Title: City of Secrets
Author: Nick Horth
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 14th Jan 2017
Source: Personal Collection
Excelsis is the city of secrets, a grand and imposing bastion of civilisation in the savage Realm of Beasts. Within its winding streets and shadowy back alleys, merchants deal in raw prophecy mined from an ancient fragment of the World That Was, and even the poorest man may earn a glimpse of the future. Yet not all such prophecies can be trusted. When Corporal Armand Callis of the city guard stumbles upon a dark secret, he finds himself on the run from his former comrades, framed for a crime he did not commit. Only the Witch Hunter Hanniver Toll knows the truth of his innocence. Together the pair must race against time to save Excelsis from a cataclysm that would drown the city in madness and fear.
Heretic Deb brought this book for me for my birthday – I’ve been eager to read it since reading The Old Ways short story in Sacrosanct as the two characters we’re intriguing. Many thanks to Heretic Deb for helping continue my Witch Hunter adoration!
Corporal Armand Callis of the Coldguard Freeguild is among one of the few remaining members of the Guards of Excelsis. While out on nightly patrol he and his fellow guardsmen stumble across some shenanigans that gets them into deep, deep trouble. Resulting in Callis experiencing a powerful prophecy and seeing the potential fate of the city. Framed for crimes he didn’t commit, he it discovered by Witch Hunter Hanniver Toll and dragged into a thickening plot of deception and the ever encroaching tides of Chaos.
The plot of City of Secrets is pretty straightforward. A story of betrayal; an innocent bystander accused of a wrong-doing out to prove that he has done nothing wrong and redeem his name with the help of a mysterious, yet powerful individual. While the plot is somewhat predictable in it’s resolutions, the story itself isn’t any less fun for it – there are enough simple twists to keep the pages flowing. Although linear, with little in the ways of sub-plots, it’s an enjoyable read that hints of more to come.
What’s intriguing about City of Secrets, is the enlightenment it gives to the Age of Sigmar setting. It expands upon what is pre-established and gives development into the places in which the remnants of the Old World inhabit; humans, aelves and duardin. How they co-exist with one another in the Realm of Ghur (Beasts.) There is a subtle blend of the World that Was and the new setting in Age of Sigmar; there is a dark, grittiness throughout City of Secrets that feels like a nod to the previous setting of Warhammer Fantasy but taken up amongst the High Fantasy that is the Age of Sigmar staple. It’s always interesting to see how the more ‘normal’ citizens of such a setting fit and City of Secrets gives a fantastic insight into this conundrum.
While the setting and plot are certainly interesting talking points, what I adored the most of City of Secrets are the two main characters, Callis and Toll. Freeguild Corporal Callis is the main driving force in the plot of City of Secrets; it is through his perspective that we’re told and shown the novellas story – as a narrator he is entertaining, if a little uncertain about the fate before him. However, for me, it’s Hanniver Toll that kept me keen. If there was ever a character that was perfectly written to my preferences, it’s Toll, the Witch Hunter. Dry-wit, cynicism, an air of mystery and power with a hint to theological purpose; they are the ingredients to make up a perfect blend. As such, I was in heaven reading this book.
The perspectives the main characters bring to the story make the setting feel more unfamiliar than it probably is. The view of Callis in regards to the Stormcast Eternals, for example, bring a fresh perspective to Sigmars Chosen warriors. Being seen with reverent fear rather than unbridled awe.
The pacing of Cities of Sigmar is swift. Leaping from one scene to the next with very little time to pause for breath. The characters take you on a break-neck adventure from start to conclusion. There isn’t anything overly fancy in Cities of Sigmar, it’s a simple, easy read. It’s great for just picking up and running with – which is, honestly, a great deal of fun. There isn’t a lot in the ways of character development, either, but I am hoping that in any future instalments involving Callis and Toll we’re given a bit more depth to the pivotal characters.
The epilogue gives hint to there being a follow up novel to come, which there is in the form of Callis and Toll: Silver Shard. I only hope that this one is just as entertaining as City of Secrets and that Hanniver Toll continues to be as delightful!
A wonderful view of the more ‘normal’ citizens within the Age of Sigmar setting. Enjoyable characters in Callis and Toll with hints to The Old World that blend nicely with the new setting. Fast-paced action novella with a rather linear, but none-the-less enjoyable plot. Also, Witch Hunter, so expect some personal bias in the review!