Where To Start With Black Library?

Click here for all of my Warhammer 40,000 content

Black Library have been publishing Warhammer 40,000 books for a little over twenty years now. As you can expect, there are several hundred novels set in the universe, plus novellas, anthologies, and audio dramas. A lot of them cross-over or reference one another, and tackling this sprawling franchise can be more than a little daunting. But fear not friend! Because I am here to help you get your foot in the door. Any one of these could be the story that gets you hooked, so let’s take a look at the options available to you.

Option 1: Black Library’s Recommendation

The anthology Nexus + Other Stories is explicitly designed as an introduction to the many worlds of Warhammer 40,000. Personally, I did find the stories rather basic, but they serve their purpose. The best way to read this book is to use it as a filter for which parts of the setting interest you the most. helpfully, it’s full of suggested next reads. Even if you only follow those, it ought to keep you going for a while.

Option 2: Where I Started

When I got into Warhammer the first time around, I followed the advice I was given by pretty much everyone. Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts saga deserves it’s reputation, and The Founding gathers the first three novels in one volume. However, I’m going to court controversy here and say I don’t think this is the best starting place for a new reader. A fifteen-novel commitment is a lot for any reader, and the series doesn’t always hold together. Definitely a book to read, but maybe not as your first one.

Option 3: Anthologies

Black Library’s anthologies are a great way to sample not only bits of the universe, but also get a taste for different author’s styles. The best of these anthologies in my mind is Inferno! Presents: The Inquisition. It’s got a mix of authors new and old, and gives you a real feel for the flavour of Warhammer 40,000. If you want something more military, On Wings of Blood is your friend, taking to the air with stories of fighter pilots and their planes.

Option 4: Standalone Novels

Not everything has to (or should) be a long-running series, and there are some great standalones out there. Dead Men Walking by Steve Lyons and Honourbound by Rachel Harrison both provide military SF with a distinctly grimdark flavour, and neither one requires any prior knowledge of the setting. The same is true for Flesh and Steel by Guy Haley, which takes a look at Warhammer 40,000’s unique police force. If you want something with more of a space opera feel, then Mike Brooks’ Rites of Passage is the book for you. It also has one of the least typical protagonists in the whole franchise.

Option 5: Completed Series

Black Library is quite traditional in favouring the trilogy over longer series, and many of these series are now available in chunky paperback omnibus form. The Macharian Crusade by William King is one of the best examples of this, chronicling one soldiers experiences during a long and bitter war. If you want something a little shorter, Black Library have also put out omnibus versions of a few duologies over the years. The strongest of these is James Swallow’s Sisters of Battle, which will introduce you marvellously to the violence and faith of the grim, dark future. The omnibuses are one of Black Library’s best innovations, and there’s sure to be one out there you’ll like.

Option 6: Ongoing Series

Sometimes you just want to get in and read what everyone else is reading. Everyone loves the chance to join a conversation, and Black Library are keen to have a lot of conversations going at once. If you want to stay up to date with the main storyline of Warhammer 40,000, then Guy Haley’s Avenging Son should be your first stop, though it does take a little getting into. But the smaller stories are no less interesting. Justin D Hill’s Cadia series (beginning with Cadia Stands) is some of the best military SF on the market, while Dan Abnett’s Inquisition Cycle is a multi-series arc (beginning with Xenos) that is almost complete after over twenty years.

Option 7: Wherever You Want

All of these are just ideas, and there are simply too many good books to list. The best way to start reading Black Library is just to grab a book that interests you and tuck in. If you’re new to the franchise, I hope this has been helpful. And if you’re a veteran, be sure to mention your starting point in the comments.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

One thought on “Where To Start With Black Library?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: