|A striking depiction of Malcador, though I still picture him with a beard as his original artwork had.|
"An exciting mystery that delves into one of the Heresy's most mysterious characters, and shows us how little we really know about him." - Lord of the Night @ Talk Wargaming
It seemed so simple. A clandestine raid into Gyptus, a secret bunker complex housing something of value, a crate that must be recovered at all costs, orders from the highest authority. But what is the failure that has brought Imperial Army officer Khalid Hassan to the Imperial Palace, to the office of Malcador the Sigilite, the Regent of Terra. But there is far more to this meeting than there appears at first glance, for no simple failure would bring a man to meet the Emperor's right-hand, perhaps this meeting isn't about a failure at all. Perhaps there is a secret here, one that knowledge of will change Khalid Hassan's life forever.
The story in The Sigilite is a character-based exploration, the point of the story is to delve into Malcador and while revealing things about him such as exactly what he is doing to protect the Imperium in the Heresy, what he thinks of the Primarchs and the Heresy as a whole and a tantalizing hint as to the real meaning of the title Sigilite; it also makes the listener realise that despite all this there is still a lot that we do not know about the Sigilite such as the nature of his relationship with the Emperor, and one or two things that I won't mention for spoilers. The secret mission into Gyptus is a part of the story but it's treated more like a flashback event, one that isn't driving the story forward but rather has led to this moment and made the main story, which is Khalid Hassan meeting Malcador, possible. Admittedly it sounds like a very simple and boring set up for a story, one random man meeting one of the key players in the Heresy but Wraight uses this to explore Malcador and to reveal a little bit about the current situation on Terra, which culminates in an absolutely brilliant scene that was haunting and done with superb sound effects, narration, voice acting and prose. The Sigilite reminds me of Gav Thorpe's Angels of Darkness and in a way is the same kind of story, two men in a room and the results that follow from such a meeting, and like AoD I think The Sigilite really is a story that you may not think you'll enjoy as much as you do, but you will.
There are only two characters in this story. Malcador the Sigilite is the key character though not the protagonist, and I really like how Wraight has portrayed him. Malcador is a mix of contradictions, he is a cynical yet hopeful man, mistrusting of people but with belief in humanity, and in a shocking moment he actually, unlike the Emperor, is willing to admit that they made as many mistakes as the Traitors did and that they too are responsible for what is happening. I also found what he said about a particular Primarch to be eye-raising as I really didn't think he would feel that way, and it also makes what happened to that Primarch even sadder. One aspect to Malcador that I really liked was the reason he does what it is revealed he has been doing for the duration of the Crusade and the Heresy, it's surprising that he would do something like that and yet when he tells you why, you can't help but agree with him that what he's been doing is just as important as what the Emperor is doing. The other character Khalid Hassan is much simpler by comparison, a soldier and one whose devotion to duty makes him, in Malcador's words, "the ideal of humanity as envisioned by the Emperor." I found his opinion on the Space Marines, admittedly uninformed as he's never met one, to be interesting as he believes exactly what Horus and the Traitors think most humans do, that the Astartes are blunt weapons good only to die for the Imperium, and that mortal men and women are the real builders of the Imperium of Man.
As a character driven story there is little action in the audio-drama, only a few scenes in the flashbacks actually contain any battle and of those only one scene in particular involves the characters in an actual battle. But rather than quantity Wraight has gone for quality and made a very impressive, if short, scene that pits Hassan and his comamndos against a rather scary foe in tense conditions that the sound effects, and voice acting/narration makes even better by conveying that the characters are unnerved and the atmosphere of the scene making the listener feel unnerved too. So while there isn't a lot of action in the story, the few parts that do involve fighting are enjoyable and well-written and well-acted.
The pacing of the audio-drama is actually very well done, particularly in the use of flashbacks. The flashbacks occur at good times and the narration always makes it clear when you are about to leave the present-day Hassan and go into the past to see what led him to Malcador's office. The main story moves along nicely through conversations between Malcador and Khalid that are at first, simply breaking the ice which reveals a sense of humour in the Sigilite, but which then moves onto more serious matters until we get to the real purpose of the story and learn quite a bit about Malcador and the current situation on Terra. The voice-acting in the drama were good performances, I found Khalid Hassan's voice to be exactly what I expected from him based upon the ethnicity of his name, and Malcador's voice was wizened but strong and carried the emotions he was feeling to the listener very clearly. The narration was also very good, nicely capturing the splendour of the Imperial Palace and the solemnity of the catacombs even better, and carrying the gravity of certain scenes in the tone of his voice.
Now for my favourite quote, I think it has to be this one for the sheer magnitude of it and the horror that comes when you really think about this scene and everything that it means,
"No war has ever been more savage, and yet it's existence will never be known."
The ending is what you would come to expect from the story, and truthfully this isn't a story about beginnings and endings. It's a character exploration and it ends once we learn the last thing this story can tell us about Malcador, and revealing another addition to the force that Malcador has been building throughout the series. But the drama does finish in a good place, where the listener has learned more about Malcador than everything else in the Horus Heresy put together and seen a glimpse of what is happening on Terra while the rest of the galaxy burns in Horus's rebellion. I really liked the note that the story ended on, hinting at something that Malcador knows is coming and we know is coming, and exactly how Malcador feels about it.
For an enjoyable and very revealing story that was fun to listen to the entire way through I give The Sigilite a score of 8.4/10. Any Horus Heresy fan should be able to enjoy this audio, especially those who prefer character driven stories over stories revolving around battles and devastation. However if you want an action-packed audio, look elsewhere because that is not what The Sigilite is about. I would also urge anyone who is interested in The Sigilite to listen to it in the original audio format, there is no way the prose version will be able to match the audio. Wraight has, in my opinion, written one of the best Horus Heresy audios yet and I would very much like to see more of his Malcador, which I suspect we will in his forthcoming Heresy novel Scars, which I am now looking forward to even more having gotten another taste of Wraight's prose in the Horus Heresy.
That's it for this review. Thanks for reading, until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!