Bookclubbing

Bookclubbing – Cadia Stands – A Warhammer 40,000 Novel – Review

A surprising hit

Cadia has played a pivotal role in the 40k Universe for a long time, and now with the 13th Black Crusade, it is more important than ever. The fall of Cadia sent ripples throughout the Imperium and current landscape of Warhammer’s ongoing narrative. However, Cadia Stands isn’t the definitive story of that final stand. Instead, Cadia Stands is a disjointed story told from a few different perspectives about some specific events during the conflict. These events are characters only play minor roles in the outcome and battles, so you don’t get a clear picture of what happened. This book could be mistaken for an anthology with only the setting connecting many of the events and characters. That being said, I love this book.

Image Credit: Michael Sykes

While Cadia Stands is a long way from perfect, it is a true war story with human, relatable characters. It’s an excellent example of engaging Warhammer fiction. And while you need to read other books and stories to understand the context of these events, if you have that knowledge then you’ll enjoy it far more. And even if you don’t, there is enough to appreciate in Cadia Stands to make it worth your time.

The best war stories are unpredictable, terrifying and boring until something awful happens. A lot of Warhammer fiction is action-packed, full of daring heroics and a clear line to victory. For comparison, most Warhammer books fall into the Saving Private Ryan category of war stories and while they are fun in their own way, Cadia Stands sits more in line with Das Boot. And while it’s a long way from being actual as good as that movie, it plays with a lot of those elements.

warhammer 40k - world eaters

Firstly, we know that Cadia falls. We know that no matter what happens on the planet, the Black Legion wins. We also spend most of our time with specific units or detachments rather than following the planetwide conflict like watching an RTS replay. This means communication difficulties, dealing with the Imperium’s insane bureaucracy and internal politics, and never being sure of when the Chaos Space Marines will attack next. This keeps the tension high even during the ‘boring’ moments, as while the group we’re following aren’t doing anything, the rest of the planet is fighting and dying. And once you think of these characters as part of a whole, Cadia Stands clicks into place as an excellent book.

If you try to think of this as a complete story, it’s going to disappoint you. It was never meant to be that. Instead, you get an on the ground perspective of what it was like fighting and dying during this conflict. And while there are heroics in line with a Saving Private Ryan story, they aren’t grand moves that change the course of the war but individual acts of courage. For me, that makes them far more powerful, human and realistic. Cadia Stands does an amazing job of making an individual in the Imperial Guard feel powerless, of making a single detachment feel tiny and set the scope and size of this conflict at Galactic proportions. This isn’t a story about heroes, it’s one about humans.

And this disjointed nature of Cadia Stands on emphasises all of this. I’m not going to go into what happens to the characters or anything because I think it should be experienced first hand. However, what I will say is that Justin D Hill manages to create compelling flawed characters and make us care about their fate in a surprisingly small number of pages. And, that the whole side bit with the Commissar made me genuinely angry and drew out emotions I wasn’t sure a Warhammer book was capable of.

However, despite some slowdown, this book moves at a heck of a pace. I think it needed more quiet moments, times of introspection and to let the reader fully absorb what is happening. Since we are following so many different stories and characters, when their part goes quiet we pick up elsewhere. Spending more time in the quiet places with character would have helped to develop their arcs and since we don’t many of them reach their conclusion a bit too quickly and it feels less deserved.

I also think that we could have had fewer plot strands in general. I wish we had gotten more time with Bendikt and Cadian 101st, for example. I think the conclusion to his part in the book is brilliant from an interesting war story perspective, but as a reader, I wanted to know more about him and his regiment. If we’d gotten to spend more and build up with the Cadian 101st, that conclusion would have hit even harder.

I also think that the build-up to the invasion should have taken longer and this is again down to the small page count. If we’d spend more of the book getting to know Cadia and its defenders, then the impact of this book would have been even greater. I understand that other books and stories do this but if you read this book alone, I think it would be quite disappointing. If you take this book out of the grander narrative, it falls apart pretty quickly. However, as a series of human stories about war, it’s got a lot to offer if you’re willing to take the time to think about what’s happening off the page.

Cadia Stands is a different beast to any other Warhammer book I’ve read before. It doesn’t follow those predictable paths and carves its own confusing way to a sort of conclusion. After finishing it, I was compelled to find all of Justin D Hill’s other work to help fill in the gaps in this story and see what happens to certain characters after the events in this book. His writing style is breezy but impactful and as someone with only a few books under his belt, I think he’s one to watch and I hope he releases more Black Library books in the future.

While Cadia Stands is a long way from perfect, it is a true war story with human, relatable characters. It’s an excellent example of engaging Warhammer fiction. And while you need to read other books and stories to understand the context of these events, if you have that knowledge then you’ll enjoy it far more. And even if you don’t, there is enough to appreciate in Cadia Stands to make it worth your time.

The best war stories are unpredictable, terrifying and boring until something awful happens. A lot of Warhammer fiction is action-packed, full of daring heroics and a clear line to victory. For comparison, most Warhammer books fall into the Saving Private Ryan category of war stories and while they are fun in their own way, Cadia Stands sits more in line with Das Boot. And while it’s a long way from being actual as good as that movie, it plays with a lot of those elements.

warhammer 40k - world eaters obliterator

Firstly, we know that Cadia falls. We know that no matter what happens on the planet, the Black Legion wins. We also spend most of our time with specific units or detachments rather than following the planetwide conflict like watching an RTS replay. This means communication difficulties, dealing with the Imperium’s insane bureaucracy and internal politics, and never being sure of when the Chaos Space Marines will attack next. This keeps the tension high even during the ‘boring’ moments, as while the group we’re following aren’t doing anything, the rest of the planet is fighting and dying. And once you think of these characters as part of a whole, Cadia Stands clicks into place as an excellent book.

If you try to think of this as a complete story, it’s going to disappoint you. It was never meant to be that. Instead, you get an on the ground perspective of what it was like fighting and dying during this conflict. And while there are heroics in line with a Saving Private Ryan story, they aren’t grand moves that change the course of the war but individual acts of courage. For me, that makes them far more powerful, human and realistic. Cadia Stands does an amazing job of making an individual in the Imperial Guard feel powerless, of making a single detachment feel tiny and set the scope and size of this conflict at Galactic proportions. This isn’t a story about heroes, it’s one about humans.

And this disjointed nature of Cadia Stands on emphasises all of this. I’m not going to go into what happens to the characters or anything because I think it should be experienced first hand. However, what I will say is that Justin D Hill manages to create compelling flawed characters and make us care about their fate in a surprisingly small number of pages. And, that the whole side bit with the Commissar made me genuinely angry and drew out emotions I wasn’t sure a Warhammer book was capable of.

warhammer 40k - abaddon the despoiler


Cadia Stands is a different beast to any other Warhammer book I’ve read before. It doesn’t follow those predictable paths and carves its own confusing way to a sort of conclusion. After finishing it, I was compelled to find all of Hill’s other work to help fill in the gaps in this story and see what happens to certain characters after the events in this book. His writing style is breezy but impactful and as someone with only a few books under his belt, I think he’s one to watch and I hope he releases more Black Library books in the future.


Thanks for readingIf you are thinking of kicking off 9th Edition with the Indomitus novel, then read my review first as it might make your reconsider that purchase. For a more positive review, why not read about the Talon of Horus which is a great story of Chaos Space Marines.

As always, if you would like to support the site then please use our Amazon Affiliate Link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and we get a small kickback with every purchase. On this occasion, I’ll link our Audible link where you get your first audiobook for free.

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