There are hundreds of Warhammer 40k books that have been published since the tabletop game was released in 1987, so it can be quite intimidating for new readers to find an entry point into the universe. Even if you’re familiar with the Horus Heresy timeline, keeping track of where each new volume fits in is difficult as some long running series have over 50 titles.
We’re here to make that task a little less daunting by giving you our list of the 10 best Warhammer 40k books available in the UK. With titles from leading authors such as Dan Abnett and Aaron Dembski-Bowden available in paperback and on Amazon Kindle, hopefully you’ll be able to find something that piques your interest!
While authors do a good job getting the reader up to speed with current events, they simply cannot explain all the ins and outs of the 40k universe. This won't be an issue for anyone already familiar with the tabletop game, but those of you who don’t know your Orks from your Eldar will be seriously lost. Thankfully, you’ll only need an idea of the armies featured in the book you’re reading, and it’s surprisingly easy to pick up.
If you’re unfamiliar with the property, the best thing to do is browse a wiki or two, and look at models and figurines online to get a feel for an army's identity. Even at a quick glance of a few pictures, it will be obvious that the Orks are a barbaric rabble, the Eldar are an ancient and technologically advanced race, and the Tyranids are a hive of monstrous creatures.
With this buying guide, we’re hoping to provide you with a point of entry into the vast number of Warhammer 40k books, or maybe point you towards something you hadn’t considered if you’re already a fan. We’ll be looking at the best stand-alone novels, as well as some long-running series by the most celebrated authors writing for the franchise, including what type of story you can expect from each title.
With over 400 Warhammer books on the market, it’s no surprise that some are less than stellar. To put it politely, they can range from the fantastic to the very bad. In the early days it would be a gamble on whether a new release would be worth your time, but over the decades a number of authors have proved reliable in weaving an intriguing narrative with terrific writing.
The best name to look for is Dan Abnett, who has a number of excellent titles under his belt. So if you come across a book by him, it’s probably worth a read. Others to look out for are Graham McNeill, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Sandy Mitchel, and William King, all of whom we highly recommend.
The main issue with Warhammer 40k novels is that it’s almost impossible to read them all in chronological order, and to start at the beginning of a long running series may not be worth the time and effort for the payoff. Due to this, most long running sagas are split into digestible arcs, with long-running series’ sharing the same worlds and characters, even if not directly based off previous entries.
Stories tend to be contained within stand alone adventures, or trilogies within the larger narrative. The authors do expect a certain level of knowledge of Warhammer 40k lore, but do a good job of explaining key events that they know the reader may not be aware of. There’s no need to panic if you see a recommendation on our list that’s no.23 of 54, we assure you that you won’t be lost!
The many fully realised and in-depth alien races are a huge part of why the tabletop games are so popular and long-lasting, with unique cultures and societies. When it comes to the novelisations, however, the protagonists tend to be The Imperium of Man, who are the humans of the Warhammer universe.
If you’re new to the universe, its best to stick to The Imperium of Man. It’s much easier to relate to a human commander fighting for survival than a single part of a ravenous hive mind, a robot skeleton older than time itself, or a daemon made of psychic energy.
It's worth noting that, in terms of genre, while Warhammer 40k books are very much in dark science-fiction territory, there is a surprising amount of difference in plot and tone from author to author. Some bring humour to their work, while others focus on action and gore, or intrigue and plot suspense instead of the usual horror and despair associated with the series.
As the Warhammer 40K tagline suggests, you won’t find much romance within the novels, and most inter-personal relationships are bittersweet due to the setting. What you will find is an incredibly well realised universe with a deep lore and unique inhabitants.
The official publisher of Warhammer 40k books is The Black Library, a publishing division of Games Workshop, and while a large selection of their titles are available in paperback, some can be difficult to track down. Luckily, everything is easily available in eBook format. There are also a number of audiobooks available, as well as some shorter works that are exclusively digital.
Keep in mind you’ll need the correct device for these options, and potentially a subscription service or app. With the sheer amount of books out there it may be a good idea to have them available on one handy device if you find yourself bitten by the Warhammer 40k bug.
Now that you're hopefully up to speed with the Warhammer 40k universe and what to expect from the many different authors involved, we're proud to present our ranking of the top 10 best! There is a surprising amount of diversity within the setting, so we hope you'll be able to find something that takes your fancy.
|Series||Ultramarines (No. 1)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action|
|Series||Horus Heresy (No. 7)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action, political thriller, espionage, deception|
|Format||Paperback, eBook, audiobook|
|Series||Horus Heresy (No. 14)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action, crisis of faith, fall of man|
|Format||Paperback, eBook, audiobook|
|Series||Space Wolves (No. 1, 2, 3|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action, adventure, character focus, hero story, Viking|
|Series||Ravenor (self contained trilogy)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action, intrigue, conspiracy|
|Format||Paperback, hardback, eBook, audiobook|
|Series||Night Lords (Self contained trilogy)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Character focus, redemption, vengeance, horror, gore|
|Series||Ciaphas Cain (No. 1, 2, 3)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Comedy, farce|
|Series||Gaunt's Ghosts (No. 1, 2, 3)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action, comradery, brotherhood|
|Series||Horus Heresy (No. 1)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action, military, historical|
|Format||Paperback, hardback, eBook, audiobook|
|Series||Eisenhorn (self contained trilogy)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action, political thriller, intrigue, deception|
The Founding (A Gaunt's Ghosts Omnibus)
Ciaphas Cain: Savior of the Imperium (Omnibus)
Night Lords (Trilogy)
The Space Wolf Omnibus
The First Heretic
An Incredible Trilogy of Action and Intrigue
The Beginning of an Epic Saga
A Very Human Story in an Alien Universe
A Warhammer 40k Comedy?
A Very Different Perspective
A Mind Bending Premise for Sci-Fi Fans
An Excellent Original Series
A Fall From Grace Tale
A Deep Political Thriller
One for Fans of Ultramarines
|Series||Eisenhorn (self contained trilogy)||Horus Heresy (No. 1)||Gaunt's Ghosts (No. 1, 2, 3)||Ciaphas Cain (No. 1, 2, 3)||Night Lords (Self contained trilogy)||Ravenor (self contained trilogy)||Space Wolves (No. 1, 2, 3||Horus Heresy (No. 14)||Horus Heresy (No. 7)||Ultramarines (No. 1)|
|Sub-Genre and Themes||Action, political thriller, intrigue, deception||Action, military, historical||Action, comradery, brotherhood||Comedy, farce||Character focus, redemption, vengeance, horror, gore||Action, intrigue, conspiracy||Action, adventure, character focus, hero story, Viking||Action, crisis of faith, fall of man||Action, political thriller, espionage, deception||Action|
|Format||Paperback, eBook||Paperback, hardback, eBook, audiobook||Paperback, eBook||Paperback, eBook||Paperback, eBook||Paperback, hardback, eBook, audiobook||eBook||Paperback, eBook, audiobook||Paperback, eBook, audiobook||Paperback, eBook|
If you've suddenly found yourself with more time on your hands, why not pick up a book? Whether it's a nail-biting thriller, gripping true crime, or a novel that let's you choose your own ending, we've found some more exciting reads to captivate and capture the imagination!
So concludes our ranking of the 10 best Warhammer 40k books. There's actually a good amount of variation in genres, themes, and ideas within the same setting, so we hope you found something that you'll be able to sink your teeth into, and maybe implore you to delve deeper into the Warhammer 40k universe. After all, there's plenty of it out there, and it only seems to be growing!
Author: David Sexton
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