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AUDIO REVIEW: ‘Dark King’ by Graham McNeill and ‘Lightning Tower’ by Dan Abnett

REVIEW SUMMARY: One of these stories is not like the other.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two stories (set in the Warhammer 40K Horus Heresy timeline) about brother Imperial Primachs and their dealings with Imperial loyalty.

PROS: World building expands my understanding of this universe; good vocal performance by Danny Webb; meaty subtext and exciting fight sequences in “Dark King”.
CONS: “Lightning Tower” is way too heavily weighted on world building at the expense of plot.
BOTTOM LINE: Good backgrounder for the Horus Heresy series of stories

Black Library offers up a pair of Warhammer 40K audio shorts on a single CD that features a pair of Imperial Primarchs — brothers in the fight to bring mankind under the control of the Emperor. Both stories are similar in that they deal with issues of loyalty, but each one entertains to a different degree.

Graham McNeill’s “Dark King” chronicles a turning point in the Imperial allegiance of Konrad Kurze, Primarch of the Night Lords regimen. Kurze attacks his brother Primarch, Rogel Dorn, leader of the Imperial Fists over a philosophical disagreement on how to rule the humans. For a series that is known for its military sf action, that’s some meaty and daring content. But rest assured this story has plenty of action to dish out as well. The story only falters in the hard-to-nail-down timeline of events that it otherwise portrays excellently.

Meanwhile, “Lightning Tower” by Dan Abnett takes place at a decadent palace on Earth that has been reluctantly fortified against an oncoming attack by the renegade Horus. Sadly, not much really happens here as this story is way overbalanced towards world building (an inordinate amount of time is spent describing the palace, for example) and way too-light on plot. The story attempts to squeeze drama by casting suspicion on the Imperial loyalty of Rogel Dorn, the emperor’s son charged with the palace’s defenses, but it’s more introspective than it is dramatic; perhaps even more so by the curious juxtaposition of this story and “Dark King” where Dorn was the enemy of the wayward Kurze. The politician Malkedor, who seems to be lined up as an antagonist, poses no more threat than can be dealt with by a hand of tarot cards and a simulation that just amplifies the absence of the juicy military action one would expect from a Warhammer story. What this story does have going for it (similar to “Dark Wing”) is an excellent reading by Danny Webb and an otherwise good backgrounder into the Horus Heresy timeline.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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