The concluding volume in Hinks’s Mephiston trilogy
Deep in Imperium Nihilus, Blood Angels Chief Librarian Mephiston and his comrades are drawn into battle with a cabal of Thousand Sons sorcerers – with worlds at stake and hidden truths threatening to overwhelm him, this is Mephiston’s darkest hour…
Having fought during the devastation of Baal, Mephiston and a cohort of Blood Angels are drawn by cryptic visions to a war-torn world on the cusp of the Great Rift. Here, the sorcerers of the Thousand Sons seek to unite nine Silver Towers and bring about a ritual that will empower their master, the daemon-primarch Magnus. The ritual must be prevented, lest the entire sub-sector be cast into Chaos. Mephiston faces a challenge like no other, of his strength and his will, confronting a hidden truth that threatens to expose him to his darkest fears.
City of Light brings Darius Hinks’s excellent Mephiston trilogy to a close. The series has been woven around the ongoing events in the WH40k story, pairing nicely with Guy Haley’s Blood Angels novels, which feature some of the same characters. Picking up the story shortly after the events of Haley’s Darkness in the Blood, the titular hero sets out to thwart a dire threat looming over Imperium Nihilus. It’s an enjoyable, action-packed novel.
It’s a little strange, this being book three in a trilogy, but book six in an ongoing Blood Angels story that connects across work by a couple of authors. While it’s not essential to read them in order, I would nevertheless recommend that you do — especially if you’re a completist. For example, in City of Light, Mephiston has already crossed the Rubicon Primaris: an event that is covered in all its bombastic detail in the aforementioned Darkness in the Blood. While Hinks gives readers all of the necessary details, I think there’s a benefit in reading the other books for the fuller picture.
As the novel starts, Mephiston and his fellow Librarians are still dealing with some of the fall-out from the tyranid ravaging of their planet, the arrival of the Primaris Marines, and Mephiston’s rebirth. Already a figure of suspicion and fear, his recent transformation has only increased the unease and distrust many have for Mephiston: he’s more powerful, even more inhuman, and more unknowable. His trusty second, Rhacelus returns — in some ways, he’s the personification of “not angry, just disappointed”, with much of his quiet exasperation directed towards Mephiston. Also returning is Antros, the younger librarian whose powers have grown considerably following some secret study and research.
Commander Dante gives Mephiston permission to follow a mission of his own, despite his concern that it takes his most potent weapon away from where the Blood Angels’ focus should be. Mephiston has been experiencing vivid visions, and a strange warp creature they have imprisoned has been feeding him cryptic prophesies and ill portents. It appears that Magnus, daemon primarch of the Thousand Sons, has returned to real space and might be engaged in a massive ritual that could have dire consequences for mankind and the Imperium.
Accompanied by his closest companions and a small force of Blood Angels, Mephiston sets out to find a way through the Great Rift. Over the course of their mission, they will come in contact with arrogant and tricksy Harlequins, Chaos cultists, and a fair few Tzeenchian forces (also very tricksy). Mephiston will also be forced to confront the darkness of his soul and purpose. As in the previous novels in the series, we also get to see some of his incredible powers — they’re very bombastic, and very Blood Angels.
‘It was only a matter of time,’ said Mephiston, circling the crouching xenos. ‘The Imperium of Mankind was always destined to–’
‘Destiny?’ hissed the Harlequin. ‘What do mon-keigh know of destiny?’ There was no longer any pretence at poetry. It snarled at Mephiston, spit flying from its mask. ‘You stamp around in your metal suits, blundering through places too complex for your simian minds to comprehend.’
City of Light is a pretty action-packed WH40k novel. There’s a little bit less introspection and examination of the nature of the Blood Angels and, in particular, Mephiston’s role — these topics have been pretty well-examined in the earlier books in the trilogy and also Haley’s novels. There is some, of course, but this book definitely felt faster-paced and more action-oriented than others. It’s a plot that’s a little tricky to discuss at length without spoiling it, but if you’re looking for a fast-paced grimdark sci-fi romp, then I think this should suit your needs rather nicely.
At one point, Mephiston finds himself on a daemon world, forced to take part in a challenge. At the time, though, his memory is compromised (won’t say why), and he acquires an unusual companion on his journey. He is also, at the time, exhibiting far more of the Blood Angels’ less… refined characteristics. That is, he is a bit psychotic and stab-first-ask-questions-later…
‘You don’t worship Khorne?’ asked Kataris, studying the piles of dead mutants.
Mephiston struggled to recall exactly who Khorne was. ‘Chaos?’
Kataris nodded. ‘The Blood God. Patron of…’ He nodded at the dismembered bodies. ‘Well, this.’
City of Light is a fine ending to this story. Hinks’s writing is good throughout, the action well-paced and written, with a few moments of lighter humour. Hinks keeps the descriptions in check, too — often, WH40k fiction can be over-stuffed when it comes to descriptions — and that’s no mean feat when Tzeentch is a core factor in the story. The supporting cast is interesting, and a few fan-favourites return. There’s one character whose fate seemed to come a little bit out of nowhere, but Hinks pulls it off quite well and it also fits in with the WH40k’s universe having no qualms about killing off good characters.
I have a feeling that it’s not the ending to the story, and I look forward to reading more about these characters.