It’s been a long held opinion on this blog that the Black Library’s audio-book range is a great way to pass the time on the daily commute to and from work. I’ve found the quality to vary from disc to disc (‘Raven’s Flight’ was superb, ‘Waiting Death’ was less so...) but I can always count on a more or less decent tale to wake me up before I get into work in the morning.
These audio-books have become a little bit of a treat for me so it was even more of a treat when two of them arrived at the same time. One of them wasn’t bad at all but ended up being well and truly overshadowed by just how great the second one was...
‘The Dark King’ and ‘The Lightening Tower’ are two tales taken from the Black Library’s ‘Horus Heresy’ line and although they are by two different authors the main characters connect them. Unfortunately they take the form of two short stories on the same disc and, as such, this meant that I found myself not being able to get into the swing of things as much as I’d have liked. There’s enough time to introduce the characters and hurry them through the plot to an ending but not much else. This is a shame as Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett’s admirable efforts to cram plot into a finite amount of time leave you wondering what could have been if these stories had been given a disc each...
That’s not to say that either of these tales are of a poor quality. Both Abnett and McNeill do a fine job of delving into the psyche of two very different Primarchs, mankind’s champions against the alien threat. A fall from grace is always more interesting to follow so McNeill edges things in his exploration of the growing insanity of the Primarch Night Haunter and it’s inevitable conclusion. Abnett’s treatment of Rogal Dorn, in ‘The Lightening Tower’, is limited by Dorn’s single minded loyalty to the Emperor but room is still found to explore the secret fears that lie at the heart of all, no matter how powerful a person is. Both tales are solid character studies that could have benefitted from being allowed to spread out and grow a little. As it is, as good as these stories are they are perhaps more suited to long term Warhammer 40K fans that have a wider knowledge of the setting.
I’ve mentioned before that the Black Library audio-books were becoming the sole preserve of Toby Longworth and that it would perhaps make a refreshing change to see someone else take on the narrative duties. My wish was granted as Danny Webb took up the reins here and did very well for himself, delivering his narrative in a measured and compelling tone. I’d certainly like to hear more of him in future books. 8.5/10
After having wondered if Toby Longworth was perhaps getting a little too much airtime here, I was surprised to find myself really glad to have him back behind the wheel for ‘Fire Born’. As much as I wanted to see someone different take on these books it appears that Toby Longworth is the voice of the Black Library audio-book range, at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s almost as if Longworth has recharged his batteries and is eager to get going again as he lets the listener have the full range of his narrative abilities over the course of ‘Fire Born’. You would be hard pressed to believe that it’s just one man providing a whole cast of characters and the hard tone of his delivery captures the feel of the Warhammer universe perfectly. This time round, the background sounds work sublimely with Longworth to create an experience of warfare so fully immersive that that it had my heart pumping.
Nick Kyme builds on the background of the ‘Salamander’ space marines while at the same time pushing things forwards for a certain character that readers of ‘Salamander’ will have met before. We get another look at the constant self-loathing of Tsu’Gan and his character grows ever more complex which can only bode well for the future. Kyme’s tale is full of stirring action and a revelation that throws the Salamander’s mission on its head. Add a monstrous demonic creation that just won’t stop coming at you (no matter what’s thrown at it) and you’ve got a story that positively roars along to a very satisfying conclusion that hints at more goodness to come. ‘Fireborn’ is the complete package as far as quality goes; there was nothing lacking at all and I’d say that this is the best audio-book that the Black Library have put out so far. The only problem they’ve got is that they’ve given themselves a tough act to follow… 10/10