Wednesday, 12 October 2011

‘Thorn & Talon’ – Dan Abnett et al (Black Library)

I couldn’t get a seat on the train yesterday morning and was the recipient of an absolutely foul glare off a middle aged woman, just because I happened to be wearing earphones (not that she could hear anything, I checked). I didn’t care though. Transferring from the train to the tube, someone (who really could have done with leaving his house five minutes earlier) decided that the carriage wasn’t jammed enough and took up a little more space, leaving me a little less room to do things like move and, well... breathe. I still didn’t care though, the reason being that I was listening to the latest audio book from the Black Library.
The quality of these audio books has been known to vary, check out my earlier reviews, but I’m always pleased to see one come through the door as I know that means I’ve got at least one commute that I will actually enjoy, one where I won’t end up wanting to kill my fellow passengers. Why would I when I can live vicariously through characters unloading serious amounts of ordinance upon the aliens and heretic scum of a grim and dark universe...?

‘Thorn & Talon’ was a particularly welcome arrival as I’d just finished Dan Abnett’s ‘Salvation’s Reach’ (review on it’s way this week) and was looking for something to tide me over until I could get round to picking up one of those massive omnibus editions that Black Library are well known for. I’ve also never read any of Abnett’s ‘Inquisitor’ books so ‘Thorn & Talon’ looked like as good a place as any to start.
Sometimes I think that life is made up of an ever-growing list of books that I really must get round to reading at some point. Listening to ‘Thorn & Talon’ has added another couple of books to that list; I really want to find out more about Inquisitors Eisenhorn and Ravenor...

‘Thorn & Talon’ tells three tales from various points in the life of Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn although he is more of a peripheral figure in one of these tales and I’m guessing that this tale will prove to be a gateway into one of Abnett’s future projects. We see Eisenhorn as an Interrogator, a new Inquisitor starting out and an Inquisitor nearing the end of his life but still fighting against the darkness. One of these stories is a lot more straightforward than the other two (you can see where it’s going) but together, all three make for some great listening.

‘Master Imus’s Transgression’
kicks things off and while it fits in with the chronological approach taken to the audio book; it’s perhaps not the best tale to kick things off on. This tale of a clerk’s perceived dalliance with the Ruinous Powers has some neat surprises up its sleeve (insofar as the way in which we see Eisenhorn deal with Master Imus) but the overall course of the plot is a little too obvious, at least it was for me. Abnett does make up for this by ending things on a very bleak note but the damage for me was done in getting to that point. While the production here was as good as ever, it also didn’t help that Rupert Degas (as Master Imus) had a nasty habit of making Imus’ voice a little too ‘mumbly’ and hard to make out. More than once, I found myself having to rewind and see if I could make out what was being said. More than once, I found myself having to give up on this if I was ever going to get on with the rest of the story... Jonathan Keeble makes for a great narrator though, very much in keeping with the sombre tone of this piece.Not a bad tale all in all but could have been better. 8/10

‘Regia Occulta’ was more like it though with an enforced stay on a storm wracked planet leading Eisenhorn into a series of murders that must be solved. All the clues are right in front of you but Abnett very cleverly keeps things under wraps until just the right moment. There’s also a really grim atmosphere surrounding this piece, both in the storms that wrack the planet and when we get to find out just what Eisenhorn is capable of, even though he hasn’t been an Inquisitor for very long.
I could see where the killer was coming from but I didn’t realise what it was until those frantic last moments where it all kicks off in the best possible way and with a novel approach to a hostage situation. It was all over a little too quickly but was a hell of a rush in the meantime and everyone involved delivered their lines pretty much perfectly. If we ever do see more of Eisenhorn then I really hope it’s Gareth Armstrong doing the honours. 9.5/10

‘Thorn Wishes Talon’
rounds things off and is easily the best of the three stories. Inquisitor Ravenor, and his retinue, are summoned to a distant planet by a cryptic message but must fight for their lives if they are to decipher just what it means. The constant stream of gunfire hurries things along and I loved the way that Abnett sets you up to think ‘Thorn Wishes Talon’ is going one way, only for you to find that it opens up into something far wider in scope. Not only does Abnett do this but he also manages to tell two stories at once which totally caught me out until the end. Whereas Black Library have previously relied on one actor to deliver a number of different voices, this time there’s a whole cast involved and this means there’s more that is different to catch your ear. Rupert Degas does take on more than one character though and all credit to him that I didn’t realise this until I looked at the credits. 10/10

Like I said, ‘Thorn & Talon’ has got me keen to dig out those ‘Eisenhorn’ and ‘Ravenor’ books lurking at the bottom of the pile. ‘Thorn and Talon’ proved to be a great place to jump on board and I reckon that seasoned fans will get a lot out of it as well.

1 comment:

intvlan1shut said...

Great Review! As a person who has read both the Eisenhorn and Ravenor series multiple times, I can't wait for "Thorn and Talon".

If you've not read them then I would suggest canceling your plans for the weekend. Once you start you won't be able to put them down. I would also suggest starting with the Eisenhorn series first since the Ravenor series really takes place after the Eisenhorn series.