Thursday, December 27, 2007

Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanlon

The sixth Horus Heresy novels fails to do what the others all managed. The overall story does not move here, at all. The novel is entirely set in the ‘past’ as far as other events in the series. In truth this does not read like the sixth book in a series, but as the first book in a linked pair.

Descent of Angels is poorly named. Readers hoping for a novel focusing on the Dark Angels rather than the larger events of the Heresy will be disappointed. Descent of Angels is mainly concerned with ‘the order’ a group of knights who eventually become the Dark Angels.

The knights wear armour that is not quite power armour, and fight with pistols and grenades, yet are overly concerned with quests and the slaying of beasts. As backstory it would be interesting, but as two-thirds of the novel it is really quite boring. It fails as backstory as the order is not sufficiently detailed to seem like a real body, rather than a group of warriors waiting to be turned into space marines. This makes reading two-thirds of the novel a waste of time.

When the order finally merge with real space marines to become the Dark Angels, there is no real change to the tempo. After a brief meeting with another chapter, the White Scars, they settle down to police a recalcitrant world. After putting down a rebellion, the Dark Angels immediately leave with no logic or explanation to their actions. Also without explanation their grand master turned Primarch divides the legion in two, with half the legion retuning back to their homeworld. There is no ‘descent’ in the novel at all.

That is the end of the novel. The schism that will eventually split the Dark Angels is not depicted, unless a brief moment of jealously on the part of Luther was supposed to count. On finishing this novel, the reader is left with a sense of “..what?” The book achieves nothing, and can be easily skipped by anyone interested in following the series, or by anyone interested in reading about the Dark Angels. Presumably Mitchel Scanlon will write a second Heresy book that will satisfy both.

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