Warhammer 40,000: Requiem Infernal
This piece will contain some minor spoilers for Requiem Infernal.
++The circle closes, then spins anew++
Rarely do I come across a Warhammer 40,000 story that makes its way into my top 10 Warhammer 40,000 book list. Requiem Infernal rockets straight into my top 10 with what is easily the most original take on the black library 40K canon in a long time, taking familiar concepts and pushing them through a filter of cosmic horror, body horror, and existentialist philosophical musings. I kid you not, as pretentious as that might sound, it’s an entirely accurate descriptor of what you’ll find inside. This story might not be for everyone, and that’s alright, but I honestly think that if you have a fondness for the unsettling and unknown, then this is for you.
Requiem Infernal is a tale of four parts, there’s our genesis point in Hive Carceri on the planet of Sarastus that sets up the story, there’s our exodus upon the ship, “Blood of Demeter,” where we will start to question our surroundings, there’s our arrival at the Sacrasta Vermillion that brings us to question what we know and finally there’s our acceptance of what is, and what will always be.
The narrative follows the journey of multiple characters from multiple factions, all of which have been shunted together through a twist of fate. Jonah Tythe, Asenath Hyades and Athanazius represent “The Lost,” who act as our main narrative lens. Jonah is a mysterious preacher of mysterious origins and circumstance, Asenath is a woman with a storied past in the ranks of the Adepta Sororitas who harbors many secrets and Athanazius is the unknown whose goals and purpose are hard for even he to fathom.
Commissar Lemarché and Toland Feizt of the The Exordio Void Breachers serve an important role too, one which shows us how the actions of a few can have a knock on effect that can destabilize the very foundations of reality itself while simultaneously making the reader question what needs to be done in spite of moral quandaries.
Asenath is unmistakably the main character of the story however and this is generally a good thing as her journal entries to establish themes and get a feel for the mood of the story. Peter Fehervari has crafted an incredibly intriguing world around her that, similar to with Jonah, spans many years and unfolds appropriately with almost perfect pacing. From her time as a line trooper of the Sisters of Battle, to the time she spends in dishonor as a Sister Repentia, Asenath must come to terms with corruption within, without and in waiting.
Violence runs through the heart of this story, be it to demonstrate cruelty or misplaced compassion. The violence isn’t always an overt occurrence though, often being something we stumble into unintentionally and have to confront in order to move forward and uncover the truth of what’s going on. Reality shifts and time rearranges itself, these violations in space can go unseen by most, but those who suffer such violations are often aware of subtle inaccuracies in the world around them. A murder that once occured can be undone, altered and result in the once-dead living happily for years, causing the world that the violated previously understood to change around them with their past being changed to impact their new present. It’s a bit difficult to wrap your head around at first, but this twisting and manipulation of time and the events that have transpired helps lead the reader down a twisting path of revelation that pulls the rug out from under your feet on more than one occasion.
The many twists and turns that Requiem Infernal throws at you are all well and truly earned, with characters offering up their inner thoughts to the reader, leaving no speculation on the part of their intent. This gives you a very firm reading on the characters, which more stories would benefit from doing. It’s these inner thoughts that give way to the subtle wrongness of the world and suddenly, you’ll start to notice how many Warhammer 40,000 conventions can be overlooked. Sister Celestian Indrik Thuriza for example never lifts the visor of her helmet, Asenath notices this and thinks, “‘Why does she always keep her face covered?… What is she hiding under there?’ Nothing felt right about her cradleworld anymore. Wherever she turned she sensed secrets, lies and the promise of corruption.”
When the time and space is being violated around you, when soldiers are suspected of rising from the dead and when something as innocuous as a fly can break the moral of elite soldiers in the presence of their Commissar, the idea of a person constantly hiding their face starts to niggle at you, and you do genuinely start to question what might be hiding being a visor. Before I got to see what Sister Indrick was concealing, my mind ran rampant with thoughts of the unknown and I was expecting treachery at every turn, such is the tension and suspense that Fehervari slowly builds like an ever pressurizing steam pipe, waiting to explode with terrifying potential.
From void-war to the infirmary of a ship, and from hospital ward to an incomprehensible un-world, Requiem Infernal brings with it a host of fully realized characters and brilliant realized narrative concepts that is a must read for any fan of Warhammer 40,000 that fancies something that’s unashamedly deeper than the average Black Library story. Fehervari is easily one of the best authors to have ever touched the Warhammer 40,000 property, and if you choose to dip your toes into the Dark Coil, you won’t regret it.