Audio Drama Advanced Review – Eye of Vengeance by Graham McNeill [EJ Davies/djinn24/Commissar Ploss]

Telion may look old, and he is, but he can still make war with the best of them.

EJ Davies, djinn24, and Commissar Ploss all take a look at the latest addition to the Black Library Audio Dramas, Eye of Vengeance is Graham McNeill’s first foray into the audio drama format with the chapter that has made him a well-known name to 40K readers: The Ultramarines, and a legend in the chapter: Torias Telion.

“Well-paced, engaging, well-written, and funny. Great stuff.” ~ The Founding Fields.

The blurb – from Black Library:

“When the twisted Dark Mechanicus priests of the Bloodborn descend upon Quintarn, the Ultramarines are quick to move in defence of their prized agri-world. However, it soon becomes apparent that the planet’s fate will not be decided by the massed battle companies of the Space Marines, but by the actions of just one lowly sergeant – Torias Telion. A master marksman and Scout with a long history of service to the Chapter, Telion must now face the worst of the Bloodborn’s technological terrors and secure the city of Idrisia from the enemy advance, if the Ultramarines are to have any hope of prevailing against an enemy whose numbers swell with every victory.”

Alright, so a minor point – but Torias Telion is not a lowly sergeant. Just saying.

Graham has got a great pedigree as a writer. His novels and short stories are well crafted tales full of wonderful characters, great action set pieces, and wonderful dramatic twists and turns; there is a reason that his signing queues are huge, and full of people bearing armfuls of Ultramarines novels, Storm of Iron, and his Heresy books. This piece is no different. It is well written, it is well crafted, it is full of twists and turns.

And yes, I am aware that Graham’s stuff has been released in audio format – but these are Audio Books, not Audio Dramas.

The planet of Quintarn is fleshed out well, from its agricultural heritage to its smells. The introduction of Telion is marvellous, and I had a wry chuckle at his appearance, and his voice – a mix between Michael Fassbender’s character in Inglorious B******s and James MacAvoy’s in X:Men First Class. His characterisation is something Bond-esque, without the girls and gadgets, and slightly more humanistic. I enjoyed the work that was done here, but I’ll get to the vocal work in a while. The first scenes with the Ultramarines is like a who’s who of the heroes of the chapter. That’s no bad thing. Future events are hinted at, and previous events are referenced nicely. What I’ve learned is that by doing this writers are not trying to secure themselves continuing ‘franchise’ (for want of a better term) but are trying to give the characters a sense of history, previous, and future lives – it’s how we, as readers, identify with them.

The voice acting is again good. Seán Barrett is on narration duties (having already done Labyrinth of Sorrows, and Butcher’s Nails) and has improved somewhat. Rather than the monotonic delivery there is an alteration in his tone as we get to the big action scene in the latter stages. I think Seán is warming up to the audio dramas, and I’m hoping he will continue this improvement that he’s made. However, the same can’t be said for his characters who all seem to share the same voice with a slightly different accent. Compare that to Rupert Degas and Saul Reichlin, who add their voices to the myriad of characters; who actually alter the voices accordingly and consequently brings the listener into the world further.

So there are many positives: well written story; excellent characterisation of Telion, and the scouts; great set up; improved narration; good vocal work (as usual); and the music isn’t intrusive and where I have previously been annoyed with the repetitive nature of it and the sound effects, this is much improved. AND the climatic scenes are believable – if a little credibility stretching – and breathtakingly realised.

The negatives, however, and there are some are here: The Stormlord encounter lacks a sense of jeopardy, or resolution – I understand this is a minor action beat on the way to the end point, but needed something extra – perhaps a character death, or serious injury; Some of the environmental effects on the voices aren’t well completed – as a result someone on the battlefield sounds like they’re in a recording studio; Chaplain Cassius’ voice in the opening briefing isn’t right – the description of him is that he’s wearing a helm, the assumption is that the others aren’t, and yet his voice is not rendered through a vox speaker.

That said, these are minor hiccups on the road to completion. I was much happier with the overall tone, flavour, and finish of this audio drama than I was with – say – Labyrinth of Sorrows, but there is still some work to be done by Heavy Entertainment and Black Library as we go.

On balance, I would say this is a good audio drama with some excellent features. I actually like an Ultramarine character. I now need a shower. I look forward to hearing some more from Graham in the audio drama format, and strangely I want to read more of Torias Telion and his exploits.

Eye of Vengeance is available for download from Black Library now, and will be available on CD from next month.

Courage and Honour! Share and Enjoy!

Suggested track names:

  1. Quintarn
  2. Idrisia/Heroes of Ultramar
  3. Resupply/Cassius’ Warning
  4. The Mission Begins
  5. The Bloodborn’s Engines
  6. Stormlord/Zeno’s Folly
  7. The Maidens of Nestor
  8. The Titan/Flight through the Temple
  9. Binaric Scream
  10. A Mountain Burns

Larry ‘djinn24’ Killian does an advanced review for upcoming Black Library audio book, Eye of Vengeance by Graham McNeill coming out late April/early May.

Telion is a refreshing change from the standard anal retentive Ultramarine ~ The Founding Fields

I have to say that I really enjoyed this audio drama. I am not normally a fan of literature on the Ultramarines as they just seem too uptight and in general just boring. I am glad to say that this is anything but that. As you know from the above review the story is about Torias Telion, a Sergeant in the 10th company, the Scouts, but he is no normal scout, he is a man with three service studs proudly on display in his forehead.

On this adventure we really get to know more about the famous scout sergeant of the Ultramarines. One aspect that I really enjoyed about this audio drama is Telion’s snarky attitude and the disregard that he has towards the standard tenants of his chapter. But while he may not hold to the standards of his chapters he gets the job done. I liked the soundtrack, it seemed like enough but not over the top. Other audio dramas have an issue where the background noise drowns out the voice actors, which was not really an issue here. The battle scenes seemed intense and put you into the action (I recommend listening to this with a system with a nice bass, really adds to the drama!). I also like getting to know more about characters that are covered a bit in the codexes, to me that really adds to them in the game as well.

The story is not perfect, but there are really only a few issues that I had problems with. Like it was pointed out above, the Stormlord scene just seemed tossed in with no real reason other then to add something to gain more time. Overall it seemed anti-climatic as you feel there should be something more to it, like the rest of the battle scenes. Another thing that really bugged me was the lack of details being checked. In the audio drama it was mentioned that the Warhound was only 7 meters tall, which is actually only half the standard height of the Warhound. Now I know it had been gutted and rebuilt but there is really no way to remove that much height from it.

If you enjoy audio dramas and books, Telion, Ultramarines, or just 40k in general this is something that will be worth picking it up. I would give this an overall rating of 3.5/5.

—————

Commissar Ploss here as well on this one!!! It’s our first “Triple Review”, we’ve had some doubles, but never a triple play! Awesome, isn’t it? lol

Well, i really don’t have to add much to the previous, the others pretty much covered the big points. I’ll keep this brief by saying that I really enjoyed the audio drama. :) It was refreshing to see some information brought to life about Torias Telion, outside of the Codex releases.

A grizzled Seargeant and master scout, Telion is definitely an interesting segue from the standard stoic a-holes that most Ultramarines seem to be. Equally as refreshing was the accounts of the Dark Mechanicus and their war machines. I’d have love to see this audio drama turned into a full-length novel, simply because i wanted to keep reading/listening after it was finished. Graham has never let me down in the past, and he continues his great writing with this drama.

Simply put, i enjoyed it, outside of some minor fluff-type errors like the aforementioned height of a Warhound Titan, it didn’t really let me down. I didn’t stop it, I didn’t pause it, I listened to it from beginning to end.  I would recommend this audio to anyone who enjoys a little deviancy in their Astartes. A gripping drama. 8/10

cheers!

EJ Davies

EJ Davies: reader, reviewer, writer; and an avid lover of Black LIbrary products since the release of the seminal Horus Rising. EJ is currently working through the massive back catalogue of Black Library titles, and plugging away at his own fiction-based efforts in the vain hope of cracking his way into the author pool.

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