Warhammer Fantasy Books: Where to Start?

The Warhammer universe started with tabletop games and slowly grew into a fiction fantasy land for ambitious readers. The Warhammer Fantasy universe has been around for a long time, and so there is a lot of content to choose from. So where do you start?

There’s no one right way to jump into the Warhammer world, so starting chronologically, with the first published book or even with a specific series, are both great options. Another way to start is to focus on a specific character or faction, like vampires or trolls. With these books, any place is acceptable!

Here are suggestions for where to start with Warhammer fantasy books:

  • The first published Warhammer book: Draco by Jan Watson
  • The highest rated Warhammer book: The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade, Volume II by Mike Lee
  • An extremely popular Warhammer book: Drachenfels by Kim Newman
  • The longest Warhammer series’s first book: Horus Rising by Dan Abnett
  • A fan-favorite omnibus: Gotrek and Felix: The First Omnibus by William King
  • A popular author’s book: Trollslayer by William King
  • A book about a specific Warhammer faction, such as the elves: Reaper of Souls by Dan Abnett

In this post, we will cover different Warhammer Fantasy books and the best place to start. Keep reading to learn about the Warhammer universe and where you should begin reading.

Where Should You Start with Warhammer Fantasy?

There are many places to start with Warhammer Fantasy novels. Warhammer novels are set in the same universe and have many different authors. And it can be confusing trying to find the best place to start within the universe. There are so many books and series to choose from it can be difficult to pick a place to start.

What is Warhammer Fantasy?

Before we dive into where to start, it might be beneficial for some of you reading this to explain what Warhammer Fantasy books are.

Warhammer 40,000 is a game created by Games Workshop in 1983. It started as tabletop miniature games. Players build armies and battle each other with the help of fantasy characters such as dwarves, elves, vampires, humans, and more. The game is set in a dystopian science-fiction fantasy world.

To expand the universe and give characters backstories, novels were written to provide enthusiasts with elaborate stories and fun battle scenes. This brought the game to life in a new way and further infused the Warhammer Fantasy world.

There are now more than 70 novels, novellas, and short stories based in this universe. And so now let us dive into where you should start!

Start with a Specific Faction

In the Warhammer universe, many different races have been developed to keep things interesting in the fantasy realm. You can choose to start reading about a specific faction as your preferred way to break into the genre.

The following is a chart of different factions and the books you could start with focused on each faction:

  • Chaos: If you want to read about Chaos first, start with Empire in Chaos by Anthony Reynolds (Goodreads rating: 3.57)
  • Elves: If you want to read about Elves first, start with Reaper of Souls by Dan Abnett (Goodreads rating: 4.17)
  • Trolls: If you want to read about Trolls first, start with Trollslayer by William King (Goodreads rating: 3.97)
  • Vampires: If you want to read about Vampires first, start with Vampireslayer by William King (Goodreads rating: 3.95)

These four options are great because they are all very different from one another so you can find something that appeals to your specific interests.

Start with an Author You Already Like

Some authors have written more than one book in the Warhammer universe, so if you’ve read a couple of books by the same author before and enjoyed them it would be fine to start there as well! Some of the authors are better known than others when it comes to Warhammer Fantasy stories.

The following is a list of the popular authors who have written many of the Warhammer fantasy novels:

  • Dan Abnett
  • Gav Thorpe
  • Graham McNeill 
  • Ian Watson
  • Lee Lightner
  • Marc Gascoigne 
  • William King

While this list of authors is not comprehensive, these are some of the prominent names in the Warhammer Fantasy book world. You will also find that some of these authors are responsible for editing some of the anthologies and omnibuses available in the Warhammer world.

Here are the best books by each of these novelists:

If you like Warhammer Fantasy then you will have no trouble diving into any of these novels. Some of them are part of larger series, so keep that in mind too. You may want to start the series at book one for the full background, but it is not usually required for understanding what is happening in the book.

Start with Some Good Background Storytelling

The Warhammer Fantasy stories are abundant but there is one great series you can start with to get you started. That series is Tales of the Old World. This book is great for those looking to read a bunch of stories in one.

The Tales of the Old World is an anthology series that includes 36 short stories, filled with a range of cliche to highbrow writing styles.

  • Most Common Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, it gives you good and bad stories wrapped up in one collection
  • Goodreads Rating: 3.72 out of 5 stars

This is a great read for a combination of interests. You get the highbrow writing of many authors throughout with some of the not-so-great pieces. But that is the name of the game in the anthology series.

However, this anthology is recommended to start with first because it offers good background for the Warhammer universe.

Start Reading in Chronological Order

The first book released in the Warhammer universe was Inquisitor by Ian Watson. This book was originally released in 1990, then reprinted under the title Draco in 2002. This is one of the first novels published in the Warhammer world. Starting here is a great choice.

This book casts the Warhammer Fantasy world in a dark and disturbing light. Watson’s vocabulary is large and sometimes interrupts your reading due to the inability to comprehend some obscure words. The book ends quite abruptly, but there are two other books in the series you can read after this.

The following are the next books in this series:

Start reading today because all these books have great ratings on Goodreads. Their overall rating is 3.5 out of 5 stars, with readers saying they’re well-written fantasy books, but hard to follow at times.

Average Goodreads Ratings:

Draco brings you all the battles and energy of good drama with great stylistic writing. For this reason alone, we recommend that you start here, especially if you are looking for a well-written story that balances carnage and storytelling.

Another great novel to read by Ian Watson that came out around the same time, but a little later, is Space Marines (3.93 out of 5 on Goodreads), set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe.

Start with the Highest Rated Warhammer Fantasy Book

If you want to start with the highest-rated Warhammer fantasy on Goodreads, the best book for you is The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade Volume Two by Mike Lee. It has a 4.33 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

The only downside here is you are starting in the middle of the series with volume two. If you choose to start with volume one by the same author, the Goodreads rating is 4.23 out of 5 stars.

Either option is a great place to jump into the stories of the Warhammer universe. And the reviews say it all! The following are what you can expect from The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade:

  • Vicious and ruthless anti-hero
  • Descriptive
  • Full of carnage
  • Over the top, in a way fans liked

As you may have gathered this book is like those that came before it, filled with battle scenes and fighting to the death. The second volume gloriously wraps up the story of Malus Darkblade.

One of the most popular books in the Warhammer Fantasy universe is Drachenfels (The Vampire Genevieve #1) by Kim Newman. This book is great for readers who are new to the genre. Not only is it short, but it’s also extremely entertaining for those who are looking for a quick read that will keep their attention throughout.

Led by vampire heroine Genevieve, this book is a treat for those who are returning to the Warhammer Fantasy books and who are brand new to the Warhammer universe.

The book offers a unique twist on the normal battle storytelling that goes into other Warhammer novels. You will read about the big battle and then the majority of the book focuses on the aftermath of the chaotic battle.

Some will say the beginning and end are the best part of the book. And that is true if you enjoy the faster-paced scenes. The middle of the book can drag if you expect it to be fast-paced for the entire novel.

Start with A Good Omnibus Option

Another great option would be Gotrek & Felix: The First Omnibus by William King. This book is perfect for readers who enjoy fantasy stories about characters with strong personalities and adventurous plots. If you are looking for a book that showcases the Warhammer universe, this is it:

  • Gotrek’s rather unusual nature makes him no stranger to chaos underground
  • The adventures of Gotrek and Felix are extremely well written
  • The main characters (Gotrek and Felix) spend much of their time exploring and fighting in dungeons or tombs
  • There’s also plenty of action scenes to keep you entertained

This is a good option to start with, and there is a second omnibus to explore if you so choose!

  • Most Common Rating: 5 stars
  • Goodreads Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

We suggest you start with this omnibus because it offers so much in terms of storytelling from two perspectives. And it gives you a bit more to go on than reading a single stand-alone story. You will get invested in these characters and want to learn more about them through these well-crafted stories.

Start with the Longest Warhammer Series

There are many series within the Warhammer universe. But one of the longest series in this genre started back in 2006 with The Horus Heresy novels. There are more than 50 novels, novellas, and short stories in this series, so it can be difficult to determine an overall rating for these novels.

Regardless of if you’re a fan of this series or not, we think that The Horus Heresy is probably the best jumping-off point for someone looking to get started within this genre. And this is especially true if you want a lot of content off the bat. You will not be disappointed with The Horus Heresy series because it will have you reading for days, weeks even.

And while The Horus Heresy was one of our favorite options when it first came out, we think that it’s probably the best option for a fan of this series to start with. The first book, Horus Rising, has a 4.20 out of 5 star rating on Goodreads.

The writing varies widely in this series, with countless authors contributing stories. And this is a perk because it means you can easily skip around if you want. However, the books are set in chronological order, so you may learn about different battles out of context if you do skip around.

In Summary: Start Wherever You Want with Warhammer Fantasy

You can start where you want when it comes to Warhammer Fantasy, and there’s no wrong place to start. The Warhammer universe is so diverse, and there’s something for everyone.

In the end, you’ll have to read some of them to figure out which one is right for you!

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