Friday, August 06, 2010

Review: Throne of Lies

Previously I’ve reviewed some of the audio dramas from the Black Library’s Warhammer 40,000 line. My first experience, with Fireborn, completely changed the way I look at audiobooks – not just because it was a great story, but because of the presentation (from music to sound effects) used to such excellent effect. A couple of weeks ago, I continued with The Dark King & The Lightning Tower – which continued to prove to me what a fantastic job they’re doing in this area. Now I’ll take a look at Throne of Lies by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, the latest audio drama from the Black Library released just yesterday. Aaron Dembski-Bowden wrote Helsreach, which was my first Warhammer 40,000 book – and one which I enjoyed immensely. Still, I was curious how his writing would translate to an audio book. I need not have worried – I found this just as engaging as my previous experience with his work, and it has in fact solidified the fact that I’m going to continue reading anything put out by this author (and would in fact like to track down his Soul Hunters, featuring the same group of characters seen in Throne of Lies. Throne of Lies features a group of Night Lords, the First Claw (a team) led by Talos, on a mission to recover a hololithic (holographic recording) kept from them by a group of female assassins. So the Night Lords have set a trap for one of the assassins – and assuming they can catch her, the plan is to torture her until she reveals the location of that which they seek. Once the location is obtained, a massive fleet of warships, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the great crusade, will bring all of the Night Lords face to face with their destiny – but have they been led into a trap devised by the assassins? There is much to recommend this audio drama, especially in the wake of my prior review of The Dark Tower – as Throne of Lies is about the followers of Konrad (the Night Lords) and the object they seek is a recording of his death at the hands of the assassins. There is also a fantastic action piece in the middle of the book, where the assassin is given her opportunity to remove a threat to the Imperium, only to find out she has been set up with the First Claw group rushing in to capture her. The battle as she flees them is well done, a heart-pounding affair that you know is only putting off the inevitable – and still I found myself hoping she’d get away. The brutality of her torture at the hands of Talos is subtle – we hear what he’s going to do to her, and then we see her in the aftermath – but the change in the voice of the actress is jarring and tells everything we really need to know. I’ll mention that having an actress to play the female roles was extremely satisfying – nothing takes me out of an audiobook faster than hearing a male author trying to mimic a female voice. The actress plays a few roles, including Octavia – the navigator of the ship on which Talos and his men are stationed. Unfortunately, this is the part of the audiobook that didn’t entirely work for me – not because I had difficulty understanding how a navigator interfaces with the machine and guides the craft through chaos space – but because I felt like I didn’t understand who these characters (Octavia and her friend in the legion) were and what purpose they had in the story. The story begins where Octavia must bring her ship out of Chaos before it can be torn apart, much to the annoyance of her Night Lord masters – but it seems to have nothing to do with Talos mission, and while these same characters give us some perspective on the massive fleet which is amassed at the end of the story – it never felt necessary to me, and it wasn’t until my second listen-through that I realized this was supposed to be Talos ship. In my opinion, these scenes could have easily been removed from the story and not taken away from the real focus (and perhaps left room in the audio drama to expand upon some other aspect of the story directly related to the main plot). I suspect that for someone who has read Soul Hunter (the book which proceeds this audio drama) this would be less of an issue, and even for me it just felt more unnecessary than confusing. But as I said near the beginning, this audio drama also convinced me that Aaron Dembski-Bowden is an author I will continue to seek out in Warhammer 40,000 fiction. There’s something about his style of writing that appeals to me, even in audio form, and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. As to this work, I can say it is a most worthwhile experience (and well acted) but perhaps not the best place for someone to start in exploring Black Library audio dramas.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've just recently started listening to books on my Kindle so I think I'm about ready for the audio revolution finally.