• A Standalone Novel
  • Focuses on the Astra Militarum
  • Published by Black Library in 2022
  • Military SF
  • 326 pages

Tasked with rescuing a missing general, a squad of elite Cadian soldiers and an untested commissar head into the endless desert of Dasht i-Kevar. But this desert holds greater dangers than mere sandstorms and heat exhaustion . . .

Warhammer 40,00 is ultimately (and rather unsurprisingly) a war story If you haven’t picked up on that already, I don’t know how to help you. The way it has approached that broad military theme has changed a lot over the years, from pulpy satire to deeper examinations of the psychological effects of war, and just about everything in between. But more than just the thematic variety has been played with over that time. Over the course of about twenty years, the type of war has changed too. Space Marines may see a lot of squad-based tactics, but the overall approach has been warfare on a massive scale, with pitched battles of millions of troops. Throughout the novels of the Astra Militarum, there has been trench warfare in the vein of the First World War (albeit with demons and undead robots thrown into the mix), more modern urban warfare amid sprawling world-sized cities, and every rural landscape from jungles to ice worlds. Yet despite having an army named the Tallarn Desert Raiders, desert-based warfare has been thin on the ground. This has always felt a bit odd to me as, having grown up with wars in the Middle East on the television, and all the fiction that has been born out of that, Military SF and the desert just seems like a natural fit to me.

So it is that Kasrkin is a book that just feels right to me. The desert setting and the crack squad of soldiers puts me in mind of SAS/US Marine-style raids that seem to crop up in both news and TV thrillers all the time, but this one comes with the added benefit of being about Cadians. Justin D Hill has very much set the bar so far as Cadian stories go with his Minka Lesk novels, and with Kasrkin, Edoardo Albert stands at the same level. As with Hill’s work, Kasrkin delves into the psyche of a culture built around the idea of not giving in, but that is now trying to reform its identity in the wake of unimaginable losses. In fact, there’s a speech in the second half of the novel about just what it is that holds the Imperium together, that may just be my favourite speech in all of Warhammer. Because it is absolutely heretical, but identifying the common fear that holds humanity together in the face of the unknown is also one of the truest things Black Library have ever put to the page. It’s a level of self-reflection that you don’t see a whole lot of, and it is great to see Warhammer taking a deeper look at its own worldbuilding and scratching away some of thee dust to see what’s in there.

Coming off the back of Silent Hunters, one of the rare Space Marine novels that I have truly enjoyed, I had high hopes for Albert writing about a faction that I was already deeply interested in. Happily, those expectations have been more than fulfilled. The prose, and in particular the dialogue, is superb, and the military action has that sense of realism that I can only chalk up to Albert’s work as a historical fiction author. As an aside, he shares this trait with Justin D Hill, and I can’t help but wonder if years of research into historical battle is what has made these new Cadians so great. On a structural level, this book is full of surprises. Despite the back cover, don’t expect a book full of Cadian vs t’au action. The first half of Kasrkin is largely about the threats brought on by hostile terrain, but once the xenos arrive in the second act, Albert strikes a perfect balance between maintaining the tension, and adding a sense of tragedy. He’s also not afraid to wound and kill off his characters, yet nobody in the cast feels like a throwaway part just waiting to be murdered. Everyone, from the lowliest trooper to the untested commissar is a compelling character in their own right.

Kasrkin is a near-perfect standalone in the Warhammer universe, and a great addition to the Cadian canon. An all-round cracking piece of Military SF, and I cannot wait for more.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

More by Edoardo Albert
Silent Hunters

More tales of the Cadians
Cadian Blood, by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Cadia Stands, by Justin D Hill
Cadian Honour, by Justin D Hill
Traitor Rock, by Justin D Hill


3 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: Kasrkin, by Edoardo Albert”

  1. Edoardo Albert Avatar

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful review, Alex! You’re quite right on picking up about the influence of the SAS – before writing the book, I researched the exploits of the Long Range Desert Group and the SAS in North Africa and used this as inspiration for the sort of raid and the vital importance of navigation in such an environment. Also, glad you liked that speech! It’s the one by the General, I think? In writing 40k fiction, I do try to think what it would actually be like for human beings to live under such a regime. This is where the historical fiction angle comes in – there have been all too many historical regimes that share characteristics with the Imperium, so we have historical examples of the range of human responses to such regimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. BOUNDY AWARDS 2022 – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

    […] Kasrkin, by Edoardo Albert – 2022 was a very good year for standalone novels, and Black Library was the source of a great many nominees for this award. Standing above the others is Kasrkin, a masterful novel of tension, intrigue, and action that really drives home the cost of warfare. […]

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