Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

After initially disliking it a bit at the start I ended up really enjoying it.

Out main protagonist and only POV is Hadrian Marlowe, the first son of a ruler of a planet. The planet is one of thousands, if not more, that is part of the Sollan Empire which originated on our earth but has long since left it behind. He doesn’t really want to become ruler once his father dies, but also doesn’t want his younger brother to inherit either. He wants to be a scholar and explore but when it looks like he might become part of the imperial religion instead, which he despises, he sets himself on a path to change the course of history.

It starts off as a direct homage to Dune, and since I only read that for the first time very recently I was initially a bit put off by it. The culture looks down on technology, in particular AI, but the nobility use gene enhancements to live for centuries. It’s very fantasy as well, like there are gladiators and coliseums etc. They refer to end of technological earth as Mericanii’s but then there are direct quotations from Roman’s, so I really thought it was all over the place at the start. However once Hadrian got off of his own planet I thought it came into its own more.

There’s a framing device used throughout the book, that this is the direct account of Hadrian, something like 1500 years in the future, where he a renowned and infamous hero/villain who blew up a sun. There are bits of this all over, asides on people and events that haven’t happened yet. Strong Name of the Wind vibes to it but I actually really enjoyed those asides though I know they are not everyone’s cup of tea. None of these major events referenced actually happen in this book, the narrative is really to show how Hadrian breaks his familial bonds and starts to find his own place in the universe.

The writing is quite lyrical in places and most definitely dramatic but again I enjoyed it once we got past the start. It’s fairly slow paced but as this is going to five books I think, I’m assuming the author wants us to really get to know the protagonist and understand where he came from and I think he did a good job of it. It is most definitely not the most original novel I’ve read but the author uses bits and pieces from both fantasy and sci-fi to create an engaging story and one I am looking forward to continuing.

4 stars

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