In a relatively short space of time David Annandale has amassed a sizeable body of work for the Black Library, writing for the Imperial Guard, Black Dragons, Iron Hands and Grey Knights amongst others. One of his earliest contributions was a limited-edition Blood Angels novella in the Lords of the Space Marines series; soon to be re-released in non-limited format, Mephiston : Lord of Death takes a detailed look at the Chief Librarian of the Blood Angels, the only one of their number ever to overcome the Red Thirst. Following on directly from the short story Eclipse of Hope, this finds Mephiston accompanying 4th Company as they battle Chaos Space Marines, daemons and their very nature, drawn ever onwards towards the Pallevon system and whatever lies waiting for them there.
The Blood Angels are defined by the contrast between their angelic image and their hidden flaw, so for one of them to overcome this flaw should be cause for hope; Mephiston has returned to them as the embodiment of death however, a sinister antithesis of their angelic primarch. While the story takes place long after his rebirth on Armageddon, it revolves around a question that is still unanswered – when Calistarius died and was reborn as Mephiston, just who, or what returned in his place? David Annandale’s dark, horror-influenced writing style works perfectly for this kind of story, embracing and exploring the inherent darkness in Mephiston and using him to shine a light on the struggle that each Blood Angel faces.
As a novella-length story it focuses on a small period of time, almost a single action, but Annandale paces it well, finding a satisfying balance between Mephiston’s ongoing self-analysis and the events taking place as the story progresses. He really digs into the character, cleverly bringing in the shade of Calistarius to provide some context as he highlights how difficult it is for the Blood Angels to accept Mephiston, not to mention how conflicted Mephiston himself is about his place and purpose in the chapter. Don’t worry if this sounds too introverted and philosophical, however; there’s as much up-close, visceral action as you might expect from a 40k book, let alone one dealing with such a bloodthirsty chapter and such a powerful character.
For fans of the Blood Angels this is an absolute treat of a book, and it certainly bodes well for Annandale’s upcoming novella dealing with Chaplain Lemartes (although that looks to be only available via the Service Studs scheme at the moment). Even for those without a particular love of the sons of Sanguinius will find much to enjoy in this dark, blood-drenched and thoroughly satisfying story.