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Shadowhawk reviews two of the latest audio dramas from Black Library: Perfection by Nick Kyme and Chosen of Khorne by Anthony Reynolds.
“Fun and enjoyable audio dramas that leave you wanting more.”~The Founding Fields
“Kharn the Betrayer proves why he is called by that epithet and why the Blood God cares not from whence blood flows.”
World Eaters. Butchers and psychotic rage-machines of the highest order. A legacy of blood. Gladiator Primarch Angron. Berserkers. There’s lots to like about them. As best as I can tell, this is the fourth outing of theirs, and its just as great as the ones before were. Anthony Reynolds has captured the sheer brutality and rage of the World Eaters perfectly in this audio drama, as well as highlighting the infighting between Chaos warbands dedicated to the Blood God, Khorne.
The focal character of this script is Kharn the Betrayer, a legion-captain from the early days of the Horus Heresy, the most favoured mortal champion of his gene-father Angron, and of Khorne, his patron. Kharn for me has always been a character who just plain kicks ass, no matter what type of scene he is in. He features quite a bit in the on-going Horus Heresy series and he has some particularly memorable scenes, the best two of them being the final scene in Butcher’s Nails, in which he duels with the Word Bearer Captain Argel Tal. , and the other in the short story After Desh’ea in which he meets Angron for the first time. The series has attempted to highlight his noble aspect, one uncorrupted by service to the Blood God. But in the time that this story is set in, there is nobility left in him, no sense of honour, or right, or wrong. He is driven by only one thing: his oaths to the Blood God are the only thing that matter, everything else is just a means to an end.
I liked Kharn here. There is a lot of similarity in this Kharn and the Kharn of old from an anthology and short story that I no longer remember the names and details of but recall that it was about Kharn facing off against a servant of Slaanesh. That was the first time I’d ever read about him and that started me off on the path to considering him to be one of the best enduring characters of Warhammer 40,000 lore. As Khorne’s favoured, Kharn is completely ruthless in the pursuit of his objectives, alone without any friends or battle-brothers. The character has a focused charisma about him in Anthony’s script, one that is both dark and surprisingly noble at the same time, for when he is not caught up in the blood-rage and the incessant hammering of the butcher’s nails in his brain, he is calm and composed, as if he has all the time in the world. I certainly would like to see more of the same from Anthony in the future. Perhaps even a sequel to this very story.
Anthony here has written some excellent scenes involving the World Eaters. While the legion itself is not much of a presence in the story (outside of the primary cast), this is very much a story about Khorne’s servants. The World Eaters like Kharn, champions Argus Bron and Tarugar just happen to be the best of the best among them. Seeing Kharn and his brothers being lucid (angry but still rather lucid, relatively speaking) was a real treat compared to seeing them in the throes of rage. In that regard, Tarugar has a fantastic scene where he surrenders his will to the butcher’s nails that are a living, breathing part of him now.
The audio’s script is slightly uneven, owing to the fact that several scenes are preceded by scenes involving theoretical scenarios playing out in Kharn’s mind (three total to be exact). When I first listened to the audio drama, that really jarred for me as I had not expected anything of the sort and it completely threw me off. I’ve grown to like it however, because I realised that these scenes capture Kharn’s personality really well. They are all told from Kharn’s own direct point of view, and we get to see how the Betrayer analyses and plays out all combat scenarios in his mind. It is rather chilling to see how he thinks and how contemptuous he is of just about everything.
My only gripes with the audio stem from the fact that Sean Barrett has failed to impress me yet again. When it comes down to it, I think his narration is (usually) just too weak. There is almost always a lack of excitement and engagement with the story in his voice, as if he is just narrating and that’s it, not being a part of the experience itself. The voice-actors for Kharn and Argus Brond are to be commended however for their voicing talents are just great, Kharn especially. He has that same Russian-sounding voice from Butcher’s Nails, which makes it all a really nice continuity across a series like this. More and more, I find myself really missing the days of John Banks (Madness Within and Throne of Lies) and Toby Longworth (Raven’s Flight and Garro: Legion of One), especially when these two recently teamed for the audio exclusive Horus Heresy: Grey Angel by John French. These two, along with new comer Ramon Tikaram have excellent narration that really pulls you in. Not to mention that John and Toby have done some really amazing work with different character voices.
“A fantastic representation of the most decadent and gracefully lethal Chaos legion.”
Emperor’s Children audio drama goodness! I have been waiting for this for a long time and I finally got the chance to listen to it a while back. The legion’s nature has a ton of potential for this format and Nick Kyme rises to that challenge. While not a definitive portrayal of the Emperor’s Children (a small warband of the legion rather than a major formation), this is still pretty damn good.
The one thing that defines this audio drama is the voice-acting. Unlike Chosen of Khorne, Perfection has Gareth Armstrong as the narrator (Prospero Burns and Thorn and Talon), and just as he did in his other works where he had narrative duties, he impresses here as well. He has that excitement that Sean Barrett’s voice lacks, that immersion into the story that tells me that he is really there. His clipped tones as narrator just add to the effect. He also voices one of the primary characters in the audio drama, a Chaos Marine of the Flawless Host (a splinter warband of the Emperor’s Children) by the name of Ardantes. Ardantes is a fantastic character, as that cover art above shows. He is a man with two conflicting personalities: one the peerless, graceful warrior and the other a butcher who is brutal and highly violent but unrestrained and without any sort of control. Seeing Ardantes flip-flop between the two was really fun and in him, Nick Kyme has created a great, cynical character. Definitely one of the best in the script. This guy is all about perfection, a driving aspect of his character that is a legacy of Primarch Fulgrim himself, and is encapsulated perfectly in these two quotes: “Brother, have you come to witness my artistry?” and “I was perfecting a symphony, do you like it?“.
Jane Collingwood as Captain Honour has a brief but welcome appearance, all the more memorable because Captain Honour is one of those very, very few female commanders of the Imperial Guard. We need more such characters in Warhammer 40,000 fiction.
I’m not sure who voices the other Chaos Space Marine in the audio, Vaidar, but that was another impressive performance. The disdain that is captured in Vaidar’s voice is just perfect, and that’s great because Vaidar is the other primary character of the script besides Ardantes. As such, he is often in some very important scenes, scenes that are in themselves written and narrated superbly. He makes a good counterpoint to Ardantes’ artistic savagery. I really would have loved to see far more of him than we do.
The other characters in the audio are voiced well, although none of them really stand out that much. Which isn’t something I minded for Ardantes and Vaidar held my interest throughout. Nevertheless, they were all fun characters, all with their own idiosyncracies, and varying attitudes that a script such as Perfection demands.
The story itself was somewhat confusing at times and it was as if it rambled in a few places but overall I think Nick has done a great job here. His characterisation really shines here and takes away the bit of sting about the larger narrative. The ending however was great, really dark, really chilling as only a Chaos short story can be. Things really do not end well for the Chaos characters. The Warhammer 40,000 setting at its best is what it is.
Overall, I think Perfection is a great story and I definitely recommend it.