- Ghost Dossier (#1)
- Set in the Sabbat Worlds
- Focuses on the Astra Militarum
- Published by Black Library in 2022
- Military SF
- 229 pages
The Tanith First and Only. The sole regiment from a dead world. As they wage a brutal war across the Sabbat Worlds, these heroes of the Imperium have faced many threats. Here is one previously untold story . . .
The Gaunt’s Ghosts series is probably the best known Warhammer 40,000 story outside of the Horus Heresy, and it’s a close-run thing. I can’t think of any single-author series in Black Library’s catalogue that has garnered the same level attention and praise of Dan Abnett’s work. Stretching to fifteen books, the series has spawned spin-offs by both Abnett himself and, in the couple of years, other authors. With this level of success, it was only a matter of time before we had a fully fledged prequel. Now, The Vincula Insurgency doesn’t take place before the main series, but alongside and between the events of the first omnibus. The Tanith First has already been founded, but it’s still early days. Nobody quite knows what they’re doing, and there’s not a whole lot of trust going around.
Prequels of this sort tend to run into a few problems. Abnett has never been afraid to kill off major characters, but with this taking place earlier in the timeline, you can be sure some of the characters survive, which does reduce some of the peril faced by said characters. There are less familiar faces who are in genuine danger, but the main characters are far safer than Abnett’s regular readers may expect. The other issue is that the main thrust of the Sabbat Worlds plot has already been mapped out pretty extensively. In terms of big, consequential activities, there aren’t a whole lot of gaps left to be filled in. Abnett sidesteps this issue by creating a new thread about the Ghosts’ heritage that will presumably run into future novels. Of course, this is far from the largest retcon Abnett has used in his books, but it does hit that old problem of creating a major incident that isn’t referred to in the in-universe future.
That being said, The Vincula Insurgency is a strong piece of military SF when taken as a single novel. It’s a short and tightly told narrative about an occupying force dealing with (shockingly) an insurgency and failures within their own ranks. Abnett has always been good at showing the rivalry and competition between the varied regiments of the Astra Militarum, and he is on fine form here. While the Ghosts are the main attraction, we get to see their first encounter with the administrative and command elements of the Imperial Guard, as well as the ironically named Intelligence department. This is as much a book about the Ghosts finding their own identity as a regiment as it a depiction of urban warfare. That is probably its best use as a prequel. Not trying to play any unnecessary games, but just showing the regiment got from Point A to Point B.
There are a few other bits here to draw you in. Abnett delights in delving into the deep history of the Warhammer 40,000 setting, and here he breaks into the genetic history of humanity. And if you’re a character reader, then you’ll probably be happy to see familiar (and now very dead) faces from the Ghosts’ past. The Vincula Insurgency doesn’t add a whole lot to the Sabbat Worlds, but it is a solid piece of grimdark action that’s worth the read.