Angels of Darkness by Gav Thorpe – Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the gripping Dark Angels novel Angels of Darkness by Gav Thorpe.
“One of the most engaging and revealing 40k novels, Angels of Darkness is a compelling story of freedom, secrets and lies, and treachery.”
Now Angels of Darkness is one of my personal favourites, I received it some time ago when I happened to mention to a fellow member of the Bolthole that I hadn’t read the book. And who should read that but Gav Thorpe himself who then gave me a copy from his own stores, and signed it to me in addition. For that alone it would have a special place in my shelves but after reading it I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner. AoD is unlike most other 40k novels and it sucked me in during both of it’s stories and remains one of my favourites even now.
The 1st Legion have a secret. A dark secret. One that they have kept hidden from the galaxy for ten thousand years. This secret would damn them if any knew of it. Even the rank and file brothers of their Chapter do not know the truth of their past as a Legion, of their Primarch and of the Space Marines that wander the galaxy’s dark corners in ancient black power armor, that the Chapter calls by one name. The Fallen Angels. Chaplain Boreas, one of the Chapter’s specialists in interrogation and conversion, has been brought to the Rock to deal with a particularly recalcitrant prisoner, but this prisoner’s story is different to all the tales of jealousy and pride that Boreas has heard before, and it may just be that even the Dark Angels themselves do not know the truth of what really happened 10,000 years ago.
The story in AoD is split into two parts. The first deals with Astelan and Boreas in the former’s cell, and is my favourite for the fact that it tells the story in one room, just through Astelan’s words and still it is engrossing. The second set five years later on Piscina IV is much bigger in scale and has more than just the two characters, and really does the conspiracy and mystery well as the Dark Angels find themselves targeted by the ancient enemies that only one of them knows about. The two stories play out by having one chapter covering the first, and then a chapter on the second story, always swapping between the POVs to keep the reader alert and to reveal more about the latter’s plot through reading more of the former. I was impressed by Gav’s ability to keep the latter plot good without revealing things ahead of time, while using the former plot to reveal more about Boreas and Astelan and what exactly has led to the occurances in the latter.
The characters are very well done. The protagonist Boreas comes in two shades, the first in the story with Astelan is cold, proud and determined to break Astelan and have him admit his sins. But the second is a bit more world-weary, unhappy at having been left behind as castellan on Piscina IV and who keeps flashing back to the interrogation, and is no longer so sure of himself. The story reveals Boreas’s character in the past slowly through the former plot, and the latter plot shows how the former plot has affected him. Astelan was my other favourite, the ancient Fallen who is articulate, confident in himself and the righteousness of his actions, and determined not to break and to prove Boreas wrong. The two characters go very well together and scenes of them just speaking to each other were more gripping and tense than some battle scenes.
The action is nicely done and subscribes to the powerhouse Space Marines, the single squad that can wipe out very large numbers that we saw in Brothers of the Snake and most other stories that were written during the 3rd edition of Space Marine rules. Gav does write the action with this in mind and he does a very good job of it, making the Space Marines go up against enemies that would require a Space Marine squad to battle but not so much that it becomes implausible that even the Astartes could handle that many enemies. But this is mainly a novel about mystery and the themes of freedom and treachery, so the action scenes are not very prominent or numerous.
The pacing of the story is actually very fluid, even though you wouldn’t think it would be due to jumping between two time periods to tell one story that leads into another one without completing it first. But actually the book feels very easy to read, each chapter leaves off on a good place and then we go into the next story either to find out more of what happened between Boreas and Astelan, or more of what is happening on Piscina IV and what it means for the Chapter. I think it’s a sign of his skill as a writer that Gav can do this and it really sets AoD apart from other BL books, the first story giving it a much darker feel as it discusses the faded glory of the Imperium, the state of the Dark Angels chapter and a bit about the human mind, and the second story being more action packed but mysterious in tone, the conspiracy was very well played and I enjoyed slowly finding out more and more through the other story until the reveal at the end.
Now for my favourite quote, anyone whose read the book will likely have the same favourite quote and I am no exception,
“You were not wrong.”
The ending is surprising to say the absolute least. The first story ends in a way you could have seen coming but the second story definitely does not, it springs a complete turnabout on the reader’s head and poses many questions about the Dark Angels that you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out. But I really enjoyed how the story ended for Boreas and his Dark Angels, it was a very dark ending but at the same time rather inspiring, Gav does a brilliant job capturing how Boreas has arrived at this point from the haughty Chaplain that the first story depicted and I consider it to be an ending that really represents the wider 40k universe well.
For a unique story and setting, very memorable characters that we’ll likely never see again which makes this novel all the better, and for representing the 40k world very well I give Angels of Darkness a score of 8.5/10. This is a book that any fan of Black Library should read, fans of the Dark Angels will love it as it challenges what you know about the Chapter and reveals some very interesting opposing viewpoints. AoD remains one of my favourite novels for being so different and for being a novel where a conversation between two people in a cell was as epic as a war, which in a way I suppose it was a war of philosophy and ideals.
That’s it for this review. Next i’ll be reviewing Rynn’s World by Steve Parker, until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!