Renegades of Elysia – Chris Dows

The second instalment of Chris Dows’ three-part Elysian Drop Troops audio drama series, Renegades of Elysia follows on from Scions of Elysia and continues the story of Sergeant Zachariah and the 158th Elysians. This time around Zachariah is ordered by the power-hungry Captain Bandrac to ramp up the speed and intensity of the regiment’s training, in order to recover from losses incurred in the previous mission. After clashing with Bandrac over supposed accidents during training, Zachariah and Adullam are tasked with leading an inexperienced squad of Elysians on a reconnaissance mission with little chance of success or survival.

The same structure applies here as in Scions of Elysia; the ongoing narrative is related by a member of the 158th being interrogated by the Commissariat, who’s digging for dirt on Zachariah [for spoilerific reasons I won’t mention]. This time, however, instead of Adullam it’s Trooper Uldek being interrogated, a young Elysian whose first mission was the disastrous reconnaissance. Where Adullam was bullish and determined, Uldek’s confidence is more easily undermined by the sneering, intimidating Commissar, who easily dismisses Uldek’s protestations of Zachariah’s innocence while highlighting Uldek’s own, unusual history. Between the two narratives things are clearly building up a head of steam, and presumably the third and final instalment will see Zachariah himself take centre stage.

Until then we continue to see him from a remove, defended by most of his fellow Elysians (although not the unpleasant Bandrac) and demonised by his accuser. As with Scions there’s just about enough here for it to work on its own – again not as much explosive high-altitude excitement as you’d expect, but still plenty to enjoy – but it definitely works best when taken as part of a series. We get less of the vile, spiteful Bandrac (voiced with gusto by Steve Conlin) and more of Commissar Mastroval (played by Jonathan Keeble), who’s beautifully written to be genuinely unpleasant…but recognisably still doing his duty. Cliff Chapman and Stephen Perring return as Adullam and Zachariah, while under the reliable influence of Matt Renshaw and Howard Carter the overall sound design is as immersive as you’d expect.

The concept of focusing on a different character in each instalment works really well, extending the story beyond a single audio drama in a way we haven’t really seen before, even if it’s slightly at the cost of each individual part. In this instalment especially, Dows has licence to really explore the way Mastroval pushes and digs to get answers, introducing a genuine element of doubt to proceedings. There’s still action aplenty, and some interesting glimpses of Elysian politics and training methods, but the ongoing intrigue – and the way it’s affecting the Elysians – is what makes this so interesting.

If you haven’t read it already, click here to check out my review of the first part in this series – Scions of Elysia.

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