Book Review: Empire of Silence – Christopher Ruocchio

***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book, (a huge thank you to Stevie) by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated below are my own***

 

I’ll be honest and say that this book will forever have a special place in my heart, because in terms of my blogging career, it’s a milestone. It’s the first physical ARC sent to me by a publisher for review.
I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this book since the moment I finished reading it. I hope you are sitting comfortably, because I have more than enough to say about this epic!
Empire of Silence GR

Goodreads – Empire of Silence

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.

Wow. Books like this really make me question why I don’t read science-fiction more often.
I was captivated by the synopsis and the promise of a tale likened to other prominent books out there. I’ll admit I was both excited but slightly dubious when I saw this likened to Dune by Frank Herbert and Patrick Rothfuss’ fantasy novel, The Name of The Wind.  Rothfuss was one of my favourite authors in my teenage years (I still eagerly await the release of Doors of Stone). Whilst I haven’t actually read Dune, a copy has been sat on my bookshelf for over a year now, but I haven’t read any more than the first few pages. You don’t have to have read the book to know it’s an award winning, revered novel in the science-fiction genre.
Association to popular authors when marketing a new book is no doubt a useful and successful tool. I will be honest and say though that I often wonder, when picking up a book for the first time, if it really is the undiscovered gem it claims to be. I worry that it may not live up to expectation.
I was not left disappointed by Empire of Silence.
The tone and narration style is indeed very similar to The Name of the Wind, so no false comparison was made there. Given that this was one of my favourite elements of that book, I was drawn in to Empire of Silence straightaway.
We are introduced to Hadrian Marlowe – a man who has already trodden the path of destiny and now recounts the tale, warts and all, for the devoted reader. He begins his journey with the best of intentions and the innocence of youth, but inevitably, life does not run smoothly for him. Lending to the visage of a wizened man, Hadrian does not shy away from his less favourable attributes or actions in telling his tale. His faults really bring our protagonist to life, for none of us are perfect after all. I’ve said time and again on my blog that I love a character with a wealth of depth, and Hadrian honestly is that.
I must also credit the evident time and effort that has gone into the structuring of the book and the supporting characters around the main storyline. In a universe based on power and hierarchy, this is inevitably, well.. important. Whilst there are a vast number of families and roles that make up this fictional universe, I didn’t find information dumped or conveyed haphazardly in the narrative. This must have been very difficult to achieve, but it makes a difference for the reader – especially for a book of this size!
The vivid descriptions of worlds truly unknown are beautiful; even the explanations of the advanced technology available to this advanced version of humans were clear. Neither did I find myself at a loss as to what the author was trying to convey, nor was the language used to do so in any way intimidating. The planets themselves may be fictional but society living on them is still governed largely in a way we understand – through power and wealth… faith and when all else fails, fear.
Empire of Silence (Sun Eater #1) is being published on the 5th July this year and I sincerely hope/believe it will become the success it deserves. It’s association to other epics will no doubt perform wonders in helping Christopher Ruocchio launch himself as a successful author in his own right.
It is well deserved, if you ask me.
Rebecca mono