Thursday, 16 May 2013

Book Review: Descent of Angels

Descent of Angels

Here is my first book review on Realm of Warhammer 40k. I endeavour to review every Warhammer 40k novel I have read in the hope it might inspire others to pick up a book a read. I am not a professional critic so these are going to be my own opinions.

Anyway, the first book I am going to review is the one I have just finished reading. Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanion. Book VI of the Horus Heresy. 


What's it about:

The next instalment in the ground-breaking Horus Heresy series by Mitchel Scanlon, telling the tale of the civil war that nearly tore the human Imperium apart, ten thousand years ago. The novel explores the dark and mysterious history of the Dark Angels Legion and their Primarch Lion El’Jonson.

When the Imperial fleet rediscovers the planet Caliban, the Emperor is reunited with his missing son the Primarch Lion El’Jonson. As Dark Angels old and new join the Great Crusade, a chain of events is set in motion that will change Caliban, its people, and the Legion forever.

My thoughts:

Compared to the first five novels of the Horus Heresy (Will review those later) it was a very strange read. It follows a young boy called Zahariel El'Zurias on his induction into the Order, a monastic order of techno-barbarian Calibanite knights, very confusing as I expected guns and marines straight away  They have motorised swords and pistols, but ride horses and reside in fortresses and Terra is a myth. It introduces their leader Lion El'Jonson and the great quest to rid there planet of great beasts.

This is very different to the other novels, due to not even talking about Astartes for the first half of the book but gives a very good insight into there knightly origins. The young knight Zahariel declares a quest and kills the last Calabinite Lion, creating a special brotherly bond between himself and Lion El'Jonson.

about half way after the last beasts are killed, the Imperials arrive and Astartes drop from the sky on wings of fire and it is here one of the first references comes in about the Descent of Angels.

The lion is told he is a Primarch and a son of the Emperor and the young knights are put through trials by the Astartes to see if they are fit to become Space Marines. The book stays with Zahariel throughout and his Cousin Nemiel who eventually are given gene seed and made Astartes. the older nights are genetically modified to become better and stronger. This does give a great insight into the recruitment of humans into the Astartes ranks, something I have not read about before.

The 1st Legion as it was is renamed to become the Dark Angels, led by Lion El'Jonson and are given the point down sword with wings either side as the legion symbol. For Dark Angel fans, I would imagine this a great part for any background fluff reading these parts.

The rest of the book again follows Zahariel and him getting picked out as a junior Librarian that aides Luther, El'Jonson's second in command. They take over the watch of a planet that are having difficulties coming under compliance from the White Scars. An emissary from this planet comes aboard the Dark Angels flagship with a booby trapped shuttle, planning to destroy the fleet. This is scuppered by Zahariel  and Luther, but Luther confesses during this time that he is jealous of the Lion and nearly just let it explode, but Zahariel  foiled this but venting it into space.

The Lion declares war on the planet and takes a small group down to the planets surface to fight an unknown enemy that seems to be the planets gods. I did get a little confused with this, but I think it was one of their first encounters with Chaos. It was eventually defeated by Zahariel.

After getting back on board their ship, Lion El'Jonson sends Luther and Zahariel back to their home world to aid with more recruiting. This seems like he is a bit cheesed off with Luther and Zahariel with what happened and with Zahariel not telling the Lion.

Here the books ends and to be honest, I was a little disappointed with the abrupt ending and no major battle happening.

Parting Shot:

A good book and a must read for those reading the Horus Heresy collection. Would I read it again? No. I personal did not enjoy it that much and found it a bit of a chore to read. For me there was not enough Astartes and fighting going on and defiantly not as good as the first five books. Perhaps it was the story line or the writing style of the author that I did not get. Who knows.

My star rating:


You're comments and thoughts on the book if you have read it, are most welcome.

Please remember that these are only my personal views and opinions. They are by no means intended to criticize the novel, author or the Black Library in any way.

~ Walk softly and carry a big gun ~


  1. It was good, a nice look into the psyche of the chapter as it is today by looking at the legion it used to be. I wish BL hadn't switched to hard cover now I have to wait almost a year to get angel exterminatus , and betrayer and whatnot in paperback...

    1. It was a very nice insight into the Chapters origins and was still a good read. I prefer paperback as well, plus its cheaper.

  2. I agree completely with this review. When I read the book, I expected so much more. I love the background aspect, and I really enjoyed the 'industrialization' that the planet suffered and how that shows the Imperium's true impact on newly compliant planets. I thought Zahariel was too bland, and that the Lion was not shown nearly enough to really get to understand him (of course, that's always been the Lion's thing- mysterious and brooding). But I felt overall that the book was a 'fantasy' story in a scifi universe and terribly droll compared to the rest of the series.
    Wait till you get to 'Fallen Angels'. It's a bit of a rebound, and it'll illicit an emotional resonse- a sign of a good book in my mind!

    1. It's good to know I am not the only one with this view of the book. I do think the book could have given a little more depth to the characters and even expanded on a few more. Will be looking forward to 'Fallen Angels' you have intrigued me. Agreed, it was a bit of a Fantasy rather than a SciFi novel though, or at least the major part of it.

  3. The way I've described The Lion, is that he's effectively the 30k version of Sherlock Holmes (or Greg House, if you will). That fits Luther into the position of Watson/Wilson. If you think about him that way, the Lion's actions make a lot more sense. Luther is his anchor to humanity. I'm sure there's some psychology stuff about it too.

    Fallen Angels is a bit better. However, if you pay attention to the Dark Angels story in "The Primarches," you really get the sense that GW has decided to cut its loses with this Dark Angels trilogy and have abandoned it entirely.

    I would suggest breaking the order and reading Fallen Angels immediately after this, so you don't end up forgetting characters. I'd also suggest skipping 'Battle for the Abyss' in its entirety.

  4. I personally enjoyed the book as I love the dark angels and I felt I got to know the legion a bit better you are right the end is a bit abrupt but upon seeing fallen angels it makes sense as a two part story.