When the Imperial shrine world of Kathur is blighted by Chaos, the brave Guardsmen of Cadia are sent to reclaim it. The plague of Nurgle has set in deeply on the planet, forcing the Cadians into battle with an innumerable legion of the infected. In the midst of battle, Captain Parmenion Thade is thrust into an unlikely commanding role. Yet, he cannot imagine what lies ahead on Kathur, and just how important it will be to ensure victory there.
When I first heard of Cadian Blood I knew I just had to read it. Not only was it set in the Warhammer 40K universe (which I am loving more and more), but it was a W40K book with zombies in. I love zombie stories, but I was very curious about how this was going to fit in the Warhammer setting, although I did have some ideas. Suffice to say that although it did what it said on the tin and gave the reader some zombie vs imperial guard action, it also gave an excellent story that wasn’t constrained in any way and used the subject matter to expand the general premise.
Debmski-Bowden doesn’t hang around with Cadian Blood and jumps straight into the action on the planet of Kathur. This is both a good way to introduce the main antagonists of the story, to bring our characters into the fold and also demonstrate just how capable he is at close fought battles, tactics and descriptiveness. It’s through these descriptions that he paints a gloomy picture of the shrineworld of Kathur and the conditions that the imperial forces are facing. More than once I stopped to re-read some of the sections to fully appreciate the fighting going on. Yes, it may all be chainswords on las guns taking down hordes of the infected, but this isn’t simply a hack and slash novel – it has a story and good progression, both of plot and characters.
Although we’re immediately introduced to the ground fighting troops and their experiences against the infected, we start to see more behind the enemy than just the fodder. When we get the odd force of chaos thrown into the mix the action cranks up a level and the intense rush that accompanies it comes through clearly on the page. It is clear from the start that something is not quite right on Kathur and it is through the eyes of Thade and his men that start digging to find just what the problem is.
Speaking of Thade and his men, these guys are a throughly bad-ass squad, raised to fight and are extremely good at what they do. This is where the story splits me slightly – with a squad as good as this in a situation that, although pretty dire, has a fairly predictable outcome (i.e. the good guys are going to win) I struggled to see where any real peril or danger would come from. Granted, towards the end the events unfold to cast a huge shadow over Kathur that seriously shake things up, but this seemed a bit too late in the day to cause any continued feeling of real threat throughout the novel. Dembski-Bowden does disadvantage his soldiers through limited use of weapons so that the landmarks of the shrine world remain relatively unaffected, but I never truly felt that the threat to the men was that grave.
Despite this one point I thoroughly enjoyed Cadian Blood. Not only did it live up to expectations, it surpassed them many times. The story was much more than I originally thought it would be and it expanded the Warhammer 40K universe a little more for me. This is the sort of book that once you pick up won’t be put down easily, and for its length it delivers a great story with a lot packed in and much to admire. Highly recommended!