Monday, July 3, 2017

REVIEW: Scions of Elysia

One of the very entertaining audio dramas from Black Library, Scions of Elysia by Chris Dow focuses on the Elysian Drop Troops, but the story has a unique twist that puts a fresh spin on what otherwise could have been a very by the books tale.

First off, just like every other Black Library audio drama, the acting, music, and effects on this are perfect. I know I say it in every review, but I just want to make sure that people who haven't read my past reviews realize how well made these are. It's not just an audio book, it's more like a TV show or a movie with the picture turned off. Also, I have listened to so many of these now that when I'm reading a Black Library novel I often hear the narration or characters voices as these actor's voices in my head. John Banks has been in so many audio dramas that I can recognize his voice anywhere. 

Scions of Elysia opens up with an interrogation of one of our main characters, Adullam, by a Commissar. This acts as a framing device, essentially starting at the end of our story and flashing back to it in chunks. We know from the start that Adullam is in trouble with his own regiment, and he doesn't seem to believe the punishment he's receiving is worth it. As we start flashing back to the events that led up to this predicerment we learn a bit more about the Elysians. Their home system isn't entirely secure, and they have faced a generations long problem with pirates. This is perfectly fitting for their regiment's character, since they are drop troops and are all about aerial combat. They are basically the Navy Seals of the Astra Militarum. One of the pirate families has started causing a bit too much trouble and the 158th Elysian are recalled to deal with it. 

Unfortunately for them they have been stuck with a fresh to the war Captain in the form of Captain Bandrac. He's everything you would hate in a commanding officer. A nobel from birth, he's arrogant, incompetent, and looks down on his men with disdain. To him they are merely the tools he needs to use for his own personal glory. Adullam's sergeant, Zachariah, immediately has a problem with the Captain and the two continuously butt heads. When Bandrec tells them his plan for the combat drop, a plan that is inherently unnecessarily dangerous and stupid, Zachariah vehemently objects but is, of course, overruled. Intending to fully ignore his Captain's orders for the safety of his men, he finds that the decision has been taken out of his hands. What follows is a series of military blunders laid squarely at the feet of Bandrec, blunders that end up putting the Captain himself in danger. 

While the story itself isn't anything new, incompetent military leader endangers his men's lives and tries to pass the buck, the way in which it is told is thoroughly entertaining. By flashing back and forth from the main story in the past to the interrogation in the present, you are constantly left wondering what led to Adullam's imprisonment. You're also left feeling frustrated and angry at Bendrac's actions and the helplessness that the men under his command feel, especially in a system like the Astra Militarum which executes people for disobeying orders. I wasn't sure I was going to like this audio drama at first, but by the end of it I really enjoyed it. It's a fun, self contained little story that shines a light on an interesting but underdeveloped regiment while also giving us something different than the standard Imperium vs Chaos gun fight. 

If you're a fan of the Astra Militarum I would recommend giving this a listen. It's also just plain good military fiction since it's just regular men vs regular men vs the uncaring system. This is all mixed up with some cool sci-fi moments as well such as floating "islands" around a gas giant, jump packs, and gravity tunnels, and of course, great acting. There was never any point during this where I was bored or lost interest. Up until the very last moment of the drama I was riveted by finding out what comes next and unravelling the mystery.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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