Review: Butcher's Nails / Author: Aaron Dembski-Bowden / Publisher: The Black Library / Release date: June 7th
Butcher’s Nails is The Black Library’s latest in a series of audio dramas that fill in the gaps between parts of its bestselling Horus Heresy series. Thus far, they’ve focused on major characters in the series that perhaps haven’t had as much exposure as the fans wished. In Butcher’s Nails, the focus is on Angron, leader of the World Eaters legion, demi-god and lunatic midget with a pair of chainsaw powered axes.
After all, every pantheon of superhumans needs a short tempered, not terribly tall type who also happens to be willing to commit incredible acts of violence, and though the series is pretty much about the acts of near god-like beings commanding legions of space knights, so far we’ve only seen a handful of these creatures. That said, it isn’t much of a surprise that he’s been underused; after all there’s only so many ways you can describe bloody murder, and over exposure risks the character swiftly becoming two-dimensional and dull.
The trick then, is to surround the diminutive mass-murderer with a cast of interesting characters; though Butcher’s Nails is at its heart the story of one very angry super-being dealing with its own destructive nature, it’s also a tale of epic space battles, betrayal and secrets. A combination of strong production values, skilled voice acting and a powerful script help to bring this dark tale to life. The gratuitous use of chainsaw sound effects doesn’t hurt either, though it really shines in its depiction of ship-to-ship combat, which is over-the-top, ridiculous and the sort of fun that we demand from these stories.
The Black Library has gotten very good at producing compelling audio dramas, and Butcher’s Nails is no different; this is essentially a short story narrated in a skilled and compelling way. That’s no bad thing, though it does make less of an audio drama and more like a very well presented audio book. It also suffers slightly from a limited library of backing music; players of the Dawn of War video games may be a little bit too familiar with the score, and though this isn’t terribly jarring, it would be nice to hear other tunes in the background.
Those unfamiliar with the story’s writer, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, may find this a useful place to find out more about his work; it’s a good example of his style presented in a clever way. It’s also a reasonable taster of the Horus Heresy in general, though it contains spoilers for other books in the series.