Sample Synopsis – Angels of Darkness

Another fairly short synopsis:



By Gav Thorpe


The novel charts two parallel stories. The first is a contemporary account concerning Interrogator Chaplain Boreas of the Dark Angels and his envelopment in a plot by the Fallen to draw out the Dark Angels Chapter in preparation for Abaddon’s 13th Black Crusade. The second is the account of a member of the Fallen interrogated by Boreas, retracing his steps from the point of his capture to his moment of betrayal. It is only through his recollection of the Fallen’s tale that Boreas is ultimately able to avoid a similar fate as his trust, discipline and loyalties are tested to the limit by the obstacles placed in his path by the Fallen. Ultimately, he must face a choice between doing his duty to protect the planet of Piscina, and thwarting the Fallen. Only by understanding the differences between himself and the Fallen is he able to make the right choice and opt to save Piscina.

Mission Statement

This is 40K at its darkest and most baroque and gothic. Although full of action, the novel investigates what it truly means to be a Space Marine – the sacrifices made, the inhumanity involved in becoming a super-human warrior. It does this through the comparative storylines of the two main characters – tracing one back to the moment heresy takes root while at the same time showing that Boreas is almost treading the same path. There are also some foretastes of things to come in the Eye of Terror campaign that will follow the novel.


10 sections (each approx 8-10,000 words) alternating between the Interrogator Chaplain and the interrogation of the Fallen. We may well want to do something with the typography/ font/ format to reinforce the fact that these events are taking place at different times.

The Characters

Boreas: Interrogator-Chaplain of the 3rd Company of the Dark Angels, Boreas was hideously wounded during the fighting on Piscina when Ghazghkull and Nazdreg invaded a few years earlier in the build up to the Armageddon invasion. Since then he has been stationed in the Piscina system with elements of the 10th Company to assist with recruiting – a source of much frustration for the Chaplain and one of the key links between him and the Fallen, who were left to defend Caliban whilst Lion El’jonson raced to Terra to battle Horus. He has encountered the Fallen before, assisting in several interrogations and performing two himself, the first of them on the Fallen Angel known as Astelan.

Astelan: A Fallen Angel, one of the founders of the Legion and close friend of Luther the Betrayer. Captured and taken to the Tower of Angels by Boreas several years before the Battle for Piscina, Astelan slowly reveals the story of his life back to the point when his father, a retainer for Lion El’jonson, died in battle when the Primarch could have saved him. It was this, fuelled by Luther’s oratory, that persuaded him that Space Marines were superior to humans and that humanity existed to serve the Dark Angels, and not vice versa.

Techmarine Hephaestus: Another Piscina Veteran, Hephaestus is the Tech-priest of the recruiting garrison, maintaining the facilities, ships and equipment of the Dark Angels.

Veteran Sergeant Damas: Scout Squad sergeant during the Piscina campaign, sergeant Damas is now the recruiting sergeant for the Piscina system, working with Boreas to select those worthy to be sent to the Tower of Angels for trial to become a Space Marine. At the start of the novel there are six such initiates under Damas’ protection. With him are also two other dark Angels Space Marines – Brothers Thumiel and Zaul.

Apothecary Nestor: Part of the team to evaluate potential recruits for their physical suitability, Nestor is also protector of a small gene-seed bank located deep within the vaults of the Dark Angels outpost on Piscina IV. Only he knows of its existence until it comes to light at the culmination of the story.

The Battle-brothers, along with Hephaestus and Nestor, are not members of the Inner Circle and Boreas tries to shield them from the full truth of the Chapter’s past, adding further complications to his own crisis of faith. However, it becomes increasingly impossible to do this as events unfold.

Colonel Brade: Commander of the Imperial Guard forces remaining on Piscina after the Ork invasion, Brade leads the first line of defence against any invasion or Ork resurgence. With the growing troubles (a minor uprising) preceding Abbadon’s Black Crusade and increased Ork activity on Piscina IV, Brade is looking to the Dark Angels to send a greater force to help him protect one of their homeworlds.

Tale of Astelan, part 1

In this section, Boreas and Astelan are introduced as the Fallen is taken through the Tower of Angels by secret passageways into the interrogation cells. The shadowy nature of the Dark Angels resonates through their fortress monastery, the mysterious watchers in the dark and the guttering candles and depressing tapestries and murals. Astelan compares it to the fortress-monastery of old, when it was a place of celebration and victory.

Boreas begins the interrogation, and Astelan recounts the battle on the world of Tharsis that led to his capture, once again comparing it poorly to the might of the Dark Angels at the time of the Great Crusade.

Tale of Boreas, part 1

Ten years later, Boreas and the others are on Piscina V, a feral, barbaric world from which the Dark Angels take potential recruits. The primordial jungles and loincloth-clad natives are described, as they fight one another for the right to be chosen. After the ritual combat, the Space Marines arrive and take the victor with them back to Piscina IV, the true crucible of life and civilisation in the Piscina system. En route back to their outpost, they receive a request for aid from the Imperial Guard stationed on Piscina IV. Despite recent patrols and scouring, a large Ork force has managed to gather on the flanks of Kadillus – a large volcano-island that is the largest landmass on Piscina IV. Spores left by the Ork invasion have been steadily growing and now an army numbered in its hundreds has attacked the Vartoth minehead facility. They seem unusually well-equipped, with many Imperial weapons that they could not have simply looted. The Guard are having a hard time pushing the Orks back from their positions within the buildings until the Dark Angels arrive and open up a breach for the Guard to exploit.

Tale of Astelan, part 2

Boreas asks Astelan how he came to be ruler of Tharsis. The Fallen explains that when he arrived, Tharsis was already in civil war. As a Space Marine he was welcomed as a saviour, as were his followers. With the help of Astelan the anti-Imperial forces were destroyed, but at the same time, Astelan usurped power in a popular revolt against the true Imperial Commander, rewarding the loyal few who backed him and using his army to enslave the rest of the population.

Tale of Boreas, part 2

Having returned to the recruiting outpost, we get to see some of the Dark Angels ‘home life’ – prayer, practice, prayer, etc… Situated in the capital of Kadillus Harbour, the Dark Angels become roused when word reaches them of disturbances in the city itself – murders, riots and the like. This follows months of growing tension and dire portents – astropaths see swirling vortices of blood in the warp, storm clouds gather in the dry summer and other such things. Boreas goes himself to see what is happening, and as the Guard and Arbites struggle to control the panicked and angry mob, his arrival quells the masses. He reassures the ring leaders that the Dark Angels have not forsaken Piscina and will return if there is ever true need. His presence there is the oath of the Chapter, he reminds them. However, as the more violent and dissatisfied citizens are rounded up by the Arbites, Boreas overhears that some of them are actually visitors – traders from the ship Saint Carthen. He returns with haste to the outpost, rounds up the Dark Angels forces and they go to their orbiting Rapid Strike Vessel. He cannot confide in the others what has alarmed him so much.

Tale of Astelan, part 3

Boreas asked how Astelan came to be on Tharsis. Under inducement, the Fallen reveals that he awoke on a desolate world, wracked by storms. Alone and weary, he wandered for what seemed like an age until he came across a small settlement dug deep under the ground. Here he found a small Imperial Colony and learnt to his horror that he had somehow lost over 9,000 years – it was now the 41st Millennium! Dazed, he attempted to find out all that he could but the isolated settlement provided him with little history and knowledge. Determined to resolve this, he found that he was stranded until the ship of a Rogue Trader, theSaint Carthen, arrived to offload supplies in return for the minerals dug from beneath the world’s crust. The Rogue Trader refuses to let him on board and in the end Astelan kills him and takes command. Several years of itinerant piracy follow as he tries to make sense of what has happened, until his travels take him to Tharsis, the first truly civilised world he has encountered.

Tale of Boreas, part 3

The Saint Carthen is no longer moored and cannot be found in orbit. A search begins in the system, led by the Dark Angels Rapid Strike Vessel, until finally the trading ship is cornered in the inner reaches of the system. A naval vessel ignores Boreas orders to stand off and attempts to close. Fearful of what might be found on board, Boreas has the Space Marine ship open fire, and drives off their Imperial allies after a brief battle. He then leads the boarding action himself, and after a bloody fight takes control of the Saint Carthen. There is evidence of the Fallen everywhere, and he discovers that not one but a cabal of several Fallen are actually hiding in the Piscina system itself. Unwilling to entrust this information to the others they set off to attack on their own.

Tale of Astelan, part 4

When asked what was his last recollection before awakening on the mining world, Astelan relates the story of how he was with Luther when the Dark Angels returned. It was he who relayed the command to open fire on the returning battle barges, and he fought beside Luther when Lion El’jonson counter-attacked. He was driven from his master’s side during the combat, as Caliban itself bucked and heaved under the devastating attack, and he remembers a brief moment when reality itself collapsed and he was dragged into a raging warp storm.

Tale of Boreas, part 4

On the permanent icy night side of one of Piscina II’s moons lies the lair of the Fallen – a grounded starship which has been stretched into a maze of tunnels and surface buildings. Boreas and his Dark Angels warriors breach the base and fight their way through the desperate minions of the Fallen. However, on reaching the nerve centre they discover that the Fallen have left. Turning his skills on a minion of the Fallen, it is not long before the Interrogator-Chaplain learns that they have been lured here as part of a wider plot. Posing as Dark Angels, the Fallen plan to go to Kadillus, steal what gene-seed they can and plant a virus-bomb to wipe out the population. To add to the confusion, the agents of the Fallen have been able to smuggle weapons to the Orks, gaining their trust and acting as advisors to co-ordinate a series of attacks. As Nestor is the only one who knew of the gene-seed repository Boreas accuses him of treachery and a fight ensues. It is Hephaestus who intervenes, reminding Boreas that they can waste no time and must race back to Kadillus to prevent the Fallen from completing their diabolical plan.

Tale of Astelan, part 5

And so Astelan’s tale is brought back to its very beginning, to the roots of heresy in his soul. He tells how his father was one of the legion’s retainers, within the household of Lion El’jonson himself. On campaign on the world of Medinia, fighting against the Eldar, an enemy counter-attack threatens the non-combatants left to establish control in the wake of the advancing Dark Angels, but also presents an opportunity to destroy the Eldar. Although Astelan advises against it, Lion El’jonson ignores him and accuses him of placing his father before their duty. The Primarch attacks and is victorious, though Astelan’s father, along with many other humans, are killed by the Eldar before they are driven from the world. Shamed and angry, Astelan confronts Lion El’jonson, who banishes Astelan back to Caliban until he can control himself. Here, Astelan helps Luther sway the other remaining Dark Angels into revolt and he himself burns Lion El’jonson’s standard that once flew from the tower of the Fortress monastery.

Tale of Boreas, part 5

The Dark Angels arrive back at Kadillus to find the city in turmoil. The Fallen have already begun to execute their plot, and the confused Imperial forces are fighting amongst themselves and with the citizenry of Kadillus. Boreas and his companions are forced to fight their way through, ending up killing Guardsmen and civilians alike. Reaching their outpost, they make their way inside to the control centre and Boreas orders the place sealed. They find that the Fallen have already activated the Exterminatus protocols, built within the vaults of the outpost to prevent Piscina falling into enemy hands. As well as the fighting outside, they monitor reports from the north telling of major Ork incursions. It seems as if Piscina may well be lost. Damas’ instinct is to go after the Fallen, urged on by Nestor who wishes to recover the stolen geneseed. Hephaestus tells them that there is no way the virus bomb can be deactivated, if they open the outpost then all life on Piscina will be destroyed within days by the virulent toxin.

Boreas opts for them to go after the Fallen, saying that despite their best efforts, Piscina has fallen to the enemy and exterminatus must be carried out. As they are about to leave, the virus bomb goes off, flooding the outpost with deadly disease, killing everyone inside except the Marines, who are fully suited up. However, the virus begins to eat away at their armour. Just as they are about to break open the main portal, Boreas stops Nestor. Remembering the words of Astelan, he realises that his duty to humanity outweighs his duty to the Chapter. Nestor argues, and Boreas is forced to shoot him to prevent him breaking the seals. As their armour begins to melt and death awaits them, Boreas sets up a short transmission telling of the events of Piscina, and orders the Rapid Strike Vessel to leave for the Tower of Angels. Doomed, Boreas leads them to the chapel and there they start to pray, awaiting their deaths, their sacrifice now total.


Published on December 19, 2008 at 1:43 pm  Comments (8)  

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Is this supposed to be a summary of the plot of “Angels of Darkness”? Because several elements of it are very wrong. They are so wrong that the actual book actually ends with Boreas saying that Astelan was right.

    Also the account given by Astelan of the actions of Luther is completely different from the above, and it is pretty clear that while Lion while not having switched to Chaos he had not been loyal to the Emperor either, and Luther instead was utterly loyal to the Emperor, and no friend of Chaos (as frescoes depicting him in the abandoned base clearly show for example).

    Gav – One of us seems a little confused, though I’m not sure which… This is the synopsis for Angels of Darkness, that is it is an outline of the novel given to Black Library before I wrote it. While some things do change between synopsis and the final manuscript, I’m not quite sure what point you are trying to make… Please elaborate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Zhaal.The story in the book is a lot different! No Eldars but Orcs attack the civilian population and Astelan sacrifices his marines to save the civilians against Lion’s order who wants to sacrifice the civilians in order not to prolong the campaign. Astelan’s father exists not as character and Astelan also speaks about war in Caliban even before the Lion returns. I understand that this is the synopsis of the book before it was written but it does not do the book justice. The book is brilliant and Astelan even more…He is more loyal to the Emperor ideals about Humanity ythan the traitorous Lion,though his motives change when he is set from 30k to 40k. For me Astelan is THE absolute 30k Space Marine.Terran, and loyal to the Emperor. His beliefs are so strong that really influence Boreas…an interrogator chaplain. Your best work Gav…(though Malekith is excellent too)I am waiting about “Tales of the Heresy” in order to read more about my favorite character…


  3. yeah i agree totally Astelan is amazing (althought i dont rate him well in Fallen Angles). And i dont recall any eldar or Asterlan’s father. Angles of darkness is possibly Black library most under rated book.


  4. I have just finished the book and I found it the best one about the 40k univers. The flashback/real time structure is awesome. The things revealed by Astelan, great. The way it shows the “decadence” of the Dark Angels chapter is brilliant. Long life to the Lutherites !
    Great work, mr. Thorpe!




  6. Wow, some, um, interesting comments above…

    Gav, I remember telling youa short while after it was released how much I enjoyed the different take/perspective of Angels of Darkness compared to existing works of the time.

    Perhaps the biggest revelations for Dark Angels fans was the murkiness surrounding what exactly happened during the Heresy and who did what. You made some pretty awesome suggestions but from a source that obviously has to be in doubt [but to what degree is the central question.]

    Having read some of the Heresy series, it seems that the two Dark Angels book have really taken up from where you left off [if my memory is accurate, think i’ll have to put a re-read on my reading list.]

    Sorry long preamble; my question/point is this: Were you exploring ideas that had some level of development before you wrote the novel or were you exploring an idea of how the fall may have come about? How do you then feel about the direction the story has gone now?

    It may be that you can’t answer or it would be impolitic to do so but it is something that interests me [as somone fascinated by the dark angels since reading a battle report between Jervis and Andy many, many years ago] as up until you wrote AoD.

    I may be rambling now, I guess I just want to know wtf happened and after two books in the HH series it seems to be that the Lion was a paranoid jerk.


    • When I was talking about the Dark Angels during the Heresy before writing Angels of Darkness, there was a sense that we wanted to muddy the waters a bit, and sow seeds of dissent in the Legion beyond the simple pro-Luther and pro-Jonson camps. This was where the idea of the Old and New legion divide came about. If I’m honest, I haven’t read the two HH novels in detail – I did a quick read-through Descent of Angels whilst I was planning the Call of the Lion short story, but I didn’t really absorb too much of it. It’s difficult for me to pass comment on them, because I know whichdirection I would have taken the story, and how I would have seeded the divide, but that does not mean that any particular way is right or wrong.

      In Angels of Darkness I get to be vague and contradictory, because the story is related through a flawed narrator. That isn’t the case with HH novels, and I can imagine the difficulty of trying to present differing perspectives of events which may be seen as absolute in the eyes of the readers. One aspect that I think is going in the right direction is the attempt to make the fall of the Dark Angels part of the bigger picture, creating relevance for the overall HH story and not just leaving it as an internal Dark Angels spat.

      And Jonson may well have been a paranoid jerk, but that doesn’t mean Astelan was right about him… Or maybe he was? 😉


  7. […] And the last novel of The Sundering, Caledor. Older ones can be found here, here and here. […]


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