The debut Black Library story from Mike Brooks, The Path Unclear is an Inquisitorial tale of action and intrigue that bodes well for future stories. Told from the perspective of Alyss Nero, newly recruited acolyte of Ordo Xenos inquisitor Zaretta Ngiri, it sees the inquisitor and her retinue investigating a mysterious artefact recently uncovered from an archaeological dig amongst xenos ruins. While Ngiri is determined to ascertain the artefact’s true provenance, Nero is keen to prove her value to her new mistress and companions, but things are never simple when xenos are involved.
This reads like a classic Inquisition tale, with a powerful and knowledgeable inquisitor accompanied by a varied, characterful entourage, but rather than feeling derivative it comes across as enjoyably familiar. That’s largely down to Nero, whose inexperienced viewpoint feels refreshingly open, with a fun mixture of naivety and determination. Plot-wise it’s fairly straightforward but satisfying, neatly inferring backstory for a key character that ties everything together, with just enough depth to make Ngiri and her retinue feel real and in-world appropriate. There’s plenty here to warrant further exploration of these characters, and an instant sense that Brooks has a handle on the tone of 40k. Impressive stuff.