Book review: The Anarch by Dan Abnett

The Anarch is the latest instalment in Dan Abnett’s highly popular Gaunt’s Ghosts series from Black Library. Here’s the blurb:

“On the forge world of Urdesh, the massed forces of the Imperial Crusade engage in a final bloody battle with the Archenemy commander known as the Anarch, and his elite warriors – the barbaric Sons of Sek. A victory for either side will decide more than just the fate of Urdesh… it will determine the outcome of the entire Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Ibram Gaunt – now serving at the right hand of Warmaster Macaroth – finds himself at the very heart of the struggle. His regiment, the Tanith First “Ghosts”, holds the vital key to ultimate success. But as the forces of the Imperium and Chaos square up for the final, large-scale confrontation, Gaunt discovers that the greatest threat of all may come from inside rather than out.”

The Gaunt’s Ghosts series has now been running for over a decade and The Anarch is the fifteenth entry. Abnett knows a formula with these books, and he knows what works. If you’ve enjoyed the previous entries in the franchise then you’ll almost certainly enjoy The Anarch. 

Abnett tells a great war story. Through focusing on a single event in a much bigger narrative, he does an expert job of exploring the dog-soldiers that fill the ranks of the Imperial Guard. You might have thought that Ibram Gaunt’s elevation to Lord Executor would mean we lose some focus on the lower ranks but that’s definitely not the case. In fact, although Gaunt keeps the story moving along, he isn’t really the focus of this tale. That’s probably been the biggest shift in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series; we now see a lot more of the action from the point of view of the common foot soldier rather than Gaunt. 

Abnett also does a superb job of bringing together strands that he plotted many books ago. The mystery of Yoncy and Dalin – only hinted at previously – is explained here, and becomes a major plot point. I always find Abnett’s handling of Chaos in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series to be interesting. Chaos runs through the books, sure, but it isn’t always there. The events of The Anarch are more frightening as a result; when the bad guys turn up, you know they mean business.  

The Anarch is a great read and I would certainly recommend it to any Abnett fan. The only negative is that you can’t currently buy The Anarch is paperback; Black Library has a policy of releasing new books in hardback first. Still, if Abnett is a must-read author for you, then having his latest novel in beautiful hardback edition isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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