In a brave move that will gain approval and derision in equal measures from different elements of their fanbase, Black Library have decided to tell the events of the Battle of Tallarn across not just multiple releases but multiple formats. Having told the main body of the story in his novellas Tallarn : Executioner and Tallarn : Ironclad, John French has also contributed an audio drama in the shape of The Eagle’s Talon, available as a standalone MP3 or soon to be packaged with David Annandale’s Iron Corpses on audio CD. Told largely via found footage-esque snippets of vox transmissions, it follows a handful of Imperial Fists legionaries attempting to take control of a vast traitor transport vessel.
If it was brave to use audio dramas to tell parts of the Tallarn story, it was braver still to release this, such an unconventional story. It’s a completely new style of storytelling, for Black Library at least, but it works phenomenally well. Opening with a frantic, can’t-find-your-feet barrage of sensory overload, it puts you right in the thick of a desperate, close-quarters battle before pulling back and setting the scene for what’s to come. A studious, thoughtful narrator punctuates the vox-snippets with insights and recommendations for an unknown recipient, framing the narrative and providing brief moments of respite from the breathless, tense story unfolding onboard the Eagle’s Talon.
The absence of a narrator for large parts of the story helps to keep the listener absorbed, as so much has to be told through the soundscape and the dialogue, while using the device of vox excerpts from disparate squads means that there’s a palpable sense of tension with each squad leader relying on the others to complete their parts of the mission. When the narrator is involved it’s for short moments that represent the loading of new vox recordings, accompanied by the dry, robotic tones of a servitor repeating Mechanicum axioms, helping to keep the story moving along quickly and occasionally filling in the odd blank.
This kind of storytelling is exactly what the audio drama format is intended for, and it’s the sort of thing Black Library will hopefully do more of in future. Not necessarily found footage-style releases, but just adventurous, clever storytelling that makes the most of the strengths that audio has as a format. The more immersive an audio drama can be the more it engages with the listener, something that The Eagle’s Talon does incredibly well. It’s captivating stuff listening to this, and it’s safe to say that this is easily amongst the very best of the Black Library audios so far, if not actually the best yet.