The Warhammer 40k Horus Heresy book series is gargantuan, currently sitting at 40+ books. Um, that is a lot. If you are anything like me, you are probably interested in the series but don’t have time to read 40 books. And with a series as large as the Horus Heresy, there are going to be dips in quality that are skippable. That is why I have compiled the best Horus Heresy books published today.
I decided to exclude Horus Rising by Dan Abnett because it is the first book of the series and universally recommended. That seems like a fairly obvious place to start. Beyond that, the list below is for you. Why only 8 titles? While there are a lot of contenders for the best Horus Heresy books, these ones easily floated to the top. The best of the best.
I hope you find this list of some use. Feel free to share your thoughts. Now go forth and enjoy!
The Best Horus Heresy Books
Fulgrim by Graham McNeill – Horus Heresy #5
The tragic tale of Primarch Fulgrim’s fall from grace. The story follows the Emperor’s Children Space Marine Legion as they battle the Eldar. The Emperor’s Children are obsessed with perfection and Fulgrim fights against the seduction of Chaos. Fulgrim’s struggles takes the Emperor’s Children to a climactic battle on Isstvan V.
The novel itself is epic in scope and deals with morally grey themes. McNeill’s powerful writing and vivid descriptions will leave you haunted. A lot is packed into this page turner. Action, horror, tragedy, Fulgrim has it all.
Legion by Dan Abnett – Horus Heresy #7
A great war looms and loyalties are tested. Legion by Dan Abnett focuses on the Space Marines of the Alpha Legion and an alien organization known as the Cabal. Told from the perspective of ordinary humans, the novels details how and why the Alpha Legion are considered traitors. As you might guess, the answers are not always as they seem.
Secrets, lies, twists, turns… Legion is a military sci-fi thriller. Abnett weaves a web of espionage and intrigue. If you are looking for something a little headier, you’ve come to the right place. Considered by some to be the best Horus Heresy novel published, this one is not to be missed!
A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill – Horus Heresy #12
The story of how the Thousand Sons went from loyal warriors to so-called traitors. Being forced to return home for their use of sorcery, Magnus the Red and the Thousand Sons warn the Emperor of Horus’ treachery. But the Emperor is not keen on their use of forbidden powers and instead sends the Space Wolves to attack Prospero.
A Thousand Sons is gut wrenching and powerful with thoughtfulness and complexity. The characters are philosophical and the story tragic. By the time the Space Wolves lay down a brutal siege on Prospero you may find yourself sympathizing with the Thousand Sons. As they say: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – Horus Heresy #14
Lorgar and the Word Bearers worship the Emperor as a god. For this they are punished. Questioning their faith, they seek out the true gods. But if the Emperor is not the true god, then who is? In slips Chaos and the first heretics of the 40k universe.
The fall from grace is a common tale in the Horus Heresy series, but The First Heretic is one of the more compelling. It is the struggle of faith, shattered beliefs, and betrayal. We begin to see that many of these tragedies could have been prevented had the Emperor not been a poor father to his children. A heart wrenching novel about Lorgar and his legion.
Know No Fear by Dan Abnett – Horus Heresy #19
Roboute Guilliman, unaware of the Heresy, prepares his Ultramarines to battle the orks. Without warning, the Word Bearers invade Calth. The Word Bearers are focused on destroying Guilliman and the Ultramarines. The Battle of Calth is at hand.
Know No Fear is chronicled as a war journal, counting down to the Ultramarine order to return fire. This novel is non-stop action, especially the last two-thirds. Elegantly paced with rich characters, you will feel the Ultramarines’ sense of loss and betrayal. Another Dan Abnett classic.
Betrayer by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – Horus Heresy #24
Lorgar and the Word Bearers continue their battle deeper into Ultramar. Joined by Angron and the World Eaters, their savagery knows no bounds. The Shadow Crusade has begun.
Betrayer is very much a sequel to The First Heretic and follows up on the events of Know No Fear. The novel focuses on the relationship between Lorgar and Angron. Dembski-Bowden does a great job fleshing out these characters and their legions. Ultramarines are the primary antagonists, but are not featured prominently, instead focusing on the primarchs. Great characterization with amazing battle sequences, Betrayer is an excellent addition to the Horus Heresy series.
Unremembered Empire by Dan Abnett – Horus Heresy #27
Thinking Terra is lost, Roboute Guilliman founds a new empire, Imperium Secundus. As refugees and unlikely allies converge, enemies remain everywhere. But has Terra truly fallen? If it hasn’t, is Guilliman making a new bid for power? Friend and foe become blurry as the Heresy takes a step forward.
Roboute Guilliman takes top billing in this novel that pulls a multitude of plotlines together. In classic Abnett fashion, there is a good mix of action and intrigue. Unremembered Empire wraps up plenty of Horus Heresy storylines and pushes the narrative forward. An excellent turning point in the series.
Scars by Chris Wraight – Horus Heresy #28
When the Horus Heresy is discovered by Jaghatai Khan, which side will his White Scars legion pick? A uniquely individualistic legion, the warriors are at odds. But when the Alpha Legion attacks, a final decision must be made: stand with the Emperor or Horus.
The White Scars legion has been mostly overlooked up this point, but Scars more than makes up for it. Delving deep into their culture and mythology, Wraight constructs a rewarding narrative. Like others in the series, this is an easy to read pace turner. If you are curious about the White Scars legion or just want a lesson in characterization, then this is the book for you.
5 Replies to “The Best Horus Heresy Books (That Aren’t Horus Rising)”
I agree with every book on this list except for Legion. Every time I read a positive review on this book, I cringe. This book took me over a month to read cause it was sooooooo slow and boring. I found I didn’t care about anything that happened to anyone in the book. I’ve read 30 Horus Heresy books and Legion is by far the worst. ( even worse than Fallen Angels). My favorite is Flight of the Eisenstein. Garro is an amazing character and you get to see the Death Guard’s first “blessing” by Papa Nurgle. Fantastic!
I think legion is one of the very best,wasntbored at all. The alpha legion, the cabal, imperial fleet, vs chaos. I read it twice.
I personally loved legion and disliked fulgrim (that was a really slow start) but if we all liked the same things we would be servitors. The outcast dead I really enjoyed and I’m surprised it’s not on the list.
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