Garro: Burden of Duty by James Swallow (Audio Review)

The original review can be found at The Founding Fields, here.

Shadowhawk reviews a new Horus Heresy story by James Swallow which continues the tale of Nathaniel Garro.

“Garro is back again with James Swallow at the helm! It doesn’t get any better than that.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields

The last time we saw Garro, he was on a mission from Malcador to the blasted ruins of Isstvan III, where Horus Lupercal began his rebellion by purging his forces of all those considered too loyal to the Imperium to be converted to his cause. Garro had returned there long after the fires of that conflict had blown out and this time he was in the company of two new friends, Librarian Tylos Rubio of the Ultramarines and Sergeant Macer Varren of the World Eaters. Things didn’t go exactly as planned for them but they still managed to complete their mission: recover the Astartes known only as Cerberus and bring him back to Terra and to Malcador. Its been a long while ago (a year and a half but who’s counting?) and there have been several Horus Heresy publications since then. James Swallow’s Burden of Duty hits at just the right time to give me and other fans of Nathaniel Garro their much-needed Knight-Errant fix.

As the renegade forces of the Warmaster storm across the galaxy, a very different kind of war rages in the shadows of the Imperium – the Knights Errant, chosen of Malcador himself, move quietly in the dark places where others cannot. Battle-captain Nathaniel Garro makes his way to the Imperial Fists’ mighty starfort Phalanx, seeking out another kindred soul for his elite band of warriors.

Being one of the new shorter format audios, Burden of Duty is only ~30 minutes long, but it serves to fill an important part of the larger Horus Heresy narrative while at the same time being an excellent snapshot in the life of Garro. At a guess, this story takes place between the first Garro audio, Oath of Moment, and the upcoming Sword of Truth, which introduces Macer Varren to the Heresy for the first time, chronologically speaking. I could be wrong, but since there are hints of only Rubio being one of Garro’s new men, I think it stands to reason. Anyways, this time around Garro isn’t off to some other world out in the fires of Horus’ rebellion, but the Phalanx itself, the Imperial Fists legion’s flagship in orbit around Terra. His objective: to infiltrate the massive star fortress and talk to one of the legion’s librarians, all of whom have been kept in isolation from the rest of the legion on Dorn’s orders since the Emperor forbade all use of psychic powers at Nikaea. Once again, things never go according to plan for Garro and he has to find a way to fulfill his objective and still stay on Dorn’s good side.

Burden of Duty isn’t as plain amazing as Grey Angel was, but it answered a very important question for me: What did Dorn do with all his librarians following the Edict of Nikaea and what plans does he have for them when Horus’ traitor fleet finally arrives at Terra. The answer to that question is at the heart of this story and that is what drives, more than Garro’s mission for Malcador as it seems at a first glance. No spoilers but just keep in mind that there are always plans within plans within plans where Dorn is concerned. It is very curious that Rogal Dorn has been getting so much attention of late, and that almost everything thing we see of him seeks to delve into the man behind the mask, so to speak. John French explored him in The Last Remembrancer and Crimson Fist. We saw him confront his fears in the recent reprint of Dan Abnett’s The Lightning Tower. He went up against his brother Curze in the recent reprint of The Dark King by Graham McNeill. In the short fiction category, Dorn has stood out far more than any of his brothers. Jim’s audio continues that trend. The focus here isn’t so much on the Primarch as it is on Garro and the Imperial Fists librarian Massak, but Dorn shadows everything these two do, he’s ever-present. In the end, Burden of Duty isn’t so much a Garro audio as it is a Dorn one.

The voice-acting is excellent as always. Toby Longworth, John Banks and Ramon Tikaram return for this short audio after their first outing together in John French’s Grey Angel. Toby reprises his role as as the voice of Nathaniel Garro (plus narrator) and he reminds you why he is the perfect choice to play the stoic former Death Guard captain. There does seem to be a bit of a difference in the voice, but after relistening to Oath of Moment and Legion of One I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly what that difference is. There’s a Russian tang to Garro’s voice in the previous audios that is missing here. A small point though, and it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the character. John Banks as Librarian Massak is equally good, and I find that his slow and somewhat aristocratic tones are a good fit for the character. The Imperial Fists are very much like the Knights of old, with honour and duty among their foremost concerns and John conveys that repeatedly in the audio. Then we have Ramon as Dorn, an impressive performance that is on par with some of Toby and John’s best work for Black Library to date. This is the first time I’m hearing Dorn on audio and for me Ramon performed fantastically. He captures Dorn’s reticence, his frustrations, his dire tones really well. I hope that he stays on as the voice of the Seventh Primarch for many more audios to come.

Overall, Burden of Duty is an excellent addition to the ever-growing Heresy lore and its nice to see Garro back in action once again, even though Malcador’s objectives are just as nebulous as always and all the cloak-and-dagger stuff that Garro performs on his orders this time around seems unnecessary at first glance. Its definitely not a straightforward story, unlike the Space Marine Battles audio dramas we have seen so far, being very much akin to Grey Angel in how thoughtful and nuanced it is.

Rating: 9/10

“I am Warmaster in all but name.” ~Nathaniel Garro

More James Swallow and Horus Heresy:

  • Deus Ex: Icarus Effect (Review)
  • Star Trek: Cast No Shadow (Review)
  • Star Trek: The Fall #4: The Poisoned Chalice (Review)
  • Judge Dredd: Dreddline (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #19D: Garro: Oath of Moment (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #19G: Garro: Legion of One (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #21: Fear To Tread (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #42: Garro (Review)
  • Sisters of Battle: Hammer & Anvil (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #17: The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • Horus Heresy: Thief of Revelations by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • Horus Heresy: The Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #19: Know No Fear by Dan Abnett (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #20: The Primarchs by Various Authors (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #22: Shadows of Treachery by Various (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #23: Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • Horus Heresy: Butcher’s Nails by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #24B: Templar by John French (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #25: Mark of Calth by Laurie Goulding (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #25B: Grey Angel by John French (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #25D: Honour To The Dead by Gav Thorpe (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #25E: Promethean Sun by Nick Kyme (Review)
  • Horus Heresy: Censure by Nick Kyme (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #26: Vulkan Lives by Nick Kyme (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #27: The Unremembered Empire by Dan Abnett (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #28A: Brotherhood of the Storm by Chris Wraight (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #28E: The Devine Adoratrice by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #30: The Damnation of Pythos by David Annandale (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #31: Legacies of Betrayal by Various (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #44: The Crimson King by Graham McNeill (Review)
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