I love the world of Warhammer 40k. It’s dark, gritty pulp. Plus, there is just so MUCH lore and backstory ready for fans. It’s awesome, if not a bit overwhelming. Especially if you are looking for a certain type of story, delving into the 40k novels can be a bit of a struggle. My hope with this article is to give you the best Space Marine novels to start your 40k reading adventure.
Space Marines are the bloody heart and soul of Warhammer 40k. They are the heroes, or as close to heroes as you can get in the 40k universe. And they consist of a lovely array of flavors, from the noble to the merciless. There is a reason they are so popular. It’s because there is a Space Marine Chapter for everyone.
The list below is four of the best Space Marine novels published today. It is obviously not a complete list, but it should give you a good place to start reading. I have created a few other lists, but this is the first 40k list specifically looking at stories focused on Space Marines. Enjoy!
Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight
Space Wolves versus the Thousand Sons. Mortal enemies for a thousand years. The Thousand Sons have sought revenge ever since the Burning of Prospero. Now, their time has come.
Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight is the sixth novel of the Space Marine Battle series. The book itself is 400 pages of epic Space Wolf/Thousand Son action. As with every 40k book, the action is gruesomely depicted with all the blood and gore you would expect. Yet Wraight has found time to weave in some interesting detours into the culture of Space Wolves and their place in the 40k universe.
If you enjoyed the Horus Heresy novels A Thousand Sons and Prospero Burns, then Battle of the Fang is a must read. But even for those new to 40k books, the novel has plenty of exciting Space Marine action without a lot of baggage. An excellent tale of one of the oldest Space Marine chapters.
Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The Orks have invaded the world of Armageddon. Now the Black Templar Space Marines must fend off the overwhelming assault. Wave after wave of orks break against the Black Templar. How long can they hold Hive Helsreach before they drown?
Aaron Dembski-Bowden is a well known author among 40k fare for bringing characters to life. Yes, Helsreach is part of the Space Marine Battles series, but that doesn’t stop Dembski-Bowden from creating a cast of well-developed characters. From Grimaldus all the way down to the common Guardsman, characterization is top-notch. You’ll find yourself caring about how these people face and survive (or don’t!) the onslaught of orks.
Helsreach is no one-dimensional battle story. You will feel the hopelessness in the face of endless orks and the ruthlessness of the Black Templar. There is a face behind every helmet and at the end of every boltgun. An excellent read for anyone interested in Space Marines and greater 40k lore.
Nightbringer by Graham McNeill
Nightbringer by Graham McNeill is a perfect introduction to Space Marines in the Warhammer 40k universe. The novel focuses on the Ultramarines, the most famous and revered Space Marine Chapter. Ultramarine Captain Uriel Ventris and Inquisitor Ario Barzano are sent to investigate the disorderly planet of Pavonis. Once there, a political web begins to unravel.
The story is very much a mystery novel set in the 40k universe. Nightbringer has a little bit of everything, from explosive action to lovecraftian horror. Even classic antagonists like the Dark Eldar and Necrons make appearances. This is a great novel that covers some of the 40k basics without sacrificing quality.
If you are interested in Ultramarines or just Space Marines in general, there is no better place to start than Nightbringer.
Brothers Of The Snake by Dan Abnett
What is a 40k book list without Dan Abnett? Here Abnett fleshes out the lesser-known Iron Snakes through a series of short stories. It’s a unique take on Space Marines, both in format and culture.
Brothers of the Snake follows the Damocles squad of the Iron Snakes, viewing the Space Marine Chapter from a variety of viewpoints. Abnett’s short stories lead to a plethora of action with popular antagonists like the Dark Eldar and Chaos. But the strength of the novel is how Abnett creates a rich and rewarding characterization of the Iron Snakes themselves. Their background and culture is unique, with Greek and aquatic themes. Unlike anything you’ve seen before, but still recognizable as Space Marines.
This is a great one-off book for Space Marine lovers. Brothers of the Snake is able to humanize the Iron Snakes without losing their edge. Great for any Space Marine fan.