Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Descent of Angels (Horus Heresy)", by Mitchell Scanlon (Black Library)

Volume six in the excellent Horus Heresy series does not disappoint, shedding light on the founding of the mysterious and aloof Dark Angels.

Covering the founding and subsequent fall of the Dark Angels, "Descent of Angels" is an excellent insight into one of the most popular (and four primary) legions that make up the Space Marines.

Focussing on the initiation of Zahariel into the Order, the knightly... um, order on Caliban that was run by Lion El'Jonson, the primarch of the Dark Angels. If you know nothing of the history already in place for the Dark Angels, then this is all going to sound like mumbo-jumbo, but never mind.

The action is well paced, as well as well spaced. This isn't a novel devoted solely to bloodshed and carnage, as some readers of Black Library's output seem to want (probably the younger readers). In fact, there are only three short battles that, while integral to the story and development of the main characters, feel a little like afterthoughts. Staying true to the mysterious nature of the Dark Angels, this novel has many portions of relative inactivity, when Zahariel or another main protagonist merely ponders various things about the nature of their changing lives, and the universe that is undergoing change around them.
Unfortunately, the novel ends very abruptly, without much explanation of... well, anything really. There's no explanation to the introductory dialogue that describes some events that come in the novel and beyond. Perhaps there will be another novel that follows the story of the Dark Angels, just so the loose ends are tied up. A little disappointing, as it felt like the novel was really taking off, then nothing... Let's hope enough people bring this up that Black Library commission another to fill in the blanks, and flesh out the role of the Dark Angels during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, not to mention an explanation as to why they become such a secretive and semi-rogue legion.

"Descent of Angels" fits in well with the other five volumes of the series, raising the level of writing as well as the intellectual level of Black Library's usual releases, which occasionally feel targetted at younger readers, or perhaps just those who don't really get out that much. Writers for this series, along with other established authors who have had careers outside of Black Library (Steven Saville and Dan Abnett, specifically) really do a wonderful job of creating excellent science fiction and fantasy novels - if only they could do more!

If you have enjoyed "Horus Rising", "False Gods", "Galaxy In Flames", "Flight Of The Eisenstein", and "Fulgrim", then you will love this novel, and no doubt all the others to come in the series ("Legion" and "Battle For The Abyss" are the next two).

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