Ghostmaker cover
Like much fiction, and in particular ensemble series, the Gaunt's Ghosts saga has a number of recurring themes and tropes which can be spotted through progressive reading of the novels. These range from the manner in which a character departs, to a part of their arc, to the manner in which an enemy is approached.

This page is a log of the more substantial storytelling devices which crop up frequently, and in some places either form a part of the series' basis, or hammer home certain points made throughout.

See page at Television Tropes & Idioms

One Last StandEdit

A frequently used trope, to the extent that it is used in almost every novel, often subverted in that an intended last stand becomes an unlikely victory through circumstances wholly unexpected.

A character, or a group of characters, find themselves in a position where death is seemingly imminent and unavoidable. Rather than panic, they calmly accept their fate and set about going out with a bang. This is not to be confused with Self-Imposed Final Mission, as the Last Stand is a defensive action.


  • Blane and his Platoon in First and Only, who hold a defensive position despite being massively outnumbered against a huge unit of Jantine Patricians, assault infantry. The result is that the platoon is wiped out, but in return they reduce the entire regiment they face to 60% strength.
  • A group from the regiment, led by Rawne and including Larkin, Milo and Feygor, mount a last stand alongside the Eldar on Monthax in the climax of Ghostmaker, as they have been manipulated to believe they are defending Tanith during the Chaos assault. In this case, the group and the Eldar survive.
  • Much of the final act of Necropolis pans out as a last stand, albeit on a huge scale, as the Zoican siege on Vervunhive reaches its closing stages. The use of a Daring Gambit turns the last stand into a victory.

Shocking DeathEdit

Used occasionally, and effectively, through various means which can either further the plot of the series in other areas, or simply prove a point about the world the characters exist in.

A character, major or minor, dies in an incident which is of a huge surprise, either by it's nature or because said character appeared to be too important to die in the narrative. Unlike His Last Day, Shocking Death relies heavily on there being now foreshadowing of the death, and it being completely unexpected, hence the name. Often the death will be violent to increase it's impact.


  • Baru in First and Only, particularly for those who had not read the short stories before the debut novel. In First and Only, Baru is built up to be the Tanith's best scout and one of the finest warriors, essentially the first Mkoll. He then is killed by barbed bullet rounds in the tunnels below Menazoid Epsilon. Of course, had he not died, Mkoll would not be the character he is today.
  • To an extent, Lerod in Ghostmaker, although there is a very subtle foreshadowing of this. By this point, Lerod is a supporting character, much like Varl or Caffran. He is also the only character to die in the final battle, and that due to a richoted lasround which he himself may have fired.
  • The first genuine, objectively shocking death of the series is Bragg's, when he is murdered by Cuu in The Guns of Tanith. Although the tension between Larkin and Bragg, and Cuu had been building throughout, Bragg by this stage is still a major character, and there is never any hint he will die. The nature of his death, being stabbed to death by Cuu during a battle, makes it even more mortifying.
  • Swiftly followed up by Sehra Muril's death in Straight Silver, again murdered by Cuu, establishing him as the regiment's evil member, and building up to his fate in Sabbat Martyr. When she dies, Muril is growing in stature as a character, to the extent she is on the verge of being the first female scout, and possibly a main character.
  • Colm Corbec in Sabbat Martyr, because it is such a random occurence in the climax. His death is not described, rather he is revealed to have died defending the Saint from the possessed Cuu, once said assassin is dead.
  • Although not earth shattering, Feygor's death in His Last Command fufills the criteria of being both unexpected and tragic, since he had only recently beat the odds to survive his stint on Gereon. It is also rare in one of the books for the death of a character to be handled as it. Initially, he is severely wounded, but in a manner which suggests he will recover.
  • The death of Dermon Caffran in The Armour of Contempt is arguably more shocking than Bragg's, for a number or reasons. Among them, the cause; a small, terrified child who shoots him fatally with his own lasrifle. Also, Caffran had been a popular character since First and Only, evolving from one of the regiment's youngbloods into a strong and respected squad leader. His arc with Tona Criid and their children seemed far from over. And, in a bitterly ironic twist, he dies on Gereon.
  • Edur in Salvation's Reach, both because it is a violent, brutal death (his head is caved in during a fight with an inflitrating Sirkle) and also because Edur looked on his way to becoming a major supporting character, having joined the regiment following the events of Blood Pact. Often the safest characters are those being expanded narratively.

Changing CharacterEdit

Sparingly exploited for greater effect, and usually a drawn out theme, at least in terms of a large character transformation. This can also apply to more weathered changes, only truly noticeable when the reader revists an earlier book.

Through a series of events, a character changes fundamentally, either for better or worse. This can occasionally be used to create a villain from within, or to show how the life led by the Ghosts has such an effect on even the strongest of people.


  • The most notable, and best groomed, is Rawne's. In First and Only, he is a vicious, untrustworthy malcontent on the verges of being an antagonist. As of Salvation's Reach, twelve books later, he is Gaunt's best friend and, although still bearing his sharper personality traits, is far mellower.
  • Starting in Straight Silver, Meryn has morally descended to the point that by the end of Salvation's Reach, he has crossed a Moral Event Horizon and represents the greatest threat to other characters from within the regiment since Cuu. Intially a young, freshfaced soldier similar to Caffran, he has gradually become darker and more malicious, in the mould of an earlier Rawne archetype, and beyond.
  • Larkin is now far more relaxed, comfortable and generally more healthy than he once was.



His Last DayEdit

Occasionally used.

A supporting character or novel addition receives much unexpected coverage during the book, usually including in depth character study. They will, inevitably, die at the story's conclusion.


  • Niceg Vamberfeld, a one book wonder, in Honour Guard. Initally portrayed as an addition to the regiment due to the act of consolation who was simply not up to the task, Vamberfeld's significance to the story is revealed when the Saint appears to him, and instills him with a purpose. He proves to the sabbat martyr of the story, sacrificing himself to protect the Shrinehold, in effect the book's most important character.
  • The definition example is Piet Gutes in Straight Silver. Initially a background character in the regiment, his backstory is visited, he is given much page time, and serves as a reminder of the sorrow and loss that the Tanith still feel for their world, and the weariness caused by constant war. He dies in the final assault on the manse.

Cruel/Twisted IronyEdit


Fulfilling DestinyEdit


Greater SacrificeEdit




Justice for OneEdit


The Great DivideEdit


Moral Event HorizonEdit

Used sparingly, and highly effectively.

When a character previously blurring the lines between good and bad, possibly in the guise of an anti-hero or badass, crosses a moral line from which there is no return. This is usually caused by committing an unforgiveable act, immediately establishing them as a villain.


  • Having previously appeared to a sinister and intimidating presence, but none the less a good soldier and interesting character, Lijah Cuu becomes the series' evil within when he rapes and murders a civilian and kills Bragg at the end of The Guns of Tanith.
  • Similarly, Meryn had been building from snarky soldier into the new Rawne by Salvation's Reach, becoming less sympathetic and more morally grey, before he engineers a scheme to exploit dead Ghosts and war widows for financial gain, and then leaving a group of his own men to die at the hands of loxatl mercenaries in order to get rid of one, whom he suspected would give away their plans.

Unfinished BusinessEdit



Frequently used as a method of introducing new characters to the series.

A character appears in the series narrative virtually from nowhere, either having previously been a background character or non-existant, and becomes a major player in the story. Employed mostly because of the lack of opportunities for the regiment to pick up new recruits. Not to be confused with the similarly named Was Dead, Now Bigger.


  • One Dughan Beltayn, who made his first appearance in Honour Guard, ironically given that he is a Tanith character. Since then, Beltayn has risen from chief communications officer to become Gaunt's adjutant, and a member of the Gereon 12.
  • Mkvenner begins his life in the series in Necropolis, the third novel, as a minor character in Mkoll's scout unit, but later grows in stature to such an extent that he is a series stalwart by the time he is part of the Gereon 12 in Traitor General.
  • Rhen Merrt was a background character (not to mention an example of Was Dead, Now Bigger) who would again become a staple of the Loss series.

Was Dead, Now BiggerEdit

Employed on occasion, and often as a means to flesh out their backstory.

At the end of the previous novel, a minor character seemingly dies almost unnoticed. However, in the next or simply later book, he is not only still alive, but has far more to say, and holds his own for the most part against established characters, becoming one himself. The incident which made them appear dead is usually referenced and plays a part in their development, avoiding a retcon.


  • Mach Bonin. As an extra in Necropolis, he seems doomed when he falls off of Heritor Asphodel's command spike during the climax. However, having been mentioned as a live again in Honour Guard, he makes his first appearance as a supporting character in The Guns of Tanith, and has had a fairly substantial part in the series ever since, including being part of the Gereon 12. His survival is explained as being part of his remarkable lucky streak, hence the nickname Lucky Bonin.
  • After being shot in the face during Ghostmaker, Merrt later resurfaces as a desolate individual, that wound having destroyed his jaw and resulted in his ugly prosthetic replacement. He would go to enjoy a full arc as a major character, with his 'death' on Monthax being the character's defining moment.

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