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Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews The Trials of Azrael by CZ Dunn, the tie-in audio drama to the Apocalypse Novel Pandorax, published by Black Library and set in the world of Warhammer 40,000. Focusing on the Dark Angels and their leader Azrael – this Audio Drama is performed by Gareth Armstrong, Tim Bentinck, Clare Corbett, Chris Fairbank and Luke Thompson. In the CD you also have access to a disc with an original script, as well as maps and other images.
“An excellent listen, The Trials of Azrael may be one of Black Library’s best audio dramas yet. With a fun plot and some great voice-acting, CZ Dunn establishes himself as a must read author based on the quality of this audio drama alone. Essential listening for any Black Library fan.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
As war rages in the Pandorax system, the Imperial battleship Revenge comes under attack by the dread forces of Chaos. As warriors of the Black Legion rampage through the venerable craft, Supreme Grand Master Azrael leads the First Company of the Dark Angels – the elite Deathwing – onto the vessel to eliminate the enemy. Separated from his men, Azrael finds himself trapped in the lower decks with only a tech-priest for company and one of the galaxy’s most fearsome warriors hunting him: the infamous Khârn the Betrayer.
I read Pandorax a while back and it was only a matter of time before I delved into The Trials of Azrael, the accompanying Audio Drama – which is essentially, a tie-in of a tie-in of a tie-in – it ties into the events that go down in CZ Dunn’s Pandorax which itself ties into an Apocalypse expansion pack – which ties into the Apocalypse itself – which is essentially an expansion for the core Warhammer 40,000 game. However – because tie-ins are normally frowned upon you’d think with that with the amount of stuff that this ties into it would be a bad listen right? Well, you’re dead wrong. CZ Dunn, with the help of the voice acting of the likes of Gareth Armstrong – weaves an incredibly engaging tale that may well be one of Black Library’s best audio dramas yet, better than even what Dan Abnett and Aaron Dembski-Bowden have had to offer us in the past. I’ve been hit and miss on Dunn’s work before but I can’t help but highly praise this one – it’s a great listen, remaining very fun and entertaining.
However, it’s not perfect. I think the biggest problem with The Trials of Azrael is Dunn’s decision to use the Dark Angels Chapter. Whilst this can’t be helped as they’re featured in Pandorax as well it sort of robs the overall element of predictability – and especially by using Azrael himself – the Supreme Grand Master (read: Chapter Master) of the Dark Angels – means that any unpredictability that would come with using a Chapter with no known Chapter Master is robbed, and we know that from the get go that Azrael will survive. And again – the inclusion of Khârn the Betrayer doesn’t help matters as well – because Khorne’s favoured son carries the same baggage and exposure as Azrael – possibly even more, and that means that from the get go you know that there’s two people who are going to make it out alive. However – for several other characters, it’s fair game – and Dunn manages to keep you on the edge of your seats about what will happen to them. He’s been honing his writing skill over several short stories and audio dramas before this and Pandorax and whilst they may not all be enjoyable (I wasn’t Malediction’s biggest fan for example) you can’t help but argue that The Trials of Azrael is an absolutely cracking listen. Fast paced and enthralling – it’s one that you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
If you haven’t read Pandorax yet you won’t really be at a disadvantage and that is another strength of The Trials of Azrael. Whilst it requires you to be knowledgeable on a fairly decent portion of Warhammer 40k lore you don’t have to be a die-hard fan to understand everything that goes on here but it’s probably not recommended as a first try in the setting. The storyline is mostly straightforward – but it remains fun and action packed throughout. The voices of everybody involved is pretty much spot on, with some great casting adding to the overall enjoyment of the Audio Drama. In a nod to continuity, the same voice for Khârn can also be found in Anthony Reynolds’ The Chosen of Khorne – so people who have listened to that audio drama will find it welcoming when they come to listen to this especially if they enjoyed the casting. I for one enjoyed it and it came as a good surprise – much like The Trials of Azrael itself – I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it turned out to be, even though I should have expected something awesome mainly due to the strong read that was Pandorax.
Overall then – The Trials of Azrael is a success. It’s Black Library’s best Audio Drama yet and although there’s little predictability and some cringe-worthy lines near the end – CZ Dunn’s latest audio drama is a hit and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table next. I couldn’t stop listening to this Audio and it made bus journeys very entertaining indeed. More please!