Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanlon – A Book Review

Descent of Angels


The planet of Caliban exists much as it has for thousands of years – the knightly orders protect the common people, fighting back the beasts that lurk in the depths of the seemingly endless forests. Young Zahariel and Nemiel aspire to join the greatest of the orders, led by the example of mighty Lion El’Jonson and his vision of a peaceful and unified world. But the coming of the Imperium brings new concerns and a new destiny for the Lion as part of the Great Crusade, and the sons of Caliban must decide if they will follow him to glory among the stars.

Author: Mitchel Scanlon

Publisher: The Black Library

Pages: 416

Genre: Sci-Fi/Warhammer

Series: Horus Heresy #6

Release Date: 28/08/2014

My Chosen Format: Paperback

My Rating of ‘Descent of Angels’: 3 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon, Audible


I’ll start off by saying that anyone that claims this is a ‘Horus Heresy’ novel is being charitable at best and a flagrant liar at worst. It has parts that are a Heresy novel, but only parts. Yes, it features the Dark Angels around the time of the Heresy … but not for long. The vast majority (I’d say a good two-thirds) of this book happens before the Dark Angels are a thing.

A good two-thirds of this happens on Caliban before the Imperium discovered Lion El’Jonson. For the most part this is an origin story of El’Jonson and the legion he’d grow into leading. It’s also a bit of a step away from the boring trope of ‘first hundred pages is the titular legion fighting against an alien foe’ … as that can’t happen at the start due to the titular legion not wholly existing yet.

But fear not, it isn’t entirely an origin story for the Lion (although it’s enough of one to make whatever Primarch origin novella they brought out for him pretty pointless. I say this having not read said novella. I say this feeling I don’t need to.) It does bleed into the Heresy and you see the exact start point where Jonson and his legion took to the stars to fight the good fight for Him on Earth. You also get to see how Astartes are made and what can be done for those who are too useful to be thrown into an Imperial Guard Regiment, but not quite right to have their bodies moulded to that of an Astartes.

I think knowing all that I just mentioned before going into the book is why I enjoyed it as much as I did. So, if you take anything away from this review, please let it be the following: Do not believe that, just because this is listed as ‘book six’ in the Horus Heresy series, that it in any way should be a book six. It should not. It should be a book 0.5 at best. Approach this as if it is a stand alone novel and I promise you’ll enjoy this so much more than if you come at it hot off the excitement of book five (Fulgrim) and wanting more thrills. 

I think BL thought ‘we did a good job with Fulgrim. It’d be hard to top the revelations in that book. Sooooo, shall we just not try?’

Descent of Angels was a massive step away from the direction they were setting and, although such changes of pace are always needed in a lengthy series, I feel doing it so early, and after such a big event in book five, had it feeling like more of a filler book than anything the fans actually wanted.

That being said, the characters created, the story being told (knightly orders etc …) and the stage that was set going forward for the Dark Angels as a whole was very intriguing. I liked the way things were left as it sets up so many possibilities for the characters affected. It’ll be a while until I get to the next Dark Angels book, but I look forward to doing so far more than I looked forward to picking up what I knew was a break in the overall narrative with Descent of Angels.

It always felt like a three out of five for me and, even when things got going near the end it just never felt capable of shrugging off the ‘this really isn’t what I signed up for as book six of the HH’ feeling and breaking into the four out of five strata.

16 thoughts on “Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanlon – A Book Review

  1. I had recently a similar issue when a writer of a series I followed ended the second book of his trilogy with a huge cliffhanger and next released a couple of prequels instead of part 3. Probably a commercially motivated move, but it turned me away from the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review mate. I ended up liking this a lot more after the second novel. Sux that this was part of the series. Wouldve been better to just leave it as a stand alone with ties to the Heresy. Will you also be reviewing the short story anthologies, or are you just taking on main novels

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have found with deliverance lost there are at least two shorts that i feel should be read but will make no difference if you dont. The references might just be lost on you in the main novel. I dont know their names out of my head tho. Will have to check when i get home. One deals with how corax is pulled of off istvan and another had Alpharuis doing something that was oke’d by horus, but it was a little white told to some of Angron’s chaps

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review and totally agree with your thoughts. It’s not a bad book, but totally misplaced.
    Loved reading about Caliban and the monsters as well as Lions origins but should probably have been saved for the short story/novella series.

    Liked by 1 person

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