I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.
Descent of Angels by Michael Scanlon
I went into reading Descent of Angels not quite knowing what to expect. In one group I’m in, opinions ranged from saying it was among the worst books in the whole WH40K universe to having it as the favorite book in the Horus Heresy series. Reviews on Goodreads put it just over 3/5, reflecting a generally mixed opinion as well. My own opinion is that the book could have easily been a short story instead of a novel.
In Descent of Angels, we meet Zahariel, a man from Caliban, a planet that is kind of Middle Ages in technology and thought. The book is set decades before the Horus Heresy begins and also introduces the Primarch of the Dark Angels legion. The first half has some background story for Caliban, developing the world somewhat as well as the traditions in which Zahariel is raised. The second half integrates Caliban into the Imperium and sees Zahariel going off to join the Dark Angels and fight for the Emperor.
The problems with the novel mostly fall around the way it is written. It just doesn’t have the same feel as other Warhammer 40K or Horus Heresy novels, in my opinion. There’s action, yes, but it all feels kind of strange and almost alien to the main plot, which is basically a coming-of-age story that unites sci-fi/fantasy worlds together. The whole thing reads more like a Star Wars novel than a Warhammer one, and that threw me off for basically the entirety of the novel. Moreover, there are numerous sections of info-dumps where the reader sifts through tens of pages of information before getting to any additional action or character development. Truly, this could have been presented as a short story telling us about Caliban’s integration into the Imperium, and it would have been much improved.
Descent of Angels is a disappointing work in the series. I’ll be interested to see if it truly becomes important later in the series. For now, I would have to say I’m not planning to re-read it. What did you think of the novel?
Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my posts on the Horus Heresy, as well as books throughout the Warhammer and 40K universe can be found here.
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