Wow. I have read most of the 40K novels that have come out thus far, and Abnett's have surpassed all the others in quality. But this book is something else. While there were a few of the Gaunt's Ghosts novels that seemed to drag or end too quickly, this book accomplishes everything that one could want from a novel.
As usual, Abnett has the best characterization in his writing from any other contemporary author that I have encountered. Despite the underlying brutality of the overall storyline and the specific plot of this book, Abnett delivers humor, heartwarming moments, illustrating the self-sacrifice that soldiers in certain death situations have for one another, along with his exquisite descriptive abilities of not just battles and combat but the setting in which the characters find themselves.
Set in something of an alien haunted house, the Tanith First and Only are tasked with securing and holding a fort far from any friendly forces. From the start, the unit members are demoralized and disturbed by visions, hallucinations, rumors, and fear. Certain that they will meet their ends at this posting, they nevertheless endeavor to make certain to sell themselves dearly. Facing down an enemy they've fought in a number of the prior books in the series, they also have to deal with their own inner conflicts. Amidst all the combat, they are forced to deal with the losses of their comrades, who cannot be replaced as they are the last of their world, as every death is a dear friend.
Abnett manages to achieve all the plot points to advance the story for the next book, while whittling down the unit even further amidst the hopeless battle in which he placed them. And still, he moves characters through their own personal demons and completes them. Too often in sf and fantasy writing, characters are flat. While some, as part of their specific nature by intent, are flat, Abnett makes it look so easy to make round characters of the bulk of the cast.
It's such a joy to read Abnett's works, but so sad at the same time. The sadness comes from knowing that there will be an interminable wait for the next book in the series. And since his writing is so intense that all his books are page-turners, they go so fast that despite the fulfillment, the reader is left wanting more. This book was easily the best I have read in a long, long time, in any genre.