Black Library’s Deathwatch series has now run to nine short stories, the latest being The Walker in Fire by Peter Fehervari. The first in the series to feature a Salamander as the protagonist, here we see Garran Branatar joining a disparate group of Deathwatch brothers from much lesser known chapters on a mission to a sinister, rebellious forge world in search of one Mechanicus adept among the masses. Haunted by events in his past and troubled by events spiralling out of his control, Branatar pushes on, trusting to his equipment and his moral compass to see him through.
After a thoughtful, darkly evocative start that sets the tone for the whole story, things quickly ramp up with the introduction of Branatar’s brothers and the first, disastrous moments of the mission. It’s engaging stuff right from the outset, and conceals the fact that Fehervari really isn’t giving us much information about what’s really happening, the murky waters of the plot only clearing towards the end. It’s all delightfully dark and grim as Branatar’s trust in himself and his brothers slowly ebbs away, the ghosts of his past almost literally haunting him, and makes for an unusual but really enjoyable tale. Those with keen eyes and memories will spot the reference to one of Fehervari’s earlier stories, along with a genuinely tantalising hint of what might happen if Fehervari wrote a full novel along these lines – we can only hope it happens, as there’s an awful lot to like here.