Omnibus cover image

The Story

Three primarchs were drawn into the trap at Isstvan V. One was killed by his brother, one escaped the fray, but the fate of Vulkan, primarch of the Salamanders, remains uncertain. Dive into the events leading up to the Dropsite Massacre and discover the story of his desperate sons in the wake of catastrophe.

While the Salamanders defiantly declare that “Vulkan lives!”, mysterious forces work behind the scenes. To understand the forces at play, one has to look into the past: decades before the Heresy, the secretive Alpha Legion are on the trail of a web of conspiracies, one that might affect the fate of all mankind…

Reading Order

Legend: Novels; Novellas (anthology); Short Stories (anthology)
  1. Promethean Sun (BoF)
  2. Legion
  3. Strike and Fade (LoB)
  4. Scorched Earth (BoF)
  5. Unforged (ShLg)
  6. Vulkan Lives
  7. Unspoken (ShLg)

Why this Reading Order?

Every Legion became more fleshed out in the pages of the Horus Heresy, but if there's one big winner in terms of additional exposure through the adaptation of the Heresy as a book series, it's got to be the Salamanders.

XVIIIth Legion Salamanders

The XVIIIth Legion went from what amounted to a footnote in the annals of the Heresy to one of the Legions with the highest number of pages dedicated to it: three full novels, a trilogy of novellas (later collected in the anthology Born of Flame) and a host of additional short-stories. Just like Chris Wraight became the singular voice for the White Scars, the novels and novellas for the Salamanders were almost all written by a single author: Nick Kyme. The result is quite the detailed journey for the Legion and their primarch from the killing fields of Isstvan V all the way to Terra itself.

Sons of Vulkan: K'gosi 'the Pyroclast' & Artellus Numeon

This omnibus collects the first chapter of their story, featuring the novel Vulkan Lives, the novellas Prometheaen Sun and Scorched Earth as well as three short-stories (Strike and Fade, Unforged and Unspoken).

'I am Alpharius.'

Because Vulkan plays an important role in the events of The Unremembered Empire, I knew that the early Salamanders-stories leading up to and including Vulkan Lives would have to be included somewhere in the "Prelude to Imperium Secundus"-group of omnibuses. After some shuffling and with the goal of having only as many Prelude-Omnibuses as necessary, I eventually decided to combine their thread with the Alpha Legion novel Legion. Legion is, like the novella Promethean Sun, set before the beginning of the Heresy, but has major ramifications for the story to come.

A man with many talents: John Grammaticus

For quite some time the working title for this Omnibus was The Dragon and the Snake. While I still like that title - it does have a certain ring to it - I decided later on to change it to Anvil of War. This was due to the fact that the title The Dragon and the Snake made it sound too much like "This Omnibus is about Vulkan and Alpharius!", which is not really the case. The Omnibus is definitely about Vulkan, yes, so the Dragon-part is true. But while it's certainly important to get to know Alpharius and the Alpha Legion at some point before Imperium Secundus, Legion isn't included specifically here for the introduction of the XXth Legion, but for the introduction of a different faction: the alien Cabal and their agent John Grammaticus.

The Salamanders and the Cabal seem disparate at first glance, but the Cabal and John actually feature repeatedly in stories alongside the sons of Prometheus. In three out of four novels that are essential to the Salamanders' arc (Vulkan Lives, Unremembered Empire and Old Earth), John and/or the machinations of the Cabal are important parts of the narrative alongside Vulkan and/or his sons.

Hunter of the XVIIth: Barthusa Narek

What you as a reader get out of this omnibus, especially as a "Prelude to Imperium Secundus", is threefold: You experience what happened with Vulkan and the surviving Salamanders on the killing fields of Isstvan, what they did in the aftermath and how all of this eventually ties into the events of Imperium Secundus. You become privy to some of the secrets of the Alpha Legion and their enigmatic primarch, revealing their motivations for joining Horus' rebellion in the first place. And you get to know the Cabal, a shadowy conglomerate of aliens, and what their interests are in getting involved with humanity's civil war.

All of this makes for a compelling narrative full of twists and turns as well as laying important groundwork for future developments of the Heresy.

Additions from 'The Primarchs' & 'Horus Heresy Characters'

Vulkan: Lord of Drakes by David Annandale tells the tale of Vulkan's attempts to create unity among his divided Legion. It is set during the Great Crusade, shortly after Vulkan returned to Nocturne after spending time with the Emperor. As with the other two primarchs who were lured into the trap at Isstvan III, this is a rare opportunity to get to know Vulkan from before Horus' betrayal turned his life and worldview upside-down (see also Promethean Sun). Here's David Annandale talking about Lord of Drakes.

Alpharius: Head of the Hydra by Mike Brooks is the story of told by Alpharius. The book covers a wide range of time during and even before the Great Crusade and is full of interesting twists on the lore...if you are inclined to believe any of the words that the serpent speaks. I'd recommend reading this only after you've read (at least) Legion. Here's Mike Brooks talking about Head of the Hydra.

Required and Recommended Reading

The "kick-off event" for the Salamanders's story in the Heresy is the Dropsite Massacre on Isstvan V. This was already covered in the novel Fulgrim, which was included as the final book of the starter omnibus Heresy Rising. If you've read that, you're basically good to go for Anvil of War.

While not necessarily required reading, I'd recommend reading Shadow Crusade I: Only the Faithful as a second prequel. It covers the Dropsite Massacre from a different angle and gives important context for the corruption of the Word Bearers, who are prominent antagonists in Anvil. The Shadow Crusade omnibuses are also, like Anvil, part of the "Preludes to Imperium Secundus". Shadow Crusade I is a good entry point to this group of omnibuses (s. below).


This Omnibus is part of a group of five omnibuses that I have labeled "Preludes to Imperium Secundus": Shadow Crusade I, II & III, Anvil of War and Angels of Darkness. These three major narrative threads all converge in Imperium Secundus I: Hope's Kindling. Check the upper half of the Omnibus Map for a visualisation.

The story of the Salamanders continues in Imperium Secundus I, but I definitely recommend reading all the other "Preludes" before starting with that one. If you have already read Shadow Crusade I, a good follow-up to Anvil would be either Shadow Crusade III: Chosen of Chaos or Angels of Darkness.

Shadow Crusade III: Chosen of Chaos is, among other things, about Erebus' plan to corrupt the Blood Angels as well as the next steps on Lorgar's road after Shadow Crusade I, this time alongside Angron and the World Eaters.

The final "Prelude" Angels of Darkness focuses on the Dark Angels and the Night Lords. It lays a lot of groundwork for the past of the Dark Angels,  which segues into their actual involvement with the Heresy, namely the bloody Thramas Crusade in which they battle the Night Lords.

If you're interested in the Alpha Legion after reading Legion, you're in luck: they've got a dedicated Omnibus of their own in Scale and Stone.

On an unrelated note, you could also head over to Omnissiah I: Death of Innocence if you're interested in the Mechanicum and their own schism within the civil war. Omnissiah I doesn't really have a prequel beside the opening omnibus and can be approached at your own leisure.

Required Books

Novels (in order of appearance)

  1. Legion
  2. Vulkan Lives

Anthologies (in order of appearance)

  1. Born of Flame (BoF)
  2. Shattered Legions (ShLg)
  3. Legacies of Betrayal (LoB)

A note on anthologies: The anthologies listed above together contain every short-story and novella listed under “Reading Order” for this Omnibus. Instead of buying whole anthologies, you can also buy each of the individual stories as an individual eBook. The price per story is higher when buying individual eBooks compared to buying them as part of an anthology.

Beyond the Heresy

The following are recommendations from other series and the wider Black Library canon. If you are interested in the characters, factions or themes that were part this omnibus, the following books might also be to your liking.

Books from the 41st millenium:

  • Tome of Fire trilogy by Nick Kyme, starting with Salamander

    • As I mentioned above, Nick Kyme is quite experienced with writing the sons of Vulkan, as he has written plenty about them for both the Horus Heresy and the 41st millenium. The Tome of Fire series follows the paths of two Salamanders in the war-torn future of the 41st millenium and consists of a trilogy of novels as well as a host of short stories and novellas, all of which combined are available as an omnibus

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