Ghostmaker by Dan Abnett – Book Review by EJ Davies

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EJ Davies tackles the second Gaunt’s Ghost novel, and the second in the Founding cycle; as Dan Abnett’s first forays into the Sabbat Worlds crusade see the light of day.

“With the potential to be little more than an anthology, Dan Abnett proves not only his talent for writing, but also world building, as we explore more of the Ghosts and Ghosts’ background in a wonderfully crafted book” ~ The Founding Fields.

I came late to the Gaunt’s Ghosts books having read First and Only last year.  Instantly I was struck with what fans all over the globe fell in love with.  Ghostmaker – technically the second book in the series, but the first of the Ghosts’ forays into the Sabbat Worlds crusade having been drawn from Dan’s earlier short stories in, I believe, Inferno magazine.  Ghostmaker, therefore, had the possibility to feel more like an anthology than a standalone novel – and in point of fact it does.  But the long and the short of it was that I just didn’t care.

Characters like Gaunt, and his Ghosts – Brin Milo, Colm Corbec, ‘Try Again’ Bragg, Rawne, Larkin, Caffran, Mkoll, and others – are so well built, and so detailed that you can’t help but become enamoured with them.  Dan excels at pacing his stories, and narratives with the characters own voice, rather than simply assuming one style of writing.  As a consequence, each of the individual tales is told in a unique way, allowing the reader to gain more empathy for each of the Ghosts in turn, and so we understand more of them and what drives their characters through the coming story.

Although these tales come from individuals, the overarching story – the battle of Monthrax – never feels contrived, or poorly conceived.  It itself forms the latter quarter of the book, and thanks to the slow build up of events, we see a slowly unfolding landscape of battle that – while peppered with the prior knowledge of what we have learned so far – deepens our understanding further.

In essence, then, we have a book here that serves as a primer – a codex, if you will – for Gaunt’s Ghosts and the standout characters at this point in the saga.

Now, I’m a big fan of Dan Abnett’s writing – it was Horus Rising that brought me into Black Library, so it’s all his fault! – but that doesn’t mean that this book is flawless.  There are some things in it that just didn’t chime with me, and others that I felt were a little predictable.  But that doesn’t make this any less of an enjoyable, and easy, read.  Dan has a great comic flair, and a descriptive, lyrical quality to his writing that is inspirational and confounding in equal measure.

It wasn’t ‘blow me away’ fantastic, but nor was it dull or boring.  So, for me, it was a great read and so I hope it will be for you too.

EJ Davies

EJ Davies: reader, reviewer, writer; and an avid lover of Black LIbrary products since the release of the seminal Horus Rising. EJ is currently working through the massive back catalogue of Black Library titles, and plugging away at his own fiction-based efforts in the vain hope of cracking his way into the author pool.

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