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Descent of Angels (Novel)

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Descent of Angels
Cover Illustration by Neil Roberts
Author Mitchel Scanlon
Performer David Timson, Jonathan Keeble, Gareth Armstrong
Publisher Black Library
Series Horus Heresy Series
Preceded by Fulgrim
Followed by Legion
Released October 2007
Pages 416
Editions 2007 softcover:
ISBN 9781844165087

2010 ebook:
ISBN 9780857870292

2013 audiobook:
ISBN 9781782510475

Descent of Angels is a novel by Mitchel Scanlon and the sixth book in the Horus Heresy Series. It is slightly different from the preceding novels, as it is set almost entirely in the early stages of the Great Crusade and barely touches upon the immediate events of the Horus Heresy itself.

It was later included in "The Novels: Volume 2" eBook collection.

Cover Description

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.

Plot Summary

Zahariel El'Zurias, a boy native to Caliban, is inducted into the Order, an organisation of knights dedicated to defending the people of Caliban from its many predatory beasts. His induction takes the form of mock interrogation where he is questioned by three of the Order's leaders: Lion El'Jonson, Luther and Cypher. He passes the induction and trains as a knight-supplicant alongside his best friend and cousin Nemiel, with whom he shares a competitive rivalry. While the boys train, the knights of the Order continue to carry out Jonson's grand plan to hunt Caliban's Great Beasts to extinction, though the Lion reveals to Zahariel during an minor initiation that the hunt is almost at an end with the near-impenetrable Northwilds the only remaining stronghold of the beasts. During a scouting mission led by Zahariel's hero Amadis, Zahariel's squad comes under attack by a Great Beast and takes casualties. Zahariel risks his own life to keep the beast distracted from his friends, and while Amadis kills the beast he ensures that Zahariel is recognised for his actions, earning him attention from the Order's upper echelons. Amadis begins mentoring Zahariel and Nemiel's jealousy makes their rivalry less friendly than before, though they remain close.

The knights of the Order host a delegation from the Knights of Lupus, a knightly order from the Northwilds who oppose Jonson's plan and have killed scouts sent into their territory. Their leader, Lord Sartana, refuses to back down and Jonson declares war on the Knights of Lupus. During the confrontation it is revealed that Amadis's birth town of Endriago is being preyed upon by a Great Beast and Amadis declares a quest to destroy it. He returns to Aldurukh mortally wounded and gives Zahariel his pistol, revealing that the Beast of Endriago is a rare and deadly Calibanite Lion before dying of his wounds. Grief-stricken, Zahariel declares a quest against the beast. His friends give him a farewell feast, convinced he will not survive, and Zahariel travels to the Northwilds where he wanders into an area of diseased woodland and becomes aware of a malign presence deep beneath the earth. There he encounters the Watchers in the Dark, who reveal that the same taint is within Zahariel and is responsible for the Great Beasts' evil, debating whether or not to kill him until he swears to oppose the malign force as they do. They send him on his way, warning him to stay out of the area is it corrupts those within it. Ambushed by the Beast of Endriago, Zahariel is overpowered and near death until his desperation unlocks his latent psyker powers, allowing him to see through the beast's skin and place his pistol directly against its heart. He pulls the trigger, slaying the beast, and takes its head back to Aldurukh as a trophy. He is raised to knighthood in honour of his achievement, and it is revealed that Lion El'Jonson will soon be raised to Grand Master of the Order. Nemiel has also been raised to knighthood in the intervening time, and soon after the elderly Lord Cypher goes on his final quest. A new Cypher is chosen from the ranks, his identity a mystery as per tradition.

The Order's war against the Knights of Lupus culminates in a siege of their fortress in the Northwilds. Zahariel and Nemiel take part in the battle, charging through the breach and following Luther towards the central keep where they discover the Knights of Lupus have been capturing Great Beasts and keeping them in cages. Lord Sartana releases the beasts and retreats inside. Zahariel and Nemiel slay one beast Luther and the Lion kill another, though Zahariel glimpses jealousy in Luther's face when the Lion gets all the credit for the kill. The knights of the Order break into the keep and Zahariel and Nemiel discover Sartana in the keep's vast library. He warns them that the Lion's crusade will destroy Caliban by leaving the knightly orders with no-one to fight but each other before taking his own life. The Knights of Lupus are defeated and wiped out.

Some time later the Lion leads an honour guard including Luther and Zahariel on a hunt for the last Great Beast. They reach a clearing where the Lion has dreamt of the stars coming to earth, and witness the Imperium's first arrival on Caliban. An advance team of First Legion Adeptus Astartes jetpack down to the group and Luther cites some ancient Calibanite poetry describing them as 'dark angels.' They hail the Lion as their genetic forefather.

Radical changes occur on Caliban in the times that follow as the Imperium colonises the planet. Knights of all the orders begin competing in trials set by the Astartes for places among them while a technological revolution sweeps the planet and the Order prepares for the arrival of the Emperor. Zahariel is told of the Imperium's history by Brother-Librarian Israfael who detects his psyker talents. Nemiel, slightly concerned about the radical changes, takes Zahariel to a secret meeting of malcontents who see the colonisation as an invasion and plot to assassinate the Emperor. Zahariel threatens to expose them if they act, though Nemiel tries to downplay the threat they pose. When the Emperor arrives on Caliban they are both part of the Order's ceremonial procession and Zahariel recognizes one of the conspirators in the crowd. He breaks from the procession to apprehend the man, but both are captured by the Astartes. Interrogated about the events, Zahariel manages to prove his innocence of the plot and is personally thanked by the Emperor. Soon after the Lion gives a grand speech in front of all the First Legion and the candidates who passed the Astartes trials, announcing the creation of the Dark Angels Legion.

Now a fully-fledged Legion under the Lion's command, the Dark Angels join the Great Crusade. Zahariel and Nemiel, both made into Space Marines, are present for the Legion's first planetary action, relieving a token force of White Scars who were supervising a world named Sarosh, whose inhabitants wish to join the Imperium but whose complex bureaucracy has caused long delays in the process. A White Scar named Kurgis warns Zahariel not to trust the Saroshi, suspicious that there is more to their delay in joining the Imperium than they are saying. A Saroshi delegation arrives aboard the Invincible Reason and Zahariel and Luther examine the dilapidated shuttle they arrived in. Luther notices something worrying about the shuttle but dismisses Zahariel's questions, sending him back to his squad. The Saroshi delegate reveals to the Dark Angels that his people have hidden their religion from the Imperium and view the secular Imperials as monstrous heretics. Jonson murders the delegate for insulting the Emperor, but is too late to stop him activating the nuclear bomb hidden inside the shuttle. Luther and Zahariel manage to eject the shuttle into space, but in the aftermath Luther admits that he noticed the bomb beforehand and initially decided to do nothing as if the Saroshi succeeded in killing the Lion he would get command of the Dark Angels and no longer be forced to live in the Lion's shadow. The Dark Angels launch an attack on Sarosh, targeting a build-up of Warp energy where the Saroshi are attempting to manifest their God, a Chaos Daemon, into the material realm. They succeed in killing the daemon using a psyker bomb crafted by Librarian Israfael, and Sarosh is forcibly taken over. The Lion, however, then sends a large portion of his Legion back to Caliban, ostensibly to speed up the recruitment process of new Space Marines. Notably, Zahariel and Luther are among those banished.

Notable Characters


Dark Angels

Other Non-Astartes Imperials


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