While at Black Library Live 2011, I finally managed to get my grubby mitts on one of their audio dramas. The Dark King by Graham McNeill and The Lightning Tower by Dan Abenett and if I’m honest, its a choice I regret a little. Its not that I think the stories themselves are particularly bad as such, its merely that I don’t think you get something that is worth the guts of a tenner you have to spend to get it.
Firstly, there is the format, which I have to admit left me feeling slightly cheated. I am a long standing devotee of audio books and audio dramas, but this appears to be more of a hybrid of the two, rather than one or the other. True, the sound effects, the voicing of the Primarchs and other characters does add an extra welcome element to the story, but anyone who has ever heard the fantastic BBC audio dramas of the Hobbit, will share my disappointment in this particular format of audio drama. Having said that, it is still entertaining in its own way and the staccato backing track of bolter shots definitely adds something to the story.
The narration itself is another point at which I find fault. Danny Webb’s style does have a certain dramatic flare to it, but the problem is that he makes every word sound like an incredibly dramatic adjective. Honestly, if a Space Marine were to get himself a cup of tea in this thing, Danny Webb would narrate it as if the tea leaves were a holy relic and the water the very tears of Emperor. I mean, I know 40k is supposed to have an epic feel about it, but there is definitely such a thing as going over the top.
However, this audio definitely has its good points too. Both stories concern the inner workings of two of the most popular Primarchs out there, namely Rogal Dorn and Konrad Curze. In a series where the Primarchs often appear to be distant, god-like figures, it is a welcome change to be granted an insight into their thoughts.
I feel that, the authors have succeeded in developing the Primarch personalities and imbuing them with a sense of humanity. You gain a real feeling of Rogal Dorn’s internal conflict in fortifying the palace and I have to say that the final impression I got of Konrad Curze was of him being Batman with all the brakes off.
However, no matter how good the stories are it cannot counteract their brevity, especially in comparison with the price. Each story is just over half an hour long, and while this might normally serve as a good introduction to both the series and the Black Library’s audio publications, since they cost the same as their other audio dramas, I believe you would be better off in getting one of the other full-length recordings.
Same price, but you get more.
+ Sound effects add a new level of epic
+ Interesting insight into the Primarch’s mind
- Too short for the amount you pay
- Danny Webb makes every word sound like an adjective