A companion piece to Eye of Night, part of Black Library’s Audio Week 2017, Gav Thorpe’s Hand of Darkness is an hour-long audio drama featuring the debut appearance of the Ynnari in a Black Library story, and is the second story to be set in the post-Gathering Storm 40k. This time it sees Roboute Guilliman persuading Eldrad Ulthran and Yvraine to help him by retrieving the Hand of Darkness, gifted by Abaddon to the daemon primarch Mortarion and now residing on the Plague Planet. To find it they seek knowledge from the Black Library before entering the Garden of Nurgle itself.
Structured similarly to Eye of Night, in three roughly equal parts available individually or via a collection, it’s essentially a very similar premise – Guilliman is after an artefact that the bad guys possess, so he sends someone to get it. It’s far from a rehashing of the same story though, not least because Yvraine – the main protagonist – is a very different proposition to Greyfax. Where the Inquisitor is domineering and forceful, Yvraine feels much less in control of events, slightly exasperated by the actions of her peers, quick to temper despite being imbued with the cold of her god. Her journey is less about testing her principles and more about getting a job done for the benefit of the Eldar’s usual long game.
Arguably a little less individually character driven than Eye of Night, this explores the overall character of the Eldar (should that be Ynnari now? Confused.) through a larger supporting cast, which contributes to a grander sense of scale to the story. Whole armies make an appearance, while the locations on offer include a pocket dimension, a fragment of the Realm of Chaos, and even a tantalisingly brief visit to the Black Library itself. It’s all brought to life in magnificent fashion by the audio elements that really do add a phenomenal amount of depth to the storytelling. It’s definitely best listened to on decent headphones, to get the best out of the detailed, vivid soundscapes.
As always the voice cast also does sterling work, Jonathan Keeble’s depiction of Guilliman continuing to impress particularly, but every one of them delivering excellent performances. Once again though, the story that lies behind the acting and the SFX is up to the job of keeping the listener’s interest so there’s depth as well as surface detail. Gav seems to be having fun exploring the Eldar side of the story, and there are some more tantalising hints here as to what’s going on elsewhere in the galaxy at the bleeding edge of 40k. The final third is perhaps a touch hurried, but overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable hour of audio that, taken in conjunction with Eye of Night, bodes well for what’s to come in 40k.