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.
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.
On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.
Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.
There are very few novels I have come cross that can bridge the gap between sci-fi and fantasy with the presentation bringing forth the best of both worlds. Dune was my first experience reading this type of format and I am happy to say that Empire of Silence has that same feel. While clearly in the sci-fi section of the book store, Christopher Ruocchio has set up a tale of epic proportions filled with different races, spaceships, family turmoil, and gladiator battles, Empire of Silence is a monumental achievement for the sci-fi genre. Any epic fantasy fan will enjoy this novel, even if they have never read sci-fi before.
In this ambitious debut, author Christopher Ruocchio introduces readers to Hadrian Marlowe, a son of nobility, know throughout the galaxy as having committed genocide against the alien race known as the Cielcin. Hadrian has been called a hero or a monster depending on which texts you discover. The story is written much in the same vain as The Name of the Wind and Blood Song with the protagonists explaining to the reader his life and how histories or rumors can be twisted and misunderstood.
Growing up, all Hadrian wanted was to take his father’s place as head of the family business, but his father Alister has other plans for Hadrian. Recognizing that his eldest son had none of the leadership qualities he wanted, the archon instead decides to ship Hadrian off to the Chantry, gaining influence in the galaxy’s most powerful religious organization. Hadrian manages to escape his fate with some help, but winds up penniless and in exile on a remote planet. Hadrian has to resort to being a beggar on the streets with no idea where his is. Desperate to earn a way off-world, he sells his services as a gladiator. Through shear will and determination he becomes a legend in the pits and is eventually hired by an aristocratic family to tutor them in foreign languages. Working together with a xenobiologist, Hadrian begins his journey to understand the so-called Cielcin enemy in an attempt to broker peace between their two species. Not everything is as it seems and Hadrian must overcome treachery from the people he is closest too.
When asked to describe his debut novel, Christopher Ruocchio usually says something along the lines of “Imagine Darth Vader doing the right thing”. Mr. Ruocchio prose are written with such elegance and fluidity that it seems like you are reading poetry. This was the same feeling I got when reading The Name of the Wind, combined with the intense political thrill ride of reading Dune. With Mr. Ruocchio being a huge fan for Dune himself, you can definitely see the influence Frank Herbert had on him in terms of politics and the mysteries of an unknown planet, at least to the reader. Characters and a sense of mystery is what drives this story triumphantly towards the finish line with four more books coming down the pike. Fans of Frank Herbert, Patrick Rothfuss, and even Tad Williams would enjoy this debut novel.
In conclusion, Empire of Silence is a shining example of what an epic Sci-fi can be with a plenty of intrigue to attract readers from multiple genres. Mr. Rucchio may not have come up with anything groundbreaking to the genre, but your are in for an amazing story. This novel has heart, devotion, and empathy for things and races/people we may not fully understand, and the person we wish to become. Congratulations Mr. Ruocchio, you have built something truly epic and boundless in scope. You have made a fan out of me with hopefully more to come!