Tomes of the Librarius – Recommended Reading 1: Five Great 40k Books

Hello 40k fans! Chris Morgan, Chief Librarian of the Forge the Narrative Podcast, is here again with the next weekly segment of Tomes of the Librarius. Also, check the Tactics Corner for more great articles!

Just as a reminder, in this series we will explore facets of the history and legends of the Grimdark. This is meant to be an easy summary and introduction geared towards new players or people unfamiliar with the setting, but should still be an interesting read or fun refresher for those already familiar. There’s so much detail in this lore that a bare summary seems so inadequate, but for new people this should be the right portion to get a feel for the history of the universe we enjoy our games in.

This week I wanted to switch things up a bit, and focus on some recommended reading for people interested in 40k fiction. There are a bevy of books in the Black Library to choose from, so this will be the first of many lists to follow on a variety of topics. To start out, I wanted to list five of my own favorite books. In later lists, I will sort them by topic or theme. With that in mind and in no particular order, let’s begin!

Warhammer 40,000: Vaults of Terra Book 1 – The Carrion Throne

Chris Wraight is fast becoming a favorite Black Library author for me, and this book is one of the chief reasons. This book is set during a time prior to the return of Roboute Guilliman to the 40k universe. The Throneworld is preparing for the biggest holiday of the year – Sanguinala – and the Inquisition is on the move. Inquisitor Erasmus Crowl is hunting for heretics on the crown jewel of the Imperium, and finds himself stuck in a grand conspiracy with wide-reaching implications.

Aside from a well-driven narrative, a nice array of set pieces and significant locales, and interesting Terran culture building (I may have started saying ‘This is Terra’ whenever someone was confused by my behavior), the characters are what I find most compelling about this novel. I think my favorite would have to be the smart and sassy servo skull who speaks only in high gothic, but only by a narrow margin. This is a great candidate for audiobook listening, for those inclined. John Banks does a great job narrating and doing the voice work.

The Horus Heresy Book 41: The Master of Mankind

The Horus Heresy series is daunting for a new reader, considering that this is just book 41 and it goes well beyond that number. The great thing, however, is that among Horus Heresy novels, this book does one of the best jobs of standing on its own two feet than many of the others. Aaron Dembski-Bowden is a great author for explaining complex mysteries and motivations while still leaving the requisite mystery needed to leave you just unsure enough about what happened to determine how things really are. With a character like the Emperor to tackle – always from an outside perspective – the reader is treated to a previously unexplored depth of insight into what the final goals of the Imperium and the legions are, and broadens the understanding of just what has been lost as the result of Horus’ great betrayal.

Dante

Guy Haley had an excellent opportunity with Dante to fill in some glaring gaps in Blood Angel lore. As a decades-long Blood Angel fan, his respect for the chapter’s existing lore and the efforts he made to expand beyond it were obvious in the care and attention to detail. A lot of little things add up to a great thing, and the same is true for this novel. Details such as the name of the Blood Angels Fortress Monastery, the process of raising initiates into full Astartes, and the culture and ideals of the chapter were fleshed out wonderfully. Guy Haley is an excellent author, and my opportunity to speak with him about this book only solidified how much he cared about this book. If you are even slightly interested in the Blood Angels, then this book is a must on your reading list.

The Talon of Horus

I read this book with the thought ‘know your enemy’ first, because Aaron Dembski-Bowden was the author second, and the wholehearted recommendations of many others in the community. Listening to the protagonist – a Thousand Sons sorcerer named Iskandar Khayon – search for Abaddon in the years after the scouring was very compelling. If anything is more unknowable than the Emperor and his intentions, then it would have to be the forces of chaos. Even so, you leave this novel feeling like you ‘get’ how it is for the traitor legions and the capricious powers they serve a lot more than you did before. The sheer shark-jumping nature of what authors can and have done with the reality-defying nature of Chaos is served out in manageable chunks, and you find yourself quietly cheering for who are by any definition murderers, defilers, traitors, and evil people. Its kind of like seeing your two most hated sports teams play against each other, because no matter who loses you will win. Definitely give this one a chance.

Death of Integrity

I got my start in 40k over 20 years ago with the Space Hulk game, and out of all the books that I have read that feature space hulks (not a small number) this one is by far my favorite. It is also a contender for my all-time favorite 40k book, and with over 100 Black Library novels under my belt that’s saying something. The menace of the genestealers, the culture building of two successor founding chapters, the machinations of the Mechanicus, and the tease of ancient Terran technology all mix together for a literary flavor of wonderful depth, complexity, and deliciousness. In my mind, this is a must-read.

Words. So Many Words.

What are your favorite 40k books? Feel free to let me know in the comments below! I will make sure and add them to my list if I haven’t read them yet.

Cheers,

Captain Morgan

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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About Chris Morgan

40K philosopher, LVO Judge, Chief Librarian of Forge the Narrative, Blood Angel enthusiast extraordinaire, and slayer of traitors, xenos, and heretics; I'd rather be playing 30k right now or neck-deep in a good book. Follow me on my FB page - Captain Morgan's Librarius

22 Responses to “Tomes of the Librarius – Recommended Reading 1: Five Great 40k Books”

  1. Avatar
    Charlie A. November 6, 2018 8:40 am #

    Hi Chris, thanks for the article. I’ve read up to including Fulgrim in the HH series, but apart from the Eisenhorn Omnibus, haven’t read any 40k. Where would you suggest I start in 40k? Would any of the above books start? is it better to read chronologically with respect to the story? Thanks!

    • Chris Morgan
      Chris Morgan November 6, 2018 9:13 am #

      What are you interested in most about 40k? Do you have a favorite faction or are you just looking for a good read (or both)?

      • Avatar
        Charlie A. November 6, 2018 9:21 am #

        I play T’au and Death Guard/Nurgle Demons so anything good from those armies would hit close to home in a good way. The mystery and character transformation present in the Eisenhorn series was really great and the reason why I ended up liking it, though I would usually say I’m not a fan of the Imperium of Man in general. Anything that painted its characters in a grey scale instead of the black/white of good/versus evil that can sometimes become stereotypical interests me. Also, I listen almost exclusively to audiobooks, so something that was on Audible or something would be appreciate if that’s not all too much to ask! 🙂

        Follow up question, are all the HH books recommended reading by you or are there some you’d advise skipping?

        • Chris Morgan
          Chris Morgan November 6, 2018 11:44 am #

          Cool, those are great questions. For Nurgle, I have heard great things about the ‘Lords of Silence’ book by Chris Wraight adn that is on Audible but I haven’t listened to it yet. His Space Wolf series also heavily features Nurgle marines and demons (starting with ‘Blood of Asaheim’ IIRC) but is done from an Imperial perspective. The second book in the series does a great job of touching on those ‘grey areas’ that you mention being fond of. I don’t think these are on Audible, however

          So far as Tau go, the Damocles series is on Audible and that heavily features Tau, but again is mostly from an Imperial perspective. There’s an eBook bundle on Black Library that combines a bunch of Tau stories called ‘Tales of the Greater Good’ and also a novel called ‘Farsight: Crisis of Faith.’

          Hope that helps!

        • Chris Morgan
          Chris Morgan November 6, 2018 11:46 am #

          Also, if you liked Eisenhorn (one of my favorites) then you should read the Ravenor series if you haven’t yet.

  2. Reecius
    Reecius November 6, 2018 9:05 am #

    You gotta throw the Nightlords Trilogy in any recommended reading list for Black Library books. So, so good.

    • Chris Morgan
      Chris Morgan November 6, 2018 9:13 am #

      You’re not wrong. I was planning on throwing that in a list of top books about chaos marines or something.

      • Reecius
        Reecius November 6, 2018 1:41 pm #

        Yeah, for sure. I just loved that series so much. Actual character development, plot twists, a satisfying ending. Loved it.

  3. Avatar
    Ujayim November 6, 2018 9:10 am #

    First 3 HH Books are also a must have. Setting the stage for everything fits so well, but Master of Mankind is a goddamn gift. I got goosebumps multiple times.

    • Chris Morgan
      Chris Morgan November 6, 2018 9:21 am #

      For sure! There’s a Horus Heresy list a-comin’ sometime as well. I even bought the first book for my wife to read.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 6, 2018 1:40 pm #

      I haven’t read that one yet, but really want to. They reveal a lot in that book from what I’ve been told.

      • Avatar
        Ujayim November 7, 2018 6:05 am #

        Audible, man. You get a free book every month and it’s the best use of driving time. I get 1-2 books in a month just going to and from work.

        • Reecius
          Reecius November 7, 2018 10:19 am #

          Yeah, I have Audible, as well. Been listening to the Stormlight Archives which are phenomenal!

  4. Avatar
    Sean November 6, 2018 9:29 am #

    Thanks for the recommendations! I have read a lot of bad black library books, but none of the ones on the list so hopefully this will change my opinion.

    • Chris Morgan
      Chris Morgan November 6, 2018 11:45 am #

      Stuff by Guy Haley, Dan Abnett, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, and Chris Wraight are (generally speaking) solid.

      • Avatar
        WestRider November 6, 2018 10:40 pm #

        I’d add Sandy Mitchell to that list as well. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t had a miss yet.

  5. Avatar
    mamdair November 6, 2018 11:26 am #

    Great article. Looking forward to more of this kind. Fluff those bunnies!

  6. Avatar
    Marius Xerxes November 6, 2018 4:33 pm #

    Eisenhorn Omnibus and Storm of Iron are both really enjoyable.

  7. Avatar
    WestRider November 6, 2018 10:46 pm #

    Those all sound really cool, and I haven’t read any of them yet.

    As far as books that haven’t been mentioned so far, my faves have been the Enforcer trilogy (especially the first one, Crossfire, but it gets into some really interesting territory as the series goes on), Inquisitor/Draco (but don’t bother with the other two in that trilogy), the Deathwing short story anthology (ideally the reprint version with two added stories), and the Ciaphas Cain series.

  8. Michael Corr
    Michael Corr November 7, 2018 1:54 am #

    I’ve got to recommend the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. I don’t read much Black Library, but have read and re-read this series multiple times. The writing and story arcs are simply fantastic.

  9. Avatar
    Pogman November 9, 2018 1:48 pm #

    I’m a big fan of the Last Chancers series

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