An adventure full of the stuff nightmares are made of.

Infamous Reign by Steve McHugh (book cover)Infamous Reign fills in another chapter from the past of Nathaniel Garrett, hero of McHugh’s Hellequin Chronicles which so far include novels Crimes against Magic and Born of Hatred. While the novels are principally set in the present day, the centuries old sorcerer’s past, and his involvement in historical events is an integral part of the world McHugh creates.

Set 70 years or so after events covered in Crimes Against Magic, Infamous Reign is McHugh’s fantasy spin on the legend of “the princes in the tower”, the young royal heirs historically rumoured to have been murdered by their uncle, Richard III. As a representative of Avalon, Nathaniel Garrett is sent to investigate the disappearance of the two princes. He quickly uncovers a plot to steal the princes away and use them to start a war, but as he delves deeper it seems an even more insidious motive is at work. Along the way a cast of nightmarish characters make things interesting; a changeling who sucks away people’s features leaving them smooth bags of flesh, psychopathic half-spider half-human monsters and giant creatures from the depths of the sea!

The novella feels faster paced and less detailed than McHugh’s longer work. Details are sketched rather than painted, except when it comes to the fantasy elements. This perhaps suggests the author is less confident with his historical setting than the elements from his own imagination. That said, better to leave out detail you’re uncertain about than present something historically incongruous. The result is not detrimental to the story which focuses on the action, and action is most definitely the author’s strong point.

McHugh’s other work, which fits chronologically both before and after the events of the novella does somewhat limit what he can do with the character. As such there’s no sense of a character journey for Nate Garrett in this instalment, but the shorter format is carried by a plot driven story alone quite successfully. Kudos to McHugh for using the novella format to flesh out his universe this way, rather than trying to eek out the plot into a full novel.

All in all, a fast paced, action driven read packed full of dark horror getting its arse kicked by dark heroes. Excellent.