Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanlon

Disappointing, a letdown, and regrettable are the adjectives I would use to describe Descent of Angels by Mitchell Scanlon. All of these choices indicate that there was some level of expectation for this book and that is an accurate assumption. So far the Horus Heresy has been a stellar series. Each book providing unique insight into this momentous time. Each book providing a unique perspective. Each book capturing the granduer. Descent of Angels fails to live up to any of these criteria.

Instead, Descent of Angels tends to be fairly pedestrian in scope, story and language. The book starts out well, the prologue is moving. It speaks of Luther, the hero, that his story must be told before history and bias erases the truth from our minds. I interpreted this as an attempt to recreate in a microcosm the father versus son drama of the Emperor and Horus but in reverse. This would have been a unique twist and an interesting story element if any time had actually been spent on Luther. Instead the bulk of the book is spent on rather exemplary Dark Angel novice who happens to be not only the ideal Dark Angel but an ideal Space Marine. This character, as in most of the other chapter focused books, serves as a foil for the more notable characters and assists in highlighting these more famous peoples flaws.

Ultimately though too little time actually analyzing either Luther or the Lion. Luther performs no great deeds except having exceptional patience. The Lion tends to be temperamental and moody. In fact I would say he is down right emo with the ongoing theme early in the book of the Lion being so far beyond humans he has no peers and is away in a sea of crowded loneliness. Without sufficient proximity to these characters nothing is ever revealed beyond typical codex stereotypes.

Descent of Angels never gels properly and I find it extremely disappointing that you do not encounter the Dark Angles proper, as Space Marines, until the final chapter of the book. Worse, once the reader reach this point, the book does not elevate its tepid tone. So when the Dark Angels assault a mining shaft filled with the sacrificed souls of seventy million people in a dark ritual for some elder chaos spawn, it falls flat and is without the trademark grandeur of Space Marine warfare. The wailing cries of of the dead souls are warded off with a simple mind block and the agent of the Ruinous Powers is extinguished with a fancy psychic bomb in a matter of pages.

The most important elements of Descent of Angels happen on just a few pages at the very end of the book. This revolves around Luther's discover of the nuclear device and the Lion's subsequent banishment of Luther to Caliban. This is a great setup for the actual story of the Dark Angles fall, but the book ends. Its sudden and deeply unsatisfying. It feels as if this book should be the first part of a trilogy. But that's the problem, its not part of a trilogy. Its part of the Horus Heresy and there will not be another Dark Angels book. This book simply does not fit in the Horus Heresy series. It mars an otherwise great track record and Descent of Angels is as I stated at the beginning: disappointing, a letdown, and regrettable.

The Black Library: Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanlon
Image Source: Scanned Cover
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN-13: 978-1844165087

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