It took me a while to give The Black Library a try. I’ve never been a fan of Warhammer, the table top miniature war-game produced by Games Workshop, and also of Military Science Fiction, so for the first few years of reading SF it was pretty much out of sight out of mind. I also lumbered these novels as “Tie-ins” which sometimes can be rushed to make a quick buck. After dispelling some missed placed prejudices about Black Library after being recommended “The Horus Heresy” by anyone into military SF I was so surprised by the level of quality not only in the brilliantly described war zones but in character and story development too. I admit I was wrong and in a time where new and exciting Science Fiction comes few and far between for me, it’s good to have in the back of my mind that Black Library produces high quality SF/F without becoming completely obsessed with it.
One of the most popular authors is Dan Abnett. I’ve read Hours Rising and a stand-alone novel called Embedded and was impressed with each, so when I saw Black Library were producing three stunning Classics which include Dan’s first published novel “First and Only” I had to give it a try.
The ‘First and Only’ of the title is the Tanith First and Only division of the Imperial Guard. They are led by Ibrahim Gaunt and are involved in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, an ambitious mission by the Empire of Man to bring peace and defeat the forces of Chaos in the Sabbat Worlds of the 41st millennium. The First and Only got their unique moniker because the world of Tanith was destroyed by the forces of Chaos shortly after the Imperium called for a regiment to be created. Under Gaunt’s command, the First and Only has earned the nickname the Ghosts and has become a respected force in the Imperial Guard.
For the first ever black Library novel I think it is certainly the best I’ve read so far. Gaunt is a fantastic character and I became so caught up with the cast; it placed me further on to the edge of my seat. The first 100 pages is pretty much warfare and even though the battle is beautifully and violently described I didn’t connect with anyone apart from Gaunt until much later. I think that was purposefully done. I thought it showed Gaunt as a lone, near perfect, fighter capable of liberating worlds with a command. It’s not until he is challenged did I see how much the “Ghosts” around him come to life.
Dan Abnett’s novels for the Black Library have sold more than a million copies and this book takes us back to where it all began. This is a great introductory novel for fans of military science fiction that may not yet be familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 setting.