I wasn’t expecting to return to the world of Warhammer – be it Age Of Sigmar, Horus Heresy or 40,000 – quite so soon. But after I heard the first instalment of the ‘Cain Archive’ – as the series refers to Cain’s memoirs – I knew I’d have to review it. To be completely honest with my readers this series is definitely something of an outlier from my experience of Warhammer’s 40,000 or 40K setting. It’s absolutely hysterical!
The easiest way to give a synopsis is this: Ciaphas Cain is a famous hero of the Imperial Guard. A Commissar. A man whose reputation proceeds him at every turn. So as befits a hero of the Imperium he wrote a set of memoirs in his older years…but they aren’t exactly flattering! The Imperial Inquisition – through the person of Inquisitor Amberley Vail – has left a series of notes and ‘corrections’ that line up more with the full historical record of ‘preferred history’ and between the combination of Cain’s narrative and the editorial notes, the story turns into what I would term a rather entertaining mix of comedy and action.
Ciaphas has asked to be assigned to a regiment and has ended up with a regiment of Valhallan soldiers previously from two different groups – the 296th and 301st – and shall we say…things don’t go smoothly? And that’s not even counting the involvement of the Tau. This is one of those instances where I can’t give away too much of the plot because I think it lessens the appeal of the story. Please trust me on this one. It’s worth it!
However I can say that Cain is considered one of the favourite characters among fans of the Black Library for a good reason. He’s so damn likeable! He’s very much the self-seeking rogue and scoundrel type (by his own admission!) but there’s quite possibly a braver core there than even he believes and unlike most other Commissars he seems to genuinely respect those under his command. He is a very well written character courtesy of Sandy Mitchell and in my case I was caught up in the audio version within minutes. And Cain isn’t the only positive. Other characters like Colonel Regina Kasteen and Major Ruput Broklaw are equally engaging with Kasteen in particular becoming a personal favourite. I especially appreciated her no-nonsense attitude to all forms of bureaucracy.
Inquisitor Amberley Vail however? She’s something of a special case. I find her very intriguing – especially her editorial notes and additions that make the story feel like a politically edited historical document – but I don’t quite know how to feel about her. Is she genuine with her actions? With what she tells Cain? Is she trustworthy? I have to give the story credit for making her so intentionally questionable. I’m curious to hear what any other listeners might think of her. I also have to credit Sandy Mitchell for some truly engrossing action scenes throughout the book. There was more than one point where I questioned how I would act in that situation. Despite the book being very comedic at moments usually through comments from Cain or asides from Vail when it counts it knows how to pull you into the mindset of a soldier be it high ranking or rank-and-file. Not a lot of other stories I’ve read have pulled off both quite so effectively.
The narration for this audio release comes from Stephen Perring who provides the voices for Cain, his personal adjunct Jurgen and all the other characters in the actual story being told by Cain in the archive. The other voices in the audiobook are used to enhance the editorial notes. Penelope Rawlins plays the part of Amberley Vail in the notes – with just the right mix of playful sarcasm at points and serious professionalism. The final voice is that of Emma Gregory who acts as the voice for an autobiography of another survivor of the events being discussed. Perring as Cain and Rawlins as Vail play their parts excellently with noticeable enthusiasm at points. They are both able to pull you into the character’s mindset with ease. I believe they deserve all the praise they could possibly receive. Emma Gregory acquits herself well in her role in the editorial notes with just the right tone that befits a somewhat self-aggrandising autobiography or piece of Imperial propaganda.
I really hope we get more audio versions of the Ciaphas Cain novels soon. The original novel which this is an audio version of was first published in 2003 and this audio version was produced in 2018. The Cain series has a few audio original stories but I’d love to hear an audio version of Caves of Ice, The Traitor’s Hand or other stories in the series. This first book can be quite a dark comedy at times but it’s a very entertaining action-adventure. Long story short if this sounds at all interesting to you? Buy it now! I can safely say that Cain has joined Gotrek from Realmslayer – which I previously reviewed – on my personal list of favourite Warhammer characters. Audiobook Review: Realmslayer – Warhammer: Age Of Sigmar by David Guymer
What’s this? Oh I’m going to have to run! See you next time!
Nephrite is currently under official review by the Inquisition and it is yet to be determined if this review of The Cain Archive is heretical. Combined with allegations of association with Daemons, any Imperial citizen that has seen Nephrite is to contact their nearest Imperial officer immediately.
By Official Decree of the Ordo Hereticus. For the God-Emperor!