7 Best Warhammer 40K Books

7 Best Warhammer 40K Books

Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Wired For Youth is supported by readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect who we choose to review or what we recommend. Learn more

Warhammer 40k or WH40K books are novels that are set in a scientific fantasy in the far future. Initially, it was a miniature wargame from the developers at Games Workshop. At present, Warhammer 40K is the most sought-after miniature wargame.

However, after realizing the immense success of the game, the developers started background literature. At present, there are several works by different authors, and it keeps growing every year. Some of the popular ones include graphic and full-length novels, short stories, novellas, and audio dramas.

Unless you are familiar with the game, starting your journey into reading these books can be difficult. This is why we bring you our recommendations for the Best Warhammer 40k books to give you a head start. 

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

This epic book by Abnett tests the limits of Horus and what he is capable of. Presently, it is the 31st century and the golden age for the Immortal Emperor and the Imperium of Man. However, just on the verge of absolute victory, the Emperor wants to give the galaxy reins to his favorite son, Horus. 

However, Horus is an idealist, and his promotion to Warmaster comes as a surprise. So, will Horus rise to meet the Emperor’s greatness, or is it the end of his father’s grand plan? Horus Rising is the first book in the Horus Heresy, and the sowing of the Heresy starts here.  

  • Review: Horus Rising lays the foundation of the 40K world, as we know it. Abnett’s mastery over bringing the characters to life is the best part of the book. Horus is funny and charismatic, which makes him instantly likable. He also displays humanness, which resonates with many readers. There is action, and there is war. All of these components make Abnett’s book one of the best Warhammer 40K books that you can ever read. 
  • Author: Dan Abnett. Dan Abnett is a British novelist and a prolific comic book writer. His notable contributions include those with DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Abnett plays a significant role in developing characters for Guardians of the Galaxy. He is also one of the creators of Sinister Dexter.  He also shares his passion for writing through his blog, theprimaryclone. On October 12, 1965, he was born in Rochdale, but he lives in Kent with his family. 
  • Pages: 412, Paperback. 
  • Publisher: Black Library. April 25, 2006. 

For the Emperor by Sandy Mitchell

For the Emperor is the first book of the Ciaphas Cain series. It follows Commissar Ciaphas Cain’s attempts to maintain order in the outpost of Tau space. However, the murder of the alien ambassador negatively affects Cain’s mission, and he is now in the middle of a war.

Although Cain is famous in Imperium for his wit and bravery, this new development is a challenge. The book explores the struggles of Cain and the Imperial Guard to get rid of the villain. It is paramount for the sake of the world and the Emperor. 

  • Review: For a serious book, Mitchell does a fantastic job of making it fun to read. Ciaphas Cain is everything that defines a hero – charming, brave, and funny. Although the book depicts the dark future, it hits the right balance of humor and desolation.  Overall, it is a fantastic book that prepares you for the series. The only issue – you might have to look up for some words related to WH40K. Of course, if you are familiar with the games, you will have no such problem. 
  • Author: Sandy Mitchell. Sandy Mitchell is the pseudonym that Alex Stewart uses to write WH40K books. He is also a scriptwriter, but he uses his real name for the purpose. When he is not writing, Stewart enjoys miniature wargaming, Aikido, and playing games.  He was born on born July 25, 1958, in England. Alex Stewart lives in North Essex village of Earls Colne with his family. 
  • Pages: 415, Paperback. 
  • Publisher: Games Workshop. December 23, 2003.

Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter

Galaxy of Flames is an apt name for this book. Space marines and virus bombs are razing the planet. Under the leadership of Horus, the imperial army successfully crushed the enemy. However, the grievous injury of Horus hangs over everyone’s head. 

The book distinguishes the Loyalists and the Traitors in the planet. It also reveals the secrets of the Heresy, Betrayal of Istvaan III. Despite Horus’ best efforts, the world is all set to change, forever. 

  • Review: Galaxy in Flames is the third book in the Horus Heresy series. While it prepares the plot and the reader for the upcoming books, this one is a bit lackluster. However, it has nothing to do with Counter’s style of writing. The book’s ending is the best part, which builds up the climax for the next book. On the other hand, the constant flashbacks, as well as the similarity behaviors between the characters, can be confusing. Despite that, if you are a fan of the Horus Heresy, you will need to read this to maintain continuity. 
  • Author: Ben Counter. Ben Counter is a British writer. His short stories and other books in the WH40K Universe are quite popular. Counter also writes comic books and RPG supplements.  When he is not writing books, Counter enjoys miniature painting and is a Golden Demon award Winner. He also engages in dramatics at the local stage at Portsmouth. He was born in 1979 in Cambridge, England, and has a background in ancient history.
  • Pages: 416, Paperback. 
  • Publisher: Games Workshop. October 10, 2006.

Fulgrim by Graham McNeill

Fulgrim tells the tragic story of the Immortal Emperor’s children. Along with Warlord Horus, they seem to be doing an excellent job and conquering the galaxy. In one of these crusades, Fulgrim wages a battle against an unknown alien. However, unbeknownst to them, this alien has a sinister plan. 

The book follows the descent of Fulgrim into corruption and dark ways. Eventually, he must end up on the battlefield of Isstvan V. It is the fifth book of the Horus Heresy series. 

  • Review: Fulgrim is a book that will make you elevated and crushed at once. McNeill’s ability to describe every scene and character in minute detail is spellbinding. Fulgrim attempt to conquer a foe that is bigger than him and his eventual fall from grace is haunting.  Fulgrim is fast-paced, full of action, and evokes many emotions. However, the fast-paced nature is also a negative feature of the book. It seems as though the writer was in a rush to complete the story. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic WH40K book for starters as well as veterans. 
  • Author: Graham McNeill. Born in 1971, Graham McNeill is a fantasy writer from Scotland. His best works are Warhammer 40K novels. However, he also has written many books in the fantasy genre.  He is also a game developer and currently writes for Riot Games. Aside from his love of writing, McNeill also plays miniature wargames and videogames. He shares his passion for books and writing on his blog.  
  • Pages: 512, Paperback. 
  • Publisher: Games Workshop. July 31, 2007.

The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The 14th book of the Horus Heresy, this book follows Lorgar and the Word Bearers. They do not hide the fact that they hold the Emperor as their god. Unfortunately, the Emperor is not too happy and reprimands them. Disappointed, Lorgar and the Word Bearers decide to search for the true god.

The book follows their journey of devastation to illuminate the Imperium. However, unknown to them, a higher power is in action and is the first heretic in the WH40K Universe. 

  • Review: Bowden has an exceptional gift of telling a dark story with humor and wit. The characters, as well as the plot, are the best part of the book. Each character is strong and individualistic. There are betrayals and struggles with faith and beliefs – all the makings of a masterpiece. Another commendable aspect of the First Heretic is that it ties seamlessly with other books. It answers all the doubts and questions you might have about the Heresy books. If you read one book from the WH40k Universe, pick this one.  
  • Author: Aaron Dembski-Bowden. Aaron Dembski-Bowden a fiction and fantasy writer from the United Kingdom. Some of his best works are novels set in the WH40k world. He also has a lot of RPGs and video games scripts to his credit. Bowden’s other name is ADB, especially among his fans. ADB is also passionate about restoring Abaddon the Despoiler’s reputation Bowden was born on August 3, 1980, and lives in Northern Ireland. He shares his passion and knowledge of fantasy through his blog. He is among the few bloggers that engage actively with his followers. 
  • Pages: 502, Paperback. 
  • Publisher: Black Library. August 5, 2017.

The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow

The fourth book of the Horus Heresy, it follows Captain Nathaniel Garro’s escape from the Betrayal of Istvaan III. Along with his crew, he is on a perilous journey abroad the Eisenstein. Garro must get to the Emperor and warn him of Horus’ treachery and the ensuing rebellion. However, Garro is one of the few loyal commanders, so he is not without suspicion. Eisenstein is falling apart, and some of his crew thinks the Emperor’s divinity is a heresy. The book details his struggle amidst this tense environment

  • Review: James Swallow’s ease of telling a story is fantastic. However, you will either love or hate the characters in this book. There is much betrayal, and Garro struggles both externally and internally.  The Flight of Eisenstein is much grimmer than the previous books. Nevertheless, the ship’s dramatic escape and the description of the naval action will make you appreciate this somewhat forbidding book. 
  • Author: James Swallow.  James Swallow is a writer hailing from the United Kingdom. He is an NYT, as well as Amazon’s bestseller. Swallow is also a BAFTA nominee. In addition to writing novels and fiction, he writes for video games.  He shares the deleted scenes from his books and new releases on his website. Swallow was born on January 1, 1970, and he lives in London.  
  • Pages: 416, Paperback. 
  • Publisher: Games Workshop. March 27, 2007.

Fallen Angels by Mike Lee

Fallen Angels detail the beginning of the Heresy. Horus’s treacherous act has spread and wide and it tests the loyalties of men and angels. The Legions, as well as the primarchs, are wondering whether to follow Horus or the Emperor.  

The Dark Angels play a key role in Horus’ evil plan to take down the Immortal Ruler. However, constant conflict makes them doubt everything. There is a civil war on the planet as the Legions question their primarch. 

  • Review: Fallen Angels involves two plots. Curiously enough, the scenarios do not merge, but they make the book thrilling without a doubt. In many ways, this book gives more insight into the Descent of Angels. The beginning of the book seems to drag, but it gets better. The middle section is where you will find most of the action. You definitely need to read the Fallen Angels to enjoy the Heresy series in its entirety. 
  • Author: Mike Lee.  Mike Lee is a fantasy writer as well as a game designer. Lee has written several short stories and novels. He often collaborates with Dan Abnett, and they were responsible for many books on the Chronicles of Malus Darkblad. Lee is also a keen interest in history and two-fisted pulp adventure. He also loves playing wargames. Mike lives in the US with his wife and family. 
  • Pages: 416, Paperback. 
  • Publisher: Games Workshop. June 30, 2009. The literature world of Warhammer 40K is not a cheap one. Therefore, it can be daunting to figure out where to start reading these fantastic books. The fact that more writers keep adding the books is no help either.  A curated list of the best Warhammer 40K books like this one should help you get started. If you are someone who enjoys stories about mighty warriors and epic battles, WH40K books should be on your next must-read list.

Recommended Posts:

Book summaries, notes, interviews, and more!

Get Bite-sized Lessons straight to your inbox

No spam, all value — we deliver the best bite-sized tips right to your inbox.