Gaunt's Ghosts

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Gaunt's Ghosts is a series of novels written by Dan Abnett. It is a military science fiction series set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

The series spans 15 novels which document the efforts of the Tanith First-And-Only, a highly skilled yet unappreciated light infantry regiment of the Imperial Guard, during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. The protagonist is Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, one of the few political commissars of the Imperium to be officially awarded command of a regiment.

Although Gaunt is the primary character, the perspective from which the novels are told shifts regularly to encompass a wider view of events – it is usually told from the Imperial point of view, though the perspective is occasionally seen through the eyes of antagonists. The series alludes to other series by Dan Abnett, such as Eisenhorn and Ravenor, and has resulted in three 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). 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.

There are also 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.

Publication history[edit]

The novels fall into a series of four-story arcs, of which three have been completed while publication of the last is still ongoing.

After November 2002, the first five novels (from First and Only to The Guns of Tanith) were reprinted with new cover art by Adrian Smith; Smith has since drawn every cover illustration to date, with the exception of The Iron Star which used a stock image of the Tanith regimental badge. Previously, cover artwork 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. The publication of The Iron Star took the form of a 1,200-copy limited edition novelette which was only available for purchase at the 2008 UK Games Day and the 2009 Games Day in Germany.

Series Synopses[edit]

The series follows the exploits of Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and his regiment of scouts and recon specialists, the Tanith First-and-Only (nicknamed Gaunt's Ghosts), as they serve in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Their battles are normally against the forces of Chaos, although they briefly face orks on Typhon Eight. Up until Guns of Tanith the Ghosts are mainly pitted against heretical rebels armies, but on Phantine and in most of the campaigns following it they face the well-trained and elite Blood Pact. By the end of Only in Death, the Ghosts have been serving in the Crusade for roughly twelve years. Each novel begins with an extract from a fictional book called A History of the Later Imperial Crusades, which briefly explains the situation in which the Ghosts have been deployed. These extracts are written in a past tense, implying that they were written after the Sabbat Worlds Crusade ends, and does not normally refer specifically to the Tanith First.

First and Only & Ghostmaker[edit]

First and Only cover.
Ghostmaker cover

The first two books are collections of short stories originally printed in the short fiction magazine 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 time-line 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[edit]

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 water-gate and sanitation outfall of Voltis 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 water-gate 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 withdraw, General Noches Sturm of the Royal Volpone and his adjutant, 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. He proceeds to level a threat at General Sturm.

Fortis Binary[edit]

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 that Colonel Draker Flense, the commander of the Jantine Patricians who suggested that Dravere give the assault order, has for Colonel-Commissar Gaunt.

Menazoid Epsilon[edit]

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 had field-executed Flense's father, General Aldo Dercius, many years previously. The Jantine shock troops annihilated the Tanith Seventh platoon commanded by Sergeant Blane, but were themselves killed to a man by Gaunt's allies, the Vitrian Dragoons. Gaunt stabbed Flense to death beneath Target Primaris, before escaping along with his men.

Monthax[edit]

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 co-operate 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 battle, the Ghosts lost an excellent leader, Sergeant Lerod.

Aside from these battles, Ghostmaker is interspersed with short stories (originally published in Inferno!) in other war zones 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.

Necropolis[edit]

The beginning of the novel is told from many perspectives – ranging from the rich nobility to low-class civilians – and tells of the opening phases of the siege on Vervunhive. The mega-city's neighbouring hive, Ferrozoica, amasses an army and marches on their former rival with an unknown agenda. The Vervun Primary militia prepares to repel the invasion forces, but as Vervunhive's High Master refuses to believe that Ferrozoica has mobilised against them, they are not given permission to arm their defence batteries before the Zoicans fire the opening salvos. Much of Vervunhive is plunged into panic and thousands perish in the first few days, and aid from the Imperial Guard is called for.

The Tanith First-and-Only is deployed as part of the reinforcement army sent by Warmaster Macaroth. They learn that Ferrozoica, whom Vervunhive had fought in the Trade War ninety years before, had silenced communications with its neighbours in recent months and began arming. The influence of Chaos is evident. Colonel-Commissar Gaunt and his Ghosts face opposition from not only the enemy, but also their fellow Guard regiments and the local politicians.

Necropolis is a significant point in the series; at the end of the novel, the under-strength Tanith First receives an influx of replacement soldiers from the militia and general populace of Vervunhive. A number of major characters are introduced in the novel. A short story titled In Remembrance directly follows the siege of Vervunhive, and is included in The Founding (the first Omnibus).

Honour Guard[edit]

The Ghosts are sent to the Shrineworld Hagia, religious capital of the Sabbat worlds and homeworld of the revered Saint Sabbat herself, to reclaim the holy world from the clutches of Pater Sin and his so-called Infardi. During their campaign to reclaim the Doctrinopolis – the planet's central city – Gaunt, who has command of the ground forces, is forced into a trap set in one of the most holy structures in the city. A warp-beacon is activated in the process, and a Chaos fleet advances on Hagia to obliterate the Imperial forces.

With just eighteen days until the fleet (large enough to wipe out the liberation force even if the fleet were a quarter its current size) arrives, Gaunt is given one last chance to redeem himself by the arrogant and pompous Lord-General Lugo: recover the Saint's remains and holy relics from the Shrinehold in the Sacred Hills for evacuation. The Ghosts are appointed as the honour guard of these relics, and together with units from the Pardus armoured regiments they form a convoy and journey into the mountains. However, much of Sin's Infardi horde has pulled back into the hills; leaving the Ghosts with no choice but to fight the heretics while at the same time fighting the elements and navigating the unfamiliar terrain.

Honour Guard introduces new characters who become central figures in the Tanith First, as well as those who play a key role throughout the Saint arc, such as Commissar Viktor Hark, Ayantani Zweil, Lijah Cuu and Pater Sin. It also features spectacular armour clashes and reveals more of Gaunt's character.

The Guns of Tanith[edit]

The novel begins with the Tanith First training to take part in the airborne assault on Cirenholm, a dome-city perched above Phantine's toxic Scald. The archenemy's elite Blood Pact have captured the city, which the Imperial forces plan to use as a staging ground for their campaign to reclaim Ouranberg, one of Phantine's largest cities and a major source of promethium. After the Ghosts successfully infiltrate the Blood Pact's defences and prevent a disastrous loss for the Imperium, Lord-General Van Voytz re-considers his approach on the Ouranberg invasion.

A number of Ghosts are hand-picked to form specialist kill-teams, placed in a regime of additional jump-training and covertly deployed into Ouranberg prior to the invasion. Codenamed Operation Larisel, their mission is to kill Sagittar Slaith; the Chaos commander of the Blood Pact holding Ouranberg. Doing so will break the morale of the Chaos worshippers and enable the Imperial forces to recapture Ouranberg with greater ease. The task is made more daunting with the prospect of thousands of Blood Pact troopers and loxatl mercenaries standing between them and their target. However, the rest of the Tanith First face their own trials as they await deployment; a great unease is brewing between the Tanith and the Verghastite soldiers, and a crime case involving several Ghosts highlights this divide.

The Phantine XX Fighter Corps introduced in The Guns of Tanith appear in a spin-off novel – titled Double Eagle, also by Dan Abnett.

Straight Silver[edit]

Still under the command of Van Voytz, the Tanith First is deployed as part of the Imperial Expeditionary Force to Aexe Cardinal, where a deadlocked land war has been raging for forty years between the Aexe Alliance (a handful of loyal nation-states) and the Chaos-corrupted Shadik Republic. Warmaster Macaroth insists that the Aexe Alliance is to remain in command of the campaign, with strained success. The Alliance employs methods of warfare considered obsolete and inefficient according to the modern standard tactics of the Imperial Guard.

Gaunt is quickly frustrated with the brutal strategies and lack of reliable intelligence, and disagrees with the deployment of the scout-specialist Ghosts as grunts in the trenches. Van Voytz and Count Golke – the Alliance/Imperial liaison – negotiate with Alliance Command and agree to a compromise: one half of the Tanith First is sent to the northern Montorq forests to scout the area, while the other is redeployed to the Seiberq Pocket – the most dangerous section of the war zone – where they are tasked with infiltrating the Shadik lines and destroying the enemy's newly developed siege guns.

Straight Silver is the first novel in which the Tanith First does not see a campaign through to its conclusion: after successfully taking out the siege-guns in the Seiberq Pocket and repelling a Blood Pact flanking manoeuvre in the Montorq Forest, the Ghosts are withdrawn from the front lines and redeployed to Herodor.

Sabbat Martyr[edit]

At the request of the reincarnated Saint Sabbat, the Tanith First-and-Only is summoned to the remote and tactically insignificant world Herodor. The Civitas Beati, a holy city dedicated to the Saint, is under assault from a legion of Blood Pact, led by Enok Innokenti. While the Ghosts prepare to defend the city alongside the local PDF force, Gaunt learns the truth of the situation: the woman posing as the reincarnated Saint is Sanian, an esholi whom the Ghosts encountered on Hagia. Utterly convinced that she is Sabbat, Sanian has clearly lost her mind. Lord-General Lugo – whose career has been unstable since his disgrace at Hagia – plans to use her as propaganda, and does not care that she is an imposter; he believes that he will be forever remembered as the man responsible for a miracle in the Sabbat Worlds. As far as untold thousands of pilgrims, Imperial and archenemy troops are concerned, Sanian is the true Saint.

However, things take a strange turn when Sanian actually does become the host for the Saint's spirit, after Sabbat's true incarnation perishes in the assault. Innokenti deploys nine specialist assassins to the Civitas Beati under the cover of the invasion. Their purpose: kill the Saint and shatter the morale of the Imperials. With the Imperial fleet all but destroyed and surrounded by an enemy who has multiple advantages over them, the Ghosts face one of their most daunting challenges yet.

The title Sabbat Martyr is a reference to the psychic message experienced by a number of Ghosts in Honour Guard. Ultimately, it is Corbec who becomes a martyr in Sabbat's name, as he gives his life defending her from the final assassin.

Traitor General[edit]

Lord-General Noches Sturm, the disgraced senior officer relieved of command during the siege on Vervunhive when caught attempting to desert, is captured by the forces of Chaos while en route to a military tribunal. His memories are bound by a mind-lock, preventing him from revealing vital information about the Crusade. As enemy psykers work hard to remove the mind-lock, the Imperial forces move quickly to stop Sturm jeopardising the entire Sabbat Worlds Crusade.

By request of Van Voytz and on his own free will, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt leads a hand-picked team of Ghosts to Gereon; a Chaos-held world where Sturm is undergoing an agonising ordeal to recover his memory. The insertion team is tasked with rescuing Sturm if he has not yielded the critical intelligence, or killing him if he has done so and betrayed the Imperium. The group links up with the loyalist resistance on Gereon to locate Sturm and evade the heretical forces pursuing them. With countless fanatical soldiers and foul warp-beings standing between the rescue team and their target, Gaunt and his men must not only fight for their lives, but also resist the corruption of Chaos that threatens to overwhelm them.

Traitor General introduces Eszrah ap Niht, a partisan of the Gereon Untill. From this novel on, Eszrah becomes a major character within the series. It is also the first appearance of Mabbon Etogaur, a former commander in the Blood Pact who returns in the Victory arc.

His Last Command[edit]

After sixteen months of fighting as part of the Gereon Resistance, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt and his team escape the Chaos-held world and return to Imperial territory. Instead of praise and acknowledgement of their actions, the Ghosts are met with deep mistrust and abuse. Saved from execution in Camp Xeno on Ancreon Sextus by Junior Commissar Nahum Ludd, Gaunt and the Ghosts are briefly re-united with Lord-General Van Voytz before facing trial by the Commissariat. However, halfway through the hearings all charges are dropped and the Ghosts are prepared to return to active duty. Gaunt is shocked to learn that the Tanith First has been disbanded and merged with an under-strength regiment; the 81st Belladon. Furthermore, Gaunt is relieved of command status and once again a simple field commissar, but separated from his men.

The Ghosts are sent to join the 81st/1st Recon – the merged 81st Belladon and the Tanith First, led by Colonel Lucian Wilder. The regiment is taking part in the campaign to capture the ancient step-city Sparshad Mons, occupied by the Blood Pact and disturbingly warped nocturnal predators. The situation in the Mons is grim; desertion is high, morale is low, and most of the Imperial soldiers are inexperienced grunts. Gaunt is deployed to another section of the step-city and attached to a regiment from Fortis Binary, accompanied by Ludd and Eszrah Night. The situation deteriorates rapidly as the Blood Pact launch a counter-assault against the Imperial forces.

His Last Command introduces troopers from the 81st Belladon, several of whom become key characters in the series. The title refers to both Gaunt and Wilder. When informing Gaunt of his demotion, Van Voytz tells him that the Tanith was "[his] last command". Wilder issues his last command to a platoon of Belladon soldiers participating in a suicidal rearguard for the rest of the regiment, of which Gaunt assumes leadership.

The Armour of Contempt[edit]

The Fifth Crusade Army, led by Lord-General Van Voytz, finally advances to reclaim Gereon from the forces of Chaos after over two thousand days of brutal occupation. The majority of the Crusade force is deployed to assault the coastline fortifications known as K'ethdrac'tt Shet Magir, an action which the newly inducted Dalin Criid participates in as part of an RIP (Retraining, Indoctrination and Punishment) detail. Half of the novel follows Dalin's experiences in basic training and his struggle to survive in the chaos of the battlefield.

The recently re-instated Tanith First is excluded from this part of the invasion and is one of a number of scout/recon regiments inserted deep into the mainland behind enemy lines. As the Ghosts liberate a country town called Cantible, Gaunt is ordered by the Commissariat to make contact with the loyalist resistance in the Gereon Untill, and leads a small team out into the wilderness to do so. However, it becomes apparent that certain individuals have their own agenda for re-taking Gereon.

The storyline of The Armour of Contempt shifts at regular intervals, between the perspectives of Dalin Criid and the rest of the Ghosts. The novel draws its name from a fictional book called The Spheres of Longing written by Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor, the main character of another series written by Dan Abnett.

Only in Death[edit]

On the fortress-world Jago, Lord-General Van Voytz addresses the Tanith First personally. He 'asks' the Ghosts to secure an empty stronghold to the east of Elikon, the central Imperial bastion on the planet. It is clear from the start that Gaunt resents these orders. After six days of marching through Jago's desert-like terrain and enduring dust-storms, the Ghosts reach their objective: Hinzerhaus, dubbed the house at the end of the world.

As they attempt to secure the fortress, the Ghosts make numerous discoveries. There is no water source on site, the maps that they have been given of Hinzerhaus are inconsistent and incorrect, and strange echoes fill the halls. Many of the men become convinced that the place is haunted. These findings only cause more issues when the Blood Pact attempt to storm Hinzerhaus, and the Ghosts are forced to mount a defence against a superior foe. At the same time, strange apparitions begin to eat away at the courage and morale of the men...

The title of the novel is part of an old Imperial proverb; only in death does duty end. The beginning of each chapter opens with an extract from Commissar Viktor Hark's field journal, which is written in a font which resembles handwriting. This style changes slightly at points when Nahum Ludd scribes on Hark's behalf. The novel re-introduces Agun Soric, who was absent from the previous books in the 'Lost' arc.

The Iron Star[edit]

The Iron Star is a short story released as a chapbook. The story forms a coda to Only in Death. It recounts Gaunt's own mentally internalised struggle to survive after being severely wounded in the events of the previous novel; moments of spiritual communion also establish portents for his future. Only 1200 copies were printed for the release date in September 2008, but it has since been included in the Sabbat Worlds anthology, a background book of short stories, edited by Dan Abnett.

Blood Pact[edit]

After the gruelling events on Jago, the Tanith First is removed from active service for the first time since its founding and sent to Balhaut to perform garrison duties. Two years on, however, the Ghosts are becoming restless from the lack of combat and purpose. A number of them go as far as committing crime to amuse themselves. Ibram Gaunt himself becomes increasingly idle and distracted, but remains confident that the Tanith First will return to the front again soon.

Events turn as Gaunt is summoned to Balhaut's Commissariat headquarters. A senior officer of the arch-enemy has been captured, and refuses to speak to anyone but Gaunt. The Inquisition is attempting to secure custody of the prisoner so that they may handle him their own way. The prisoner insists that he wishes to help the Imperium, but this claim is met with speculation by Gaunt. However, he is forced to protect the prisoner and go to ground in the city when a Blood Pact insertion team storms the facility in an attempt to silence the prisoner. With heretical witchcraft influencing the populace and a determined hunter pursuing them, who can Gaunt turn to for aid? And what information does the traitor general know that prompts the enemy to openly assault an Imperial stronghold?

The plot of Blood Pact somewhat mirrors that of Traitor General, with Etogaur Mabbon in place of Noches Sturm, but differs with the assassination squad holding the upper hand over their target's captors. The novel also provides greater detail of Gaunt's past tour on Balhaut during his service with the Hyrkan 8th, before the founding of the Tanith First-and-Only.

Salvation's Reach[edit]

Following the events of Blood Pact, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt and his Ghosts are returned to active duty, and are given one of their most formidable assignments yet; a mysterious space hulk known as Salvation's Reach. According to the turncoat Mabbon Etogaur, the Sons of Sek have secretly been using Salvation's Reach as an R&D installation; concealing their activities there from all factions, even their overlord, Archon Gaur.

If Sek's covert operations are brought to light, it will shatter the allegiance between Sek and Gaur, sparking an internal feud that will tip the balance of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade in favour of the Imperium. The Tanith First – reinforced with additional troops drawn from Verghast and Belladon – and a trio of veteran Space Marines are sent to neutralise the facility at Salvation's Reach and gather as much intelligence as possible before they destroy it. However, Gaunt must also see to the protection of the incarcerated Mabbon, deal with the malcontents within the Tanith First, and cope with personal issues that he never anticipated.

A sub-plot in Salvation's Reach follows Doc Dorden's battle against terminal cancer, and his determination to serve the Tanith First until the very end. Another sub-plot explores the relationship between Captain Ban Daur and his new partner, Elodie. Through the latter, readers are granted an insight into the lives of the wives and other civilians that follow Imperial Guard regiments around the galaxy.

The Warmaster[edit]

"slated for July 2015" After the success of their desperate mission to Salvation's Reach, Colonel-Commisar Gaunt and the Tanith First race to the strategically vital forge world of Urdesh, besieged by the brutal armies of Anarch Sek. However, there may be more at stake than just a planet. The Imperial forces have made an attempt to divide and conquer their enemy, but with Warmaster Macaroth himself commanding the Urdesh campaign, it is possible that the Archenemy assault has a different purpose… to decapitate the Imperial command structure with a single blow. Has the Warmaster allowed himself to become an unwitting target? And can Gaunt's Ghosts possibly defend him against the assembled killers and war machines of Chaos?

Tanith[edit]

Tanith is briefly visited in Ghostmaker, and described by the Ghosts in various novels. It was a heavily forested world located in the Sabbat Worlds, a cluster of planets in the Segmentum Pacificus. The main export of Tanith was nalwood, which becomes extremely rare after the planet's destruction. Nalwood trees were capable of uprooting and moving; entire forests migrating and making paths through the forests useless as the constant movement erased them. As a result of this, the Tanith have a strong sense of direction, bred into them by adapting to this environment. It is assumed that Tanith had one major sea or ocean and polar ice caps. Although Tanith's oceans are never mentioned, Trooper Lesp is said to have come from a coastal settlement called Tanith Longshore, where he worked in the fishing industry; confirming that there was at least one sea on Tanith's surface. The capital city of Tanith – surrounded by a giant wall, presumably to keep the nalwood trees from moving into the city – was Tanith Magna. The world was governed by an Elector, and the main governmental building appears to be the Assembly (although Rawne mentions a place called the Elector's Palace when under the influence of psykers on Monthax). It is unclear as to whether or not the Elector was elected as the title sounds, or if it was an inherited position like a king. Tanith was split up into counties, not unlike Ireland (Counties Pryze and Cuhulic are mentioned). Each city on Tanith had a Militia, from which a number of Ghosts (including Corbec, Larkin, Mkvenner and Rawne) are drafted into the Imperial Guard. Tanith's native wildlife included larisel, small animals hunted by woodsmen – for their fur and possibly for food – and shoggy; small amphibian creatures with bulging eyes that dwelled by woodland pools in Tanith's forests.

The Tanith people are always described as pale-skinned and dark-haired, with a lilting, sing-song accent. Most Tanith men (and youths) are tattooed with blue ink. No female Tanith are mentioned in detail, and it is presumed that none made it off-world, but if any did they did not accompany the Tanith First. The main Tanith curse-word is feth, which is used in the same context as "fuck", but it is also the name of an ancient Tanith tree-god. Sacra is an alcoholic beverage favoured by the Tanith, although it is not clear if it is native to Tanith. Many Tanith names begin with "Mk", a variant of "Mc" or "Mac" used by the Irish and Scottish, from whom inspiration for the Tanith appears to have been drawn. There are also elements of Welsh in their language. Tanith pipes are described as a small clutch of spidery reeds attached to a bellows bag which is squeezed rhythmically under the arm, and make a sound similar to Uilleann pipes. Their initial use on Tanith was to guide off-worlders through the shifting forests, but in the Tanith First they are used to rally the men and spook the enemy (although they have a similar effect on the Tanith's allies). According to Scout Trooper Bonin, most old Tanith families (his own included) baptise and officially name their children at the age of eight, as naming children at birth was considered premature and a child would grow into the names he or she would need. Bonin also remarks that this tradition wasn't observed much in Tanith's final years. Tanith was home to the legendary Nalsheen wood warriors, a brotherhood of Tanith who used the martial art cwlwhl (pronounced kil-wil); using blade-tipped staffs to fight off multiple foes. The Nalsheen were responsible for overthrowing the corrupt Huhlhuch Dynasty and ushering in the free modern era of Tanith. Mkvenner is the only remaining Tanith to have been trained in cwlwhl, but has reluctantly admitted that he never completed his training. The Nalsheen used proto-Gothic – the early form of both High and Low Gothic used presently in the Imperium – as their private language.

Following the death of Warmaster Slaydo, a splinter fleet of Chaos slipped past the picket set up by the Imperial Navy thanks to the newly appointed Warmaster Macaroth's change of tactics. This small fleet attacked and conquered six worlds, one of which was Tanith. The Chaos armada bombarded Tanith from orbit, and deployed ground troops to kill whatever the shelling missed. The forests of Tanith burned under the crippling firepower of the fleet. It is not clear if Tanith had any functioning planetary defence artillery batteries, but it is likely that the Tanith Militia fought back against the invaders. Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt was one of the last people to leave the planet before its demise, and was saved by a youth called Brin Milo, whom he took with him in gratitude. Milo confirms that he was the only civilian to leave Tanith alive, being too young to join the Guard.

It is possible that some Tanith survived the loss of their homeworld simply because they were not on the planet when it came under attack. A Tanith longshoreman featured briefly in Titanicus (also by Abnett), and drunkenly accused the Orestes PDF of being "fething amateurs". He was promptly attacked and presumably killed by the husband of a woman serving in the Orestes PDF.

In Blood Pact, a small chapel was erected in memory of Tanith on Balhaut. It is not described in great detail, but it contains a large holographic projection of Tanith.

The Tanith First-and-Only[edit]

Originally, there were three Tanith regiments raised for the Imperial Guard: the Tanith 1st, 2nd and 3rd – 6,000 men and a small number of vehicles and artillery pieces. When Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt was sent to Tanith to oversee the founding of these regiments, he was not impressed by the appearance of the men, initially describing them as "a scrawny, scruffy mob of soft-voiced woodsmen". His opinion of them changed quickly after seeing them in combat. He impatiently ordered the regiments to begin boarding the carriers that will take them to the troop ships waiting to ferry them to their first war zones – a fortunate move which gets enough men off-world before the Chaos fleet strikes Tanith the same night. He confirms after leaving Tanith that this salvages three and a half thousand men and the majority of their equipment. It is unclear which regiments actually were saved from the fires of Tanith, but the remaining men are formed into the Tanith First, which is soon named the "Tanith First-and-Only". On the regiment's first battlefield on Blackshard, Hlaine Larkin coins the nickname "Gaunt's Ghosts". The term Ghosts has two meanings: the first is that Corbec tells Gaunt that his decision to abandon Tanith "made ghosts of them, hollow echoes". The second is that because of their exceptional stealth and scouting skills, they are ghost-like on the battlefield. The Tanith First excels at recon work as the Tanith never get lost, and using camo-cloaks they can move quickly and stealthily through terrain. The Tanith uniform is black, with optional helmets for standard troopers and forage caps for the regiment's elite scout platoon. Camo-cloaks (made of the fictional material "cameleoline") are standard. Every soldier has a long, double-edged bayonet/combat blade the Tanith call Straight Silver. Their favoured special weapons include long-las sniper rifles and flame throwers, and portable missile launchers the Tanith nickname "tread fethers". The cap badge for the Tanith is a wreath-surrounded skull with three daggers behind it; each dagger representing a Tanith regiment. On the badge is the inscription "For Tanith, For the Emperor". After the destruction of the Tanith 2nd and 3rd regiments, the Tanith snap off the two outside daggers on their cap badges. The Verghastite cap badge is an axe-rake to symbolise their former hive's mining and industrial background.

As Tanith is destroyed, the Tanith First-and-Only has no home world from which to draw new recruits to replace losses. Instead, new Ghosts are adopted into the regiment as the series progresses. The two most significant drafts of new troops occur in Necropolis and His Last Command. At the end of the siege of Vervunhive, the megacity is left in ruins and disillusioned citizens of Verghast were given the opportunity to join the Imperial Guard under the Act of Consolation. This resulted in an influx of Verghastite soldiers, which brought females into the regiment. Several of these women became some of the regiment's best snipers. While Gaunt is on Gereon and the Tanith First is left without a senior commander, the regiment is merged with a Belladon covert unit and becomes the 81st–1st Recon. Following Colonel Wilder's death and Gaunt's return to command, the regiment resumes the name the Tanith First-and-Only. It is worth noting that following the merge with the 81st Belladon, the Tanith First's organisational structure changes; companies using alphabetical call-signs replace the previous numerical platoons. By the beginning of The Armour of Contempt, there are three cultural sections: Tanith, Verghastite and Belladon; led by Majors Rawne, Kolea and Baskevyl respectively (each is native to the section he commands).

Since its founding, the Tanith First-and-Only has served in the following campaigns and warzones:

Blackshard, Voltemand*, Ramilles 268-43*, Bucephalon*, Typhon Eight*, Caligula*, Fortis Binary, Nacedon*, Menazoid Epsilon, Oskray Hive (Sapiencia), Monthax, Vervunhive (Verghast), Hagia, Phantine, Aexe Cardinal, Herodor, Ancreon Sextus, Gereon, Jago, Balhaut, and Salvation's Reach.

(note that campaigns marked with * are not confirmed to be in correct order in time line)

On Phantine, a number of Ghosts took part in "Operation Larisel", an airborne operation that deployed specially selected fire teams into Ouranberg to seek out and assassinate Sagittar Slaith, the Chaos warlord in command of the Blood Pact forces holding the city. This mission took place at the same time as the main assault in which the rest of the Tanith First was deployed. After the battle for Herodor in Sabbat Martyr and before the events on Ancreon Sextus in His Last Command, Gaunt and a hand-picked team of Ghosts were deployed to the Chaos-held world Gereon, on a mission to find General Noches Sturm and rescue him from his captors or kill him if the mindlock on his memories had been broken. The team would later return with the rest of the regiment to liberate Gereon.

Barely half of the Tanith First survived the regiment's occupation of Hinzerhaus on the fortress-world Jago, and the battles waged there. The outpost was almost lost due to lack of adequate resources and inconsistent intelligence regarding the bastion's layout and history.

During Blood Pact, set two years after the events on Jago, the Tanith First has spent roughly eighteen months performing garrison duties on Balhaut. The Ghosts become restless and bored of the lack of action, leading many to commit crime and insubordination. However, Gaunt finds himself drawn into a plot involving a traitor general of the arch-enemy and the Blood Pact assassins sent to silence him. The Ghosts are forced to work behind the backs of Inquisition agents to aid Gaunt after he goes to ground in the city following an assault on Balhaut's Commissariat headquarters.

Salvation's Reach sees another influx of recruits to bolster the Tanith First's ranks. However rather than merge with another regiment, reinforcements from Verghast and Belladon, including a Belladon regimental colours band, arrive to replace losses incurred at Hinzerhaus.

Comparison to Cornwell[edit]

The Gaunt's Ghosts series of books have been said to be inspired heavily by the Sharpe series of books written by Bernard Cornwell.[2]

Spin-off titles[edit]

Dan Abnett has also authored three other titles that share the setting of 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. Most recently published is Titanicus, detailing a Titan Legion's struggles against Chaos invaders and internal schism alike on the Forge World of Orestes. Although not linked with the Sabbat crusade, a man from Tanith features briefly.

  • Dan Abnett. (2005). Double Eagle. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-090-4. 
  • Dan Abnett. (2005). The Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-249-4. 
  • Dan Abnett. (2008). Titanicus. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-661-9. 
  • Dan Abnett., ed. (2010). Sabbat Worlds Anthology. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84970-010-9. 

A sequel to Double Eagle, titled Interceptor City, has been planned.[3]

Inconsistencies within the Warhammer 40,000 universe[edit]

The books demonstrate a number of chronological errors that disagree with the established timeline. In one of these errors a character in Titanicus invokes Princeps Hekate (protagonist of the Titan: God-Machine comic series, also written by Abnett) even though the book is set centuries before Hekate was born. This inconsistency is partly dealt with in Eisenhorn (which is set before Gaunt's Ghosts), also by Abnett, where the title character meets an aged Hekate.

Internal inconsistencies within the Gaunt's Ghosts novels themselves include the operation of the hotshot las weapon. Early novels imply that the hotshot sniper rifles can fire multiple shots which are more powerful than a standard weapon, although each powercell provides fewer shots than standard. The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer (Damocles Gulf Edition) confirms that a hotshot clip is good for roughly 20 shots.[4] The "change" of the hotshot occurred during Sabbat Martyr (Chapter 3, p818). However, throughout The Lost story arc, sniper rifle powercells only provide a single shot before replacement is necessary. The Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game Dark Heresy subsequently incorporated this apparent discrepancy by renaming the reduced-capacity cells as overcharge packs and the single-shot cells as Hotshot packs. In addition, the "straight silver" knives of the Tanith First-and-Only are originally described as being 30 cm long, but then in "Only in Death" they are 10 cm long.

A further internal inconsistency appearing in The Lost arc is the portrayal of the relationship between Gol Kolea and his son, Dalin Criid. After the events of Necropolis, the young Dalin (ten years old at the time) assumes that both of his parents have been killed in the attack on Vervunhive, which leads to his and his sister's adoption by Tona Criid. Although it later turns out that his father, Gol Kolea, is alive and in fact has joined the Ghosts himself, Kolea chooses to stay out of Dalin's life, feeling his return would be too much for the young boy to go through. While Kolea keeps this secret for a long time, he does tell Tona Criid, who later tells the rest of the Gereon team in the time between Traitor General and His Last Command. It is then revealed in The Armour of Contempt that the fact that Gol Kolea is his birth father has since been revealed to Dalin, who wishes Kolea to take a greater part in his life. However, the following book, Only in Death, portrays Dalin as still unaware of Kolea's status as his father: when Kolea comes to visit the wounded and unconscious Tona he finds Dalin sitting by her side. Dalin does not recognise him, only asking if Kolea had known his parents in Vervunhive, to which Kolea replies that they had "died in the war".

This last discrepancy may be explained as Dalin wanting to talk to his father but not wanting to open the emotional floodgates of a reunion that both want but seem unable to take the first step towards. Instead Dalin asks Kolea about his parents, and Kolea replies as if he knew them well. On Games Day Germany in 2009 Abnett clarified this discrepancy being caused by the psychic influence of Agun Soric, which meddled with the character's thinking, and made Dalin forget the revealed identity of his father.

In Straight Silver, Gaunt makes a reference to Commissar Yarrick – whom he calls the "Great Yarrick" – despite the fact the novel is set several centuries before the second war on Armageddon (the conflict that made Yarrick a legend).

The time inconsistencies can be explained as either a minor oversight or an example of how Warp Travel can play havoc with perception of when events happened.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • 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 ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-410-8. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Amazon UK entry
  2. ^ Dunn, Christian (December 2000). "An Interview with Dan Abnett". Warhammer Monthly (37). Retrieved 15 August 2006. [dead link]
  3. ^ Priestly, Lindsey. "Dan Abnett Interview (Horus Heresy)". Black Library. Archived from the original on 7 April 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2007. 
  4. ^ In the short story The Angel of Bucephalon, Larkin describes hotshot powercells as providing "bigger hits but fewer" (also stated in the Uplifting Primer). In Necropolis, Larkin mentally criticises a sniper using a commonly-accepted 'double-shot' method: a ranging shot followed by a quick adjustment and the kill shot.