A new short story from a new Black Library author, Matt Smith’s In Service Eternal sees Wing Commander Arden Graves and the pilots of the 41st Antropia Aerial Division in action in the murky skies of the gas giant Antropia. Veterans pulled back from the front lines, the 41st act as both test pilots and air cover for Antropia’s Adeptus Mechanicus cohorts. Responding to reports of missing mining servitors in the depths of the planet’s rocky core, Graves leads his Valkyries in a reconnaissance flight which rapidly escalates into a much deadlier mission.
It’s an assured Black Library debut, with all the correct 40k stylings nicely in place in terms of tone, setting and characters. Starting off gently the pace soon ramps up as mysterious enemy flyers tear Graves’ Valkyries apart in a suitably grim series of set pieces. Graves himself is the archetypal stern, solid veteran – there’s not a lot in the way of background to explain his drive and motivation, but when the proverbial hits the fan he’s suitably believable, determined to defend his world regardless of the cost. There’s nothing we haven’t seen before here, but even so it’s an entertaining read and a good start from Smith.