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Best Horus Heresy book order 2023

The Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy books are magnificent, but a mess - so follow this faultless, scientifically correct Horus Heresy reading order.

Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy book order - Games Workshop artwork showing the Emperor on his Golden Throne within the Sanctum Imperialis

Looking for the ideal, stress free Horus Heresy book order? Good plan. The Horus Heresy follows a devastating civil war unleashed by the traitor Warmaster Horus, explains how Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40k universe came to be, and spans 62 books (not counting the 20-book Primarchs prequel series and one graphic novel).

Spread across this library-filling Warhammer 40k book series, you’ll find over-the-top action, foul betrayals, the dark machinations of the 40k Chaos gods, cameo appearances from various other Warhammer 40k factions, and countless pages exploring the Imperium of Mankind, with all its heroism and hypocrisy.

It’s essential reading for 40k fans, but if you’ve only just picked up your first Warhammer 40k starter set it can be a daunting prospect. It’s huge! What’s more, the events of the Horus Heresy war are relayed in a mess of overlapping plot threads. But don’t worry; we’re here to help.

Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy book order - Games Workshop artwork showing Perturabo and Iron Warriors attacking

Start of the Horus Heresy reading order

The first five novels are utterly essential reading, setting the scene for the start of the Horus Heresy and everything that follows.

1 – Horus Rising

Horus Rising is told mostly from the perspective of the Space Marine Garviel Loken as he is inducted into the inner circle of Horus Lupercal, Warmaster of the Imperium. After centuries persecuting the Great Crusade to reunite the lost worlds of mankind, the Space Marines must confront their assumptions about their place in the universe. Meanwhile, the treacherous Erebus of the Word Bearers begins to enact a scheme that will eventually topple the galaxy.

2 – False Gods

In False Gods, Horus is laid low on the moon of Davin, thanks to a plot by Erebus. In an effort to save his life, his loyal sons deliver him into the clutches of a cult devoted to the ruinous powers of Chaos. Horus awakens a changed man.

3 – Galaxy in Flames

In Galaxy in Flames Horus’ treachery is laid bare. On Istvaan III Horus  and his brother Primarchs Mortarion of the Death Guard, Angron of the World Eaters, and Fulgrim of the Emperor’s Children, commit the elements of their legion most loyal to the Imperium to a ground assault, before virus-bombing the planet’s surface. Forewarned, some Loyalists survive, and the traitor forces root them out in a gruelling siege.

4 – The Flight of the Eisenstein

The Flight of the Eisenstein begins in the void above Istvaan III, as Captain Saul Garro of the Death Guard is warned of the Warmaster’s treachery. He escapes from the traitor forces in a single vessel and must make a desperate warp-jump towards Terra, all the while contending with the depredations of the Plague God Nurgle.

5 –  Fulgrim

Fulgrim begins before the Heresy, following the perfectionist Emperor’s Children Space Marines as they encounter a strange alien civilization that changes their destiny forever. It ends in the dropsite massacre at Istvaan V.

An Imperial retribution fleet arrives to crush Horus’ rebellion, and is in turn set upon by traitor elements in its own rearguard. Fulgrim faces off against his once beloved brother Ferrus Manus of the Iron Hands in single combat, and slays him.

Continuing the Heresy

After book five, the Heresy branches into multiple overlapping narrative threads, some of which leap backwards in time to reveal why certain things came to pass.

Below, we’ve broken the Heresy into plot strands for each of the Traitor and Loyalist Space Marine Legions, plus sections for the factions whose loyalties are harder to determine.

Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy book order - Games Workshop artwork showing Roboute Guilliman and Sanguinius declaring Imperium Secundus

We’ve included all of the novels and short stories that make a major contribution to each faction, including stories that advance the plot of a legion significantly but only feature them as an antagonist.

Not every story from the Heresy is included: some books and many short stories are self-contained and don’t advance any of the wider character or plot development. Some books appear in multiple reading lists, as they tell two sides of the same conflict.

This section leads up to the apocalyptic Siege of Terra series, where the events of the Heresy come to their dramatic conclusion.

Traitor narrative threads

Narrative thread What happens
The Word Bearers: architects of the Heresy The Word Bearers were the first legion infected by Chaos and the masterminds of Horus’ fall. Throughout the Heresy they embrace the powers of Chaos – but they are not the masters of it that they believe to be.
The Thousand Sons and Magnus’ folly Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons, attempts to warn the Emperor of Horus’ betrayal – but the sorcery he uses to reach the Emperor has terrible consequences. His attempts to escape Imperial retribution damn his legion.
The Sons of Horus ascendant Horus is slow to claim the gifts of Chaos, and the process almost destroys him.
The Iron Warriors begin to rust The sharp mind and wounded pride of Perturabo, Primarch of the Iron Warriors, slowly turns to paranoia and obsession, as he seeks the power and glory forever denied his Legion. Only the honour of breaking Rogal Dorn’s fortification of the Imperial Palace will satisfy him.
The Death Guard rot from within Mortarion, Primarch of the Death Guard, believes there is no hardship his legion cannot endure. Yet he is not ready for the rot that First Captain Typhon will unleash within his legion, nor the price that he must pay to save his sons.
The Night Lords splinter The Night Lords were the Imperium’s terror troops. But only the will of their primarch Konrad Curze held them together- as they turn on the empire they built, Curze descends into madness.
The Emperors Children exceed perfection The pursuit of perfection and unwitting exposure to a fell chaos artefact drives the Emperor’s children to utter depravity.
The World Eaters succumb to bloodlust A simple, brutal legion, the World Eaters are already psychotic killers at the outbreak of the Heresy. As the war progresses, their savagery attracts the attention of the blood god Khorne.

Loyalist narrative threads

Narrative thread What happens
The Iron Hands and the Shattered Legions After the Dropsite Massacre on Istvaan V, the Iron Hands, Ravenguard, and Salamanders Legions are all but destroyed. Attempts to rebuild the legions are thwarted, but the survivors fight on as guerrilla warriors.
The Imperial Fists hold the wall When the retribution fleet despatched to destroy Warmaster Horus at Istvaan V is consumed in the dropsite massacre, Dorn turns his legion’s gaze to the fortification of Terra – but his most favored son has goals of his own.
The Ravenguard haunt the Shadows The Ravenguard Primarch Corvus Corax survives the massacre at Istvaan V and attempts to rebuild his shattered legion with technology from the Emperor. But fate will not be kind to his legion…
The Salamanders: Vulkan lives! Vulkan, Primarch of the Salamanders is thought slain on Istvaan V, but death does not come easily to the Primarch. Long trials eventually bring him to guard the Emperor’s throne room during the Siege of Terra.
The White Scars wildcard An outsider to the other legions, Jaghatai Khan’s loyalty to the Imperium is in doubt at the outbreak of the Heresy, but the scion of the White Scars knows the peril of Chaos too well. His road to stand beside the Emperor at Terra is long and hard.
The Blood Angels and the doom of Sanguinius The Primarch Sanguinius of the Blood Angels is an angelic being, tormented by dark desires. Resisting the allure of Chaos, he is haunted by visions of his own death, but they will not deter him from returning to stand with the Emperor.
The Ultramarines and Imperium Secundus Betrayed by the Word Bearers, the Ultramarines are isolated by warpstorms in the far galactic East. Believing Terra lost, their Primarch Roboute Guilliman founds Imperium Secundus to keep the dream of the Imperium alive.
The Space Wolves and Russ’ folly The Emperor wants Magnus the Red brought to Terra alive, but Horus tricks Leman Russ of the Space Wolves into razing his home-world. When he learns of Horus’ perficy, Russ is determined to bring his spear to the Warmaster’s heart.
Birth of the Adeptus Mechanicus Kelbor Hal, fabricator General of Mars, is lured to the traitor cause by access to forbidden lore. A schism erupts on Mars, with loyalists fleeing to Terra. What will become of the Martian Empire now that it is denied its homeland?

Wild card narrative threads

Narrative thread What happens
The Dark Angels‘ unforgivable secret Tensions fester in the heart of the Dark Angels legion, as the Primarch Lion’El Jonson’s former mentor Luther foments rebellion within the legion.
The Alpha Legion‘s twisted loyalty Everything you know about the Alpha Legion is a lie. Their interventions throughout the Heresy are mysterious and contradictory – but are they really traitors?
The Perpetuals and the Cabal The deepest deep lore in the Horus Heresy; immortal humans, and meddling aliens, play important roles in how the Heresy unfolds.

Horus Heresy book order - A warhammer artwork showing Thousand Sons terminators in the horus heresy era

The Word Bearers: architects of the Heresy

  • The First Heretic: 50 years before the Heresy, Lorgar and the Word Bearers are spurned by the Emperor. Lorgar’s adopted father Kor Phaeron and chaplain Erebus set him on a search for truth. He discovers the powers of Chaos and seals a terrible bargain.
  • Aurelian (collected in Eye of Terra): Set partly after the events of Fulgrim, partly during the First Heretic, Lorgar recounts his pilgrimage into the Eye of Terror.
  • Know No Fear: The Word Bearers spring a devastating betrayal on the Ultramarines, destroying masses of their forces on the planet Calth and isolating them from the wider war. Erebus is the worst.
  • Macragge’s Honour (graphic novel): Kor Phaeron, Dark Apostle of the Word Bearer’s, flees from Ultramarines justice into the warp, arriving on a daemon world in the Eye of Terror.
  • Betrayer: The Word Bearers and World Eaters terrorize the worlds of Ultramar. There is a ritual purpose to this campaign of terror, as Lorgar seeks the war-gods favor for his brother Angron. Erebus is, once again, the worst.
  • Children of Sicarus (collected in Heralds of the Siege): On the daemon world Sicarus, prophecy tells that Kor Phaeron must choose between making a great sacrifice and securing victory for Warmaster Horus.
  • Slaves to Darkness: As the Warmaster’s forces muster at Ullanor, Lorgar makes a pilgrimage into the realm of Chaos to retrieve Fulgrim from his indulgences.

The Thousand Sons and Magnus’ Folly

  • A Thousand Sons
  • Prospero Burns
  • The Crimson King
  • The Fury of Magnus

The Sons of Horus Ascendant

  • Little Horus (collected in Age of Darkness): In the wake of the Dropsite Massacre, Little Horus Aximand’s dreams are troubled by visions of a figure from his past.
  • Warmaster (collected in Legacies of Betrayal): Horus discusses his plans for the war with a silent audience.
  • The Either (collected in Shattered Legions): Tibalt Marr, “The Either”, seeks to slay the master of the Shattered Legions.
  • Vengeful Spirit: Horus leads an assault on the Imperial Knight world of Molech. He seeks power beyond measure – power that he believes the Emperor himself may have drunk from.
  • Twisted (collected in War Without End): Horus’ equerry Maloghurst contends with daemon-worshipping plotters and his uncertain future as the Warmaster’s right hand man.
  • Wolfsbane: Leman Russ of the Space Wolves seeks the traitor Warmaster’s heart – but is he ready for the sheer power his brother now embodies?
  • Titandeath: Titans in numbers never seen before make war in the Garmon cluster. The Warmaster makes a minor, but significant appearance, as this novel closes.
  • Slaves to Darkness: Horus’ equerry Maloghurst must bear the burden of command as his master fights an inner, unseen war. Sacrifices must be made if the Warmaster is to prove triumphant.

The Iron Warriors start to rust

  • The Crimson Fist (collected in Shadows of Treachery): The Iron Warriors interdict an Imperial Fists retribution fleet, but the battle does not go as Primarch Perturabo predicts.
  • The Iron Within (collected in Age of Darkness): The Iron Warriors maintained many disparate garrison fortresses throughout the Imperium, and it was no certain thing that they would all side with the Warmaster’s cause…
  • Angel Exterminatus: Fulgrim and the Emperor’s Children enlist Perturabo and his elite siege breakers to seek out an ancient Eldar war machine fom within the Eye of Terror.
  • Tallarn: Without warning, the Iron Warriors fleet arrives above the forgotten Imperial staging world of Tallarn and virus bombs it into lifelessness. A few Imperial defenders survive to send word to the Imperium, and the planet becomes host to the biggest tank war in history. Though the Imperials will never know, Perturabo has a very personal objective.
  • Slaves to Darkness: As the forces of the Warmaster muster on Ullanor, Perturabo extracts himself from the rearguard campaign he is fighting against the Ultramarines to bring his brother Angron and the World Eaters to heel for the final assault.

The Death Guard rot from within

  • Scars
  • Daemonology (collected in War Without End)
  • Vengeful Spirit
  • The Path of Heaven
  • Exocytosis (collected in Heralds of the Siege)
  • The Buried Dagger

The Night Lords splinter

  • The Dark King (collected in Shadows of Treachery)
  • Vulkan Lives
  • Pharos
  • The Painted Count (collected in Heralds of the Siege)
  • Savage Weapons (collected in Age of Darkness)
  • Prince of Crows (collected in Shadows of Treachery)
  • Angels of Caliban
  • Night Haunter

The Emperors Children exceed perfection

  • The Reflection Crack’d (collected in The Primarchs)
  • Aurelian (collected in Eye of Terra) – mostly stars Lorgar, but has deep lore about Fulgrom
  • Angel Exterminatus
  • Imperfect (collected in War Without End)
  • Chirurgeon (collected in War Without End)
  • The Soul, Severed (collected in Heralds of the Siege)
  • The Path of Heaven
  • Slaves to Darkness

The World Eaters succumb to bloodlust

  • After Desh’ea (collected in Tales of Heresy)
  • Lord of the Red Sands (collected in War Without End)
  • Butcher’s Nails (collected in Legacies of Betrayal)
  • Rebirth (collected in Age of Darkness)
  • Betrayer
  • Slaves to Darkness
  • A Rose Watered with Blood (short story)

The Iron Hands and the Shattered Legions

  • Veritas Ferrum (collected in Legacies of Betrayal)
  • Angel Exterminatus
  • Shattered Legions
  • Damnation of Pythos
  • Imperfect (collected in War Withuot End)
  • Old Earth

The Imperial Fists hold the wall

  • The Lightning Tower (collected in Shadows of Treachery)
  • The Crimson Fist (collected in Shadows of Treachery)
  • Templar (collected in The Silent War)
  • The Praetorian of Dorn
  • Duty Waits (collected in Heralds of the Siege)
  • Now Peels Midnight (collected in Heralds of the Siege)

The Ravenguard haunt the shadows

  • Raven’s Flight (collected in Shadows of Treachery)
  • Face of Treachery (collected in Age of Darkness)
  • Deliverance Lost
  • The Divine Word (collected in Legacies of Betrayal)
  • Corax
  • Valerius (collected in Heralds of the Siege)

The Salamanders: Vulkan Lives!

  • Scorched Earth (collected in Born of Flame)
  • Vulkan Lives
  • Deathfire
  • Old Earth

The White Scars wildcard

  • Brotherhood of the Storm (collected in Legacies of Betrayal)
  • Scars
  • Allegiance (collected in War Without End)
  • The Path of Heaven
  • The Last Son of Prospero (short story)
  • Restorer (short story)

The Blood Angels and the doom of Sanguinius

  • Fear to Tread
  • Unremembered Empire
  • Sins of the Father (collected in Eye of Terra)
  • Herald of Sanguinius (collected in Eye of Terra)
  • Angels of Caliban
  • Ruinstorm

Optional, but recommended:

  • Master of Mankind
  • Bringer of Sorrow (short story)

The Ultramarines and Imperium Secundus

  • Know No Fear
  • Macragge’s Honour (graphic novel)
  • Betrayer
  • The Unremembered Empire
  • Pharos
  • Angels of Caliban
  • Ruinstorm

The Space Wolves and Russ’ folly

  • A Thousand Sons
  • Prospero Burns
  • Wolf King (collected in The Burden of Loyalty)
  • Wolf’s Claw (collected in Legacies of Betrayal)
  • Scars
  • Wolfsbane
  • Weregeld (collected in Corax)

The Birth of the Adeptus Mechanicus

  • Mechanicum
  • Into Exile (collected in The Burden of Loyalty)
  • The Binary Succession (collected in The Burden of Loyalty)
  • Master of Mankind
  • Bringer of Sorrow (short story)

The Dark Angels’ unforgivable secret

The Dark Angels have the most twisting plot of any legion, as characters are murdered and replaced, loyalties swap, and the mantle of Cypher swaps from person to person. You should consider reading everything for the Dark Angels if you want to get the full story

  • Descent of Angels
  • Leman Russ: The Great Wolf
  • Call of the Lion (collected in Tales of Heresy)
  • Fallen Angels
  • Savage Weapons (collected in Age of Darkness)
  • Grey Angel (collected in The Silent War)
  • The Lion (collected in The Primarchs)
  • Prince of Crows (collected in Shadows of Treachery)
  • Cypher: Guardian of Order (collected in Legacies of Betrayal)
  • Master of the First (collected in Eye of Terra)
  • Unremembered Empire
  • By the Lion’s Command (collected in War Without End)
  • Angels of Caliban
  • Ruinstorm

The Alpha Legion’s Twisted Loyalty

Novels from the perspective of the Alpha Legion are rare, and those sometimes include operatives with mind-wipes to hide their own objectives from themselves.

  • Legion
  • Hunter’s Moon (collected in Legacies of Betrayal)
  • Wolf King (collected in The Burden of Loyalty)
  • The Face of Treachery (collected in Age of Darkness)
  • Deliverance Lost
  • The Serpent Beneath (collected in The Primarchs)
  • Scars
  • Tallarn
  • The Seventh Serpent, collected in Shattered Legions
  • Castellan of Dorn

The Perpetuals Horus Heresy Reading order

The Perpetuals touch on some of the deepest lore in the Heresy, but they’re only ever side characters in other narratives. It’s worth getting familiar with these characters though, as they have important roles to play in the Siege of Terra series.

Book Perpetuals
The First Heretic Cyrene Valention
Legion John Grammaticus
Know No Fear John Grammaticus, Oll Persson
Unmarked (collected in Mark of Calth) Oll Persson
Betrayer Cyrene Valention, John Grammaticus
Vulkan Lives John Grammaticus
The Unremembered Empire John Grammaticus
Vengeful Spirit Alivia Sureka
Wolf Mother (short story) Alivia Sureka
Old Wounds, New Scars (short story) Alivia Sureka
Old Earth John Grammaticus

Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy book order - Games Workshop artwork showing Blood Angels Primarch Sanguinius on the steps of the Imperial Sanctum

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, one of which is so big it’s split into three parts, plus three novellas – all the main titles and Fury of Magnus are essential reading. This is the crescendo and climax of the whole Heresy series, after all!

  • The Solar War
  • Sons of the Selenar (novella)
  • The Lost and the Damned
  • The First Wall
  • Saturnine
  • Mortis
  • Garro: Knight of Grey (novella)
  • Warhawk
  • Fury of Magnus (novella)
  • Echoes of Eternity
  • The End and the Death Volume I
  • The End and the Death Volume II
  • The End and the Death Volume III

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.

Warhammer artwork showing battle titans in the Horus Heresy era

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.

Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy book order - Games Workshop artwork showing Blood Angels Primarch Sanguinius on the steps of the Imperial Sanctum

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 three volumes. The Imperium’s last defenders are dwindling; the Imperial Palace is swimming with blood; Terra itself is sinking into the Warp; and Warmaster Horus’s final victory seems inevitable – but, at long last, the Emperor rises from his throne…

Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy book order - Games Workshop graphic with a text excerpt introducing the final books

This is the Horus Heresy’s absolute finale: 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 favorites 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.