Monday, December 3, 2007

Descent of Angels: Summary and Review

Well...I finished Descent of Angels and as promised here is the Summary and Review:

Descent of Angels

(Horus Heresy)

By Mitchel Scanlon This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Publication Date: October 30, 2007

The Summary:

The story obviously is about the Dark Angels...the First Legion of Astartes during the Great Crusade. The story is told from the perspective of Zahariel, an "Aspirant" to a knightly order on the planet Caliban. The story progresses through his youth, training, questing and knighthood...all set under the eye of the Primarch Lion'El Jonson. The tale details the beginnings of the Order and how cool the Primarch was, surpassing even the greatest living Legends of the Age, Luther, Ramiel and others and how impressive even the mere mortals were...much less the nigh-godlike Lion.

Early on you can see where tension would arise between The Lion and his Knights. One of the main characters is Luther. Easily the greatest hero of all time. A knight who had surpassed all who had come before in honor, fighting ability, sheer charisma. "A Perfect Knight" by any measure. Luther is the one who found the child Lion'El Jonson. The story details how The Lion was found, how he somehow survived alone on a deadly planet full of "Great Beasts" which were usually the object of numerous "Quests". Of course...with the arrival of The Lion, everything changed.

Being a Primarch, The Lion surpassed everyone rapidly and soon became a knight, created "The Order" and through this "Order" changed the shape of Caliban's politics and civilization forever. Being a world of Knightly Orders...the Lion's "Order" ...called "The Order" BTW, soon consumed or destroyed all competition and set about a quest to rid the planet Caliban of all Great Beasts. This of course was revolutionary.

In the end The Lion's quest was successful, the main characters, teenagers become knights and the last vestiges of the old regime were wiped away.

Soon after the completion of his Great Quest (and about 2/3 of the book) was the "Descent of Angels". The 1st Legion, Angels in Black, Astartes...coming to herald the coming of The Emperor of Mankind. The story fast forwards to the point where Zahariel, his best friend and cousin as well as several others are prepared for their transformation to astartes.

As the reader may understand, only the young can become astartes, so many members of The Order are given surgical improvements, but cannot become astartes. This leaves out many, including the Great Hero Luther.

Fast forward again to the arrival of the Emperor. There is a plot hatching within The Order. Some members don't like what The Emperor and his Imperium mean...a loss of their identity, of their traditions, their religion...etc. Zahariel is brought in by his cousin to join this secretive cabal of rebels, but he won't be a party to it.

Zahariel foils the plot, and and the story fast forwards again to the Legion taking over the conversion towards compliance of a planet currently held by the White Scars. A brief interlude and the Dark Angels as they are now called relieve the White Scars so they can move to another area to continue the Great Crusade.

Of course, there is a plot and soon a nice, simple, peaceful transition becomes open warfare. The war goes quickly, and through the use of some psyker power and some of the newer astartes and older knights (non-astartes) the planet is certified "compliant". The Lion, seemingly uncomfortable with some of the members of the expedition and the way the campaign was concluded...sends some prominent members back to Caliban to gather more recruits and train them...including Luther, who at this point is starting to chafe in the shadow of The Lion as well as several older "Knights" as well as younger ones like Zahariel.

The Review:

That's it. They introduce a new character and we see him grow to be a superhero...and then he becomes an Astartes. A latent psyker to boot.

The Lion isn't much more than a background superhero who instigates a conflict with the other orders in order to get what he wants, as well as easily alienates his best and brightest.

Although you can see how dissent could easily form, there is little of it. A few veiled glimpses from minor characters, and a few understandable questionings from characters such as Luther are it. The one threat came from the secret cabal and that was put down immediately.

I guess you can see how some turned away from The Lion, but the book doesn't really get in to it. No split in the ranks, no "Fallen" and "Unforgiven". None of that. Just the merest glimpse of how the dissent began...barely.

Honestly, I wanted to see less of Zahariel as a teenage wonderboy and more training as an Astartes. More Dark Angels as a Legion and more meat as far as why the split happened.

In reading Descent of Angels, I kept wondering...when are we getting to him becoming an Astartes, and then wondering when the mutiny would happen. It never did.

Maybe the book was too subtle. Maybe I've been led down the primrose path by too many Black Library books that lay it out all nice and neat in four-color style. I kept thinking there just HAS to be a sequel in order to finish the story.

It wasn't a bad book. I did enjoy it. I was let down though. I expected more. Maybe that is on me.


Of all the Horus Heresy series, I'm grading this one the Lowest thus far. That being said, on a scale of One to Five Stars, One meaning it Truly Sucked and Five being an All-Time Classic....I'm giving Descent of Angels Three Stars. (***)


Mephisto said...

I also agree, this book is one of the weakest ones. I have been caught by the story of other novels like the ones involving Garviel Loken or the Fulgrim one..., where you cannot stop reading. The writer of this novel is not a good one. He does not managed to highlight the figure of the Lion (he seems not to be a real primarch)... even when the Imperator appears, you are not really surprised... Have just finished reading it... hope the next is totally different.

Owen Robson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Owen Robson said...

Good back story about caliban and an excellent set up for the next dark angels book in the black library series, I would personally recommend if you're a big fan of the DA and have some time to kill.