A recent trend in Black Library’s releases is for a linked audio drama to accompany a novel, novella or short story – in this case Joe Parrino’s novella Assassinorum : Execution Force is accompanied by The Emperor’s Judgement, a 75-minute audio drama centered around Klara Rhasc, the Callidus assassin from the novella. A direct prequel to the novella, this sees Rhasc tracking down a crazed Eversor assassin who beat her to a target and took the kill for himself. With new mission parameters and no time to lose she must find a way to subdue the Eversor while avoiding death at his hands.
It’s a great premise for a story, seeing two Imperial Assassins going head to head, and as expected there’s plenty of action as they face off and then lock horns in combat. It’s nice to see the exploration of something that’s not really been shown before, as is often the case the audio format being the one used to explore unusual stories or different angles. Unfortunately it does feel as though the story is stretched out a bit too long, and could have benefited from being maybe 15 minutes shorter. As with the novella, there’s a slightly strange subplot involving a Vindicare assassin that still isn’t explained, yet seems to feature quite heavily. While it might yet be explained in a further release, for the time being it’s a puzzling inclusion, and one that feels unresolved.
Largely the voice work is good, as usual, with the voice of the Eversor particularly effective – all slurred words and gritted teeth, it’s wonderfully unhinged-sounding. Unusually for Black Library audios it’s narrated by a woman, which makes plenty of sense with a Callidus as the protagonist, and makes a nice change from the usual deep and portentous male narration. Somehow it doesn’t always work though, perhaps due to the narrator’s relative unfamiliarity with the source material, and at times it does sound as though she’s struggling to make some of the more in-universe language flow properly. That being said, overall it comes across as fresh and immersive, with some spectacularly gruesome sound work deployed to good effect.
As a standalone piece this is pretty solid – an interesting look into the world of the Imperial Assassins, with a simple but enjoyable story. As part of the wider Assassinorum story (along with the board game and the Execution Force novella) it does a good job of setting the scene and expanding the context of the whole thing, and while it still feels as though something is missing from the overall arc this is nonetheless a worthwhile addition.