January, 21, 2021
The Inquisition isn’t heretics foaming at the mouth and dramatic shootouts. Sometimes, it’s as simple as having a conversation. But also sometimes it involves blood and torture.
If you listen to our podcast, you may recall I was smitten with Mike Brooks’ Inquisitor in Rites of Passage. Though her interactions were brief, Brooks depiction of the Inquisitor as the cold, ruthless, “what it takes” persona intrigued me. It’s why I picked up his latest short story, The Tear of Selevia without hesitation. Not only am I glad I did, I am anxiously awaiting a full-length follow-up book.
Needles in a Haystack
The Inquisition are, if nothing else, investigators. This might be why I’m so very drawn to them is because not only are they solving mysteries, they’re doing it on a galactic stage. The latter concept being the most overwhelming. When looking for a single item or person, where does one begin? In Chris Wraight’s Hollow Mountain series, we see how difficult it is to track down a lead on a single planet. Imagine if searching in whole other systems.
The Tear of Selevia does a great job of tracking the various phases of an investigation into a specific item, the titular Tear of Selevia. Our Inquisitor and her team track various leads across various worlds, occasionally leaving violence and bloodshed in their wake.
One thing that really stands out about this short story is how rote most of these stages are. That’s not a bad thing either. An Inquisitor’s life cannot be all slathering heretics and shootouts. So much of their jobs, you can imagine, would be as benign as purchasing a bracelet and casually gleaning information from the jeweler. It’s refreshing to see that while fruitful, not every lead is dramatic. The lack of drama actually makes this story very delightful.
Hook, line, and sink[h]er
As it is revealed we have been following an Interrogator and members of the Inquisitor’s kill team, Mike Brooks does a couple of really great things. One, he establishes that our main character, Nero, is not only ambitious, she might be a little too ambitious. It is, of course, the desire of every Interrogator to eventually become an Inquisitor. This one seems particularly eager, and the Tear of Selevia is her ticket to her rosette. But her methods, it is revealed, might be a bit too extreme. We don’t get to see Inquisitor Ngiri’s thoughts, but they are heavily implied. Me likey.
Additionally, Brooks has set a helluva hook. The Tear, it turns out, is less Maltese Falcon, and little more than a bargaining chip. While we’re able to guess the stone’s nature early, I did not see Nero ultimately using it to parley with Aeldari. The Aeldari themselves are occupying such a strange area in the WH40k universe currently, and this feels aligned with that. Are they low-key friendly? Are they trustworthy? Who knows! Delightful. Is it sketchy that an Interrogator would willingly trade a valuable item for information? Yeah. It is dangerous as hell that she’s doing it without her Inquisitor’s knowledge? OMG yes. Do I understand why she did it? I think so, yes.
Ultimately, Ngiri (and by extension Nero) are after something called a Pillar of Dreams. The Aeldari reveal it’s not even Aeldari in nature, which means this is in potentially dangerous territory. And yet, the Aeldari’s seeming reluctance to share too much detail has me intrigued. That Nero knows Ngiri would disapprove of her methods has me equally intrigued. Not to mention one of the kill team, Fell, reminds me dearly of my boy Fischig AND I AM HERE FOR THAT.
In a lot of ways, The Tear of Selevia feels like an elevator pitch. I felt as though Mike Brooks was convincing me that he has a great idea for an Inquisition novel. All of the Inquisitor’s staff that we’ve met felt interesting, and Nero’s dangerous game has a lot of potential. Color me sold, m’dude.