Omnibus cover image

The Story

The Warmaster has turned the behemoth the Imperium's war-machine upon itself. With claws of bloody steel and fangs of nuclear fire, the great beast of humanity's Great Crusade is tearing itself apart.

Many of its theatres of slaughter will become infamous for ten millenia to come: the Lord of Iron will wage a war that will leave the world of Tallarn with the wrecks of one million tanks. On Beta-Garmon, loyalists and traitors unleash their God-Engines upon each other in an apocalyptic meat-grinder that will become known as 'the Titandeath'. Both the Emperor and the Warmaster are playing games of attrition in preparation for their confrontation on Terra, and worlds are left to burn in order to grind down the numbers of the other's armies.

But in the end, even those battles are only stepstones to the heart of the Imperium. To rip that price from it's bloody chest, Horus has one final task ahead of himself: drawing the chaos of his scattered forces together into a single spear to strike at his father's throat...

Reading Order

Legend: Novels; Novellas (anthology); Short Stories (anthology)
  1. Black Oculus (WwE or LW)
  2. Tallarn: Executioner (Tall)
  3. Tallarn: Siren
  4. The Eagle's Talon (EoT)
  5. Iron Corpses (EoT)
  6. Tallarn: Ironclad (Tall)
  7. Tallarn: Witness (Tall)
  8. Dark Compliance (HotS)
  9. Twisted (WwE)
  10. The Ember Wolves (HotS)
  11. Valerius (HotS)
  12. Titandeath
  13. Slaves to Darkness
  14. Child of Chaos (LW)

*The Eagle's Talon, Iron Corpses, Dark Compliance and Valerius were originally produced as audio dramas and later published as short-stories.

Why this Reading Order?

It's one minute to midnight.

In the omnibus reading order this omnibus is, alongside Through the Neath, the closing chapter of the Heresy, followed only by the finale of The Siege of Terra. Both omnibuses are, each in their own way, about moving the chosen pieces of the scattered board of the galactic civil war in position for the fated conclusion of the Siege of Terra.

The Dead and the Dying covers three major events: first, the Iron Warrior' invasion of the planet Tallarn, resulting in the biggest armoured battle of the Heresy; secondly, the Grand-Slaughter of Beta-Garmon, also known as "the Titandeath"; and thirdly the final gathering of traitors, in which the Warmaster calls together the scattered armies of his brothers for the storm on the Sol System and the Imperial Palace.

While the latter two events are primarily told in the novels Titandeath by Guy Haley and Slaves to Darkness by John French, the Battle of Tallarn is told across a combination of a short novel (Tallarn: Ironclad), a novella (Tallarn: Executioner), three short-stories (Black Oculus; Tallarn: Siren & Tallarn: Witness) and two audio-dramas/short-stories (The Eagle's Talon & Iron Corpses), all but the last one also written by John French. Many of the Tallarn stories were later bundled together in the anthology Tallarn. The reading order of The Dead and the Dying starts out with these seven stories.

Iron within, iron without: Iron Warrior & the first Obliterator

Placing the Tallarn-arc into a fitting omnibus gave me a bit of a headache. It’s got a cool premise ("ten million tanks fighting on a single planet") and is not an insignificant event for the civil war in general. It's also, in my opinion, a well-written and entertaining story-arc on its own that's about a lot more than just lots of tanks fighting each other. The problem for placing it among the omnibus reading order arose from the fact that it sits very isolated between the various crossroads of Heresy-story-lines and therefore seemed hard to combine with other story-threads without feeling arbitrary in its placement.

That said, eventually I arrived at a solution that I am quite happy with. My reasoning for placing it alongside Titandeath and Slaves to Darkness was four-fold and went as follows:

First, the Battle of Tallarn fits conceptually quite well with the Titandeath of Beta-Garmon, what with both being the most massive versions of armoured battles imaginable for tanks and titans, respectively.

Secondly, Tallarn is the next chapter in the story of Perturabo after Angel Exterminatus (see Shattersong). The primarch of the Iron Warriors has a surprisingly big role in Slaves to Darkness and is arguably one of the most important characters of the Siege of Terra. Tallarn and Slaves are two important steps on his personal road to damnation and his development as a character, both dealing with his attempts to conquer Chaos without succumbing to it like his fallen brothers. I feel he shines more as a character when these two parts of his story are read close together.

The third reason for placing Tallarn close to Slaves was Argonis, the Warmaster’s emissary of the Sons of Horus, who was introduced in Tallarn and would go on to become one of the most prominent Sons of Horus-characters in both Slaves to Darkness and the subsequent Siege-novels. The audio drama/short-story Dark Compliance also features him.

Finally, both Tallarn and Slaves are written by the same author (John French), which gives them stylistic and thematic connections almost by default.

Reading Tallarn so late in the series in-between Wolfsbane and Titandeath means taking a step back on the timeline to a mid-series battle; the reward is bringing Perturabo’s story up-to-speed with the rest of the story. I hope Tallarn doesn’t feel like like a brake block before the finale when placed here, but can rather be enjoyed as a grim but entertaining intermission that will enhance the experience of Slaves to Darkness and the eventual Siege.

If you're coming from Wolfsbane and are impatient to read the next big 'event' of the Heresy and what's next for Horus, it's of course up to you to skip the Tallarn-arc and head straight for Titandeath.

Voices of the Warmaster: Argonis 'the Unscarred' & Maloghurst 'the Twisted'

Titandeath is about the battle of Beta-Garmon, the final, apocalyptic war effort before the loyalists and the traitors clash on the walls of the Imperial Palace itself. The title of the book is the name under which this battle will become infamous in Imperial history books, named for the insurmountable amount of God-Engines from both sides that destroyed each other on that blighted planet. The ending of Titandeath segues directly into the events of Slaves to Darkness.

Placed between Tallarn and these two novels are a handful of short-stories are placed that introduce the themes, concepts and characters that will be most important for the developments in them: Dark Compliacne is an audio-drama/short-story about how the Warmaster conquers a world with just the words of his equerry; Twisted throws a spotlight on Maloghurst the Twisted, who will be a major character in Slaves to Darkness; The Ember Wolves gives a taste of the Titan-centric action of Titandeath; and Valerius is about the titular officer of the Imperial Army (known from the preceding omnibus) and his group of soldiers who are bound for the meatgrinder of Beta-Garmon.

Slaves to Darkness: Kalus Ekaddon & Zardu Layak 'the Crimson Apostle'

The anchor of this omnibus is Slaves to Darkness, the final “traitor-book” of the Heresy apart from The Buried Dagger (see Shadow of the Warmaster II). By the Warmaster's command, almost all the traitor primarchs that will take part in the Siege are drawn together for a final time. Horus, Lorgar, Perturabo, Fulgrim and Angron are all crucial characters for the plot of the novel, with even more primarchs showing up at least for a cameo.

Wolfsbane and Titandeath are the immediate prequels to Slaves. In Wolfsbane, which was collected in the preceding omnibus, Russ wounded the Warmaster with a supernatural spear gifted to him by the Emperor. The thrust failed to kill, but still left its mark on the Warmaster; a glimpse of the effects of this is seen in Titandeath, but the whole ramifications only become apparent in Slaves to Darkness. The book will be the final part in the pre-Siege story of the Sons of Horus and the Warmaster himself, all this time after their first appearance in the opening book of the series. The circle is about to close.

'I never had time for redemption': Erebus

As an epilogue to the omnibus and the Heresy as a whole, I placed Child of Chaos to its very end. This short story by Chris Wraight (available as an eShort or as part of the collections Lupercal's War or Traitorous Scions) is a first-person account of the man that started it all, the snake in the garden, the hand of fate himself: Erebus. Arguably the most hated character of the whole series (maybe even the whole setting, #f**kerebus), I think that Erebus is actually a fantastic villain: utterly consciousless, infuriatingly confident and unrepentently evil. This first-person account hammers all of these qualitities home and delves into some of the mysteries of the character - while being full of lies, naturally. While it would have made for a fine bookend to Chosen of Chaos, I feel that the original villain of the series deserves a final monologue at the very end before the curtain falls for the final Act.

Because now, finally, the Siege of Terra awaits.

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

Not a Primarchs or Horus Heresy Characters story, but still Horus Heresy bonus content that fits well with the stories from this omnibus: The anthology Cthonia's Reckoning was published alongside the release of the second edition of the Horus Heresy tabletop game in 2022. The anthology's seven stories tell the tale of the war between the Imperial Fists and the Sons of Horus for the homeworld of the Warmaster, Cthonia. The war takes place at the time of Horus' final push for Terra at the end of the Heresy.

Required and Recommended Reading

This is one of only two Phase VII Omnibuses, the final Phase of the series. A reader should have read most of the other Heresy Omnibuses before diving into this one.

Direct prequels are of course the three preceding Shadow of the Warmaster omnibuses I: Knives in the Dark, II: Lords of Death and III: Jaws of Defeat.

The first half of Perturabo’s story is told in Shattersong. The opening story of this omnibus, Black Oculus, picks up basically directly after the end of Angel Exterminatus to segue into the events on Tallarn.

You can read Lorgar's and Angron's story prior to Slaves to Darkness in Shadow Crusade III: Chosen of Chaos.

Sanguinius is basically acting Imperial commander on Beta-Garmon in Titandeath. How he came to be there is being told in Imperium Secundus II: Fate's Ashes.

Before proceeding to The Siege of Terra, you should read the duology of Omnissiah II: End of Empires and Scale and Stone to be up-to-date with the status quo on the Birthworld.


If you followed this reading order, you should be pretty much done with the Horus Heresy by now. Congratulations! Take a breath. Finally, the Siege Of Terra awaits. What a road it has been.

Required Books

Novels (in order of appearance)

  1. Titandeath
  2. Slaves to Darkness

Anthologies (in order of appearance)

  1. War Without End (WwE)
  2. Tallarn (Tall)
  3. Eye of Terra (EoT)
  4. Heralds of the Siege (HotS)
  5. ALTERNATIVE: Lupercal's War (LW) (s. notes below)

The anthologies listed above together contain every short-story and novella assembled into the reading order for this omnibus. Instead of buying whole anthologies, you also have the option of buying any of the individual stories from the reading order 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 digital products and are not included in any of the Horus Heresy anthologies.

An alternative source for Black Oculus and Child of Chaos 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.

Stories from the 41st millenium:

  • Titan's Bane (audio drama) by Chris Dows

    • If you liked the claustrophobic tank sequences from Tallarn, you might like this: This audio drama puts you inside an Imperial tank alongside its desperate crew. It really nails the atmosphere of this particularly dire situation with clever use of sound design and voice acting. Here's Chris Dows talking about his background and process of writing
  • Baneblade by Guy Haley

    • If you're eager for more tank action, but want to read rather than listen, Baneblade by Guy Haley should serve you well as the story of the crew of an Imperial super-heavy tank. This was later followed up by a sequel, Shadowsword.
  • Titanicus by Dan Abnett

    • Want more big stompy robots instead? This novel from 2008 is basically the OG Titan book, and as with many of the pioneering work that Abnett wrote for Warhammer 40,000 influenced many of the Titan stories that were written afterwards.
  • Imperator: Wrath of the Omnissiah by Gav Thorpe

  • Black Legion series by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, starting with The Talon of Horus

    • Both Talon of Horus and Black Legion deal with the rise to power of Ezekyle Abaddon, Warmaster of Chaos in the 41st millennium, and the formation of the Black Legion. The series is told in retrospect by Iskandar Khayon, former sorcerer of the Thousand Sons and later member of Abaddon's inner circle. This series is very much growing from the seeds of the conflicts in Slaves to Darkness, with inter-Legion warfare being as much a problem as the question of how much control should be handed to the Gods of Chaos and whether it's even possible to stay somewhat independent of them. After a time of hiatus, ADB has said that he is (among other projects) currently working on the third book of the series.

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