When I began reading the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels by Dan Abnett a few years back, I knew absolutely nothing about the Warhammer 40K universe, nor was I a tabletop gamer (I’m still not); however, I love a good grimdark story, and the fact that the word “grimdark” originated from said universe’s tagline, was excuse enough for me to immerse myself into the overwhelming – and oftentimes incredibly engaging – chaos that is Warhammer 40k.
Fast forward to now. Having taken a break from the books for a couple of years, I decided to delve back into Abnett’s series, and boy am I glad I did! Sabbat Martyr has renewed my passion for Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and his band of gruff and gritty war heroes. This is the closing chapter – and perhaps the start of a new one – to a seven-book story in which Gaunt and his Ghosts travel to different worlds throughout the Sabbat Worlds system, attempting to make a difference against the forces of Chaos who have defiled the name and legacy of Saint Sabbat.
In Sabbat Martyr, the Ghosts are summoned to the remote world of Herodor – a planet with no real advantage for the armies of the Empire of Man – by a girl claiming to be the reincarnated Saint Sabbat. Despite Gaunt’s own reservations about who she may actually be, it becomes increasingly clear that the girl has been able to rally the troops like no one has before her. With assassins sent by the forces of Chaos looking to put an end to Sabbat once and for all, Gaunt will, by any means necessary, do what he does best: his duty.
This is an awesome, action-filled addition to Abnett’s series, and without a doubt, the best I’ve read thus far. Sabbat Martyr has everything you’d want in a Gaunt’s Ghosts novel: touching character beats, political maneuvering, and detailed military action. While these are all displayed in vivid fashion, Abnett does so much more with this book. He manages to wrap up most threads that have weaved in and out of each story since the first entry into Gaunt’s Ghosts – some of which I had completely forgotten about; he offers closure for many side stories, and subsequently, helps to place the focus on some beautiful growth with specific characters; and of course, he breaks hearts with shocking and devastating deaths.
Dan Abnett’s Ghosts novels are certainly hit or miss, but Sabbat Martyr truly makes up for weaker two entries that preceded it. It is, as a whole, engaging, poignant, and a fascinating look at what it means to follow your beliefs wholeheartedly – even if doing so might lead to martyrdom.