The first in Black Library’s Echoes of War collection, a week’s worth of new audio dramas, Parting of the Ways continues Chris Wraight’s fine work in chronicling the sagas of the Space Wolves, the Vlka Fenryka. Set post-Heresy but pre-current 40k, it offers a close look at Bjorn the Fell-Handed in the days leading up to his interment in the dreadnought with which he’s so closely associated. The character of Bjorn is well-established in the 40k lore, but since his inclusion in Dan Abnett’s Horus Heresy novel Prospero Burns we’ve seen him in a different light; impulsive, solitary, sullen, stubborn. After the release of a handful of short stories and quick reads, Parting of the Ways offers the most detailed look so far at this increasingly fleshed out and intriguing character.
Running to over 70 minutes, Wraight takes a measured approach to this story, taking his time to set it up and let it develop, and not rushing through events. It opens with an action-packed first scene as Bjorn battles a mighty daemon on his own, before slowing the pace as he drifts back to a time when the primarch Leman Russ still walked amongst the Space Wolves, and the events that led to Russ’s departure. The audio medium allows for some delightfully disgusting sound effects to add a different layer to action scenes, but it’s at its best when adding atmosphere to dialogue and more intimate moments, something that Wraight takes great advantage of for large stretches. As the story progresses, flicking between the present of Bjorn’s broken body and the past of his dream recollections, the world of the Fang and the realities of life among the Space Wolves are brought to vivid life through the characterful voice cast and the excellent foley work. Bjorn himself is revealed as a troubled, haunted soul, wounded at being left behind by Russ and loath to take up his father’s mantle of leadership.
Unlike many of the Black Library audio dramas, Parting of the Ways is very much the type of story that could have been told in novel form, as it’s dealing with both an established, much-loved character and an important event in the backstory of Warhammer 40,000. It’s perhaps a brave move for Black Library to tell this particular story in the audio medium, as there is still resistance among some fans who prefer to see everything in written format. For those few, presumably the script and/or prose version will be released at some point. For everyone else this is a great opportunity to see another fantastic part of the 40k background brought to life by one of Black Library’s best authors. It certainly sets a high standard for the next four stories in the Echoes of War collection.
Voiced by Gareth Armstrong, Robin Bowerman, Ian Brooker, Steve Conlin and Jonathan Keeble