Gaunt and his men are stationed on Menazoid Sigma, waiting for reinforcements, before they can start their mission. It's been quite a while since The Tanith First saw any real action, leaving them dull, like an unused and forgotten blade. This might even be the reason they have been entrusted with the mission. A dull blade is of little use, and if it broke, no one would miss it. A defector is their only source of intelligence for their target, carefully scraped from his memories. False information leading them into a trap is a big risk, but command has deemed the risk acceptable. Their mission could swing the balance of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade campaign. Gaunt manages to call in a favour, which might even give them the edge they need to pull this off. Assuming their intel is real.
Since Salvation's Reach is my first Gaunt's Ghost novel, none of the names are familiar, and there are a lot of them. The story is told from the point of view of quite a few characters. I'm impressed with Dan Abnett's ability to create such likeable characters in such a short space. They have the spark of life, which makes a character feel realistic. I'm much reminded of Guy Adams, another writer with a talent for juggling several engaging characters at once. I did not come away from Salvation's Reach with a greater understanding of the characters, but Dan still manages to pull of character development for a few of them.
I'm also reminded of Steven Erikson, who writes military fantasy of epic proportions. Both writers are very good at creating the right atmosphere, sense of kinship and camraderie. Each time there is a battle Dan Abnett zooms in on small groups of people. This works really well, you get to know more about the characters, and the fight feels a lot more intimate. The actual engagement are well written and really pulls you in, almost hard enough you loose your breath. It's a great mix of melee, gun fights and suspense inducing moments.
Gaunt is clearly a born leader of men, and one thing I learned about him is how much he cares about his men. He might be the one who has to make difficult decisions and order his men into certain death, but it's evident he feels every death. He leads from the front at least, so he is not asking anyone to do anything he wouldn't do himself.
Once again I find myself reading a book with great atmosphere. There are certain things you expect from a Warhammer 40k novel. One feeling is one of insignificance, how small a individual is in comparison to the empire of mankind. The glory days are past, technology lost, lives lost, surrounded on all sides by enemies. A more important one is hope. The emperor still fights to keep the warp at bay, and no matter who you are, you are still a cog in the machinery with a role to fulfil.
Salvation's Reach is a terrific read. Dan Abnett ticks all the boxes, action, explosions, awe, space marines and xenos. It was a real page turner with engaging characters, gory combat and moments of great suspense. I did not like putting it down at all. I pity the fool, who does not read Salvation's Reach.
Salvation's Reach weighs in at 320 pages, and is published by The Black Library.
Recommendation: must read