Horus Heresy Reading Guidance


Back at the beginning of 2018, Ty was looking for recommendations on how to navigate the huge backlog of Horus Heresy books.  I put together this list with my must-read and not so much must-read Horus Heresy recommendations. I’m also including my star rating for each book. Your mileage may vary 🙂

Update: 7/1/19 – added the books I’ve read in the year+ since my original post

Update: 10/30/20 – The Siege of Terra update!  My thoughts on the first four Siege books and filled in a few of the gaps. I’ve also highlighted my must-reads 

Horus Rising (I) by Dan Abnett ***** I’ve read this one three times. “I was there, the day Horus slew the Emperor.”

False Gods (II) by Graham McNeill **** The origin of the fall of Horus.

Galaxy in Flames (III) by Ben Counter *** The conclusion of the initial trilogy that is the tragedy of Horus. I don’t find the writing in this book as strong as the first two but the plot carries it.

The Flight of the Eisenstein (IV) by James Swallow **** This one reads like an action movie. Introduces Garro.

I used to recommend skipping Fulgrim (V) (you can read my review of Fulgrim on Goodreads to see why) but as people have pointed out in the comments there are some impactful events that take place in this book (someone loses a head). If you know the Heresy there are no surprises here and I still say skip and avoid having to slog through it.

I will still recommend skipping Descent of Angels (VI) unless you really like the Dark Angels.

Legion (VII) by Dan Abnett ***** This one divides people but it’s Abnett and it’s awesome. Do not expect an Alpha Legion book. There are big reveals in this book related to the 40K universe.

Battle for the Abyss (VIII)- just don’t

Mechanicum (IX) by Graham McNeill **** Covers the civil war on Mars. Interesting background but can be skipped. Fun to read along with the Dan Abnett book Titanicus set in 40K for a couple of callbacks.

Tales of Heresy (X) ***** This is an anthology but I highly recommend. At least Blood Games by Dan Abnett, The Voice by James Swallow, The Last Church by Graham McNeill and After Desh’ea by Matthew Farrer.

Fallen Angels (XI) skip unless you love Dark Angels

A Thousand Sons (XII) by Graham McNeill **** Must read. Then jump ahead and read…
Prospero Burns (XV) by Dan Abnett ***** Originally this and Thousand Sons were supposed to come out at the same time but it was delayed due to Dan Abnett’s health issue so we had to wait almost a year for it.

Nemesis (XIII) by James Swallow Skip unless you really like assassins.

The First Heretic (XIV) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden ***** Must read. ADB and Lorgar and the real start of the Heresy.

Age of Darkness (XVI) **** An anthology than can be skipped.  There are some good short stories here that fill out the background of the Heresy by the top authors of Black Library.

The Outcast Dead (XVII) and Deliverance Lost (XVIII) can be skipped. Outcast Dead covers the exploits of the members of the traitor legions that were on Terra when the news of the Heresy broke.  Deliverance Lost is about Corax and the Raven Guard in the aftermath of Isstvan V.

Know No Fear (XIX) by Dan Abnett ***** Must Read. The Battle of Calth and it’s Abnett.

The Primarchs (XX) skip

Fear to Tread (XXI) by James Swallow *** I’d recommend for Blood Angel fans. It has some great flashback scenes with Horus and Sanguinius and some cool reveals. The events at Signus Prime are referenced in future books.

Shadows of Treachery (XXII) anthology **** Not required but there are some great short stories here. The Crimson Fist by John French, The Dark King by Graham McNeill, The Lightning Tower by Dan Abnett and Prince of Crows by Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

Angel Exterminatus (XXIII) by Graham McNeill *** Can be skipped. The adventures of Fulgrim and Perturabo. Graham almost makes the Iron Warriors primarch a good guy in this book.

Betrayer (XXIV) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden ***** It can be skipped but don’t! Angron and Lorgar causing chaos throughout Ultramar. Kharn back when he was less berserker. Makes you think that maybe these guys aren’t really so bad?

Mark of Calth (XV) anthology – Can be skipped.

Vulkan Lives (XXVI) by Nick Kyme I skipped this one. I think you can too unless you are a Vulkan and Salamanders fan.

The Unremembered Empire (XXVII) by Dan Abnett **** This book starts the Imperium Secundus arc of books. You could skip this whole arc but I wouldn’t recommend that. There are lots of primarchs and it is Abnett.

Scars (XXVIII) by Chris Wraight I have not read this so I think it can be skipped but I’ve heard good things about it so I might catch up on it later. It is about the White Scars and the Khan of course.

Vengeful Spirit by Graham McNeill *** Not required but is interesting to see Horus’ point of view and his development. This is the Knight book and has some Death Guard too.

The Damnation of Pythos (XXX) by David Annandale
Legacies of Betrayal (XXXI) – Anthology
Deathfire (XXXII) by Nick Kyme
War Without End (XXXIII) – Anthology
Eye of Terra (XXXV) – Anthology
The Silent War (XXXVII) – Anthology
There are a bunch of anthology, Salamander, Shatter Legions and other books mixed in here that I haven’t read and I don’t think you need too either. This is the stretch of time I believe Black Library lost its way and was producing tons of Horus Heresy content but most was background and not moving the plot toward Terra. There probably are some gems in there but you have to find them.

Pharos (XXXVI) by Guy Haley **** Continues the Imperium Secundus arc so not required but a great book. I really like Dantioch and Polux.

The Path of Heaven (XXXVI) by Chris Wraight – I haven’t read this one.  How the White Scars get to Terra.

Angels of Caliban (XXXVIII) by Gav Thorpe **** I’d recommend this one. Continues the Dark Angels arc from Fallen Angels and wraps up the Imperium Secundus story.

Praetorian of Dorn (XXXIX) by John French ***** Highly recommended. Terra and Imperial Fists. Great story and has a huge reveal at the end.

Corax (XL) by Gav Thorpe – This is a collection of Corax and Raven Guard stories.  Skip unless you like the Raven Guard.

The Master of Mankind (XLI) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden ***** Must read. The emperor is a dick.

Garro (XLII) by James Swallow **** Not required reading but this is a collection of all the cool Garro short stories.

Tallarn (XLV) by John French This collects the four Tallarn stories.  Not required reading but I’ve heard good things about this book especially if you are tread-head.

Ruinstorm (XLVI) by David Annandale *** Continues from the Imperium Secundus story arc and begins the path to Terra.  It’s Annandale so has some horror elements. Also, explains how the Blood Angels get to Terra from Ultramar and the Ultramarines and the Dark Angels don’t.

Old Earth (XLVII) by Nick Kyme I haven’t read this one but if you are going to read any of the Vulkan books I would recommend this one.  It sets up the current disposition of Vulkan going into the Siege of Terra

The Burden of Loyalty (XLVIII) Anthology – I would recommend Perpetual by Abnett for filling the gap for our favorite perpetuals Oll Persson and John Grammaticus between Calth and Terra.

I haven’t read the Crimson King (XLIV) by Graham McNeill yet and I don’t feel like I missed anything so I would only recommend for Thousand Suns/Magnus fans.

Wolfsbane (XLIX) by Guy Haley *** I’m mixed on this book.  I read it after Slaves to Darkness and didn’t think I was missing much. This one is probably a must read if you are Leman Russ/Space Wolves fan.  The B-plot on the origin of Belisarius Cawl is actually what got me to go read it but that plot ended up being just ok.  There are some cool scenes flashback scenes when Horus and Russ first met.

Slaves to Darkness (LI) by John French **** Excellent, must read.  Horus has to get the band back together and head for Terra.  Almost all of the traitor primarchs make an appearance.  There is a plot point from Wolfsbane that sets up Horus’ current state so if you don’t read Wolfsbane and are confused go read the spoilers.

Titandeath (LIII) by Guy Haley *** This is probably a skip unless you are excited by Titans.  I don’t think this one lived up to hype of the battle for Beta-Gammon.

The Buried Dagger (LIV) by James Swallow I didn’t read this Death Guard book.  It details the final fall of Mortarion to chaos.

The Siege of Terra

We are reading all of the Siege of Terra books, right? It’s what we’ve been waiting 10+ years for.

The Solar War (Siege of Terra I) by John French ****½ The return of some of the favorite characters from the first books was the highlight for me.  Horus has entered the solar system and encloses Terra.  A lot of void war fighting and some cool twists.  This is my second favorite book in the SoT series so far.

The Lost and the Damned (Siege of Terra II) by Guy Haley **** The siege really begins as Horus’s forces set foot on Terra.  Lots of cool scenes and characters in this book.  I wasn’t as thrilled with the guardsman POV storyline but I understand why its there.

The First Wall (Siege of Terra III) by Gav Thorpe ***½ The battle for the Lion’s Gate spaceport is main event of this book.  The other storylines with Keeler and the Imperial Guard reinforcements are interesting but in the end not a lot happens in this book.

Saturnine (Siege of Terra IV) by Dan Abnett ***** The Siege book we’ve all been waiting for and my favorite of the series so far!  Abnett has all the characters in this book and delivers some epic scenes.  No spoilers but the body count is high.

Posted on 05/01/2018, in Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 52 Comments.

  1. I just finished galaxy in flames and wanted to know what to read next – came across your excellent guide here and has saved me alot of time. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Thanks for making this!

  3. aaron collier

    How are you enjoying the siege of terra so far ?

    • I need to make a Siege of Terra books update soon. I am just starting Saturnine. So far I would rank Solar War as my favorite of the first three books, followed by The First Wall and then Lost and the Damned. They are all good, just to varying degrees.

      • Aaron Collier

        Really that’s interesting I’m told a lot of people weren’t as big of fan of solar war due to the way john French writes clashing with what the book was supposed to be

  4. Overall a pretty nice guide. The only thing that i would recommend is reading Fulgrim, because i myself wasn’t an EC fan but the book was very good and it also covers the battle of isstvan 5, which is crucial for the storylne.

    • Thanks. I’m probably too hard on Fulgrim. I agree there are some cool events that are covered and a lot of people have enjoyed the tragedy of this book.

  5. Thanks for making this, it is very helpful indeed. Just one question though, have you read the Buried Dagger yet? If yes, how would you rate it. I’m a fan of grey knight’s storyline.

    • I have not read Buried Dagger mostly because I’m not a big fan of the Death Guard. I am somewhat interested in Malcador/Knights-Errant storyline so I might have to catch up on this one at some point.

  6. Emperor is a dick comment tickled me. Great guide, thanks for taking the time to do this and stay pretty unbiased. I agree about Abnett, he’s brilliant

  7. Just wanted to thank you for your amazing guide. 🙂

  8. Michael Fabrizio

    Thanks for this article! Have currently spent a huge chunk of change on these novels to blast me through quarantine and it is so helpful having this list. Can not wait to get to the siege! Though I’m just now finishing fulgrim so I still have a ways to go. So far I adore Grahams writing style so much.

  9. Please do another update! Have you got up to Saturnine yet?!

    • Update coming soon! I’m planning to update after I finish Saturnine. I’m about halfway through. I started reading the hardcover and then restarted with the audio version. (I’m loving the performances of Johnathan Keebler and Emma Gregory)

  10. Skip Fulgrim? You mean skip the dropsite massacre? Skip a primarch being killed? Or another being almost sliced in two? The whole heresy being out in the open? Not to mention all the really cool moments between Fulgrim and Manus.

  11. This is a great list, there are some that you “recommend” but seems like maybe they’re not a must?? I know you pretty much already outlined it, but for someone who is purely interested in the story of Horus’ betrayal and march towards Terra, could you whittle it down a little further and put the exact *ABSOLUTE MUST* books? I’m just confused in some spots where you say, “not a must do you can skip but its recommended, then skip ahead 3 books to another one related to this book.” Are you recommending because it’s just an awesome book or because it’s essential to the storyline? And I apologize, you DID do a really good job answering those very questions along the way in some of you’re recommendations, I’m just still a little confused and looking for a little more precise *essential books* clarity.

    • Along with the massive update I just made, I also highlighted the “minimal” must-read list of 12-15 books. I hope that helps.

  12. Update?

  13. Nicely put together. This is one of my go-to pages for reference. I’m new to the whole universe so it’s a great aid for me. Keep up the great work and thanks again.

    • Thanks, I’m happy that you’re finding it useful for navigating the Heresy part of the 40K universe. Look for an update on the Siege of Terra books coming very soon!

  14. Thanks for this site. I’ve been using Audible for all your recommendations and just started over wtih Horus Rising. The scene with Ignace Karkasy in the bar trying to buy a drink is priceless. Toby Longworth should get some kind of award for his voice acting skills.
    I agree Saturnine is the icing on the cake so far in the S.O.T. series.
    Keep up the great work here.

  15. Hey, love this list but wanted to point out it is the first.wall as the 3rd book I’m siege of.terra not the last wall! I downloaded that and now I have an entire new series I have to read! Seriously though, thanks for this list it’s been pretty spot on!

    • Fixed. That’s really funny that I screwed that up since I literally had the book in my hand as wrote it.

  16. Hey man. I just want to thank you for the guide, have been looking at it a dozen of times, its the best ressource on the internet for people who want to read the Heresy and I bet there are a lot of people who want. Still skipt almost nothing so far. Am now at Nemesis and have only skipt Abyss so far with not regrets.

  17. Thank you so much for your reading order. It’s awesome and helped me a lot.

  18. Glad to find this list. The first 3 books were amazing. The 4th was also great, but I was disappointed that it barely moved the story forward, opting instead to tell a different point of view of the 3rd novel. But, a point of view worth reading. By the time I reached Fulgrim, I was ready to give up the series. It wasn’t a bad story, but I was getting sick of the Heresy story not progressing.

    When it came time to for the next book, I read the reviews and synopsis for the first time. I chose to skip Descent of Angels based upon that information. But, where to pickup the series? That’s where I found your page. I’m interested in the main story of the Heresy, and not all the fluff they packed into this series to sell books based on the title alone.

    Thank you for putting this list together!

  19. Danni Hansen

    Thank you for this list.

  20. HermitDante.

    Have you seen this, it divides neatly the storylines of the HH in differente legions.

  21. I honestly disliked Saturnine. Dan Abnet can’t hide his love for loyalists. The way the whole “you know what” trap. And just how easily they all died, it almost like the first 50 books didn’t matter. Loyalist vs traitor = swift victory by loyalist. Unless the traitors use cheat codes

  22. Just picked up Horus Rising- I’m an Age of Sigmar player who has become fascinated with 40k lore and I admit I was really intimidated by the sheer vastness of this series. I’ve bookmarked this guide to keep referring back to. Thanks for this.

  23. Lion'l Johnson

    I used your list as a guide to getting the books on Audible. Pretty much spot on. I very much enjoy Toby Longworth’s reading and voice acting skill. It’s unsurpassed.
    Just listened to Betrayer. A very important book that ties up some loose ends. Angron and Logar star.

  24. I can not thank you enough for all this amazing information! After the reading the first 3 books of the Horus Heresy I couldn’t wait to read more, but there is such a mammoth amount of literature to read I knew I wanted to only read the ones which moved the story forward and/or we great reads… and your guide allows me to do that!!
    Keep being awesome!

  25. I just finished Fulgrim and I liked it a lot. A little less than the first four books. I would give fulgrim 4 out of 5 stars. For what its worth

  26. WiggyDiggyPoo

    Thanks for this, bookmarked so I don’t lose it! Great guide.

  27. By the Emperor thank you for this detailed guide. I’ve just read Unremembered Empire, so far the best book on the series in my opinion. I really appreciate you provide reasoning for your rating and I’m looking forward to your guide for the next 30 books to come

  28. Great guide, will be using it extensively in the weeks and months to come. However, I’m a little curious how NKNE of the Siege of Terra arc made it onto the “must-read” section. Surely even if you were to say they’re poorly written or uninteresting, the whole point of the Horus Heresy was to get us to that exact moment in history. Isn’t even one of them essential to the completion of the series as a whole? Just wanted to get your thoughts on that since it seems like a real glaring error to me. Either way thanks for the list, and my Audible credits thank you too.

    • Thanks. Yes, I consider all the Siege of Terra books as “must-read”. I probably need to be more specific about that 🙂
      I owe an update with a review of Mortis, Warhawk, and the Graham McNeil books. They are all enjoyable and each has some great scenes and reveals. Overall I’d put them on level with “First Wall’ for me. I’m highly anticipating ADB’s “Echos of Eternity”.

  29. Laughed when I saw your “This has become the post popular post” comment. I’ve been trying to get into this series for years but didn’t want to fight the anthologies every time I picked up a book, or get lost in stories I am less interested in. Found your site, found your “Must Read” list and got to town. 20 books in and I cannot thank you

  30. Scars and Path of Heaven are two of the best books in the entire series; I highly recommend them. Chris Wraight is an excellent writer and Scars in particular will make anyone into a Fan of the Khan, if not the White Scars. They don’t tie into many other stories but do a great job of illustrating the the confusion and uncertainly wrought by Horus.

    • Warhawk does a great job of making fans of the Khan and White Scars too. I have Scars and Path of Heaven on my shortlist to go back to but so many books and so little time – and first “Echoes of Eternity”!

  31. Just stopping by to say thank you!

  32. Just wanted to say thanks for making this list. Im 8 books in and i keep coming back to plan what to read next. Just wanted to say i really apreciate the efort.

  33. I’ve made it to Wolfsbane so I am in the final stretch of books leading up to the Seige of Terra. This reading order list has been a wonderful resource and I always check in after I finish another book to see what’s coming up next. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride so far and the upcoming books all look amazing! Cheers for this putting this reading list together!

  34. I finished Galaxy in flames and was confused as hel on where to go next. This guide is a life saver.

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