I got interested in this hearing it was the Flashman of the 41st Millennium and thought 'Cool! A potentially light fun read.' Well, it is light reading, but not as much fun as I thought it would be (tho' I will re-read Flashman to compare).
This is an omnibus edition containing For the Emperor, Caves of Ice and The Traitor's Hand, plus the short stories "Fight or Flight", "Echoes of the Tomb" and "The Beguiling."
It opens with "Fight or Flight," chronologically the earliest of the lot telling of Cain's first assignment (to an artillery unit) and how he met his aide Jurgen. Then we drop into For the Emperor where Cain is assigned to rebuild two devastated units into single force, all the while dealing with the Tau, fractious rebels, the Inquisition and hidden force that is benefitting from all the chaos. I'm afraid I figured out the hidden force (Trarfgrnyref (use ROT13 if you must)) well before the reveal, but it was a fun little read anyway.
"Echoes of the Tomb" details Cain's first encounter with the Necrons and how he got away to tell the tail, though minus a few fingers. During a transfer, Cain accompanies a group of Adeptus Mechanicus on a expedition to a dead world and find a necron tomb there.
Caves of Ice is about the defense of a remote promethium refinery against an Ork horde, with something picking off miners in the tunnels, which leads to the discovery of an even greater foe in the bowels of the mines. Then there are the treacheries of the Adeptus Mechanicus as well.
"The Beguiling" recounts Cain's first personal encounter with the forces of Chaos. Given how Cain is always referring back to the story, I expected more of it.
The Traitor's Hand tells us about the defense of the Adumbria system from the forces of Chaos, plus minor bickering within the ranks of the Commissars.
Cain is described as a character looking for a soft billet to serve his time in and one that keeps winding up where the action is, and everything grows out of his attempts to save his own hide. The thing is, for a character like him, I'd expect a little more double dealing and treachery. As it is, he comes across as a hero with a self-esteem problem rationalizing his acts away as something lesser. In The Traitor's Hand he has a long time foe dead to rights and lets him get away. For a character like Cain, I'd expect him to put the guy down as permanently as possible. What else? Other than the setting (Warhammer 40,0000), this seems almost standard military space opera. I'd have hoped for more humor, but outside of the occasional footnote by Cain's posthumous editrix, there wasn't as much as I'd hoped.
Do I like the books? Yeah, I do.