Lord of the Night reviews the blood-soaked audio-drama Chosen of Khorne by Anthony Reynolds, author of the Word Bearers trilogy and the Bretonnian omnibus.
“A pulse-pounding and visceral adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat. Easily the best of Black Library’s audios.” – The Founding Fields
Its been quite some time since I read anything from Anthony Reynolds, not from dislike but because he hasn’t put anything out in some time, but this novella makes up for his lowered output in every possible way. Chosen of Khorne departs from the other audio-dramas in a fantastic way that puts it head and shoulders and chest above the rest in this reviewer’s opinion.
The Bloody Crusade is gestating within the warp, warbands devoted to the Lord of War battle to decide supremacy. Two rivals of the now-fractured World Eaters legion desire to lead the crusade, Argus Brond and Lord Tarugar have met on the field of battle and Tarugar’s victory is close at hand. But Brond has played a desperate hand and summoned the one warrior who might alter this outcome, Kharn the Betrayer. But why has the Betrayer answered this call to battle? What motive drives him to accept Brond’s offer? And what meaning do the six skulls that he drags with him carry?
I found the story to be greatly enjoyable. The audio-drama uses two POVs to tell this tale, that of Kharn and Malven the seneschal. However what truly made this story unique is that Kharn’s segments are done in first person, and narrated in his surprisingly melodic voice. Malven’s are of course in third person and the use of both POVs shows both sides of the story, what Kharn does and why he does it. But what truly makes the story great is that Kharn’s own POV cannot be trusted to be real, fantasies of blood and gore playing out in his head make the reader wonder whether Kharn’s rampages are real or just his own demented imaginings.
He looks fearsome there, but just wait until he takes off his helmet.
The focus of the drama in terms of characterisation is of course Kharn as it should be. Kharn is really delved into in his first person segments and we see what this warrior truly thinks and feels about those around him, and his opinion of the World Eaters Post-Skalathrax is revealed as well. Kharn is an enigmatic character whose loose grip on reality is explored nicely through the story, and his motivations for accepting Argus Brond’s invitation are revealed only near the end which in turn reveals a lot about what drives Kharn and a bit more about his reasons for doing what he does. Malven is also an interesting character, a servant of Argus Brond who actually seems to care about the monster that he serves, and even more oddly vice versa, and it is through his POV that we see through Kharn’s madness and see what is really happening in the story. Other characters include Argus Brond and Lord Tarugax, the bickering champions of Khorne who I felt were very nicely voice acted and Kharn’s opinion on them both made for interesting characters.
The action in the drama is nothing short of excellent. Kharn tears through his foes using whatever he can, be it his famous axe Gorechild or just a simple short blade or even his bare hands. The battle scenes are very easy to follow and understand as each combatents moves are explained in such detail that you could slow the fight down in your mind and see it in slow motion. Kharn’s fights are exciting and through his own madness you cannot be sure which fights are actually happening until you get into the next Malven segment.
The pacing of the story is nicely done. The story builds up slowly with Malven and Kharn, the beginning devoted to learning more about Kharn and the situation on the unnamed Daemon World, and then starts to speed up as Lord Tarugax and Argus Brond come into the story and the battle scenes really get started, until the ending when everything moves up a speed and the full reveal of Kharn’s plans are shared. The voice acting is impeccable, Kharn shares the same voice actor as he did in Butcher’s Nails and once againt this man absolutely owns his performance. Kharn’s latin-sounding, at least to my ears, accent is utterly at odds with his barbaric behaviour and choice of words, and when he puts his helmet on you really do feel like his demeanour has shifted. The voice actors for Argus Brond and Malven were also enjoyable for their distinctive voices, as was Lord Tarugax’s. Another character also had a particularly interesting choice of accent, I won’t reveal that character, but his refined voice was surprising considering his appearance.
Now for my favourite quote, Kharn has plenty of kick-ass lines in the drama but I would have to say that this is the best one,
“The rage crashes over me like an avalance. I welcome it.”
The ending was surprising considering why Kharn came to this battle, and the use of Kharn’s madness to create false scenes made it so I could not tell which one was real and what wasn’t. So when madness became reality I was actually surprised even considering who the story was about. The ending also leaves open the possibility of future works with Kharn which I would definitely welcome, even more so if Anthony Reynolds writes them and Kharn retains his current voice actor. In fact nobody else should be allowed to voice Kharn, so good is this actor’s performence.
For an exciting and surprising story, a great vocal cast and a fascinating exploration into the mind of the Betrayer I give Chosen of Khorne a grand score of 8.8/10. In this reviewer’s opinion Chosen of Khorne is the best audi0-drama in the entire range and I hope that others will take some cues from CoK and add in first person segments with characters, it makes them so much more enjoyable.
Should you buy this audio? Any fan of Chaos and the Traitor Marines should definitely buy Chosen of Khorne, you’ll love it. And I would recommend CoK to anyone who has doubts over the audio-range, because if it produces gems like this then its definitely worth getting into. Imperials might not enjoy this as there is not one servant of the Emperor present in the story, but I would encourage trying it as a first look into the Chaos Space Marines as protagonists for any who have not done so yet.
That’s it for this review. Next will be Perfection by Nick Kyme and then Treacheries of the Space Marines by Various Authors. Until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX! BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!