Tuesday, 20 March 2012

‘Labyrinth of Sorrows’ – George Mann (Black Library)

There haven’t really been any audio books featured here recently and this is very much to do with the smallest member of the household becoming fascinated with the way that the CD tray slides out of the computer. After repeated button pushing, the CD tray still works but I can’t put anything onto my iPod now… Thanks a lot little miss…
The problem rectified itself when I realised that I still had my old personal CD player on a shelf somewhere. I feel like I’ve suddenly gone back to the nineties but that’s not such a bad thing sometimes ;o) At least I now get to catch up on some of the audio books that I’ve been missing out on.
Audio books like ‘Labyrinth of Sorrows’ for example. Regular blog followers here will no doubt already know that George Mann’s work is as likely to infuriate me as it will enthral me (no links this time, it’s all on the blog if you want to look). That’s not going to stop me giving his work a go though and ‘Labyrinth of Sorrows’ was next on the list.

I suspect that the faults I found with ‘Labyrinth of Sorrows’ are because of its format, as much as anything else, but it still made for an entertaining seventy five minutes listening.

On the mortuary world of Kasharat, a drama is playing out (far from the front lines) that could well determine the fate of an entire Sector of contested space. While Imperial and Chaos forces clash, a small force of Marines from the Brazen Minotaurs Chapter infiltrate a temple complex on a mission to retrieve something of vital importance to their Chapter. Traitor Marines of the Death Guard stand between them and their prize. The Brazen Minotaurs and Death Guard are not the only Marines in the complex however. The secretive Raven Guard lurk in the shadows waiting to strike… but why?

It pretty much goes without saying that you can only fit so much story into an audio book that’s only seventy five minutes long. That’s fair enough but I couldn’t help wondering whether this happened here to the cost of the story itself…

‘Labyrinth of Sorrows’ has to be one of the most linear stories I’ve ever come across, more than likely because there wasn’t much room for anything else. Or was there? I’ve listened to a lot of stuff from the Black Library that has done so much more in the time allotted. Does the fault lie with George Mann then? Maybe… An interesting premise is set up but the way it all unfolds is just that little bit too straightforward to really hold the interest. There are no real surprises (and the sense of urgency decreases because of this) and it ends in just the way you would expect. Without giving too much away, a little ‘friendly fire’ incident right at the end could have turned everything on its head and left us thinking for a long time afterwards.

So what kept me listening then?

Like I said, the set up was intriguing and you never find out what the Brazen Minotaurs are after until the very end. That in itself was enough to keep things ticking over.
What really kept me going here was the fact that, in my opinion, ‘Labyrinth of Sorrows’ is one of the better produced audio books from this range. Nothing springs to mind (ok, ‘Throne of Lies’) as being quite so atmospheric as ‘Labyrinth of Sorrows’ and it is a very easy audio book to get sucked into because of this. I particularly liked the change of background music whenever the focus switched onto the Raven Guard.

The narration and acting were top notch as well with Sean Barrett’s world weary narration giving us a real feel for the setting while Saul Reichlin and Rupert Degas give us a clear and distinctive line between the two sets of Marines. The Black Library look like they’re building up a great cast for these audio books and I’m looking forward to hearing more from these guys in the future. It’s almost enough to make me forget about Toby Longworth…

‘Labyrinth of Sorrows’ is a case then of a slightly weak story being more than buoyed up by superior production and acting. That was what really gripped me in the end and I had a great time listening as a result.

Eight out of Ten

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