Clocking in at 61 official volumes (with two more on the way), you would be forgiven for taking one look at the Horus Heresy book order and doing a runner out of the nearest airlock. Telling the tale of how the 40K universe came to be in the shape it is, the Horus Heresy is a series of novels that delves into the dark side of human nature in an already dark universe.
But fear not, grimdark fiction fans, there is help at hand. We’ve scanned all the Warhammer 40k books with our servo-skulls, to bring you the best Horus Heresy reading order possible. Inside its multitude of tomes you’ll find over-the-top action, betrayal, and the dark ruminations of Warhammer 40k Chaos. It’s essential reading for any fan of Warhammer fiction, but there’s a lot to bite off – especially if you’ve only just picked up your first Warhammer 40k starter set and you’re just now starting your journey towards heresy.
We begin (in uncharacteristically linear style, considering just how many branches this series ends up having) at the beginning.
Meeting the gang
The first five novels are utterly essential. Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, The Flight of the Eisenstein, and Fulgrim will see you meet the Warmaster Horus Lupercal, the other Primarchs, and their legions before any fall to the ruinous powers.
You’ll also see certain (mainly murderous) events that will be referenced throughout the series, giving you that much needed context, for when you’re forty books deep in a heresy hole and someone mentions Istvaan V.
From here, you can start being more selective. However, if you have a particular affinity for a legion, be sure to check out the books which focus on them – such as Descent of Angels and Fallen Angels for Dark Angels fans.
After these first few books, the Horus Heresy splinters a little, with many of the following books covering events which precede the first five novels.
The next truly essential entry is A Thousand Sons, as the fall of Magnus the Red and his thousand children is an essential part of the plot. Follow it up with Prospero Burns to see the fallout from Magnus’ machinations.
If you’ve become invested in seeing more of Chaos and how deep the rot goes, we’d recommend diving into these Chaos-centric novels.
The First Heretic looks at how far back Chaos’ taint goes. Know No Fear is a rollicking ride of revenge and betrayal. Angel Exterminatus is a crazy Chaos road trip to the other side of reality, whilst Betrayer gives some much-needed time to the Emperor’s angriest son, Angron. Finally, Vengeful Spirit gives us a look at what’s been going on with our absent Warmaster…
Pushing on with the plot
From this point onwards you’ll find the series explores two plot threads, Imperium Secundus and the mysteries of Vulkan.
In the Imperium Secundus strand, the Ultramarines, Dark Angels, and Blood Angels all get their chances to shine as their stories become interwoven through Fear to Tread, The Unremembered Empire, Pharos, Angels of Caliban, and Ruinstorm. Choose door number two instead, and you’ll see fan-favourites the Salamanders and their beloved Primarch go through hell and back in Vulkan Lives and Deathfire.
The gathering storm
You’ve come a long way and the scent of victory is in the air. Here are our picks for the final approach:
Finally, the series ends on a true high note. The Buried Dagger sees the series park right outside Earth, ready for the Siege of Terra to begin, and ties a neat bow on everything that’s come before.
The Siege of Terra
The Siege of Terra series forms the long-awaited, epic conclusion to all the Horus Heresy’s many plots, machinations, ambushes, and preambles.
Warmaster Horus Lupercal and his vast armada of Chaos Space Marines, traitor 40k Titans, mortal cultists, and daemon allies have at last arrived at the Sol system to launch their final assault on Terra (Earth), aiming to kill and supplant the Emperor of Mankind himself.
There are eight full Siege of Terra novels (and an as yet unconfirmed number of orbiting novellas) – and we reckon all the main titles are essential reading. This is the crescendo and climax of the whole Heresy series, after all!
- The Solar War
- The Lost and the Damned
- The First Wall
- Echoes of Eternity
- The End and the Death Volume I (unreleased)
- The End and the Death Volume II (unreleased)
As you’d imagine, while there are lots of intertwining, smaller storylines and character groups that run through these novels, each finding some measure of closure in their own stories – the series is effectively one very long book in eight volumes.
In The Solar War, we see the chaos fleet overwhelm the solar system’s outer defences, commanded by master strategist Perturabo of the Iron Warriors.
In The Lost and the Damned, the traitor forces bombard the planet from orbit to the point of environmental destruction, before launching their ground assault on the continent-sized defensive trenchworks surrounding the Imperial Palace. The attack is led by Mortarion and the Death Guard, joined by his brother Angron of the World Eaters, now a rage-fuelled, daemonic demigod of destruction. Blood Angels primarch Sanguinius flies to the defenders’ aid at key points, but the conclusion is never in doubt.
After a heroic effort, the mostly human Imperial Army defences are overwhelmed – and The First Wall opens with a new focus: the outer walls of the Imperial Palace itself, defended by Rogal Dorn‘s yellow-clad legion of Imperial Fists. The keystone is protecting the Lion’s Gate spaceport – Terra’s biggest port facility, which, if captured by Horus’ forces, could be used to land their Titan legions on the surface. We, er, won’t spoil how that goes.
Author Dan Abnett’s Saturnine is a more complex read. The Imperial Palace (more a thousand-mile-wide fortress city than a building) has many rings of vast walls and gunlines for the traitor host to fight through and, while they do, each side is watching the clock, watching the skies for incoming Ultramarines, and searching for a cunning master-stroke strategy to turn the tables.
If you like hundred-foot-high battle robots, John French’s Mortis is a hoot. With the traitors well and truly settled on the surface, Horus can finally deploy his titans; the loyalists deploy their remaining titan legions in turn, and we get a series of awesome engine-on-engine confrontations across the blasted ruins of the Outer Palace.
Chris Wraight’s Warhawk is, frankly, a bit of a love letter to Jaghatai Khan and the White Scars. With the traitors closing in on the Inner Palace, the praetorian of Terra Rogal Dorn commands all remaining forces to converge on defensive positions and hold out as long as they can. But the White Scars don’t like huddling behind walls, and instead sally out to forestall the traitor advance. Watch out for one of the series’ best primarch grudge matches here.
Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Echoes of Eternity is a gripping study in the unique emotional charge found in the penultimate stages of a siege. Think ‘Aragorn and Theoden in the Hornberg with the Uruk-Hai banging on the door’. Horus’ forces have breached the Inner Palace and are advancing on the Imperial Sanctum – the core building within which the Emperor sits on his Golden Throne. The Imperial Fists are all but slaughtered; the remaining White Scars are holed up in the faraway Lion’s Gate spaceport; Blood Angels are mostly spent, and beating a fighting retreat. Reinforcements from the Ultramarines appear nowhere near. The end is nigh – but the loyalists fight on.
The final Horus Heresy Siege of Terra book – The End and the Death – comes in two volumes, and there are no confirmed release dates yet. We know what’s coming – the death of Sanguinius and the final duel between the Emperor and Horus aboard the Vengeful Spirit. Beyond that, we’ll have to wait and see…
If you’re hungry for more Warhammer action and want to see how your favourites turn out in ten thousand years, have a gander at our guides to the Imperium of Man and the Warhammer 40k chaos forces – or get an overview of every army battling it out in the 41st millennium with our guide to all the current Warhammer 40k factions.