback-chapters in Ghostmaker, the second book.
The books remain probably the most popular and best-selling of the Black Library's line, with a wide range of other publications (ancillary novels devoted to minor characters in the main series and a mock "historical book" about the war in which the books take place) as well as merchandise such as badges, T-shirts, and special editions of the books themselves.
Books in series
The novels fall into a series of four story arcs.
- The Founding (omnibus, 1008 pages, October 2003, ISBN 1-84416-066-1, 768 pages, May 2006, ISBN 1-84416-369-5):
- First and Only – ISBN 1-84416-164-1
- Ghostmaker – ISBN 0-671-78410-2
- Necropolis – ISBN 0-7434-1159-5
- The Saint (omnibus, hardcover, October 2004, ISBN 1-84416-125-0, paperback, 1027 pages, August 2007, ISBN 1-84416-479-9)
- Honour Guard – ISBN 1-84154-151-6
- The Guns of Tanith – ISBN 1-84154-232-6
- Straight Silver – ISBN 1-84154-262-8
- Sabbat Martyr – ISBN 0-7434-4360-8
- The Lost
- Traitor General – ISBN 1-84416-113-7
- His Last Command – ISBN 1-84416-238-9
- The Armour of Contempt – ISBN 1-84416-400-4
- Only in Death – ISBN 1-84416-428-4
- The Victory
- Blood Pact – ISBN x-xxxxx-xxx-x (scheduled to be released in May 2009)
After November 2002, the first five novels (First and Only to The Guns of Tanith) were reprinted with new cover art by Adrian Smith, whose provided cover art was used for all later releases. Previously, cover art had been created by a variety of artists. The Founding and Saint story arcs have been released as hardcover omnibus editions, with paperback editions which were released in February and August 2007 respectively.
First and Only & Ghostmaker
The first two books are collections of short stories originally published in the cartoon fanzine Inferno!
, published by the Black Library
. They are not sequential; for example, the fall of Tanith in the first chapter of Ghostmaker
occurs before the siege on Fortis Binary in First and Only
, which in turn takes place before the assault on Oskray Hive in Ghostmaker
(this latter timeline can be established by the mention of a cybernetic
shoulder that was fitted to Sgt. Varl on Fortis Binary, and Sgt. Hasker who died on Menazoid Epsilon, but he is mentioned in this book as a living person ). Disregarding the fall of Tanith, during which little fighting took place, the action of the two books is focused on four main theatres of operation:
Voltis City, Voltemond
Voltemond is described in Ghostmaker
as a temperate world, similar to Earth
, with extensive marshlands around Voltis City, the planetary capital, which was under Chaos control before the events of Ghostmaker
. The chapter begins with the Tanith First "Gaunt's Ghosts"
saving the Ketzok 17th "Serpents" artillery regiment from an ambush by Chaos Space Marines
. The Tanith are then ordered to infiltrate and assault the main watergate and sanitation outfall of Voltis in order to mine the walls and form a breach for an assault by the Royal Volpone 50th storm troopers, known as the "Bluebloods". The assault on the watergate is repelled when the traitors open the floodgates and flush the Tanith out; however, Sergeant Cluggan leads a successful attack on the sanitation outfalls, creating a breach for the armoured assault. As the Ghosts retreat, General Noches Sturm of the Royal Volpone and his adjudant, Major Gilbear, both of whom were disdainful of Gaunt and his "low-born" soldiers, order the Ketzok to bombard the Tanith as they fall back to their base. Three hundred men, including Sergeant Cluggan, are killed and another two hundred wounded. Gaunt almost faces a court-martial
when he punches Colonel Ortiz, the Ketzok commander, but is let off when Ortiz claims that his injuries were caused by his Basilisk artillery vehicle's recoil.
Fortis Binary is described as a forge-world, a planet-wide factory that fell to Chaos. First and Only
describes how the Ghosts manage to sabotage a Chaos ritual after Lord Militant General Hechtor Dravere orders them on a suicidal attack on an enemy trench line. This marks the first demonstration of the hatred of Colonel Draker Flense, the commander of the Jantine Patricians who suggested that Dravere give the assault order, for Colonel-Commissar Gaunt.
A death world on the edge of the Menazoid Clasp, Epsilon was the site of three shrines to Chaos, designated Primaris, Secundus and Tertius by Imperial tacticians. Beneath Shrine Target Primaris was a Standard Template Constructor, a relic from over ten millennia before the events of First and Only
, which made Iron Men, a pattern of robotic warriors; the traitorous General Dravere, assisted by the mutated, radical Inquisitor Heldane, Colonel Draker Flense and his Jantine Patricians attempted to seize power and overturn the commander of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, Warmaster Macaroth, using the Iron Men. However, the machine was corrupted by Chaos and Commissar Gaunt destroyed it, despite the psychic puppetry of the Inquisitor, who died after his "instrument" - Imperial Agent Fereyd, the man into whom Heldane had extended his consciousness - was explosively killed. Colonel Flense also attempted to get his revenge on Gaunt and the Ghosts, as Gaunt has field-executed Flense's father, General Aldo Dercius, many years previously. The Jantine shock troops annihilated the Tanith Seventh platoon command of Serg. Blane, but were themselves killed to a man by Gaunt's allies, the Vitrian Dragoons. Gaunt stabbed Flense to death beneath Target Primaris, before escape along with his men.
The jungle world of Monthax is the setting for the end of Ghostmaker
, when Gaunt and his men encounter the alien Eldar
as they struggle to wipe out a Chaos infestation. The Ghosts have to cooperate once again with the Royal Volpone 50th, and with an inquisitor who had accused Brin Milo of witchcraft. They discover an ancient portal leading to one of the Eldar's craftworlds, self-sustaining cities in space, which the inquisitor, Lilith Abferquan, closes after the alien Farseer guarding the portal dies. At the end of this war, the Ghosts lost an excellent leader, Serg. Lerod.
Aside from these battles, 'Ghostmaker' is interspersed with short stories (originally published in 'Inferno!') in other warzones such as Blackshard, Caligula and Oskray Hive which are used to develop individual characters; for example, the character and leadership qualities of Dermon Caffran are displayed in his actions at Oskray Hive, where he commands an infiltration force which causes the fall of the enemy stronghold, and continue to be exhibited upon his promotion to Sergeant in 'His Last Command'.
tells the story of the siege of Vervunhive, a megacity
or "hive" on the planet of Verghast. It is set several months after the battle for Monthax, and marks the start of the books' chronology in the sense that the events in one book are sequential and immediately follow the events at the end of the previous book. In this book the first of occurrence of "folding" happens, where Vervunhive citizens are permitted to join Imperial Guard Regiments, or move to one of the two new Hives created at the end of the book.
In Honour Guard
, the Ghosts are sent to the Shrineworld Hagia, religious capitol of the Sabbat worlds and home of the Saint for which they are named. There they engage in battles with the Infardi, led by the psyker Pater Sin, a more unpredictable, cult-like enemy than the regular Chaos forces they had previously engaged. The book concentrates particularly on the clashes of armoured forces, including the Pardus armoured Imperial Guard regiment, and opposing them machines from the corrupted Forge World Urdesh.
The Guns of Tanith
Amidst the spires of the lethally polluted world of Phantine, a planet where dwellings are all above the Scald
- a sea of polluted air, the Tanith must make an aerial assault to recapture Ourenberg and its valuable Promethium reserves from the elite enemy Blood Pact, and their allies the ruthless reptilian Loxatl.
On the planet of Aexe Cardinal, the Ghosts form part of an Imperial Guard army sent to reinforce the ailing loyalist forces on the planet being worn thin by a 40 year war. However, the Imperial Guard are thrown into a war incompetently handled and must negotiate through the politics of the Aexe Cardinale hierarchy. The Ghosts are recalled from the planet marking the first time they haven't seen a war until its completion.
The Ghosts are sent to Herodor, a seemingly insignificant world in the Sabbat World to be the honour guard for the reincarnated Saint Sabbat, a climatic battle ensues and the Chaos forces overwhelmingly attack the planet to kill the reincarnated saint and the Ghosts are forced to fight for their lives to hold the planet and keep her alive. This book marks the departure of some of the original characters such as Brin Milo (leaves with The Saint) and Colonel Colm Corbec (dies).
When the disgraced General Sturm was captured by the foul forces of Chaos, Gaunt must infiltrate a squad of his most trusted men deep into enemy territory on the Chaos-held planet Gereon to prevent the General's secrets compromising the Crusade. Gaunt must keep his forces and their resistance allies together and resist the seeping influence of Chaos long enough to achieve their objectives.
His Last Command
Returning from Gereon, Gaunt and his team are accused of being corrupted, they are cleared of charges to find that their regiment has been merged with the Belladon 81st recon to make the 81/1st recon regiment under the command of a charismatic new commander (Col. Wilder). Gaunt eventually regains command of the regiment when the commander commits himself to a brave and suicidal rearguard action. His Last Command
as a phrase is mentioned twice in the book, once in reference to Gaunt, and once in reference to Wilder.
The Armour of Contempt
The Tanith 1st were sent back to the planet Gereon to join forces with the Imperial defenders and liberate the planet from Chaos. The Inquisition, however have other ideas. The brutality of the ‘liberation’ pitched Gaunt into opposition with his commanders, who believe victory must be achieved at any price, no matter how cruel.
Only in Death
As the crusade to liberate the Sabbat Worlds continued, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt led the Tanith First-and-Only into an unforgiving new warzone – the fortress world of Jago, where Lord General Van Voytz tasks the Tanith to defend the Eastern Flank, using the Hinzerhaus
as a base. As the enemy assaults increased in fury, Gaunt and his regiment faced the terror of the present alongside the ghosts of their past, for only in death does duty end.
A 12th book will be released in May 2009, entitled Blood Pact.
Comparison to Cornwell
The Gaunt's Ghosts
series of books have been inspired heavily by the Sharpe
series of books written by Bernard Cornwell
. This has been the subject of considerable controversy between fans of the series and those who dislike Abnett’s writings.
Dan Abnett has also authored two other titles based during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. The first is Double Eagle
, focusing on the Phantine Air Corps
introduced in The Guns of Tanith
and set in the same immediate timeframe as Sabbat Martyr
. The second is a fictional history of the Crusade, from the beginnings of the crusade 10 years before the setting of the first novel to a point just after Sabbat Martyr
, providing an overview of the crusade as a whole
- (2005). Double Eagle. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-090-4.
- (2005). The Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-249-4.
A sequel to Double Eagle, titled Interceptor City, has been planned.
Inconsistencies within the Warhammer 40,000 universe
At one point, Gaunt references Commissar Yarrick
(referred to as "The Great Yarrick"). However, the Sabbat Worlds Crusade in which the Gaunt's Ghosts
series is set takes place centuries earlier than the Armageddon Wars that made Yarrick famous.
- Abnett, Dan (2000). First and Only. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-164-1.
- Chambers, Andy; Haines, Pete, and Hoare, Andy (2003). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Imperial Guard. 4th Edition, Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-410-8.