The Voices of Invigilata

“Greetings, Astartes”.

The wobbling, reverberating quality of the Titan machine’s speakers, represented in the moving calligraphy style also gives birth to a voice layered with feminine welcome and basso impression.

Waste no time on pleasantries. Stormherald wakes, and soon I must walk. Speak”.

I have never heard a quality quite like it, how effectively a character’s dialogue conveys confusion, removal from humanity, and the turn of fragility being unsettling and illusory at once.

“…kkk. Speak. Speak. Speak”.

For several seconds as the response continues the human tone echoes, and I notice how to my ear it is this voice of the two, less loud, less automated and stark but winning the conflict in my ear to be the voice I recognise.

“Do you come to petition me for my portion of mighty Invigilata?”

It is worth noting in particular the voice effect for Richard Boylan’s project, not present in the typical audiobook but a touch adopted by many other channels taking a hand at audial experimentation. Explain what the project is, that it added versatility to the literature penned by ADB, as well as the performance of Jonathan Keeble. The popular series is an interesting blend then, of three content creators at once, more if one considers the mechanical voice and feminine voice of Zarha Mancion. A gestalt, fitting considering the topic of this article.

The combination of many characters, many concepts, and mediums is expressed artistically with this creative decision.

“But you have not yet completed your intended duty Astartes.”

“Is that so?”

“We are not face to face.”

The project is an abridged adaptation of the Aaron Demski-Bowden novel, integrating what is at first an entirely black and white moving set of sketches, something difficult to articulate in words. The art style shifts and warps seamlessly with the narration, before the latter parts being entirely 3D modelled with colour, and the finale returning to the same no doubt very painstaking style begun at the start. Elements of the sound design, such as adding a Gregorian choir at the start of Part 2 signify Boylan’s playing with the ludonarrative, amplifying the immersion within the world by audial as much as visual storytelling. A touch I only realised latter that was added, and not part of the original audiobook was the enhancement of the Astartes voices when helmeted, punctuating either their pensive discussions, or moments of fevered rage. And most interesting for me personally; the reimagining of Princeps Zarha’s voice as being simultaneously that of a female voice actor overlayed with an imposing mechanical monotone.

“You have very kind eyes. What is your name?”

Funny how I pick out the female voice while they are echoing, simultaneous. It is certainly a unique merit one can derive of audiobooks as the sounds of dialogue and ambience are delivered to the ears. Fascinating. Stormherald’s voice softens and is deliberately overwhelmed, which prose conveys a little better I think. Yet our ears, our thoughts, attentions and possibly even personalities affect our reading of a story, ‘reading’ itself a subjective process and audibly or visually a subjective medium.

“I am no fool. I know how rare it is for a Chaplain to reveal his human features to one not of his brotherhood. Ask what you came to ask and I will answer.”

The dichotomy is fantastic, both in power and contrast. The gigantic machine, against the human moulded into possessing gigantism. The ‘Astartes’, an all-male organisation (named after a female divinity) allying itself with a ‘normal’ woman suspended and contained within the settlement-sized machine. The aesthetic is so powerful ADB has utilised it several times, each time with memorable casts and a different element of exploration. Grimaldus and Zarha affirming the bond of martial duty and death. Octavia the Navigator and Talos Valcoran straining the nature of slavery, predestination and an end to things. Telemachon’s beautiful accounting of the Naiad to The Anamnesis, presenting the buried honour and nascent bonds of love and honour to the lost of the reborn Black Legion. The black armoured male and machine female, each having cut and carved their humanity in exchange for power, yet grasping in their altered lives for unlikely companions to share their existence with.

These experiments, this voice is a curiosity which draws people. It builds the novel’s central theme of amassing morale and the conviction to fight, understanding amidst apparent doom and lack of glory that we are many and there is duty and dignity defending each other.

“Invigilata…will walk”.

The orchestral swell sweeps up the audience, in tandem with the new war machine striding throughout a highway. The effect of this speech, of this discussion elevates an already excellent novel and builds up anticipation as much as any series I have seen.


– Boylan, R. ‘HELSREACH – Part 5 – A Warhammer 40k Story’. Available at: [Accessed 5/02/23].

Disclaimer: Note the speech above is from the Black Library Novel ‘Helsreach’ by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, and as such belongs to all respective copyright holders.’ All Black Library and Warhammer material is the intellectual property of Games Workshop. I do not own the rights or have any association to the property and literature, and only make this article and recommendation as an individual consumer.

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