Assassinorum: The Emperor’s Judgement (Warhammer 40,000, Assassinorum: Execution Force)
Publisher: Games Workshop
Cost: $14.99 (MP3)/$20 (CD)
Runtime: 74 Minutes, Twenty-Seven Seconds
Release Date: 05/02/2015
Get it Here: The Black Library
I usually don’t get Games Workshop’s “Audio Dramas.” They tend to be extremely overpriced (even for Games Workshop), and I’ve yet to hear a Warhammer fan (40K or Fantasy) ever talk about them, so they seem to be pretty forgettable or mediocre. However, I finally decided to take the plunge with The Emperor’s Judgement. $15 for seventy-minutes isn’t too bad, even though you can get full unabridged novels in audiobook form for the same cost. Still, I wanted to listen to this, because it is a prequel to both the Assassinorum: Execution Force novella and board game. I enjoyed the novel far more than I thought I would, since I usually find most 40K fiction to be terrible. I wanted to spend more time with the characters, so I grabbed this “audio drama” as the main character was the Callidus Assassin, Klara Rhasc, from the Assassinorum: Execution Force novella that I reviewed yesterday. Is the audio drama worth getting for the average 40K fan, or is this best left forgotten like the vast majority of Games Workshop’s other audio products?
When I think “audio drama,” I think of pieces like the BBC’s The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, where there is no narration, just actors reading a script. That’s not the case with The Emperor’s Judgement. This is an audiobook, pure and simple. It has narration and different people reading the roles of characters when speaking lines come up, but I’m kind of surprised Games Workshop doesn’t know the different between the two categories. More so, since this is a direct prequel to Assassinorum: Execution Force and it is written by the same author, I’m not sure why one was released as an audio only piece and the other as a written only. That doesn’t make any sense to me. If the two are deeply intertwined, why not offer both in the same format or, even better, both in EACH format? This is one of those business decisions by Games Workshop that makes little to no sense. Unfortunately, I find they do that a lot.
This particular piece has Klara Rhasc taking the form of a Patriarch in the midst of some pomp and circumstance. Don’t worry, it’s part of a ceremony. Lots of people are dressed like Patriarchs. A popular priest on this world has been preaching heresy, and she is here to eliminate him in such a way that is both gruesome and dramatic. Of course, the heresy is preaching that the Emperor had more than nine sons and half of them turned to Chaos, which as we all know is the truth, but the Imperium of Man doesn’t want that nugget revealed to the general public. They’re also really not happy that the priest talks about how the Emperor is basically dead on the throne and kept existing more or less due to sacrifices. So yes, Klara is being told to kill someone who is actually being honest to the general populace, and she’s fine with it, nainly because she believes the Imperium’s lies. Most people do. This is Warhammer 40K, where, essentially, the Imperium is Lawful Evil.
Of course, this being 40K, the saint isn’t wearing a white hat either. No, when Klara goes for her assassination, the priest reveals he works for the Chaos Gods and mutates into something horrible. This is where an Eversor (another Assassin from a different guild, more or less) shows up and starts killing things left and right in his berserker fury. The two of them manage to get the assassination done, but the Eversor gets the killing blow in, and this gets under Klara’s skin more than a little. Because we have to subscribe to the law that whenever two protagonists meet in a comic book or Sci-Fi tale, they must clash, the two assassins get into it, with spectacularly bad results. The poison Klara uses intermingles with the MANY chemicals running through the Eversor’s blood stream that gives him his fantastic powers and resistance to pain. The end result makes him completely psychotic instead of a berserker, so he runs off, essentially being the 40K equivalent of “HULK SMASH.” Meanwhile Klara, due to her ability to emulate others via her own temple’s special abilities, has to contend with the fact she now has a bit of the Eversor in her (and the drugs) and has to keep her own growing rage in check. Worst of all, it appears the Eversor’s handler is dead or missing, and Klara’s reveals that she needs to pacify/subdue the Eversor without killing him/majorly hurting him, because both are needed for a new mission – one that may decide the fate of Mankind itself. Not the best day for Klara Rhasc, is it?
I enjoyed this story very much. The Emperor’s Judgement was a fine prequel to Assassinorum: Execution Force. You really get to know three of the characters from that novel better. Kurei Adamata from the Vanus Temple gets a lot more “screen time” in this piece. As well, because there are only two core assassins, Sylas Torq and Klara Rhasc, you really get to know them better. Torq seems a bit more two-dimensional here than in Assassinorum: Execution Force, but that’s because he’s hopped up on drugs for most of the story. As well, Klara really shines, since she is the pure focal point of the piece, rather than having the main character change with each chapter as in Assassinorum: Execution Force. So even though you are getting the same characters written by the same author, you really do get a very different feel for these characters in The Emperor’s Judgement. If you read Assassinorum: Execution Force, then you’ll catch comments about the Vindicare Viktor Zhau, even though he doesn’t official show up in this book. His actions are definitely felt though.
So while The Emperor’s Judgement is a great story that I really wish had been in book form instead of an “audio drama,” I can’t really recommend it. The audio aspects of the piece sucked. The narrator was dry and monotone through the entire book. She sounded like a female Ben Stein in Ferris Buller’s Day Off. I wasn’t really happy with any of the actors and their parts too. Klara’s accent sounded really fake, Torq was almost comically bad and Adamata sounded like he had emphysema. The audio aspects were as bad as the core story was good. There were many times I had to rewind and make sure I got a point or understood what was being said, and that got annoying fast. Unfortunately, the audio really brings down the overall quality of the story, and it’s a damn shame that Games Workshop will never release this as an actual short story to download, because it’s very hard to sit through the subpar acting and narration. As much as I liked the author and his characters, $14.99 to download this is a real waste of money. The audio drama is that badly done, and it’s an insult to the author’s time and energy.
So yes, good story but dreadfully bad performance. If you really liked the novella Assassinorum: Execution Force, you will also enjoy the story being told here. Unfortunately, you have to sit through seventy-five minutes of bad acting and narration to get it. I guess it just depends on your tolerance for that sort of thing.