Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanlon is the first book of the Horus Heresy series to break away from the main story. In fact, it goes several decades before the Emperor declares Horus as Warmaster. Do you need this book to follow along with the HH? Absolutely not.
Many of the reviews on Goodreads hit it hard for this fact. No one wanted to know about the history of the Dark Angels, which included the rift between Luther and Lion. Perhaps I’m biased since I find the secrecy of the Dark Angels fascinating, because I absolutely loved this book.
From Knights in Shining Armor to Space Marines
I have read Angels of Darkness. I know Chapter Master Merir Astelan’s version of the rebellion on Caliban. I’ve heard of the great Fallen Angel, Cypher. I had all of that in the back of my mind while reading, and I was still blown away by both the histories of Caliban and the First Legion.
For starters, I was shocked that the Lion was a literal knight in shining armor, fighting great beasts with swords and shields on horseback. It’s crazy to think of these people jumping from farming and hunting to operating machines and flying off planet. They hadn’t discovered a simple airplane yet, much less something that would fly into outer space. (Although really, they hadn’t ever heard of machines before the First Legion descended.)
The biggest perk for me was finally seeing the Emperor actively participate in the story. Once they announced the Emperor himself was coming for a visit, I could not put the book down. What is His presence like? What does He sound like? Up until this point, the Emperor was already back on Terra, so this prequel was really the only way I could read about Him, not read about what others said about Him.
Even though His moments in the book were very few, at least now I know that yes, He really did walk among lesser humans.
From the Descent of Angels to the Angels Descending
The Emperor and the Lion were really all extra dressing. A young knight supplicant to the Order, Zahariel, tells this story.
He was a promising supplicant who did everything and more that was asked of him. He avenged his mentor by vanquishing the Caliban Lion that slew him. The only other knight of the Order who had killed a Caliban Lion was the Lion (El’Jonson). He thwarted an assassination plot against the Emperor. He was the only Calibanite selected to become a Librarian of the Dark Angels.
Zahariel defended the Lion at every turn, he urged Luther to not let jealousy get in his way, and he risked his own life to get a nuclear warhead off the flagship before it detonated. If that wasn’t enough, he stopped a daemon from crossing the warp into a host body, TWICE. First he killed the host, and then with Librarian Isfarel, he activated a psychic bomb to send the daemon back to the warp.
And yet, the Lion sent Zahariel, with Luther, back to Caliban. Whether it was truly rejection or not, it felt like rejection for everyone sent home. Surely this is how the seeds of rebellion were planted.
After I finished, I looked up Zahariel in my phone lexicanum app, and my heart broke learning that Zahariel became the infamous Cypher. Why did the Lion send Zahariel home? Could it be that the real cause of the rebellion against the Lion was the Lion himself?
I wondered before if the Emperor was the true cause behind the Heresy, and perhaps, in the case of the Lion, the apple doesn’t fall from the genetically-created tree.
Six books down, 48 to go…
About Horus Hearsay
Horus Hearsay is dedicated to Keri’s journey through the Horus Heresy saga. The chronicling of the Horus Heresy began over ten years ago, with currently 54 books in total, not counting The Primarchs series or the various short stories. Horus Hearsay will only cover the main novels.