Review: DEATHFIRE by Nick Kyme (Black Library)

KymeN-HH32-DeathfireThe surviving Salamanders search for purpose and hope

Vulkan lies in state beneath the Fortress of Hera, and yet many of his sons still refuse to believe that he is truly dead. After a seemingly miraculous rescue by the Ultramarines, Artellus Numeon, once captain of the Pyre Guard, urges the other Salamanders on Macragge to leave Imperium Secundus and return their primarch’s body to the home world of Nocturne — there to be reborn in the flames of Mount Deathfire. But Numeon grapples endlessly with his doubts and fears for the future of the Legion, while their foes seek to carve out new destinies of their own…

It feels like a very long time since I last read a Horus Heresy novel. I used to read them as soon as they were released, but I seem to have taken a bit of a break. So, I decided to catch up, and ended up reading the last four novels in a couple of weeks. For the main, it was great to be reading back in that setting. Deathfire, the sequel to Vulkan Lives moves the Salamanders’ story forwards, eventually bringing the shattered legion some hope. It is not, however, an easy journey…

Now, some people may be slightly annoyed to learn that this novel is still mostly connected to the events at Calth and Imperium Secundus on Macragge. I, too, am becoming a little impatient for the story to move forward. That being said, though, I was very happy to read more about the Salamanders — a previously ignored Legion that has been revived by the Heresy series and Kyme’s novels in particular. (Although, yes, he did write some Salamanders novels pre-Heresy series.)

Deathfire is not as macro-scaled as some Heresy novels, but it benefits from the tight focus on the remaining Salamanders leadership. Numeon, in particular, gets a lot of attention, so fervent is he in his belief that Vulkan is actually alive — all evidence to the contrary. His brother legionnaires (not to mention outsiders) struggle with his faith in Vulkan’s endurance and stubbornness on the issue, but he slowly wins many of them over. Numeon et al struggle to get back to Nocturne, confronted by multiple obstacles at seemingly every turn. Dogged by traitor legions, denizens of the warp, and internal doubt and dissension, their journey is one tough grind.

It is maybe a little too much of a slow grind, and I did find myself thinking the book could have been pruned just a little bit. At the same time, though, Kyme uses Numeon’s struggle and belief as a way to start planting the seeds of the supernatural aspects and “facts” of the loyalist legions. It’s never explicitly told, but one way of reading some of Numeon’s actions can be linked to the “religious” miracles and help sometimes found in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. (I won’t go into any more.) This development had to happen, of course, as the traitors’ increasing warp-related activities have already opened that door for loyalist aspects.

Kyme’s writing is excellent throughout, his characters are interesting and well-rounded and -developed. I very much enjoyed reading about their struggles and experiences. Despite wishing it had been just a bit tighter and briskly-paced, this was nevertheless another very good addition to the Horus Heresy series. (Which is inching ever-so-slowly towards the end…)

Recommended for all fans of the series, certainly.


The Horus Heresy: Horus Rising (1), False Gods (2), Galaxy in Flames (3), Flight of the Eisenstein (4), Fulgrim (5), Descent of Angels (6), Legion (7), Battle for the Abyss (8), Mechanicum (9), Tales of Heresy (10), Fallen Angels (11), A Thousand Sons  (12), Nemesis (13), The First Heretic (14), Prospero Burns (15), Age of Darkness (16), The Outcast Dead (17), Deliverance Lost (18), Know No Fear (19), The Primarchs (20), Fear to Tread (21), Shadows of Treachery (22), Angel Exterminates (23), Betrayer (24), Mark of Calth (25), Promethean SunScorched EarthVulkan Lives (26), Scars (I-III, IV-IX; 27), The Unremembered Empire (28), Vengeful Spirit (29), The Damnation of Pythos (30), Legacies of Betrayal (31), Death & Defiance, Tallarn: Executioner, Blades of the Traitor, Deathfire (32), The Purge, Wolf King, Cybernetica, Garro: Vow of Faith, Ravenlord, War Without End (33), Pharos (34), The Honoured, The Unburdened, Eye of Terra (35), The Seventh Serpent, The Path of Heaven (36), The Silent War (37), Meduson, Tallarn: Ironclad, Angels of Caliban (38), Praetorian of Dorn (39), Corax

Also on CR: Interview with Nick Kyme (2011)

12 thoughts on “Review: DEATHFIRE by Nick Kyme (Black Library)

  1. “Deathfire is not as macro-scaled as some Heresy novels, but it benefits from the tight focus on the remaining Salamanders leadership.”

    That hits the nail on the head! It’s what makes the novel equally frustrating and interesting. As a Salamanders-Novel it’s interesting what the Chapter is going through. As a novel in the HH-series it’s simply tiresome. Especially because we’ve already gotten Vulkan Lives as a story which is all about Vulkan’s personality and “immortality”.

    Even if you don’t know the WH40k-HH-background-story, you’re at a point with this novel where the fate of the Salamanders-chapters starts to feel more like a distraction. And what makes it worse is that this novel doesn’t make a good case for why you should care about the fate of these individuals. It equally fails to move forward the meta-plot in a significiant manner while also relying on you caring a lot about the meta-plot. In the same way the individual characters’ fates seem like a distraction from the meta-plot, the way the characters engage with the meta-plot seems like a distraction from them becoming interesting characters. This novel constantly talks about the fate of the Salamanders and Vulkan while offering little of substance to say about the two. It’s all just a plot-thing driven by characters who seem obsessed with their goals.

    The fate of Vulkan has never interested me that much. I mean, his whole thing is “not dying” – but he “dies” again and again. So you always get one side being like “Yeah, he’s dead.” and the Salamanders being like “Nope, not dead… Vulkan lives!”.

    What’s vexing about it is that it isn’t about the Salamanders being hopeful and having faith in their primarch, it feels like it’s about some supernatural ability not to die. So, when Salamanders-Space-Marines talk about their Primarch living, you don’t look at it as a idealism or hope, you just think with a sigh “Yeah, I know…”. And when others disagree you just echo the Salamanders’ response in your mind of “You don’t get it. He’s immortal.”. Just by making Vulkan kinda immortal, the whole discussion (which should be worthwhile in theory) becomes tedious.


    • One thing that was never clear, though, is if others recognize that he is a perpetual – yes, he survived the events of VULKAN LIVES, only to get stabbed again, but we were privy to the events with Konrad, but not the Salamanders or other Primarchs.
      Also, given that The Hunt For Vulkan also features the primarch, any suspense about his Heresy fate is… well, erased.
      Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed this. I do see why some people don’t love it, or are frustrated by it. But I’m looking forward to the final part of Kyme’s Heresy-Salamanders trilogy.


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