Horus Heresy Reading Guidance


Back at the beginning of the year, 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

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’d skip Fulgrim (V) and Descent of Angels (VI) unless you really like the Emperor’s Children or Dark Angels (you can read my review of Fulgrim on Goodreads)
Legion (VIII) 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.
The Outcast Dead (XVII) and Deliverance Lost (XVIII) can be skipped.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.

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

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

I haven’t read the Crimson King (XLIV) by Graham McNeill yet but it’s highly recommended and probably next on my list.

Update 7/1/19 – I still haven’t read Crimson King and 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 scene when Horus and Russ first met.

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.

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.

The Solar War (Siege of Terra I) by John French *****½  We are reading all of the Siege of Terra books, right? It’s what we’ve been waiting 10+ years for.

Posted on 05/01/2018, in Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 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.

    • You’re welcome. I’m amazed at the number of people that have viewed the guide and found it useful.

  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.

  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!

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