Blood Pact by Dan Abnett
Black Library Publishing
Book 12 of the ridiculously popular Gaunt's Ghosts series!
This is the beginning of the fourth story arc. The Blood Pact are the primary antagonists throughout the entire series. The Sabbat Worlds Campaign is largely a crusade to dig out their daemonic presence from the sector. We've gotten a few snapshots in to what the Blood Pact are, but never really a good taste. In many ways they've been left as faceless (literally) antagonists: "The Bad Guys".
Ok, I do exaggerate a bit, Dan Abnett has done a great job at giving us some meaty glimpses...but left them largely alien...an enigma. (This makes sense)
Blood Pact really gives a nice open window to that severely messed up world. You get to understand a bit of what makes them tick…and then really don’t want to know anymore.
Dan Abnett has a very cinematic style. The opening scene is predictable...but it's like watching a train wreck...you just can't look away. You *KNOW* something is awry. You watch the characters move about and say to yourself "this is going to end badly...I just KNOW IT". If you take a moment, you can see it coming, but really, who cares?
To be perfectly honest, Blood Pact would make a perfect movie (if the previous novels had been covered already). It plays out in an action-film sort of way. The author has a very good eye for color, and pacing...as well as having multiple threads all converging at the same point at once for an explosive climax.
Some folks may dig this more than others.
In reviewing the Black Library novels I've found that the various authors have different flavors for their writing style. Some have several depending on the material, some not. Dan Abnett is a very colorful writer. I swear to god Blood Pact reads like a cross between a novel and a
Basically Blood Pact has all the features of a good action film.
This of course has a downside for some folks...but if you're expecting The English Patient...why are you reading a Gaunt's Ghosts novel?
Add to this that it starts out and goes in to some good depth on what happens when you take a bunch of adrenaline-driven commandoes, keep them in a combat zone for over a decade...then dump them in the rear with the gear for a couple years. Gaunt's Ghosts don't do well as REMFs.
There are several plots/ subplots running at the same time...all coming together in the end. It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to see that coming. In most cases I'd be bored with this, but Dan Abnett's rollicking car-chase style makes it a fun ride. It does have a couple good surprises. The character development is solid: it's good to see characters we've known for years grow and develop. It's also scary as hell to watch them get shot at because like Band of Brothers...as time goes on, you wonder who...if any are going to survive.
It's also interesting to see the effect of long deployments on the troops. From Colonel-Commissar Gaunt on down. Living on adrenaline for long period then suddenly nothing...it messes you up. That's one of the main themes of the novel and it's completely true.
The book has some nice technology reveals we didn't know before, some character bits that are new (and some that will never change). “Hunter turned Hunted” scenes. Gun fights! Car chases! Proper Action and shit!
Overall it's a full-meal-deal of Warhammer 40,000 Imperial Guard goodness.
Little bit predictable, a little four-color...but it completely works.
I can bitch that "oh I totally saw the ending coming" but you know what??? I was glued to the page and devoured the book in one sitting.