Feature Image: Yana Vaseva https://40k.gallery/sister-hospitaller-gwyn/
Set in an obscure corner of the 40k universe, Requiem Infernal is my first encounter with Peter Fehervari and his works documenting the fates of those that live in this curious sector. Without giving too much away, Requiem Infernal begins with the Hospitaller Asenath Hyades arriving on Vytarn to investigate her former sisters, The Order of the Last Candle.
Part of the Black Library’s Warhammer Horror collection, Fehervari has crafted something special here. This is not a tale of battles and bolters but one of introspection and personal turmoil. That is not to say that the book is without action, Fehervari has a real knack for scenes that grab your mind’s eye and force you to gaze mentally rendered images that would make Hieronymus Bosch nervous.
What’s more, he is able to conjure these vivid scenes amid passages that are abstract and almost dreamlike, keeping you focussed on the present even as the past and future are kept mysterious.
The planet on which the story is set is an interesting one and almost a character in its own right. Covered by stormy seas aggravated by the sector’s thin barrier between the warp and reality, the planet only contains two locations. Small port and the Koronatus ring. The port is the only access point between the planet and offworld. After landing at the port, travellers must make a must make their pilgrimmage by ship across the Sea of Souls to Vytarn’s only city, The Koronatus ring. A collection of 7 spires around a larger central spire called the perihelion it is home to a number of Imperial organisations, each with a base in the smaller spires. The first act is largely occupied by the journey and very much reminded me of Dracula’s journey to England in it’s gothic tone and might be the first time I’ve seen boats mentioned in the grim darkness of the far future.
Asenath and the other main protagonists are given lots of small emotions whether of simple annoyance, uncertainty or even happiness that makes them that much more sympathetic to the reader. For all the other worldly terrors, mysterious sects and grim fantasy of it all, the story revolves around our protagonists trying to make sense of themselves as much as the world around them. Their internal conflicts being shaped by and subsequently shaping the grim darkness that surrounds them.
There is also a great deal of meta-fiction at play within Requiem Infernal both in how some characters cynically reflect on the world in which they find themselves and structurally with the use of written reports and letters as a way of indirectly addressing the reader, as the author presses his face against the 4th wall.
“Rousing words could work miracles upon common men. That was how the Imperium duped millions into pointless deaths every day.”
Having not realised that Requiem Infernal sat at the centre of a nexus of interlinked works by Peter Fehervari, I’m excited to start exploring the rest. Peter himself seems active within discussions of his work talking about the themes he finds interesting and his unique approach to the world of 40k. As someone that finished the book and then rushed online to read discussions about it, it was interesting to find conversations that learn far more toward thematic analysis and interpretation. A refreshing change from the detailed oriented arguments over the correct colour of lasgun shots and how many knees a Space Marine has that are often found on lore forums.
It stands out, not just as a great Black Library book but as a great read in general. If like me, most of your experiences of the Black Libary have left you a little cold then perhaps this is the book for you. That is not to say it separates itself apart from the rest of 40k entirely, but it is much subtler in it’s references allowing you to realise for yourself what is going on rather than bashing you over the head with exposition and warhammer terminology.
Requiem Infernal might be my favourite interpretation of the grim darkness of the future so far. It avoids the glee with which some stories seem to approach the idea of “grim dark”, revelling in slaughter that is somehow a necessary evil of the Imperium with monologues about how it’s awful but has to be done. Worse still are the stories that simply end in despair, throwing their protagonists away to make the point about the futility of it all. Instead Requiem presents satisfying personal journeys amidst the horrors that infest the Warhammer universe, whether they’re the unknowable manifestations of the warp or the sickly evils the Imperial creed instills in its followers. .
Thanks for reading. If you’d prefer your daemons less meta-physical and more easily bashed with a force sword, then check out Nevi’s review of Grey Knights: True Name. Alternatively, I recently review the very entertaining stabbing simulator Hellish Quart.
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