Follow TV Tropes

Following

Literature / Inquisition War

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/9781844169245_6.jpg
Reissue cover showing inquisitor Jaq Draco
Advertisement:

Inquisition War is a trilogy of novels — Inquisitor (later renamed Draco), Harlequin and Chaos Child — set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, written by Ian Watson (who wrote the story for A.I.: Artificial Intelligence). The novels were written and published in the 1990s, so they utilize older lore that has since fallen out of continuity. According to an interview with Ian, a fourth novel was planned but never got beyond the concept stage.

The trilogy revolves around Inquisitor Jaq Draco of the Ordo Malleus, and his band of acolytes, the most prominent two being Grimm the Squat and Meh'lindi, an Assassin of the Callidus Temple — both characters had previously appeared in short stories written by Ian Watson (Grimm as a side-character in the story Warped Stars and Meh'lindi as the protagonist of The Alien Beast Within), both of which appeared in the anthology book Deathwing. The series focuses on their adventures as they become caught up in a great conspiracy, one that seems to threaten the entirety of the Imperium itself.

Advertisement:


This series provides examples of:

  • Always Someone Better: Meh'lindi is an incredibly skilled combatant, but even she proves no match for Jain Zar.
  • Anti-Hero: Despite fighting to save humanity, Jaq is not a conventional hero by any measure. Indeed, his brutal decisions and willingness to engage in "ends justify the means" behavior to pursue his own goal ultimately sees him slip into, perhaps, Villain Protagonist status by the third novel.
  • Anyone Can Die: Do not get attached to any of the characters in these books.
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: Ian sure loves unusual words. Some examples include: raffish (unconventional and slightly disreputable, especially in an attractive way), propinquity (nearness, proximity, similarity, affiliation), punctilious (meticulous, fastidious, finicky, nitpicky), coccyx (tailbone), atrabilious (melancholy or irritable), curlicue (decorative curl or twist), obloquy (strong public condemnation), susurrus (a whispering or rustling sound), farrago (a confused mixture), crepuscular (relating to twilight), orison (prayer).
  • Advertisement:
  • Badass Normal: Unlike the other members of his Jaq's retinue, Grimm has no psychic powers, no special combat training, no mutant powers or arcane equipment, but can still hold his own in a fight. And he's the only member of the retinue who survives the trilogy with his body and mind intact. Jaq lampshades this, warning the reader at the very beginning of the trilogy that Grimm is not to mocked, for he is far more capable than he appears.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Meh'lindi's ability to assume the form of a genestealer hybrid is unique amongst the Callidus of the time, but it required extensive surgical alterations and it makes it impossible for her to assume any other form.
    • Lamia has powerful Psychic Powers that make her The Pornomancer, as she can project erotic visions and raw lust into the minds of others, but she herself is blind and physically incapable of conventional intercourse. Jaq even notes to himself that she must be boiling with pent-up libido.
  • Body Horror: The Slaanesh-worshiping renegades are described in a manner that makes it clear how simultaneously erotic and yet disgusting they are, including a faux-Daemonette, a hermaphrodite with one crab-like pincer, a humanoid goat, and a woman with the head of a fly and a distended, ovipositor-like vagina.
  • Boom, Headshot!: An Inquisitor gets his head blow off by a plasma pistol in the prologue of Harlequin.
  • Bullet Catch: At one point Meh'lindi catches a flechette dart in her hand! It does hurt her, though, but her Assassin training allows her to block out the pain.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Meh'lindi has three single-shot digital weapons — a laser, a flamer, and a needler. The flamer and needler are used, but the laser almost until the end of the trilogy when the insane Meh'lindi uses it to obliterate Jaq's hand.
  • City Planet: Terra is described as a planet-spanning hive city.
  • Cool Guns: Jaq owns a pair of ancient, ornate bolt weapons, a bolter and a bolt pistol, called Emperor's Mercy and Emperor's Peace, respectively (he later gives the pistol to Grimm). It's not actually stated whether they're any better than ordinary weapons of their type, but they sure look cool.
  • Cool Starship: Jaq's ship, the Tormentum Malorum, is a special-purpose spacecraft capable of atmospheric operations, while it is also equipped with both a sub-light Plasma Drive and a Warp-Drive for deep space travel. The vessel is very fast, sleek and streamlined, and its Warp vanes were camouflaged as wings, so that onlookers would not realise that the vessel was actually an unusually small starship. The ship is difficult to detect, and is usually further shielded by Draco's psychic veiling. It is well-stocked with high-quality supplies and exotic weapons. Sadly, Jaq is forced to abandon it to the Eldar in Harlequin.
  • The Corrupter: Zephro Carnelian tries to convert Jaq Draco to his cause, serving the Ordo Hydra. He is actually The Mole, and his real goal is to get Jaq possessed by a daemon, so he can — with Eldar assistance — throw off the possession and become an Illuminatus.
  • Covers Always Lie: The original cover of Inquisitor shows Jaq in Terminator Armour, apparently leading an army composed of various Imperial troops. He is flanked by a Navigator (presumably Googol), a male Assassin, some Squats (red-beared Grimm is not among them), and someone who looks a lot like Zephro Carnelian. This never happens in any of the novels. The only time he is seen wearing Terminator Armour is in a brief vision in Harlequin. Also, he uses a Force Rod in the novel, not the sword seen on the cover.
  • Crisis of Faith: Jaq's faith is increasingly whittled away over the course of the trilogy, as everything he had ever or does come to believe in ultimately turns out to be for naught.
    • At the end of Inquisitor, he learns from meeting his divine ruler that the God-Emperor has been reduced to little more than a conclave of ranting, rambling, squabbling splinter-personas, each of them utterly raving mad.
    • By the end of Harlequin, he has lost his faith in the Ordo Hydra, whom he has been told will ultimately destroy the universe in their madly ambitious plan to forcibly unite humanity's collective psyche.
    • By the end of Chaos Child, his faith in the Illuminati and the Numen, the fledgling God of Humanity and Hope, has been shattered, not that he could really bring himself to believe in it in the first place. And then he dies.
  • Durable Deathtrap: Discussed by Jaq and his retinue as they exit a Webway portal. While they're first alarmed by what appear to be deadly traps all around the portal, they soon realize the portal hasn't been used for centuries, so the traps are likely all rusted useless. They're right.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Watson puts a lot of effort into showing just how removed the moral values of even the supposed "good guys" are from ours: concepts such as "human rights" or "progress" are completely alien to someone living in the 41st millennium; individualism is frowned upon, and superstition runs rife.
    • An Inquisition report on a world where a rebellion has broken out reports the following "signs of laxity" on part of the authorities: charity towards beggars, peace and prosperity, regulations for the benevolent conduct of brothels, abolition of laws allowing torture of subjects, and an ever-rising standard of quisine.
  • Downer Ending: In true Warhammer fashion, the ending is extremely bleak. Jaq revives his lover, Meh'lindi, by calling her soul back from the Warp and causing it to possess the body of Rakel, a female thief he had basically kidnapped and forcibly remolded into her physical likeness. Her death has driven Meh'lindi mad, though, so she cripples Jaq and then flees into the Webway to an uncertain fate. Driven mad with grief, Jaq spews blasphemies to the Space Marine, Lex, and is fatally shot. Afterwards, Grimm points out that Jaq had faked being possessed to get Lex to kill him, rather than live on without Meh'lindi. And then it turns out that dying at this spot has bound Jaq's soul to the Webway, so he will exist here forever... but never again be able to physically interact with the material world.
  • Dwindling Party: In Harlequin, the Imperial Fists squad accompanying Draco first loses several Marines when they briefly exit the Webway and emerge onto a Chaos-held world. Once they return, the survivors are picked off one by one by Jain Zar, who then also kills Meh'lindi. Finally, Lex is forced to kill Azul Petrov after the navigator is driven mad by the Book of Rhana Dandra.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The trilogy was written when Warhammer 40,000 was in its 1st and early 2nd editions, and so there are various bits of lore that are no longer canonical. Most prominently, the Squats, the Illuminati, the Sensei and the Star Child. There are at least two, possible three versions of the trilogy as a result. The first version, and a reprinted version that tries to make things a little more in-line with contemporary lore (mostly by replacing Grimm the Squat with a Techpriest named Grill). There's also possibly an Updated Re-release of the original version that simply expands the pre-prologue with notes that Jaq's story takes place over 1200 years before the Imperial "present day", and that the Squats are a now-extinct abhuman race.
    • Meh'lindi, a Callidus Assassin, lacks her temple's signature Phase Sword and Neural Shredder. She uses digital weapons, a Needler and a Laspistol. She has no melee weapons, but doesn't need them!
    • The Thousand Sons in Chaos Child are simply Chaos Marines aligned to Tzeentch. The concept of the Rubic of Ahriman had yet to be invented.
    • At several points, "Robots" are stated to be used by various individuals. Recent works state that robots are the sole property of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and are extremely rare (particularly ones meant for combat).
    • The Ordo Malleus, in addition to being an organization specialized in finding and exterminating Daemons, is also a sort of Internal Affairs organization that, among other things, secretly monitors other Inquisitors.
    • Imperial troops occasionally use Shuriken weapons, which are said to be reverse-engineered copies of Eldar weapons, built on Mars. According to more recent works, Shuriken weapons are not manufactured in the Imperium and any such weapons in Imperial hands are used almost exclusively by exceptional individuals such as Rogue Traders and Inquisitors. Similarly, Eldar are shown using Lasguns and Laspistols, which they no longer do in the current lore.
    • The introductory timeline mentions Horus seducing Space Marine chapters, not legions, to rebel against the Emperor.
    • Emperor's Children Chaos Space Marines are described as having an Apothecary and Techmarine. These were actually available to Chaos Marines in the first edition of Warhammer 40,000.
  • Eye Scream: Lex allows his eye to be brutally cut to pieces with a knife in order for the pain to turn his scrimshawed hand-bones to become a glowing beacon that they can use to detect Webway portals.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • As in any WH40K story, there's plenty of this. Aliens are treated as absolutely undeserving of life — to the point that foetal aliens encased in crystal are considered an acceptable fashion accessory. As an abhuman, Grimm is mocked and scorned by the more mainstream humans around him — of course, he returns the sentiment, as the Squats are powerful enough that they are more an allied race than a member race, and the Squats can thus freely look down on their techno-barbarian cousins, who have turned science into magic.
    • Space Marines such as Lex are thoroughly indoctrinated into the Imperial cult, and the mere presence of abhumans offends them. If forced to work with abhumans of any kind, expect the Marines to show nothing but contempt and disgust for what they see as impure mockeries of humanity.
  • Ghost Ship: At one point, Jaq and his retinue board an ancient derelict in the Warp, composed of many vessels crashed or welded onto the first.
  • Hand of Glory: Or finger to be precise. When properly prepared, it can be ignited to make the wielder imperceptible for a short time.
  • He Knows Too Much: Ordinary humans who learn too much about Chaos are liable to get summarily executed by the Inquisition, as Jaq demonstrates a couple of times. Merely knowing the name of a Chaos power can quality as "too much".
  • Heroic Sacrifice: At one point, an Arbitrator mans a burning Thermal Cannon, sacrificing his life to get off a last couple of shots at the cultists who are attacking his squad.
  • Hive City: Stalinvast is a world of domed hive cities surrounded by vast jungles.
  • Hologram: The first time Carnelian reveals himself to Jaq, it's actually a hologram, projected out of Jaq's spy-flies. Turns out Carnelian is smart enough to hack them in a way Jaq didn't even know possible.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Astropath Fennix and navigator Azul Petrov have some dialogue that suggests they have more than friendly feelings for each other, plus one scene where the blind astropath intently gazes into the navigator's warp eye (which would be fatal to humans with normal sight), which is described in a rather suggestive manner.
  • Hope Spot: At the finale of Chaos Child, Grimm and Lex at least have survived, and are making their way back to the planet Genost, planning on aiding the Imperium in reconquering the planet. Jaq's spirit also confirms that Rakel's soul is still sharing her body with Meh'lindi's, and that Meh'lindi herself will likely regain her sanity in time. It's also implied that Jaq may be merging with the Numen, and becoming part of the God of Compassion.
  • Human Subspecies: In addition to two species that survive in present-day WH40K canon — the three-eyed Navigators, who pilot spaceships through the Warp (which is simultaneously Hyperspace and Hell)), and the Space Marines, which are bio-augmented super soldiers — the secondary protagonist Grimm is a Squat. These are a species of space dwarves who descend from human mining colonies founded on high-gravity worlds.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Jaq's eyes are described using these exact words, and it's noted that they're fitting for an Inquisitor.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: When asked to track the Hydra using his Warp-vison, Googol replies: "I'm a Navigator, not a magician!".
  • Industrial World: Stalinvast is a hive world where the population lives in large, domed cities surrounded by vast jungles. It boasts many factories, which produce some of the Imperium's most powerful vehicles, including land raiders, robots, and juggernauts ("juggernaut" is a Rogue Trader-era term for huge military vehicles, such as the Leviathan, Capitol Imperialis, and Ordinatus-class vehicles in the current canon).
  • Informed Attractiveness: Meh'lindi is described as having a forgettable face, small breasts, and a lean body covered in tribal tattoos. Yet practically everyone drools over her — even Grimm the Squat!
  • Left Hanging: Many plotlines remain unresolved at the end of the trilogy: What happens to the Ordo Hydra? Does Baal Firenze regain his memories, does he resume pursuit of Draco or rejoin the Ordo Hydra? What is the fate of Zephro Carnelian, whom we last see fighting Chaos invaders on the Ulthwe craftworld? Is Lucifer Princip really a Sensei, and will Lex and Grimm manage to capture him? What happens to Meh'Lindi and does Rakel's spirit somehow remain in her body? Finally what happens to Jaq's spirit?
  • Literal Surveillance Bug: Jaq has a Jokaero-built covert surveillance system consisting of a swarm of 100 insect-size flying micro-cameras he calls "spy flies".
  • Love Is a Weakness: This mindset is very much expected of an Imperial Inquisitor or Assassin. Thus, it is no surprise that things take a turn for the worse after Jaq and Meh'lindi fall in love.
  • Masochism: As in Watson's early novel Space Marine, it's all but flatly stated that a flaw in the Imperial Fist geneseed is pronounced masochistic tendencies. In addition to his musings on the tantalizing nature of pain to an Imperial Fist in Harlequin, when Lex visits a brothel whose star attraction is a mutant psychic that broadcasts psionic pleasure to her audience in Chaos Child, he begins violently slapping himself in the face whilst rapturously chanting his Primarch's name, which is made clear is his version of a deep sexual bliss.
  • Mêlée à Trois: One of the planets visited by Jaq is embroiled in a three-way conflict between Imperial humans, Chaos and Eldar, and later another one between humans, Eldar and a large Genestealer cult.
  • Mercy Kill: After killing planetary governor Lagnost and his guards, Jaq knows the planet is doomed to fall to Slaaneshi rebels, so he has Meh'lindi mercy kill the governor's courtesans. Grimm then does this to a PDF officers who stumbles upon the scene. Jaq then locks the room and tells the other palace staff that Lagnost is in psychic communion with the Emperor and is inventing a new plan.
  • Mermaid Problem: Invoked; when he sees the mutant Lamia, Jaq immediately deduces that the same mutation that made her legs fuse together into a giant snake-like tail have also robbed her of anything approaching a sexual orifice.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: In the first chapter, it is casually described how an entire hive city district is destroyed and plunges into the jungle below it, and is then vapourized by a plasma beam, killing Hybrid rebels and any remaining factory workers in it. In the second chapter, it is mentioned that the 20 million casualties on Stalinvast are considered a minor loss. Subverted, however, as Jaq later silently notes how such mass deaths can serve to attract the attentions of the Chaos gods.
  • Mind Rape: Whenever Psychic Powers show up, this is going to happen.
    • In the first novel, on the Slaanesh planet, one of the Chaos worshippers who meets Jaq's party is revealed as a psyker when he floods their minds with raw lust, to the point that Jaq nearly succumbs to the desire to start having sex with Meh'lindi — who is currently in her genestealer hybrid form — right there and then. Mention is even made of her subconsciously growing a "pouch to receive him in" to compensate for the form's lack of human-like genitalia.
    • In the third novel, a brothel's star attraction is a mutant psyker named Lamia, who has the ability to broadcast raw arousal into the minds of those around her.
  • The Mole:
    • Zephro Carnelian infiltrates the Ordo Hydra on behalf of the Illuminati and the Eldar.
    • Grimm is revealed to have been won over by Carnelian after Jaq went into stasis.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Planetary Governor Lagnost indulges in drugs in concubines, and his world is threatened by Slaaneshi rebels (and Slaanesh is the god of lust), but he is in fact completely loyal to the Imperium.
  • The Oath-Breaker: Grimm is eventually forced to become one when he makes an oath to Rakel, telling her that she will not be destroyed as part of Jaq'splan to resurrect Meh'lindi. Of course, this is a terrible act for a member of the honour-obsessed Squat race. However, it eventually turns out that a part of Rakel's consciousness actually survived the process, so Grimm didn't technically break his oath after all.
  • One-Shot Character: Jain Zar appears as an antagonist near the end of Harlequin and is never seen again. She is not named, but is instantly recognizable by her weapons. Eldrad Ulthran gets one scene at the beginning of Chaos Child, where he performs a divination. Magnus the Red also briefly appears in the same novel, but does not take part in the action, instead sending his Thousand Sons marines to do the job.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The Imperium of Man versus the gods of Chaos and their followers.
  • The Plan: A splinter group of the Illuminati called the Ordo Hydra forge a desperate plan to infect all humans with a parasitic warp entity called the Hydra that would completely dominate their minds, which the Ordo would then harness as a sort of massive psychic weapon so powerful that it could destroy the Chaos gods. Of course, there are several ways the plan could go wrong, which is why the other Illuminati want to stop the Ordo.
  • Planet Eater: At one point, Jaq's emerge from a Webway portal onto a world that is in the process of being harvested by the Tyranids. The Tyranids start their harvesting process from the top of the food chain and work their way downwards, which is why Jaq is at first confused by a world whose human population seems to have disappeared almost overnight while all the animals and plants are still around.
  • Properly Paranoid: Tarik Ziz, renegade Director Secundus of the Callidus Temple of Imperial Assassins, understandably paranoid that his former Temple will have him assassinated, has himself integrated into a Space Marine Dreadnought for protection. Played for Horror as Jaq and his retinue realise that the only way Ziz could have acquired it is by scavenging its wreck from a battlefield — possibly extracting the still-living pilot in the process (a Dreadnought is piloted by a mortally wounded Space Marine for whom the Dreadnought also functions as a life support system).
  • Purple Prose: To call Ian Watson's writing style "florid" is an understatement. Even by the standards of WH40K literature, it tends to be excessive.
  • Red Shirt: Don't expect any nameless troops — even Space Marines — who join Jaq to last long.
  • Sanity Slippage: Several protagonists go quite mad over the course of the trilogy.
    • Both of the Navigators go insane at different points. Vitali Googol from Inquisitor goes insane due to unwisely allowing himself to think of the pseudo-Daemonette he met before being frozen in a stasis capsule during the Time Skip in between it and Harlequin; soon after, he literally throws himself into the arms of a daemonette at the start of Harlequin. Azul Petrov, introduced in Harlequin, goes mad after having his Warp Eye engraved with the route to the Black Library and then getting there at the end of that book, forcing Lex to kill him.
    • Meh'lindi is utterly insane when she is revived at the end of Chaos Child, and attacks her former comrades because she can't realize she's no longer battling Jain Zar.
    • Chaos Child is essentially the story of Jaq's descent into madness, culminating in being Driven to Suicide when he revives Meh'lindi as a raving lunatic.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Fennix the Astropath is recruited by Jaq to replace Moma Parsheen, and has a fairly likeable personality. He gets killed by a stray Eldar shot at Stalinvast not long after.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Vitali Googol is one of the more prominent and likeable characters in the first novel, but is driven insane and killed early in Harlequin. Meh'lindi dies abruptly at the hands of Jain Zar near the end of the same novel.
  • Scary Black Man: The Master of the Inquisition is described as being tall, physically imposing and black-skinned.
  • Seeker Archetype: Jaq himself says that, at heart, an Inquisitor is simply a seeker of the truth.
  • Shout-Out: There is a reference to the "Alien beast concealed within" Meh'lindi", which alludes to the title of the short story in which she first appeared.
  • Snake People: The mutant eroticist, Lamia, from Chaos Child, has scaly skin and legs that have fused into a single serpentine tail due to her mutation.
  • Sole Survivor:
    • Grimm is the only surviving, sane character of Jaq's original group at the end of Chaos Child.
    • Lex is the only survivor of his squad by the end of Harlequin.
  • Space Marine: Both loyalist and Chaos Space Marines are present, but, apart from Lex, they make only brief appearances.
  • Speak of the Devil: Merely thinking about a Chaos god can make one vulnerable to its influence, or that of its minions.
  • Suicide Attack: At one point, a Harlequin crashes his/her jetbike into a Genestealer Patriarch, to stop it from reaching the Eldar Webway.
  • Suicide by Cop: A variation. After his plan to revive Meh'lindi fails by bringing her back as a raving lunatic, Jaq feigns that he has been possessed and spews blasphemy so that Lex the Space Marine will shoot him dead, sparing him the pain of living with all that he has done.
  • The Trickster: Zephro Carnelian is mischievous, manipulative heretic who copies (and perhaps parodies) the appearance and mannerisms of an Eldar Harlequin and has unusual powers, but ultimately thinks himself to be acting in favour of humanity.
  • Tickle Torture: In one infamous scene, Meh'lindi tickles Grimm until he reveals he's a mole for Zephro Carnelian.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The introduction to the trilogy notes that what follows is transcribed from a book written by a renegade Inquisitor, and may have been designed to sow discord among the Inquisition itself.
  • Unwitting Pawn: In Harlequin, Jaq deduces that the Illuminati and Harlequins have been using him as a pawn in their plans to infiltrate the Ordo Hydra.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Grimm and Vitali keep bickering, but they really do care for each other, which is most clearly seen when Grimm learns about Vitali's death.
Top