Tuesday, 23 November 2010

‘Descent of Angels’ – Mitchel Scanlon (Black Library)

It’s not often that I don’t make it the whole way through a book (although, funnily enough, it’s been happening more and more just recently...) and it’s a rare case indeed where I don’t make it the whole way through a book from the Black Library. That’s what happened over the weekend though... I had a lot on and wanted to kick back and relax with something from the Black Library; I’m always pretty much guaranteed a decent read from these guys and that was just what I was in need of. I’ve also wanted to finish off my ‘Horus Heresy’ reading just recently so ‘Descent of Angels’ seemed like a great way to combine the two. At least, that’s what I thought at the time...

‘Descent of Angels’ introduces us to the mysterious ‘Dark Angels’ Space Marine Legion and the origins of their Legion on the planet Caliban. It also sets the scene for the dissension that will tear their legion apart over the course of the galaxy spanning civil war between Horus and the Emperor...

Or at least, that’s what I thought at the time...

But apparently not. What you get instead is page after page of an aspirants journey towards knighthood on feudal Caliban, complete with what felt like big jumps forwards and backwards in time that had me confused and trying to work out just how old this man (child?) actually was. If Zahariel really was nine years old when he fought the great monster then well done him but I had trouble believing this personally...

If this wasn’t bad enough, the lengths to which this scene setting dragged out ended up with my losing any sense that this story was connected to the overall ‘Horus Heresy’ storyline. How could it be when all we had was a rambling monologue about a boy at ‘Knight School’? It felt like a poor man’s ‘Harry Potter’...

Now, I’ve read enough Black Library books to know that it’s not all about ‘supermen blowing stuff up with large guns’; more often than not there’s a good story underpinning it all and worth turning those pages for. When I got to the point where I flicked ahead a hundred pages, just to see if this really was a Warhammer 40K book, then I just knew that the story had failed to engage me this time round. That ‘hundred page jump’ confirmed that I was reading a 40K book but I found I had no desire to go back and read those hundred pages in order to get to a point where the story actually kicked in. That was enough for me and ‘Descent of Angels’ was put down, probably never to be picked up again.

I have the sequel (‘Fallen Angels’ by Mike Lee) sat on the pile, do things get any better here?

9 comments:

Greg W said...

Fallen Angels is a marked improvement on Descent. Still not the best of the Horus Heresy books though. There is basically a three book run, including Descent, Battle for the Abyss and Legion which are a bit poo, before things get back to their best with Mechanicum again.

Kelly aka yllektra(force-oblique) said...

Oh, interesting!
I guess having a child fighting and succeeding at that wouldn't sit well with me either!
Thanks for the review!

WordTipping said...

I really disliked Descent of Angels as well and I am not terribly hopefully about Fallen Angels. Mike Lee is not my favorite Black Library writers as I have been ac cutely disappointed by his Nagash series so far.

Convectuoso said...

Don't worry Graeme, Fallen Angels IS better. Descent of Angels is certainly Horus Heresy at its lowest ebb. While I expected there to be a bit of breathing space from the breakneck episodes of Horus Rising up to Fulgrim, I never expected this extent of pointless toss. The whole Knights of Caliban thing wouldn't pass muster as Warhammer Fantasy, so god knows why it's here.
Fallen Angels deals with how Jonson and Luther come to be enemies, after the episode in the last few pages of Descent(this is the only bit worth reading), although why Jonson decides to alienate Luther based on a split-second hesitation only Luther knew about god knows... but it's better written, better battles, and stronger characterisation. Still a bit cheesy with the spooky hooded ones watching from afar on Caliban. I suppose Lee did the best he could with the turkey he was handed though.

WordTipping said...

@convectuoso I don't think Mike Lee was handed a turkey, I just think it's his style. His Nagash series suffers from a lot of the sames issues I had with Descent of Angels, namely a complete lack of proper scope and grandeur.

Andrew said...

Fallen Angels is not better book i found it worse than this.Atleast Scanlon tried something new here, showing Primarh before he met his true Legion. But sadly was little slow to read altough it gave great backround info of Caliban and its humans. But this book aint good for persons who expect lot of action. Quite average book.

Logan MacDonald said...

Let me start by saying that I liked Descent of Angels, I was disappointed that the main characters of the Dark Angels were not the protagonists, but I liked reading about the knightly duties of the people who would become Dark Angels (who I also play, so yeah, admittedly biased). I also don't remember him being nine when he fought the beast, but if so, keep in mind that nine Caliban years could be 20 Earth, one Fenris year is about 20.
That being said, Fallen Angels was alot better. Cycles back and forth between the two brothers who also stand with the two leaders of the Angels. One has intrigue and a questioning of faith, the other constant battle.

Aaron said...

I'd recommend reading Descent of Angels again now. The problem with the book itself is that when it was released everyone (I included) thought it would continue the story set by the books before it; what is the Lion's reaction, how does it tie into the history of the Dark Angels chapter, etc, etc. Instead, you got something that felt disjointed and clunky. But when you read it in conjunction with Fallen Angels, you actually see what it is actually trying to achieve, laying the groundwork like Horus Rising and False Gods did when it started. Maybe its something Black Library should have mentioned in the synopsis.

Anonymous said...

This book was painful to read. It wasn't just bad because it took a different path from the previous books. Scanlon's writing style is slow, tedious, repetitive. Contributes almost nothing to the Heresy storyline. Save yourself several headaches and read a wiki recap.