Black Library’s Horus Heresy range has been notable since its inception to turn out some really high quality audio dramas. James Swallow began the great trend with his various Garro audio dramas, spinning out of his novel The Flight of the Eisenstein and other authors since have taken great steps forward with the format as well. Some along the way haven’t been as good as I wanted them to be, but by and large, the Horus Heresy audio drama range is quite a good one and I would definitely recommend readers of the novel to experiment with these and give them a chance.
One of the latest audios in the series is Templar by John French, which focuses on the Imperial Fists First Captain Sigismund as he leads a strike force of Imperial Fists against traitorous Word Bearers within the Sol System itself. Sigismund has largely been a background character in the series thus far, but under John French, I think the character is set to become a major player, as he should be, given how large a character he is in the lore. Produced by Heavy Entertainment, this is one of their finer audio dramas for Black Library, and voice-actor Gareth Armstrong remains as great as ever.
As First Captain of the Imperial Fists and the Primarch Rogal Dorn’s most favoured son, Sigismund is a rather notable character in the Heresy lore. The Seventh Legion has largely operated in the background of the Heresy series, with few exceptions to that, such as the novella Crimson Fist in 2012, and the short audio drama Garro: Burden of Duty that same year. There is also an older short story/audio The Lightning Tower which focuses on the animosity between the Imperial Fists and the Night Lords and the events which cause the Primarch of the Eighth, Konrad Kurze, to flee with all his men and later turn traitor. And a small bunch of cameos elsewhere. This entire situation can perhaps be best explained by the fact that the Imperial Fists in the early days of the Heresy did not play so crucial a role, that their major contributions were all towards its end, when the Siege of Terra was a reality.
But that sure hasn’t stopped a number of authors in including cameos here and there, or even dropping names. Sigismund is one of the very few characters of the Imperial Fists Legion who has had his name spoken more than once, particularly in relation to Angron’s most favoured son, Khârn, who has been a very important part of the series itself and has popped up in lots of different places ever since his introduction in False Gods by Graham McNeill.
The premise of Templar is that there is a small strike force of Word Bearers in the Sol System, given the guardianship of a comet-shrine that celebrates the days of Unity on Terra. As Primarch Rogal Dorn and the Emperor’s foremost advisor, Malcador the Sigilite prepare the Sol System for war against the inevitable arrival of Warmaster Horus’ fleet, small traitorous forces within the system must be contained and destroyed. So the task of clearing the comet-shrine is given to Captains Sigismund and Fafnir Rann, the latter the eventual founder of the Executioners successor chapter of the Imperial Fists during the Second Founding.
Through the use of some really great flashback scenes, John French explores the legend of Sigismund the unbeaten, the greatest champion and duelist amongst the Legions, and pits his legend against Jubal Khan of the White Scars, Alahoss (sp?) of the Dark Angels and Khârn himself. Each flashback offers insight into Sigismund’s character and his habits, such as wrapping chains around his sword-hand before any duel or battle.
John is one of the best writers working for Black Library at the present and in the relatively short time he has been writing Warhammer 40,000 fiction, he has definitely gained a well-deserved reputation for excellence. I haven’t read as much of his work as I would like to, but the majority that I’ve read has been impressive and he has certainly been quite prolific as well. In Templar, his exploration of Sigismund as a character, not to mention the small asides with the other notable characters, are well-done because of how compelling a story he has created. He explores the kind of a warrior, the kind of Imperial Fist that Sigismund is and what his personality in the here and now reflects upon his eventual role as the first Chapter Master of the Black Templars, one of the handful few successor chapters the Imperial Fists broke down into after the Horus Heresy, once Primarch Guilliman unveiled his Codex Astartes.
And that’s what I loved the best. Cut in the mold of Rogal Dorn himself, Sigismund is also something more, and it isn’t all that often that a Legionary such as he, even a First Captain by all counts, has the kind of reputation that he has among his cousin Legionnaires. He is respected and well-liked by the likes of Khârn and that’s a great benchmark against which to measure Sigismund.
While Sigismund is the primary character here, and this is a great build-up of his legend, he isn’t the only primary character here. I loved all the three individual flashbacks and the thing is that it really worked for me that John chose to focus on two well-known Legionnaires, and a third less so. Jubal and Khârn are quite well-known but Alahoss isn’t, certainly not as far as I am concerned for this is the first time I have come across his name. Each of these warriors has a distinct personality that comes across quite clearly in John’s writing and with the fantastic voice-acting skills of Gareth Armstrong, Tim Bentinck, Jamie Parker, and Chris Fairbank behind them all, these characters are just too awesome. Alahoss was a bit too straightforward but I loved his musings on the duty of an Astartes, as well as his personal interactions with Sigismund himself.
Good stuff all of it.
If there is any false note to this audio, it is that the voice for the two female characters in the audio, performed by Tania Rodrigues, didn’t work for me. Her Euphrati Keeler especially was really weak. Her voice for Euphrati came across as really husky and far too dramatic. If you’ve ever watched one of the old Filmation episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and remember the voice-acting for the Sorceress, then just drag out her voice a bit, with more emphasis on every letter being said, and you get the idea. Her other voice-credit here was a bit better, but a bit too dramatic as well, and I didn’t quite like that either.
Another thing is that perhaps the audio ends a bit too abruptly. I expected there to be a few more minutes there at the end and was surprised that there wasn’t more. It was a good ending yeah, but I was seriously expecting something more, the way that particular scene ended!
Either way, what matters in the end is that Templar is a really good audio drama with a really good script and with fairly good voice-acting, making it one of the better audios that Heavy Entertainment has made for Black Library.
More Horus Heresy: Angel Exerminatus, Butcher’s Nails, Fear To Tread,Garro: Burden of Duty, Garro: Oath of Moment and Garro: Legion of One, Grey Angel, Know No Fear, Promethean Sun, Shadows of Treachery, The Outcast Dead, The Primarchs, The Raven’s Flight, Thief of Revelations, Vulkan Lives, Mark of Calth.