Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

Empire of Silence

Christopher Ruocchio

In this epic fantasy, Hadrian Marlowe finds himself stranded on a strange, backwater world. He will have to fight a war he did not start for an Empire he does not love.

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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.

Advance Galley Reviews

Space opera is a difficult genre in an age when most people are aware of the basic laws of the universe. Ruocchio finds a way around this. He then falls into another trap by providing us with galactic feudalism combined with galactic capitalism. The book's blurbs are, obviously, highly positive. They miss the fact that this is a highly derivative work, with elements influenced by Frank Herbert, Doc Smith, Iain M. Banks, Robert Heinlein, S.M. Stirling, and Lois McMaster Bujold. Ruocchio's work, despite influences and allusions, is nonetheless, original and amusing. It's also the initial volume in a trilogy, so the reader is left with a deep sense of dissatisfaction even though the book does come to an acceptable conclusion. We have been fed so many clues about the future of the series that we are impatient for more.

I love good worldbuilding in my stories and this, as far as I can tell with this first installment, definitely has it. Focusing on the main character, Hadrian, the story tells the story of his beginnings. It's definitely an interesting story with interesting characters and an intriguing world. There are definitely things I can't really say I liked about this movie. I'd have to give it 3.5 stars.

It has been a while since I read something that required learning all of the dimensions of a new world. I found this book challenging in a good way. The main character was interesting and multidimensional and at the end, I found myself wanting more. I highly recommend for anyone interested in this genre.

Wow. This book is the first in what I hope is a "coming soon to bookstores near you" epic space opera/fantasy series, as I am ready for book two! This was not a short read, but no book in this category usually is. It is a rich, decadent tome, filled with space, fighting, aliens, politics, religion, and beau coups of references to ancient Rome. The character development was good, the writing was good, and the depictions of alien interrogation even had me cringing. Having just finished reading The Name of the Wind, I found this story to be told in a similar vein; the main character is recollecting all of the turmoil and adventures that brought him to his terrible fate today. I think people are going to be talking about this book for years to come.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The descriptions are vivid, the world building superb. The characters are easy to relate to whether it be from nefarious dealing, siblinb rivalry or the honesty shared between unlikely friends. The world through Hadrian's eyes is is filled with those who are only out for themselves, something of which he never wishes to become. This was definitely worth the read.

Empire of Silence is the kind of fantasy epic that inspires me to write fantasy. A very fascinating read.

I received a free advanced copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This book is long (600+ pages)! It's probably one I would enjoy more as an audiobook. I, unfortunately, didn't get to finish before my advanced galley time ran out, but I did enjoy what I was able to read. Reading about Hadrian Marlowe's life from his perspective was an interesting take. He explains the path that caused him to be seen by others as a monster.

This for me was a very satisfying sci fi extravaganza of a far-future human empire. A major theme it includes from that genre is how to overcome xenophobia in the face of hostilities that develop with an alien race. But this hefty novel takes the form of epic fantasy, albeit without magic and supernatural beings. There are mythic overtones to the incredible challenges our hero must overcome on his life’s journey, emulations of Imperial Rome and the medieval religious power of the Spanish Inquisition, and a high significance accorded to one-on-one combat with swords. Despite my aversion to such tropes in the world building, was drawn to the complex moral challenges faced by the main character in his development and I loved Ruocchio’s immersive details in his environments and windows he makes into different social sectors. I didn’t really want the book to end, and when it did it achieved enough resolution for a fulfilling pause while opening a propitious door to future installments (I hate it when series volumes end on cliff hangers). The narrator and subject, Hadrian Marlow, introduces himself as some kind of man of power with a history of daring action who is reflecting back from a time when he is being judged as a monstrous perpetrator of a genocide involving his causing the death of a star. Apparently, he is writing this memoir we read as a way for him to account for how that came to be from his character, as shaped by his choices at critical turning points. He grows up as the son of a royal imperial governor for the planet Delos with much wealth from his colonial regional monopoly in uranium mining and trade. The imperial “palatine” bloodline he benefits from gives him the advantages special strength, disease resistance, and longevity in the range of a couple of centuries. He and his brother are being educated in all the skills needed for one of them to inherit and advance the family throne. But Hadrian is sickened by the injustices committed by the societal tyranny and the colonial exploitations of his father’s regime and hankers not for power, but for knowledge and adventure, dreaming of becoming a scholar of peoples and places in the distant stars. He refuses to fight in the rigged gladiator contests against ill-equipped prisoners and slaves and gets consigned by his lofty dad to enter the order of the Chantry. This powerful organized religion is embraced by the imperial government everywhere for social control of the masses through torture and execution of any political enemy that can be labelled as a heretic. Hadrian’s plans to escape this fate depend on help from his “scholiast” mentor and martial arts instructor, Gibson, who is Hadrian’s only true friend. What Gibson ultimately sacrifices for Hadrian to fulfill his dreams is a first taste of how the noble path to revolt over integrity and humanistic goals leads to the evil of harming others. Together with his tendency to disastrous impulsive action, this trait of serving his ego above all other concerns will get him stuck in many a desperate strait throughout this book. Eventually I came to see how these very traits were the ones that helped empower him to extract himself from each succeeding trap he got into. I shan’t go into plot details, but I can say Hadrian has to work his way up from life on the street as a beggar and thief on backwater planet, to service as a hired gladiator, and then he is dragooned as a language tutor for a ruling family. His training and skills in languages includes some facility with that of the alien Cieclins, who are at war with the empire. When a violent skirmish with the Cieclins brings him into a situation as interpreter for Chantry staff engaged in their torturous interrogation, Marlowe begins to conspire with a visiting xenobiologist lady (and love interest) to somehow work toward peace between the species. The real plot lies in how Hadrian learns to engage the trust and loyalty of people around him at each phase and the creativity employed in negotiating the crises that arise with each. Although I enjoyed Lord of the Rings and Dune as a teenager, I have not been much attracted as a reader to epic fantasy. Yet my recent tour of Homer and other ancient writings has made me more appreciative of the wisdom in mythic archetypes of human nature. Good and evil even in these foundational tales are rarely painted as a simple dichotomy, showing how the best of us must make many moral compromises to reach lofty goals. Here our hero in his development succeeds time after time by bending his fate from that controlled by the unjust powers that be through craftiness as well as brawn, and often by morally ambiguous means. Like Odysseus, he has to use every trick in the book to dodge through all the extreme and dangerous barriers put in his path by powerful adversaries (certain gods in Homer) and reach a noble end (arriving home to family in the ancient story). As in that tale, I am well driven to resolve the mystery of what kind of hero can be so awful at the end (killing a star here versus in Homer the slaughter his wife’s many suitors and female slaves seen as collaborators). Must be bad karma somewhere or dangerous beastie in the human id, I suppose. This book was provided for review by Penguin Random House through their First to Read program.

This book was too much for me to finish in the two months that I had the opportunity to read it. The story had started to pick up for me where I got to but, to be honest, I felt no pressing need to get back to it. I’m sure if I had gotten 200 or so pages in the action would’ve been rolling and I would’ve been sucked in but I couldn’t make myself keep going. When it comes out in paperback or if there’s a Kindle copy sale, I may try again. I did feel bad for Hadrian. It seemed like he was just an irritation to his family but I didn’t really get to see anything develop there. Maybe another time when I can spend a year reading it, I’ll finish it and fully enjoy it.

Empire of Silence is a tome. It’s dense and has a story that is so meaty it might as well be a feast. If you are a fan of epic stories that are not afraid to delve into the culture and have lengthy moments that explore the depth of not only the worlds but the characters themselves, then this is one to check out! It’s one that will be sure to leave an impression. EoS’s story (and the summary above) blatantly tell you how it ends, and the story itself is a reflection by the main character Hadrian. We know where this journey will lead him, but I urge you not to be discouraged by this because he’s not a character that is easily predicted. Hadrian is someone who comes from a place of privilege and is knocked low, he is someone who struggles with pride but wishes for humility. I love Hadrian and all of his odd complexity. He is raised to be the symbol of power, he knows how to fight and speak to people, but he wants knowledge and to explore a universe free of conflict. He has flaws and he frequently sees the consequences of decisions he has made due to those flaws. We even get his older self’s perspective on the things he does, and he frequently points out the moments he wishes he had taken more time to understand something. In these reflections, we see even more humility and get a sense of the man he is, which contrasts with the actions he knows he takes. I think that alone would have been enough for me to continue, just to see why someone who wanted so badly to explore and understand everything would become known as a destroyer of an entire species. Then there is the massive amounts of world building and character development for the side characters. This book is no small feat and where we see Hadrian fleshed out to the full extent, we also see the universe around him. There are many cultures and social classes to understand, a religion that frequently steps over the line of domination, and alien races that are vilified. This is only the first book in the series and the world is already massive. It takes a lot to make a convincing empire in a different solar system, and even more to place a few alien races and several different languages into it. The world of Delos, where Hadrian is from, feels so different from the world of Emesh, where Hadrian ends up later. The Chantry, the religious body, is one that made my skin crawl every time one of their emissaries uttered the world heresy but the entire context of their religion was fascinating and see how it related back to human’s origins was really cool. There is so much to say about Empire of Silence that I feel I could ramble for hours about it. I could talk about how Hadrian’s relationships were all too real and the fact that having a character built for power strives for learning is just the best thing ever, but I think I can spare everyone that eight paragraph review and simply say: If you love epic sci-fi then this is a must! I see this carefully detailed series going far, and I really hope to see more people give it a chance.

This book wasn't for me. I picked it up and put it down several times before giving up about a quarter of the way in. It had some great worldbuilding. I did like the concept of mixing Roman Empire with a very spread out Space Opera setting, and the concept of Hadrian's birth did hook me for a while. But the sloggish feel to the beginning kept me from connecting to Hadrian and his plight. I ended up distracting myself with ways the writing could be more economical while still getting the same feelings across. If I ever get to that point with a book, it's lost me for good.

This fantasy/space opera starts with Hadrian Marlowe writing the account of his life as he awaits execution. He reminisces about his youth, his family and how, by his being part of the elite, was genetically enhanced. When he disobeyed his father, even though his was the first born, he was to be sent away to become a priest of the Chantry, who holds sway over all the kingdoms in matter of religion. Hadrian again, rebels and steals away only to be abandoned on another planet and becomes first a beggar than a fighter of the Colosso arena. All his decisions, although well meant, only ended in putting himself into more jeopardy but also pushing himself toward his ultimate fate. And as this story concludes, he is off to start another chapter in his life. A very entertaining and interesting story with huge world/universe building that required the appendix that listed all the players and how they were related, as well as all the planets and peoples and vocabulary that was intertwined throughout. Thank you First-to-Read for this free e-copy of "Empire of Silence".

Epic fantasy combined with space opera? Sold! After I requested this, I also saw this compared to The Kingkiller Chronicles but in space. That is certainly a solid comparison, even though I found the commentary from the narrator in Empire in Silence less intrusive. Hadrain's "current" commentary is so interwoven in the story you barely notice it. Which is the best kind in my opinion. So we know how everything ends, but this book builds Hadrian's character from a very young age. Hadrain is the first son of a pretty important royal, and expects to be heir. However, things begin to change and his father decides to ship him off to become part of a religious order that is more known for their torture techniques. With a little help, he escapes and has plans to start a new life. Well, he does. Just not in the way he expected. Dumped on a backwater world with nothing but his name (that he can't use because it would draw his father's eye) he struggles to survive. From living on the streets, to becoming a gladiator and finally his true identity is found my the royals of the planet, he has to try and live the life he wants rather than being put in a cage by others. This book is seriously so good. We have a main character that is portrayed as a monster in "current" times, but what we really see is how his life truly began and put him on that path. The secondary characters are fascinating and the wordlbuilding is top notch. I seriously cannot wait until the series is continued.

Wow! This Sci-fi novel is addictive! Although a little long for my taste, the writing flows well, the characters and plot are dynamic, and the world-building is fantastic. Incorporating the current trend of ancient Rome-like fantasy as its genre (think Red Rising and An Ember in the Ashes), the author manages to create an original story that pulls even the most reluctant reader in. Did I mention the book is long? A great new addition to Sci-fi/Fantasy and definitely worth it, especially for a debut writer. Recommended. Penguin First to Read Galley

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio was a disappointing read for me. Generally the writing was decent but the pacing was really slow. The author kept teasing these great events that are going to happen later in the life of Hadrian Marlowe, the Sun Eater (for which this epic fantasy series is named). Every time a new character was introduced, there were some teaser statements about the relationship or importance of this person in the life of Hadrian in the future. However, this book never got to the majority of those great events. They must be for later in the series. At over 600 pages, it was quite an investment to read and while not a bad read, it was not a compelling read either. Some of the future events sound interesting, although I don't think I would pick up the next 600 page volume to find out. I would recommend this to people who like long Epic Fantasy/SciFi and don't mind a taking the long slow road.

Empire of Silence was a new genre read for me. My first go at SciFi/Fantasy. It won't be my last. While it was a long slow read, quite verbose, it imparted lots of insight and wisdom. I found the book at times to be rather philosophical which I wasn't expecting at all. This is a tale of riches, to rags to a hero showing unexpected leadership in the hardest situations. You witness the main character's transformation before your very eyes maybe not even realizing what is going on until the end of the story and you look back and remember from where he came and what he had to do to get where he is now. Since I'm not I sci fi junkie I can't say whether this will appeal to the hard core; however, I would recommend it. This book was furnished to me by Penquin's "first to read" program in exchange for an honest review.

This seemed extremely promising: Byzantine empire in space! An honorable anti-hero! A huge canvas for dramatic questions of morality and expediency! Unfortunately, the prose was so leaden and purple, and the narrator so self-important that I couldn't bring myself to finish.

I’m huge a fan of science fiction and fantasy. Those are my preferred genres to read. So, I honestly thought I would like Empire of Silence since the synopsis made it seem like a story I’d enjoy. However, after more than a week of trying to get into this book, I just couldn’t. The writing was fine, but the beginning in particular was difficult for me to get through. The characters were just oaky, but I didn’t care for what was happening in the story. I do have to say that this one would appeal to fans of Dune since what I managed to read did remind me of it. That being said, this one was still a DNF for me. This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

A sci-fi that reads like epic fantasy is not uncommon, but one that manages to do it with such humanity is rare. The situations our lead character finds himself in go from the highest stations in society to the lowest of the low. You go on what can only be described as an epic ride thru the stars and the society that rules them. The fact that there is also a massive war with an unknown race only makes the stakes higher and Hadrian's situations that much more precarious. The only reason I'm not rating this as highly as possible is because the beginning was hard to get into -primarily because Hadrian has a bad tendency to be a major whiner- yet there's a point somewhere in the middle where you just don't want the book to end. It left me wanting more and I can't wait to see where else the spectacular life of Hadrian Marlowe takes us.

Empire of Silence, the first book in the epic Suneater series and the author’s debut novel, is a fantastic interstellar fantasy tale. Standing tall at 617 pages, a length far too long for most books, it leaves you wanting another 600 pages of this terrific writing. It’s one of those books that you know is top notch right from the getgo and it never wavers or falters. This is not some quick reading science fiction sword and planet story. Rather, it’s a rich, layered tale that creates complex characters, a universe that is vast and detailed, and a plot line that has no let up. It has no dull moments. Like Herbert’s Dune series, it begins with humankind spread throughout the galaxy, primarily in an imperium with planets ruled by intermarrying feudal lords. There is also an all powerful religious order that brooks no heresy. And, as in Dune, the lead character, Hadrian, is a noble heir to a planetary fiefdom and trained by the best in logic, language, and the art of fighting. And, here, there is of course swordplay and shields and gladiator battles. But Hadrian is a very complex character and his complexity is very important to the storyline which takes him from the world of palace intrigue and sibling rivalry to a world where he is penniless, destitute, and powerless. Part of the tale is the beginning of his suneater legend, but he is more a reluctant hero than the normal swashbuckling warrior. All in all, just terrific and leaves you waiting desperately for the next installment in this new series.

Written as an autobiography, Hadrian Marlow tells the story of his life in a universe where Earth as a planet has become a myth and a God/Savior, the Inquisition has a full rein (again) about religion and politics, and, of course, we have a war with an alien race called the Cielin. It is not a fast pace book, and if you don't like History, it can become tiresome. I liked the book, it kept me interested enough to want to go back to read more, but I like classical mythology, and history, and literature, and this book is full of references to all the above mentioned. It also created its own historical references to a Universe full of evolved human races (we are not all the same in the Sollan Empire), politically is based on the Roman Empire and the Inquisition. As I said I liked the book, and I will be ready to see the next installment when it comes out.

While this story is wonderful, and interesting, it is so verbose and long that I couldn't finish it. I gave up at 50%. Maybe I'll pick it up again at some point as it reminds me a lot of Name of the Wind in space, for now, I seem to be skipping entire pages of fluffy content that don't aid the plot in any way. Thanks for the opportunity!!

While escaping his father's plans for his future, a privileged man travels between planets and suddenly finding himself in the middle of a war in Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio. While growing up Hadrian Marlowe has had many advantages due to his elevated social status. He's been trained in fighting and studied many languages, including Cielcin, the language of the alien enemy of humanity. When Hadrian's father decides to send him to the Chantry to become a priest proficient in torturing in an effort to save face, Hadrian frantically tries to find a way to prevent it. In his flight from the fate his father deigns for him, Hadrian is, without his knowledge, abandoned on a planet on the way to his desired destination. Destitute, Hadrian scrapes together a living, moving from the streets to the fighting arena of the Colosso to behind castle walls in a court again. While obscuring his true identity for as long as possible, Hadrian finds himself becoming more deeply embroiled in the minutiae of a war he only ever heard tales about. Creatively combining aspects of both medieval and futuristic, science fiction fantasy styles, this book intertwines the concepts to create an interesting amalgam. This lengthy installment reads as extremely expository, laying the scene and establishing the characters and world rules; while interesting and containing some action, the narrative drags on as the world is built, although the world building is rather thorough as demonstrated by the complementing end matter that outlines the houses, planets, and words mentioned or used throughout. I found the pacing to be uneven, with gaps in the progression of time roving between being simply hinted at to then being dramatically revealed to be a significant amount of time, and a majority of the story was slow, with the pace picking up only in the latter third of the novel. Overall, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

I received an advanced copy of this book. I was really looking forward to this story-line. I love the fantasy and sci-fi genre so I thought this would be a great read. I was wrong. It's so slow, especially in the beginning. Essentially, Hadrian writes an autobiography about his life while he's awaiting punishment. There's action in this but so little. It seemed like he would start fighting and the author would almost skip the action scene to Hadrian winning. There was also some family drama but that was also very boring. I feel like I mostly skipped over chapters in this book and got to a point where I couldn't even finish it. I got to about the halfway point on this book and gave up. I read some other books in between and tried to go back to this and give it another shot. Unfortunately, my mind just cannot wrap itself around this book.

Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, so I was really looking forward to reading this advanced copy. But the beginning of the book was such a slow read that I found myself skipping past the first person POV character's many thoughts and explanations. Especially during scenes of dialogue, I found the main character's excessive thoughts, explanations, descriptions really slowed the pace. I continued to skip through the paragraphs between the dialogue. I think we spend too much time in the main character's head. I don't need to know every detail about what he's thinking during a scene. I didn't connect with any of the characters, so I quit reading this book around page 50.

I received an advance copy of 'Empire of Silence' from First To Read. This book is over 600 pages of essentially the autobiography of Hadrian Marlowe. It takes a while to get into the story, I picked it up and put it down many times but once you get through the first quarter, it gets very intriguing. It is the first book in a planned series and now that the backstory and important events are set up, it opens the rest of the series to be a great ready. It reminds the reader of Dune and other sci fi/fantasy futuristic Earth-type cultures.

This story is so different from anything else I have ever read. With that being said I loved it. Hadrian and Crispin reminds me of my uncle's. It is hard to be in a world in a place and time and not be able to be you. I loved getting lost in this world. I hope there is more to come.

I received free access to an advance galley through the Penguin First to Read program. Skip the blurb. (Or at least pay very close attention to what it does and doesn’t say.) This is a story about beginnings, a 600-odd page prelude to the events that will eventually end with our hero destroying a sun. Take note: the actual destruction does not occur in this book. Not a bad thing, but easy to miss while you’re busy judging the book by its admittedly stunning cover art. Hadrian, House Marlowe, of Delos is the eldest son of a uranium baron in some far-distant alternative future. He has every anticipation of succeeding his father as ruler of their planet, but circumstances--and his own actions--contrive to see him fleeing his planet to seek another path… and ultimately ending up in the middle of backwater nowhere. This installment is all about the choices he makes on that second planet, setting up the world for the main plot of the Sun Eater series. (Projected number of books? Unknown.) My favorite alternative title for this one is The Memoirs of Hadrian Marlowe: Drama Queen (Preferably in tall neon lettering). Our protagonist is intelligent, but not clever. Every time he gets his footing he makes some impulsive choice that hurts him more than it helps, with the Law of Unintended Consequences in full effect. He’s telling his story to the reader in hindsight, of course, but age doesn’t seem to have tempered his penchant for melodrama--which is continually lampshaded by both Hadrian himself and the characters around him. I’m not sure if the lampshading helps or hinders, to be quite honest, but if our protagonist is frustrating, at least the people around him seem interesting. Of course, since this is Hadrian narrating his memoirs, we only learn about the other characters inasmuch as Hadrian perceives their impact on his own life and choices. I have, over the last couple years, come to the conclusion that I don’t generally enjoy first person retrospective; it’s difficult to do well, and tends to be a style heavy on the melodrama. Now, there is a place for it, but I’m not totally convinced that this story is the best place. Although I can understand why the author chose to use it for this story, I might have found the book less frustrating in another tense. The setting is fairly typical fantasy fare, it just happens to be in space: a stratified Anglo-Roman society, heavy on the Roman elements. The three classes of society (in descending order: palatine, patrician, and plebeian) are distinguished by their genetic heritage, and social mobility is limited. The all-powerful Chantry--a pseudo-religious institution of social control--teaches that Humanity is first among the stars, and therefore heir to the universe. This is complicated, however, by the alien Cielcin, who also roam the stars with impunity. As such, the Empire has been at war with the Cielcin for at least several millennia (the exact timeline is unclear). This book is slow. The prose is overly-ornamented, and the first 150 pages or so were setup and a lot of info-dumping. After Hadrian finally got off of his home planet the pace started to pick up a bit, and by the halfway point there were only a few minor hiccups in tempo and tension. (We are introduced to and lose an important side character in the space of three chapters, for example.) I most enjoyed the last third of the book, but getting there was definitely a commitment. Pacing improved as the story went on, and I eventually got used to the writing style. The advance copy I read also included some back matter: a detailed dramatis personae section, planetary index for all planets referenced in-text, and glossary with “translator’s note” about the difficulties of rendering an “Anglo-Hindi” text into “classical English.” This note is the only indication I saw of a frame narrative other than Hadrian’s own retrospection. Overall, I think this is a decent debut. Is it mindblowing? Innovative? Transformative? No, not really. But I’m curious about the rest of Hadrian’s journey, which is a mark of success, and I think that--having used this volume to build setting and backstory--Ruocchio’s future volumes in this series will be better.

The story is interesting enough once you fight the overly-complex writing style.

Long, lot of information to process and slow to get into, but picks up if you stay with the story. Scify fans a good fit for this tale of future earth cultures in far off planets and their dynasty type kingdoms. Hadrian a high born son runs away from his ruler father and sets off on a fated journey and difficult life full of destiny.

It was a decent enough story, but I just couldn't get into it.


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