Review: Empire of Silence (Sun Eater #1) by Christopher Ruocchio

Rating: ★★★★☆+

Synopsis

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 into the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, he will find himself fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for a finished copy of Empire of Silence (Sun Eater #1) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving a copy of the book did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

Empire of Silence is what Red Rising would have been had it been written by Patrick Rothfuss. A sprawling space opera with poetic prose, galaxy-sized world-building, and a character-driven storyline that is one for the ages. Hadrian Marlowe has easily cemented himself as one of my favorite characters in fiction today among the likes of Darrow of Lykos, Girton Club-Foot, Nona Grey, and Jorg Ancrath.

While this book sits at an intimidating 600+ pages, I can imagine readers out there are a little wary about taking a stab at such a thick book, and a debut to boot. Let me go ahead and set aside those worries and tell you that Ruocchio has written a phenomenal novel that is a perfect mix of space opera and epic fantasy. This is one that can unite lovers of the two (2) genres and quiet the conversations of why one is better than the other. Sprawling cities are built from the underbellies skyward, planets are set like chess pieces across the galaxy, technology rather than magic takes the cake, and the fight scenes, while claustrophobic, add plenty of spice to the dish to keep the story progressing at a decent click.

While the beginning of EoS promises the destruction of suns and the sacking of empires, much of the book focuses on Hadrian’s fall and rise. Much in the same vein as The Name of the Wind, Hadrian’s story is told in a past-tense fashion showing how he became this figure of legend, and choosing not to leave out all of the nitty-gritty on his path to greatness. I liken Hadrian to Darrow of Lykos in his rise, though Darrow came from nothing and Hadrian was more of a Gold to begin with. To see how he had everything, fell into nothing, and rose again like Lazarus is something you truly need to experience for yourself.

I actually ended up reading Empire of Silence about a week ago, and then listened to it via Audible over the past couple of days. I felt that I couldn’t accurately portray how I felt about the novel after the first go-round, and honestly, the words still aren’t there. Ruocchio’s prose mixed with his world-building and creation of Hadrian Marlowe are a simply stunning mix that you don’t see too often. It is a beautiful novel that should be getting the attention of more readers than it has received thus far.

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