Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Hellequin Chronicles

Go To
Britain's best protection

The Hellequin Chronicles is a series by British author Stephen McHugh chronicling the life of Nathaniel 'Nate' Garrett, a powerful sorcerer who starts the series as almost completely amnesiac, something revealed to be the result of one of the machinations of his worst enemy, Mordred. At the end of the first book, he gets his memories back and remembers who he is - Merlin's Assassin, and known only to a select few (at first) as Hellequin, the series' resident Bogeyman.

He then starts trying to unravel Mordred's backers, who are repeatedly hinted to come from within the organisation that Nate used to work for, Avalon. And as time passes, more and more villains crop up, often from Nate's extensive past, and they too show signs of there being something rotten in Avalon.

At the same time, Nate discovers that a series of Blood Magic curse marks that he's had since the age of eight (before which he can remember nothing) are fading, giving him clues to his parentage, new/ powers (in exchange for old ones) and


The series starts out as a lightweight British version of The Dresden Files, before steadily Growing the Beard, expanding the world, the supporting cast, developing a Myth Arc and giving serious Character Development all round. Each book has two concurrent plots, one in the present, one in the past, providing background to the present situation, excepting only Scorched Shadows, which has parallel plots featuring Nate and Mordred.

Books in the series include:

  • Crimes Against Magic (2012)
  • Born of Hatred (2012)
  • With Silent Screams (Feb 18th 2014)
  • Prison of Hope (April 14, 2015)
  • Lies Ripped Open (Aug 2015)
  • Promise of Wrath (Sept 2016)
  • Scorched Shadows

It was followed by The Rebellion Chronicles and The Avalon Chronicles.


Tropes appearing in The Hellequin Chronicles

  • Action Mum: Nate's mother is Brynhildr, a Valkyrie, which is also where he gets the necromancy from and apparently a major-league badass.
    • Olivia to Kasey, being someone who Nate regards with genuine respect as a fighter.
  • Affably Evil: Classic London Gangster Mark O'Hara fits this trope to a tee. His son, not so much.
    • Erebus, Nate's Nightmare, though he constantly protests that he's a case of Dark Is Not Evil. He might actually be right about this, and Scorched Shadows confirms that he is. It also reveals that the name isn't just a stylistic choice - he's the result of a Fusion Dance between Nate's original Nightmare and the original Erebus.
    • Baldr, in a somewhat psychotic sort of way. He cheerfully talks about beheading Thor in front of their father, laughing his head off at Kasey ripping his henchman's throat out, and tends to be fairly polite in between/in the process of violent murder.
  • All Myths Are True: Or at least, almost all mythological figures are real. It's a bit more vague about Christianity, though it is ultimately revealed that Lucifer is real and really Doctor Grayson - though he claims that the popular conception of him is completely inaccurate, and that he has nothing to do with God, Angels, Jesus, or anything like that. Or anyone called Winchester, come to that.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Cave trolls. Large, stupid, vicious, and insanely strong - like, strong enough to tear a large were-lion in half - they're unpleasant at best.
  • Axe-Crazy: Nearly all of the villains in this whole series are this.
    • Mordred prior to his mind being essentially rebooted after Nate shoots him in the head.
    • Lee and Achilles in the first book
    • Both of the Liches in the second book. It's suggested that this is something of a pre-requisite for wanting to become a Lich in the first place.
    • The entire staff of both iterations of the House of Silent Screams in the third book.
    • The entire 'Jack the Ripper' group of Reavers. Enfield, however, takes the cake.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Avalon is basically this, being pretty much the UN (but as Nate notes, with actual power) to the supernatural world and generally having operatives sprinkled throughout every human government in the world. When a new head of state takes power, they're given a talk which basically tells them where they stand in the hierarchy and that they'd better toe the line or else. If they don't, they pay the price. Then, at the end of Scorched Shadows, they go public under control of the bad guys, and essentially take over the world.
  • Badass Decay: An invoked example. Nate undergoes this in books 3 and 4, with various characters noting that he's not quite the man he used to be, including his Superpowered Evil Side, which points out various points at which the old him would have started kicking ass. This is partly because he's recovering from the loss of his Blood Magic and other knocks to his confidence, causing him to hold back a bit. After the latter conversation, he starts kicking ass again.
  • Badass Family: Tommy, his daughter Kasey and his... partner (the relationship status is fairly certain, the definition is not) Olivia. Tommy's a six hundred year old werewolf and a natural Alpha who would have been the leader of a powerful pack in another life, as well as Nate's favoured right hand man when it comes to handling mayhem, Olivia is a powerful water elemental and high ranking Law of Avalon operative, and Kasey is both elemental and werewolf, stood up to a Lich after it had beaten both her father and Nate (two top flight professional badasses) to a pulp before she had either set of abilities, and as of the end of Prison of Hope, is being taught how to fight by Nate. Oh, and there's also Nate himself, who more or less functions as Kasey's godfather and Cool Uncle.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The true identity of 'My Liege', the Greater-Scope Villain, is frequently teased to be one character or another, before being revealed to be a group of villains, then finally being revealed to be Arthur Pendragon.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: In A Prison of Hope, Nate undergoes a vicious case of Mind Rape from Deimos. Then, Deimos makes the mistake of changing Nate's memories to make them even worse. Then Erebus gets involved and turns the tables.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, was an Alchemist and appears in House of Silent Screams and Scorched Shadows.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Nate, largely because he was Merlin's right hand man for a millennium and a half and usually his first choice to give a new head of state the speech that tells them exactly where they stand and that they'd better toe Avalon's line. More significant examples include his being involved in rescuing the Princes in the Tower from one of Mordred's concerted attempts to murder them.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: It's looking increasingly like Gawain and Arthur (the reincarnated Asmodeus) are this.
  • Blow You Away: Nate's other primary method of attack. One technique he develops is condensing a hurricane into a ball that fits in the palm of his hand. The first time he uses it, it vaporises the arm of the werewolf finding him and blasts him halfway into orbit.
    • He later combines this with lightning. Carnage frequently ensues.
  • Came Back Wrong: Inverted with Mordred. Coming back from having his head blown off actually seems to have restored his sanity, albeit at the cost of his frequently going off on rambling tangents about video games.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: With the exception of Tommy, none of the characters from the first book have recurred outside of him being forced to experience one of the worst memories of his life. Justified in that Mordred is dead or pretending to be dead and the rest of them were connected to his life as an amnesiac and he's looking to reforge old connections, as well as wanting to leave them out of the mayhem he frequently gets involved in.
    • Francis, Jerry and Laurel turn up again in Promise of Wrath - Francis is Back for the Dead, killed by Kay out of spite, Jerry didn't transition well to vampirism and blames Nate for not following up on his promise to kill him if he ever went bad - which he did - having betrayed Francis, and Laurel spends most of the book imprisoned by Jerry.
    • Lee reappears in Scorched Shadows, as a pawn of My Liege - they just needed a distraction, and since Lee was a) thick, b) someone who hated Nate, he fit the bill nicely. He also mentions having killed his parents, but not his sister - he would have done, but she wasn't around. Having become a powerful vampire, he tries to goad Nate. In Shadow Falls, a realm that literally supercharges Nate's magic. The resultant fight is very, very short.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Nate was apparently this from an early age, being picked out by Merlin because he pointed out that killing someone while they're down isn't unchivalrous, it's practical.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Erebus insists this. Nate is not convinced, even though as the series goes on, it looks more and more like Erebus might be telling the truth.
    • Nate himself arguably qualifies - he's The Dreaded, Merlin's Assassin, whose nickname, Hellequin, makes hardened badasses literally shit themselves. He's also a somewhat accomplished wielder of Blood Magic until it's replaced by Necromancy and then adds Shadow Magic to the ensemble, as well as being adept enough at improvising to take out people who're technically much more powerful than he is.
  • The Dreaded: Nate himself has something of a reputation among those in the know. As Hellequin, however, he's the bogeyman who naughty children are told stories about to make them behave and most believe (or hope) doesn't exist, so terrifying that Nate whispering that he's Hellequin generally gives even hardened bad guys a Bring My Brown Pants reaction.
  • Enemy Mine: Nate reluctantly with Mordred in Acre in 1195.
    • Less reluctantly with Mordred in the present in Promise of Wrath owing to Mordred's apparently genuine Heel–Face Turn.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Mordred long before the books begin, for reasons that are unrevealed until Promise of Wrath when it transpires that Being Tortured Makes You Evil - if you're tortured for over a century by a species of sadists, Avalon members and undergo Mind Rape in an attempt to make you into cruise missile aimed at certain targets, anyway.
    • Jerry, thanks to not taking the transition to vampirism very well.
    • My Liege try to pull this on Nate via Ares. It fails, but enough of it takes that Mordred has to kill him to reboot him and remove the brainwashing.
  • False Flag Operation: Most of Scorched Shadows has My Liege pulling this to try on a colossal scale to try and stir up war between Avalon and Shadow Falls, tarnish the Hellequin name, and scare humanity enough to smooth their taking over the world.
  • Flaming Sword: Nate's preferred weapon.
  • Follow the Leader: Takes heavily from The Dresden Files and Iron Druid Chronicles, being an Urban Fantasy narrated by a First-Person Smartass.
  • Fusion Dance: What Sorcerers are supposed to pull with their Nightmares, which normally results in someone of literally godlike power-levels. However, it didn't always go well, and the 'Nightmares-are-evil' concept arose because far too often it went wrong and the Sorcerer went crazy.
    • Erebus, Nate's Nightmare, is the product of this, between Nate's original Nightmare and the real Erebus.
  • God Guise: Of a sort. Most of the old gods are just really, really old and powerful sorcerers/elementals and similar, but they are who they claim to be and they have the power to back it up - the latter partly thanks to the fact that they've accepted their Nightmares.
  • The Good King: Arthur was apparently moulded to be this by Merlin from a young age - though Promise of Wrath suggests that he wasn't all he seemed and he was mostly intended as a figurehead. Scorched Shadows reveals that he is, in fact, the Big Bad.
    • Galahad is a genuine example as King of Shadow Falls, after a rocky start.
  • Hate Sink: Mara, the most unpleasant witch of them all. As it turns out, in Prison of Hope, this is actually intentional since it holds everyone's attention (that is to say, she's naturally like that, but it's exploited).
  • Healing Factor: All non-humans have a degree of this.
    • Nate's Blood Magic gives him a more powerful one of these than usual. His necromancy replaces it, once he figures out how to absorb spirits, with his Shadow Magic serving as an additional boost.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mordred, astonishingly enough, going from Axe-Crazy basket-case to friendly, if somewhat scatterbrained, bloke with a love for video-games. Apparently being shot in the head served as a sanity reset. His original Face–Heel Turn was apparently inspired by over a century of Cold-Blooded Torture by the Blood Elves and Mind Rape, with a number of high level Avalon members taking part, attempting to turn him into their guided missile. He managed to change his targets to Avalon, but still snapped.
  • Heroic Host: Nate, to an extent, with Erebus. Mordred with his own Nightmare.
  • Hero Killer: Kay and Baldr are prominent examples. The latter killed Thor.
    • Helios kills Galahad, whilst attempting to kill Nate. Nate promptly goes berserk.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Richard III gets one in the prequel novella Infamous Reign, at the same time as suffering a Historical Villain Upgrade in-universe. As it turns out, he was a decent man, a friend of Nate's, and didn't kill the Princes in the Tower. Instead, they were kidnapped by Mordred because they were descended from Arthur and Mordred had sworn never to see one of Arthur's line take the throne (which doesn't explain why he didn't step in when Henry VIII took the throne, though later books do establish that he spent centuries at a time imprisoned as a sort of Sealed Crazy in a Can, so perhaps he couldn't). Nate rescued them and smuggled them into safe exile, but wasn't able to save Richard at Bosworth or prevent Henry Tudor from smearing his reputation (something Henry himself concedes isn't fair, but notes is politically necessary).
  • Indy Ploy: Nate, frequently, because while he's among the most powerful of his peers, he is greatly outclassed by the likes of Cronus and others he goes up against. Therefore, he has to improvise.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty:
    • Crimes Against Magic ends with Mordred's warranty finally running out, as Nate tracks him down and assassinates him. Subverted when he's revealed to have come back a few books later. Double Subverted when the magic involved in his Face–Heel Turn is found to have been invalidated, making this a case of Death Equals Redemption.
    • Born of Hatred: Reid escapes, but returns to get revenge on Nate by challenging him to a fight by the Accords, which gets him killed.
    • With Silent Screams: Simon almost escapes by pretending to suffer from Laser-Guided Amnesia, but it turns out Nate and Galahad knee he was faking the whole time and turn him over to Hades for interrogation.
    • Prison of Hope: Zig-zagged. Mara and Emily can't be punished properly, because there's not enough evidence of their crimes to prosecute them. That said, Nate and Lucie know full well what they did and have the SOA place their coven under surveillance with regular intrusive searches. They get a more substantial comeuppance later in the series.
    • Lies Ripped Open reveals Enfield as being partially responsible for the events of the last three books, in addition to the events in 1818. Nate, lacking the means to have him punished by Avalon due to his invocation of the Accords, challenges him to a duel which becomes an almighty Curb-Stomp Battle culminating in Enfield's death.
    • Promise of Wrath:
      • Nate finally confronts Kay, beats him easily and decapitates him.
      • Mara is arrested for her role in Baldr's plot.
    • Scorched Shadows sees a whole lot of warranty tearing:
      • Emily is poisoned by Wei, interrogated for information and finally killed by Mordred.
      • Lee O'Hara, who escaped any real punishment in Crimes Against Magic, returns as a vampire and gets dragged off to the Shadow Realm and fed to the wraith by Nate.
      • Helios, while beaten in previous books, always returns. Then he kills Galahad, and Nate ensures that he won't come back a third time.
      • Ares and Deimos both get brutally ended by Nate at the climax.
      • Mara returns again, having been released by Avalon to help them by making more inter-dimensional bracelets; however, she's bestowed with a magic rune that means she'll be killed if she leaves her safehouse, rendering her effectively a prisoner. Then Mordred renders her useless to the conspiracy by shooting her wrists, leaving her unable to make the bracelets, before just shooting her when this is unsatisfying.
  • Light Is Not Good: Baldr.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Nate, to an extent, though he mostly relies on his Healing Factor.
    • Baldr, his matter manipulation magic making him incredibly tough and incredibly strong.
    • Most were-creatures, to one degree or another.
  • Long-Lived: pretty much every non-human species is this, with Nate himself, at 1600 years old, being nowhere near the oldest character in the series.
  • Magic Knight: Nate, combining this with Full-Contact Magic.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: No one actually knows who Nate's father is - or if they do, they aren't telling. It's one of the enduring mysteries of the series.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Subverted in Scorched Shadows. While the more personal deaths affect the cast more, the sheer global scale carnage My Liege's campaign causes and the psychological effect it has on humanity is a keystone in their plan.
  • Mind Rape: Nate undergoes this from Deimos in A Prison of Hope, then with the help of Erebus, turns the tables.
    • Ares pulls this on him more successfully in Scorched Shadows. Nate still ends up beheading him.
    • This trope is a favourite of the My Liege cabal, as a method of gaining minions and bringing people into line. It's ultimately explained as the reason that Mordred pulled his original Face–Heel Turn, and why Merlin turned into a borderline villainous Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • Missing Mom: Nate's mother, Brynhildr. She might be alive, but if she is, she's in Asgard, cut off from the rest of the realms, in the midst of the Norse civil war.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Nate is mistaken for homophobic when he's calling out the gay Matthew for not having a female Alpha (essentially to handle the female issues in the pack and be his right hand woman) and tears strips off him for it. When Matthew bridles at this, assuming that Nate's homophobic, Nate tells him quite bluntly that he doesn't give a damn about who Matthew has sex with, and he doesn't have to have sex with the female Alpha to have someone to fulfil that function. He then explicitly states that his issue is that the lack of a female Alpha made the pack weaker and open to leadership challenges, which in turn triggered a considerable amount of the book's problems, putting Nate's friends in danger. In other words, Matthew thought that Nate had an issue with his sexuality. As it turned out, Nate's issues were more with his mismanagement of affairs that put his friends in danger.
  • Mysterious Past: Nate's past, before the age of 8, was erased, and he spends the series getting bits and pieces of it back, figuring out things like who his parents are - he figures out that his mother is Brynhildr, a very powerful Valkyrie. His father's identity is still unknown. The ending of Scorched Shadows indicates that he's now got all of it back, but he still needs to sort through all the relevant memories.
  • Nice Guy: Galahad is one of the genuinely nicest characters in the series. Even when he's trying to be more ruthless, it's apparent how terrible he is at it and how badly it sits with him.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Hera is never seen fighting, though a number of characters indicate that she can if she wants to.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: What any reasonably powerful Sorcerer, Elemental, or Necromancer is capable of being, with the strongest pushing into the Physical God category.
    • The strongest were-creatures also border on this.
  • Pet the Dog: Mordred, for all his batshit insanity, was extremely protective of and kind to an apparently random woman in Acre during the 3rd Crusade, though no one has a clue why. It is later revealed that she was his daughter.
  • Playing with Fire: One of Nate's go to choices in combat.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Elijah uses the slur fag to refer to Matthew.
    • Mara Range uses anti-Native American slurs against Sky. When Chloe comes out, she throws her out of the house.
  • The Pornomancer: Nate, though later books play it down significantly, and he notes that his bed hopping was a coping strategy.
  • Professional Killer: Nate used to be 'Merlin's Assassin', the widely feared 'Hellequin'. As he says himself, he can go cold at will and dispassionately take apart his targets.
  • Shock and Awe: In A Prison of Hope, Nate learns how to combine air and fire to make lightning.
  • Shoot the Dog: This was basically his job description as Merlin's Assassin, and he was picked for such because he had the right mentality.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Achilles the gargoyle, who thinks a lot of himself - hence the name. While he's a significant threat for most of the first book, once Nate gets his mojo back, even hamstrung by randomly returning memories, he disposes of him in fairly short order.
    • Jerry thinks himself rather more significant than he really is. As Nate points out, he's a one-armed vampire, not even a Master, much less a Lord, and therefore Nate could crush him without even trying. Which he promptly does.
  • Smug Super: Sorcerers tend to be this, apparently, with Nate being noted as unusual because he usually isn't. That said, elements of this colour his attitude. When asked, for instance, what sorcerers (who are born with magic and very Long-Lived) think of witches (who aren't in either case and tend to be much less powerful), he replies that they usually don't. As in, don't think of them. He's also particularly annoyed when he doesn't thrash a group of human thugs - this example is justified, because even without magic, he should have torn them to shreds.
  • The Sociopath: Nate, to an extent - he can effectively turn off his emotions at will, and torture and kill without batting an eyelid or suffering any twinges of conscience. A natural inclination towards this led to Merlin picking him out to be trained as an assassin. He's not particularly happy about the idea of fostering that mentality in others, which is why he resists teaching others his skills for so long.
    • Kay
  • State Sec: SOA, the Shield of Avalon. Kay changed the name to 'Sword of Avalon' for a few decades, then changed it back when no-one reacted over-much.
  • Straight Gay: Matthew and his partner.
    • Chloe Range.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: All Sorcerers have one in the form of their Nightmare, which gets stronger the more magic they use. If they stop using magic for a little while, it quiets down. Nate's, which goes by Erebus, is unusual in that it's actually quite helpful and when he lets it out in really dire circumstances, it voluntarily goes back to the back of his mind and gives him some quite helpful advice.
    • It's also worth noting that Erebus really lives up to the 'super powered' part, with the only thing that's ever stopped him being a Lich, a monster that's essentially walking Anti-Magic, as well as being next to indestructible and incredibly rare. And that was before Nate's true power got unlocked.
    • Promise of Wrath has Erebus state that sorcerers have been lied to for the past two thousand years and Nightmares aren't actually evil - and Mordred notes that his Nightmare independently gave pretty much the same speech as Erebus. Scorched Shadows reveals that he was telling the truth and that the reason that the likes of Merlin are so much more powerful than most is because they voluntarily accepted their Nightmares.
  • Super Supremacist: Strains of this run through a lot of characters, even some of the protagonists (though they tend to border on Smug Super at worst), as is repeatedly pointed out. However, it turns out that the My Liege group really go in for this and not only plan to take over the world - in Scorched Shadows, they more or less succeed.
  • Symbiotic Possession: Nate and Erebus are moving towards this dynamic.
  • That Man Is Dead: Nate buried the Hellequin name in the 18th century after his wife's murder and his Roaring Rampage of Revenge (and his resultant continental scale rampage when he killed more or less anyone he felt deserved it), and quotes the trope as he darkly warns Matthew - who almost refers to him as Hellequin - that Hellequin is dead and that he [Matthew] doesn't want him back. He resurrects the name at the end of Born of Hatred, then buries Hellequin for good after Deimos uses the name for My Liege's False Flag Operation in Scorched Shadows.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Nate takes these as he starts getting his memories, then takes more as the series goes on as his blood magic curse marks start fading.
  • Torture Technician: Nate is very, very good at this, often with simple household implements and appliances.
  • Virtual Reality: this is how the Harbingers learn. It's so good that it's indistinguishable from reality which is why Nate never realised that it had been done to him when he was thirteen. For fifteen years. This was what caused him to attack Merlin and leave his service.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Merlin, with ever-growing emphasis on the extremist. It's later revealed that his descent into this was driven by Gawain.
  • Wham Line: At the end of Promise of Wrath, about Arthur.
    He's awake.
  • Whip It Good: Nate can create flaming whips, though doesn't often, preferring a Flaming Sword.
  • Willing Channeler: when there's no other option, Nate occasionally lets his Superpowered Evil Side out to play, his Nightmare, later dubbed Erebus. This is a major no-no for a sorcerer, since Nightmares tend to possess their host permanently, the lure being that they show a sorcerer what their power can really do, with Super Strength and a Healing Factor to boot, distinguished by their Black Eyes of Evil (though Erebus frequently complains that he's not evil). Nate's blood magic curse marks prevent Erebus taking over permanently and Erebus abides by whatever is agreed, something thoroughly unique. This makes it an effective tactic when Nate's really stuck in a corner, but one he has to keep quiet because doing so warrants execution by Avalon.