Published: 13 June 2009
Publisher: Black Library
Series: Horus Heresy #11
Format Read: Audible
As news of Horus’s treachery spreads, the Great Crusade grinds to a halt as the Primarchs and their Legions decide where their loyalty lies – with the Emperor, or the rebel Warmaster Horus. In this sequel to Descent of Angels, the Dark Angels too face a time of testing, both in the stars, and on their home world, Caliban.
Arriving in the Gehinnom system, Lion El’Jonson and a force of DarkAngels set about subjugating the system’s core worlds which are key to the Warmaster’s plans to overthrow the Emperor.
Meanwhile, on Caliban, Luther and the rest of the Legion feel abandoned by their Primarch. Civil war erupts as the planet strives to break from Imperial rule, and the Dark Angels are thrown into a deadly conflict where all that they know and trust is thrown into doubt.
It is no secret that I did not enjoy the first Dark Angels book that we got earlier in the series. I do however now understand the reason why it was included, or rather made my own assumptions about it. It was not only to give us an origin story of a Legion, but make us aware what it could be in any of the other Legions’ home worlds before the coming of the Emperor. I respect that in hind sight, just imagining that, were they to have not included it in the HH series and just it being a stand alone, Fallen Angels would have suffered the wrath of many pissed off Warhammer fans who would possibly not know why it was in the series. At least that is the way I see it. I thought I could clear that up before I started the review for Fallen Angels. I would also like to say that, if you have not already read any of my other HH reviews, I am going through the series with Jenn of Eternal Bookcase. If you have missed her review of this novel, head over to the link, give her a follow if you are not already doing so.
I just got my first Warhammer starter set last week so I decided to listen to the audio book while I built mini’s as well as spend time getting familiarized with the game mechanics. As a result of this, I did not spend 100 % attention on the book, I might have missed a few key points that Jenn discusses better in her review. I do, however know a little bit about the history of the Dark Angels and I already had some idea as the direction the book was going to go. I was not expecting it to be as good as it was though, the ending gave me quite a kick in the Iron Fist if you catch my drift…
Fallen Angels follows where Descent of Angels left off, although quite a few years have passed as the book brings us up to speed into current Heresy era. Lion El’Jonson, Primarch of the first Legion is of fighting among the stars, while a contingent of his army has been sent back to the home world Caliban in a form of disgrace linked to the events of the Descent of Angels book. While Jonson tries to piece together his own assumptions in the battles going on, Caliban also deals with the industrialization of the planet as the coming of the Emperor also means the coming of the Imperium. Obviously some people will either be for, or against these new changes as any person in real life would be for or against something that they do not believe in or support. Jonsons’ second in command Luthor, whom was not allowed to join the ranks of the Astartes due to his advanced years, the person that taught Jonson all he knows, now has to take up the reigns on Caliban at the same time as dealing with his own feelings of betrayal and jealousy towards Jonson. There is a lot that happens in this book.
A few things I liked about F.A was the inclusion of treachery from the Mechanicum side, the involvement of them in the story, an almost direct result of what happens in the Mechanicum novel, made this a blast to read. I also liked that Caliban is considered a Death world, a world that you can die on as it is inhabited by monsters that are tough to kill. Even though Jonson led a campaign to root out all the monsters in Descent of Angels, it turns out there was more than just monsters to be taken care of. Caliban seemingly holds a secret that has been kept under wraps for quite a time. If there is one Chapter that can give the Alpha Legion a run for their money it’s the Dark Angels in keeping secrets and being all cloak and dagger about things. It is for this same reason I feel that the whole lore around the Dark Angels turned into what it is today. Some times things are better left unsaid, but most times, it could be better if every one could just be on the same page, at least that is what I feel. There were also a xenos encounter that felt like the author took some inspiration from Alien in the life cycles department, I know H.R Giger was the man to thank for giving us some models based off of his art in the Tyranids, but the Alien life cycle has not been copied so much and I enjoyed that a lot. I also liked that the Mechanicum Scitari units was a little expanded upon in this novel. There were also references to battles with Orks mentioned and I know I am yet to find out which novel on my shelf links to the one mentioned in this one. Knowing that this is the last Dark Angels driven book in the series for a while, I think I know enough now to pick up those books that I have been wary of picking up that have only adorned my shelves and sat there looking pretty. I might reach out for them this year. Another thing that I liked was the inclusion of one Space Marines Chapter actually, physically going up and into battle with Horus’ Legion. Though it was over pretty quick, that is the stuff I like to read, knowing that most Heresy books will in most part be about inner toil and struggle, I do like an all out war scene in between, just to get the attention span awake again. The politics in these books are great and at times, all that they are about, but a good ass kicking scene placed here and there is always a win in my books. I felt satisfied that Horus could believe that he has everything so meticulously planned only to be thwarted by an unaccounted variable. Said variable in the form of another brother Primarch. That cliffhanger that this book ends on though gives me so many more questions as to what will be happening further on.
While Warhammer isn’t really a place to go to for reading about good character development, F.A did have quite a few good characters in it I felt. Some have come over from the previous book and it already set up threads for them there to be continued in F.A. Even though I at times got a bit lost or got confused about the who’s who form the previous book, the back of my mind had enough power left to semi remember all of them. The characters of Zahariel and Nemiel which could be seen as one of the sub plots, was almost a direct comparison to the relationship between Luthor and Jonson. It just goes to show how envy can turn a man into a bad person. I can’t say that I have particularly warmed up to Jonson, but I guess it is just the way that he is written, secretive, recluse, drawn back, very much like the strictures that he was brought up with I figure. I have also now learned that to go into the Heresy series, looking for straight answers will leave you with more answers by the end of a novel which is exactly what I got left with after F.A, but that does not bug me too much as I know now, things will be revealed probably way, way, way into the later books, or by some snipe in a following book. I am happy with what I got and I am even more than willing to give this book a second go seeing as I now have both audio and physical copies of it.
Fallen Angels was a pleasant surprise for me after my reluctance of reading about them further after the first installment in the HH series. I am glad that I stuck with it though. It has given me some positive feelings towards the Chapter again. I can only recommend this to people who are familiar with the HH series as well as those that might have had the same trouble as me after the first novel in the Dark Angels saga, it does get better for a bit at least. F.A got a 4 out of 5 on GR it also got both smiles for the banner from Jen and myself. By the time this post goes up we will have already started with book 12. I hope I can write such a long review for that one too, it is quite a big novel…
Till next time.