• Tue. May 28th, 2024

Classics are classic for a reason. Whether we’re talking the philosophical powerhouse that is “Lord of Light” or spiritual thriller like “The Name of the Rose,” great books don’t just magically capture our collective imagination. They frame it. 

In the grimdark of the far future, “Cadian Blood” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden is to readers what “Memento” is to film aficionados: a standalone tale, aged like fine wine, and a touchstone for the impressive creative talents of its mastermind. 

While a passport is pretty much the only surface-level comparison between Dembski-Bowden and Christopher Nolan, read the former’s slim action-adventure novel and you’ll put it done recognizing both as narrative powerhouses. Only with the Irish-born author however is those skills augmented by a propensity for epic speeches, lasers, sharp dialogue, and badass moments that will have you staying up well past bedtime.

I’m tempted to call “Cadian Blood” the story of a single regiment facing overwhelming odds but in retrospect, it so, so much more. The Cadians cited in the title make planetfall on Kathur expecting an easy reclamation operation only to confront a diabolical faith that shakes every soldier to their core. While the 88th Cadian Shock would much rather be fighting the massive force invading their home world they are ready to sacrifice everything in the battle for Kathur.

“Great books don’t just magically capture our collective imagination. They frame it”

– Ismael David Mujahid

Warhammer is often seen as a setting where superhumans battle superhumans for mastery of the galaxy. While to some extent that is true, “Cadian Blood” puts readers in the boots of an average trooper. Despite being a sweet 200 pages, you learn to care for each member of the Shock, from their leader Parmenion Thade to the wisecracking Taan Darrick. How does Dembski-Bowden achieve this? 

For me, it was in how immersive the book was, like falling into an ocean of lore without getting bogged down in melodrama or exposition. It kept me turning one page after another even while I dreaded the potential demise of the protagonists. Add to that Dembski-Bowden’s penchant for lyrically beautiful moments and you have a standout debut novel. Since then, the author has gone on to write many other acclaimed books. Do any of them measure up to Cadian Blood? We’ll just have to read the rest of his oeuvre to find it. But if goodreads ratings are anything to go by, those other works won’t disappoint.

Ismael David Mujahid, Executive Editor 

(Featured Image from Black Library)