Omnibus cover image

The Story

Behind the veil of reality, Chaos reigns supreme. Churning with hatred and longing for all that walks the mortal plains, the Dark Gods have their claws outstretched for the greatest prize of all: the souls of the sons of the Emperor.

For every one of the primarchs, plans are in motion to bring them either to destruction or corruption.

The Gods’ wilful converts, Lorgar and the Word Bearers, are dragged ever more deeply into the mire of the Primordial Truth. After they've already turned the Warmaster and rained fire on the hated Ultramarines, they now seek to bring about the will of the Lord of Skulls: laying claim to his most desired prey, the Angel of Baal and the Butcher of Nuceria...

Reading Order

Legend: Novels; Novellas (anthology); Short Stories (anthology)
  1. After Desh'ea (ToH or LW)
  2. Aurelian (EoT)
  3. Fear to Tread
  4. Serpent (LoB)
  5. The Purge (TSW)
  6. Inheritor (EoT)
  7. Butcher's Nails (LoB)
  8. Betrayer
  9. Khârn: The Eightfold Path (LoB)
  10. Heart of the Conquerer (LoB)
  11. A Rose watered with Blood (eShort)

Butcher's Nails and Khârn The Eightfold Path were originally produced as an audio dramas and only later released as short stories in prose.

Why this Reading Order?

I already mentioned in my text for Imperium Secundus I that arranging all the prequel novels to the Imperium Secundus story-line was one of the most arduous parts of the Omnibus-compilation. The novel that switched places most often was Fear to Tread. The novel about the battle of the Blood Angels with the daemonic hordes at Signus Prime doesn’t really have a prequel and its direct sequel is already Imperium Secundus I itself. The Blood Angels also pretty much vanish from the pages of the Heresy after their appearance in the opening trilogy and don’t interact with the events at Isstvan III and Isstvan V until they finally get their great showing in Fear to Tread. Despite existing thematic links with other novels, the isolated nature of the storyline made many of the potential pairings of the novel with other “Preludes to Imperium Secundus” feel kind of arbitrary.

Blood Angels: Amit 'the Flesh Tearer', High Warden Berus & Azkaellon

The solution I arrived at in the end seems obvious in hindsight. The ultimate antagonists of the Heresy series are the Four Gods of Chaos, and each one of the Gods would, over the course of the series, claim a champion among the primarchs. That champion would become infused with the power of their patron deity, in part literally merging with the God itself, to haunt the galaxy for all eternity. James Swallow's Fear to Tread is about the first attempt of the Blood God to claim the soul of a primarch, while Aaron Dembski-Bowden's Betrayer shows his second strike for a different target. Both Sanguinius and the Blood Angels in Fear to Tread as well as Angron and the World Eaters in Betrayer have marks upon their souls and will each in their own way be tempted by the Lord of Skulls.

Word Bearers: 'The Crimson Lord of the Gal Vorbak' Argel Tal & Erebus

Because of this thematic and narrative anchor, the working title for the omnibus was "Prince of Blood" for a long time. But the omnibus is not only about the Blood Angels and the World Eaters, but also about the next chapter in the story of the original architects of the Heresy: Lorgar and the Word Bearers. Both of the two plans to convert the Blood God’s chosen Legions spring forth from the Word Bearer's ranks and both Betrayer and the novella Aurelian are the direct sequels to Lorgar's and Argel Tal’s story after The First Heretic.

World Eaters: Mago, Kharn & Draegher

The other stories of the omnibus embellish the novels and take a closer look at one these three Legions and spotlights their unique character or significant evolvements across the Heresy. A favorite of mine is After Desh'ea by Matthew Farrer, a short-story that shows the intitial, violent meeting of Angron with his prodigal Legion and how Khârn became such a prominent figure for the Legion in the first place. It was one of the earliest short-stories of the series and really set the tone for the deeply tragic story of Angron and his sons.

Captain of the Conqueror: Lotara Sarrin between her charges

Because this Omnibus is equally about each of these three Legions, I renamed it into the more broadly interpretable titel Chosen of Chaos. The stories compiled here are collectively a prism look at Chaos itself. All three of the Legions have the Gods’ greedy eyes upon them, but all three will cope with their choosing in a different manner and approach their eventual fate in contrasting ways.

The Red Angel

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

Angron: Slave of Nuceria by Ian St. Martin is set during a crucial turning point for the XIIth Legion: when they had to decide whether they would follow their new-found primarchs example and bow their heads to the hammers of the Butcher's Nails...or rebel against their violent father. This is, in my opinion, the best Primarch-novel that I've read, and I say that as someone who was skeptical about what another author after ADB could still have to say about this character. But I was proven wrong, and St. Martin deliveres a unique, but still complementary telling of a core part of the Legion's history that really dives into the ugly, abusive nature of the relationship of Angron and his sons specifically and the Imperium and its Space Marines in general. If you think that Angron's story could't get more tragic after Betrayer, think again. In-universe chronology aside, I think this is best read after one has already read Betrayer. Here's Ian St. Martin talking about Slave of Nuceria. He recommends reading Matthew Farrer's After Desh'ea (see Reading Order above) as well as his Primarchs-short story Angron: Ghost of Nuceria as prequels to the book.

Sanguinius: The Great Angel by Chris Wraight was released at the tail end of the Heresy and the Siege in 2022. I personally haven't read it yet, but our esteemed artist Eric has, so here are a few words from him on the book:

It's very different from the other books in the Primarchs-series. For starters, it's told from the perspective of a remembrancer, and one who (unlike most we've met) doesn't seem too enamored with the Crusade. Secondly his perspective shows Astartes in a very different way: he sees them as mutants; huge, hulking, arrogant killers masquerading as humans.

It's interesting reading an account of Astartes and primarchs that treats them with none of the reverence we're used to seeing applied to them. It actually reminds me more of how humans view space marines in Wraight's Vaults of Terra series: as almost as alien to humanity as xenos.

Having finished the book, I think Chris Wraight managed to write the most cynical, grimmest-of-the-grim-dark take on a Primarch novel. It's great!

Required and Recommended Reading

This is a direct sequel to Shadow Crusade I: Only  the Faithful.

If you’re interested in an expanded look on the Word Bearers’ war with the Ultramarines at Calth, you could read Shadow Crusade II: Underworld War in between.


This Omnibus is the last of a group of 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 visualization.

Imperium Secundus I: Hope’s Kindling is the next chapter in the story of Sanguinius and the Blood Angels. I recommend reading all the "Preludes" before starting with that one.

The followers of Chaos take a different path: The final pre-Siege chapter in the story of Lorgar and Angron is told all the way at the other end of the reading order in Shadow of the Warmaster IV: The Dead and the Dying.

Required Books

Novels (in order of appearance)

  1. Fear to Tread
  2. Betrayer

Anthologies (in order of appearance)

  1. Tales of Heresy (ToH)
  2. Eye of Terra (EoT)
  3. Legacies of Betrayal (LoB)
  4. The Silent War (TSW)
  5. ALTERNATIVE: Lupercal's War (LW) (s. notes below)

eShorts (in order of appearance)

  1. A Rose watered with Blood

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.

eShorts are stories that have so far only been made available as stand-alone products and are not included in any of the Horus Heresy anthologies.

An alternative source for After Desh'ea is the anthology Lupercal's War (LW). It was released as a "Start Here" option for readers alongside the 2nd edition of the Horus Heresy tabletop game in 2022. The collection contains 18 short stories picked from across the numbered Horus Heresy anthologies as well as 3 stories that were previously only available as eShorts (Child of Chaos, Bloodhowl & Champion of Oaths).

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:

  • Blood Angels series by James Swallow, starting with Deus Encarmine

    • Preceding the start of the Horus Heresy book series by two years, this series is about the Blood Angel Rafen who has to fight through bloody battles, internal chapter crisis and malevolent schemes. The whole series consists of four novels and a few short stories, all of which are also available together in Blood Angels The Complete Rafen Omnibus
  • Dante by Guy Haley

    • This novel is about Dante, the ancient Chapter Master of the Blood Angels in the 41st millenium. It looks at both his present predicaments with a tyranid invasion of the Baal system as well as his coming-of-age past as an aspirant of the Chapter. If you want to get to know the Blood Angels as a culture and a mythology, this is the book for you. It was followed up by two sequels, The Devastation of Baal and Darkness in the Blood.
  • Blood Rite by Rachel Harrison

    • While this novella is, on the face of it, a pretty standard Blood Angels tale, its author Rachel Harrison has a very distinct style and an intimate approach to the subjects of her novels, so with this novella you get both a very good Blood Angels story as well as an introduction to one of Black Library's most interesting younger authors
  • Khârn: Eater of Worlds by Anthony Reynolds

    • This short novel from 2014 is set after the calamitous events of the Siege of Terra, with the remnants of the World Eaters struggling for a rest of coherence around the comatose Khârn. The novel is told mostly through the eyes of Draeghar as well as a human slave and is very much an extension of the characterisation of the sons of Angron in Betrayer

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