After finishing First Strike, I felt like I had left the Halo novels on a high. This was a high octane action flick from start to finish and with everything I didn’t know I needed from the Halo franchise. So it was with some reticence that I started Ghosts of Onyx. I didn’t want to be disappointed, as I thought it wouldn’t have the darkness of Fall of Reach or the action-packed fun of First Strike. However, what I got was a combination of the two and I couldn’t have been happier.
Ghosts of Onyx most centres around a Spartan that we’ve not met before called Kurt. After he has his death faked, he is tasked with training the next generation of Spartans. This again delves into the fact that these are child soldiers. Ghosts of Onyx leans into this heavily and attempts to weigh whether the end justifies the means. And I say attempts because this is still a Halo novel. It tries and ultimately falls a little short and shallow but for what it is, it’s great.
Beyond this homage to the start of Fall of Reach, we get to know Kurt and he is quickly becoming my favourite Spartan. He’s far less mechanical than the rest and one of his key attributes (the book likes to remind you of this) is that he gets on with people. He cares deeply for his charges and you feel each death scar him. This only strengthens his character and unlike a lot of the other Spartans cough Master Chief cough he’s actually a person rather than just a man with a gun who shoots aliens.
From a continuity standpoint, Ghost of Onyx picks up from the point where Doctor Halsey took Kelly during First Strike. And this then ties into the end of Halo 2 (apparently, I’ve no played Halo 2/have no memory of it so couldn’t comment). And as a continuation of these character’s story is really nice. The fact that Master Chief is barely in the book is honestly a boon and while I don’t mean to bully a super soldier, you know he is going to be fine in whatever situation. The same can’t be said of all the other characters as they don’t wear John’s plot armour.
The book takes some interesting twists and turns that I won’t spoil as it sets up future instalments in a clever, not overly cliffhanger-y way. And while this book heavily focuses on the new Spartan 3’s and Kurt, we do see a little of The Covenant culture beyond them being the ‘bad guys’. And when you look back on the books that came before, you start to see the wider web of the Halo stories that came before and their impact on this book. It is clear that the Halo novels were not made in a vacuum. Instead, time and effort have gone into making each one link to other books in both subtle and obvious ways. This way, if you have taken the time to read the previous novels, then you’ll have a better appreciation for this book. I know that is something I’ve said before but as it barely features the Master Chief, this is one where you probably aren’t a casual Halo enthusiast but someone who has gone deep on the lore.
There isn’t much else to say. I enjoyed this book and if you like Halo, while it is a great place to start I’d still recommend either Fall of Reach or First Strike before it as they set up the continuity. However, if you are intrigued and want to jump in with one of the best Spartans around, I’d recommend it. Whether that’s because it was decent sci-fi action or if I’m just too deep at this point to notice, I’ll leave for you to interpret from the above.
Thank you for reading. If you would like to check out our other Halo novel reviews head over here. If you want some video game-y goodness in the form of why Mario + Rabbids is great go here. If you want to have a biscuit, check the cupboard.
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