Wednesday, November 22, 2017

REVIEW: Cadia Stands

With 8th edition of 40k in full swing, the novels are finally starting to cover the events of the new storyline as it progresses. Cadia Stands is the first full length novel to take place during the events of The Gathering Storm, and focuses in on one of its most pivotal moments, the fall of Cadia itself.

First things first, that cover, that cover is just pure awesome. I love everything about it. The composition, the colors, the way it's illustrated. It encapsulates the essence of the novel perfectly and is definitely an eye catcher. It caught my eye, that's for sure.

Now, onto the story itself. We open with elements of the Cadian fleet being recalled to their home world, the largest such venture in history as far as anyone can recall. A grave threat from within the Eye of Terror is preparing to launch a crusade, and the bulwark of the Imperium must be ready. This is directly before the infamous events of the Tyrok Fields, one of the only important moments from the original 13th Black Crusade campaign of the early 2000's to carry over into the Gathering Storm. We join Colonel Bendikt aboard the command deck of one of the most important vessels in the fleet, one which also happens to be ferrying a certain General Ursakar E. Creed. There's some fun moments here where the two converse and posit what these events may mean. As far as Creed is concerned, he knew this was going to happen, and had been trying to get Cadian High Command to prepare for it much sooner than they have. Once we land on Cadia itself, on the great mustering fields of Tyrok, Bendikt's regiment is waylaid by classic military bureaucracy. This is actually a really enjoyable moment in the book, and really showcases how mammoth and lumbering the Imperium is in carrying out any of its own orders. As they're bounced around from one mustering point to another, the eventually find themselves being sent to a remote outpost that no one seems to know anything about. As they board their Valkyries, they see the regiments of the Volscani Cataphracts disembarking, an ominous sign for anyone familiar with 40k lore. At their new outpost they discover there is literally nothing for them to do. It's built into the side of a cliff, with only one landing pad jutting out over the dead drop as their only entry or exit point. There's only one person staffing the outpost when they arrive, and their tanks, because they are a tank regiment, are no where to be found. It appears they are going to be sidelined to some mediocre task for the length of the war, and that's when the news breaks. Betrayal at the Tyrok Fields and a new Lord Castellant named after the death of the existing High Command, Lord Castellant Ursakar E. Creed. The war for Cadia has begun.

Here is where I have to say, I was moderately hooked from this opening part. I liked Bendikt, I liked Creed, and I liked where it was going so far. This book is divided into several smaller sections, each with its own set of chapters. As I wrapped up the first section, and went into the second, I started to dislike it. I didn't know who these new set of characters were, I was thrown right into the middle of the war, which had apparently been going on for some time now, and the action felt a little clunky. It felt more like I was being told what was happening, instead of being shown. I finished the second section and had a bad taste in my mouth, but I wanted to finish the book, I was invested, and I'm glad I did. The story immediately picked up again, new characters were introduced, I begun to care about the characters from the second part as I spent more time with them, and the structure of the book became apparent. The first section threw me off a bit since it spent all of its time with Bendikt and I thought he was going to be the main character, that I was going to follow his journey and see him grow as a character. That's not the kind of book this is. After that first section you jump from character to character, new ones are introduced, old ones are killed. People who you thought were going to be a central focus become secondary, while periphery characters suddenly take center stage for a good chunk of the story, like General Grüber.

Cadia Stands is written, in my opinion, like a war documentary. It jumps around from battle to battle. It has an almost disjointed feel to it, but on purpose, to really make you feel how disoriented you would be in such an apocalyptic, world ending war. You don't really spend enough time with any one character to become super invested in them, but you spend just enough time that you definitely want to follow their story through to the end. I was surprised when I suddenly started liking Grüber, who before was presented as stuffy, and arrogant, even if he was very talented. I think what threw me off at first is that I was expecting one kind of story, and got an entirely different one. If I went back and re-read that second section knowing what the structure was that was trying to be achieved, I think I would like it a lot more. This almost feels like World War Z to me in a way, with how it jumps around. It's not the story of how Cadia falls, that's already been covered in the GW campaign book. This is the story of the men and women who fought to the last to stop the enemy. From the skirmishes in the streets of contested cities, to the grander stage of a General's understanding of the war, to a lone Space Marine, fighting his way through the hordes of enemies. By the end of the book I really liked it, and it definitely has a different feel and structure to it then what a lot of Black Library books have. It's cool to see this diversity in how stories are told though. It's a new tool in the writer's arsenal, and one perfectly suited to the militaristic style of Cadia. It's a recounting of events from an on the ground viewpoint, not a character's journey of personal growth and loss.

Obviously most people here already know the ending. Cadia falls. The planet breaks before the Guard. The story doesn't end with the fall of the planet though, it continues on as the evacuation fleet tries to find its way back to Terra to warn the High Lords, and everything else that follows. There are a few continuity errors in here, which is prone to happen with a novel like this that's so closely following an event written by GW. I wouldn't be surprised if this was written around the same time as The Gathering Storm itself was being finalized. The one thing that really stood out to me was the inclusion of Pask, who according to the new 40k rulebook, was not on Cadia at the time, but actually on his way back from the Damocles Gulf. That small quibble aside, I really enjoyed this. I think a lot of Imperial Guard fans would enjoy it, and it's great for broader 40k fans as well since it covers such a pivotal moment. Just head into it knowing what type of book it is and I think you'll really like it.

Cadia stands!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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