- Empire of Silence (Sun Eater #1).
- Christopher Ruocchio.
- 624 pages.
- SFF / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.
It was not his war.
On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe started down a path that could only end in fire. The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives–even the Emperor himself–against Imperial orders.
But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.
Fleeing his father and a future as a torturer, Hadrian finds himself stranded on a strange, backwater world. Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, he will find himself fighting a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
From the blurb we already know that the protagonist and narrator Hadrian Marlowe (the eldest and firstborn son of Lord Alistair Marlowe from the planet of Delos) destroyed a sun, caused the death of over four billion people and wiped out an entire race (it’s not a spoiler, it’s in the blurb) and that he is writing out his life story so that, in his own words, the true account of his life, his story and what really happened to lead him down that fateful road can be told.
This style is in a similar vein to both the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss where Kvothe, the main character tells his story over a number of days to a chronicler and also, the first book (sadly, the style changed in the later two books) in the Raven’s Shadow trilogy, Blood Song by Anthony Ryan where the main character, Vaelin Al Sorna is on a ship travelling to a duel and recounts his story again, to a chronicler. The only difference in Empire of Silence is that Marlowe is writing his own story and not dictating it to someone else.
It’s a style of storytelling that can really work well and in Ruocchio’s hands, it does creating a personal and often intimate yet sprawling and epic tale.
I’ve seen many compare Empire of Silence to both the Kingkiller Chronicles and Dune. As I’ve already mentioned, it is written in a similar way to the Kingkiller books (just like Kvothe, Marlowe is known for his many deeds and his many names) and after finishing reading it myself, I agree and I feel that it is an apt comparison to make, Kingkiller Chronicles in space, SFF with a fantasy flair. For the Dune comparison, quite honestly, I’ve never read a Dune book and so, I can’t pass judgment on whether it is also an apt comparison or not. I will add in a whisper ‘Mass Effect‘ as I felt that at certain points Empire of Silence was reminiscent of that classic gaming trilogy (yes, I’m aware Andromeda was released and that there are now four ME games and not three but I haven’t played it so I’m making my comparison on the original trilogy).
This is book one in the trilogy, we know the destination and how it all ends, with Marlowe awaiting execution for destroying a sun and sundering a planet. Empire of Silence is the beginning of the tale of Hadrian Marlowe, the first threads woven and weaved in the story of his life, his first steps down the road to what he will become and the first part on the journey towards that devastating deed set against the backdrop of the on-going war with the alien race known as the Cielcin or ‘the Pale‘ and which, by the end of the book we get to learn far more about.
Empire of Silence is a slow-paced and descriptive read that can, in places, feel laborious. It is interesting and it will keep you engaged but at the same time, it is slow (when the action does take place it is well depicted) and heavy with characterisation and world-building. It is only when Marlowe leaves his homeworld of Delos that his tale started to pick-up but then it (still) took me slightly further and up to a third of the way through (it’s a 600-page book so that is 200 pages) to become fully enamoured and engrossed in his story. Empire of Silence is the type of book that demands your full and undivided attention. For me, it was a book of two parts, the first third being only OK but with enough to keep me reading and then, after overcoming the initial hurdles I had faced the second two-thirds were absolutely tremendous and by the end, I found myself completely invested and eager to continue the story of Hadrian Marlowe.
The world-building in Empire of Silence is top quality, everything about it from the different worlds, the cultures, the politics, the social classes and their genetics, the creatures, the Cielcin, the religion and the Chantry (priests, inquisitors, torturers, ominous and evil as priests are) who police the Sollan Empire against heresy is on point and shows huge attention to detail and thought by Ruocchio. Though the story in Empire of Silence predominantly takes place on just two worlds, those of Delos and Emesh, the entire world that Ruocchio has created has an expansive and huge feel to it and there is (hopefully) plenty more to see (the small hints are enticing) in the upcoming two books in the trilogy. On Delos, the focus is on Devil’s Rest, the family castle in Meidua and it is a location that serves to give us insight into the Marlowe family and Hadrian’s life and then, on Emesh, Marlowe spends a lot of time in the capital city of Borosevo, in the Coliseum as a myrmidon and then in Calagah, an ancient Umandh (the xenobite/alien life form that is native to Emesh) ruin and I have to say that Marlowe’s time in both the Coliseum and in Calagah were my favourite parts of the book.
Empire of Silence is Hadrian Marlowe’s story it features a large number of supporting characters too. My favourites were Gibson, an elderly Scholiast (researcher, scholar, teacher) who is a father figure to Marlowe in Devil’s Rest and who has a profound influence on his life, Cat, from when Marlowe is a vagabond and destitute on the streets of Borosevo, Switch, a fellow myrmidon and finally Valka/Doctor Onderra who Marlowe meets on Emesh and is also at the Calagah ruins site. These characters are all different, all individual, all add to the story and all, in some way have an impact on Marlowe making him question and look at himself.
Hadrian Marlowe is a fully fleshed out and well-developed character who I often felt for, he finds himself in many predicaments, not all of his own doing, a victim of the situation, circumstance and his blood, a tortured and tormented soul whose life is a sorrow filled tale of betrayal, loss, adaption and survival. During the brief breaks in the narrative where the focus switches from Marlowe recounting his past to the present, you get the sense that his, age, the years and the burden of what he has done weigh heavy on him giving him a retrospective way of looking back at events.
I will point out that there are lots of characters, terms and worlds mentioned in Empire of Silence and I have to admit that I was more than pleased to see the inclusion of a dramatis personae for the plethora of characters, an index of the worlds and for the terms used by Ruocchio (some of which are familiar, many not) a glossary all sitting nicely at the back of the book to aid my ignorance! The whole section takes up around twenty pages and ten of those are for the alphabetised glossary, so, yeah, lots of terms!😱
Like me, it may take you a while to get into Empire of Silence but it is a book that is well worth persevering with and you will be rewarded for your persistence with what turns out to be a most excellent fantasy-infused SFF read.👍
Every story, every tale and every life has a beginning, a middle and an end and Empire of Silence is a fascinating beginning of the story and character portrait of Hadrian Marlowe featuring very complex world-building by Ruocchio with a vast array of pieces that are all artistically painted on his canvas (the book) and that fit together like an intricately woven tapestry.
Purchase Empire of Silence (Sun Eater #1).
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