So far in the Horus Heresy series, the Imperial Fists haven’t had a huge amount of the spotlight. Presumably that’s going to change the closer things get to the Siege of Terra, but in the meantime there’s John French’s audio drama Templar to whet the appetite of 7th Legion fans. It follows First Captain Sigismund, leading a mission to cleanse an enclave of Word Bearers that still remains within the Solar system. As he faces the prospect of killing his own kind for the first time, he considers the nature of his duty in light of the changing face of the galaxy.
Told through the brutal, visceral assault on the Word Bearers, and a series of recalled duels and conversations, we see the character of Sigismund as he is at the start of the Heresy. Upright, dour, difficult to like, he lives a life bound by a strict adherence to duty, as represented by the chains that bind his sword to his arm. As we see him face various challenges to the way he sees himself and his place in the world, he seems to remain firm in his rigid belief that he would be nothing without duty, yet there’s a sense that things are going to change for Sigismund before the end of the war.
What John French has done with Templar is create a fascinating character study for someone who is surely going to become one of the key players in the story yet to be told. At once atmospheric and action packed, the combination of reflective dialogue and breathless action results in a balanced story that keeps the listener interested across its 70-minute length despite the simple, straightforward plot. It’s an exercise in clever storytelling, with vivid description, complemented by the audio soundscape, married to interesting, thought-provoking dialogue, and continues to show French’s strong grasp of both character and setting.
While some people might have preferred a full novel to explore Sigismund and the Fists (which they may still get at some point), fans of the audio format will find much to enjoy here. Although Sigismund is the protagonist in the story, it’s his interactions with the various other Space Marine characters that makes this so interesting, and these are brought to life magnificently by the voice cast and the sound work. Thoughtful, considered, detailed, it has all the hallmarks of John French’s excellent writing and is a fine addition to the Heresy series.