Series: Our Martyred Lady (#1-4)
Genre: Grimdark SF
Publisher: Black Library
Runtime: 4hrs 15mins
Cast: Catherine Tate, Emma Gregory, Cliff Chapman, Steve Conlin, Andrew Fettes, Matthew Hunt, Toby Longworth, Carla Mendonca, Richard Reed, David Sibley, Ramon Tikram, Jo Woodcock
The Imperium of Man is facing a time of great upheaval. As heresy and betrayal run rampant, can inquisitor Greyfax and the immortal Saint Celestine put aside their disputes and prevent the Imperium falling into even deeper darkness?
This four-part audio series is undoubtedly the most lavish piece Black Library have ever put out. Leaving aside the sprawling cast of BL regular voice actors and special guests for the time being, this is physically a thing of beauty. Unless you opt for digital, you can only get the series as a boxed set, complete with interior artwork, behind the scenes photos and a full CD of special features. Of course this is a little more costly than some may like, but in my opinion it’s completely justified. If you’re a collector, physical is definitely the way to go.
As you might expect from a four-hour epic, Our Martyred Lady gets off to a something of a slow start. With so many voices to keep track of and a strong orchestral score, it’s a little hard to get into at first. Indeed, for the first CD I wasn’t convinced I’d enjoy the series. However, the remaining parts more than pick up the pace, proceeding quickly toward a thrilling climax.
As usual, Black Library have assembled an incredible cast. Regular actors such as Toby Longworth and Jo Woodcock are on stellar form as always, and Emma Gregory pulls off a fantastic role as the titular Saint Celestine, absolutely selling both the faith and the sorrow her duty to the God-Emperor requires. But the big name here is undoubtedly Catherine Tate. Having a comedian in such a grim setting seems odd at first, although Tate does have the Sci-Fi experience of Doctor Who under her belt. For all that the casting surprised me, however, I needn’t have doubted. Tate has the sketch comedian’s gift for cementing a character’s place with just a few quick lines of dialogue. Her Greyfax is a sniping one, uniquely Tate’s, but never feeling out of place.
If you’re new to Black Library, or the 40k universe in general, this may not be the best place to start. There is a lot of lore contained herein, and the more you understand the better you will enjoy the end product. But if you’re already invested in the setting, then you will have a lot to enjoy here. Controversial as recent developments in the setting have been, Our Martyred Lady makes the most of the destruction of Cadia, the rise of the Primaris, and the ongoing schism in the grim, dark future of the forty-first millennium. The dread and the paranoia are palpable, and this is a spy thriller as much as it is a typical 40k war story.
Despite a slow start and a lore-heavy nature, Our Martyred Lady is a landmark achievement. There’s no word yet on further instalments, but if and when they come, I’ll be more than happy to add them to the shelf.