This one came to my attention from a bit of word of mouth from people in my social rhombus. I took a look at the goodreads page for the book and was very intrigued by the blurb. So off I went into the land of NetGalley and requested a copy, not expecting to be approved (TBH I never expect to be approved, lol) and LO AND BEHOLD.
So, uh, I would like to thank the author, as well as Orion Publishing group/Gollancz via NetGalley for the review copy!
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.
Light. The light of that murdered sun still burns me. I see it through my eyelids, blazing out of history from that bloody day, hinting at fires indescribable. It is like something holy, as if it were the light of God’s own heaven that burned the world and billions of lives with it. I carry that light always, seared into the back of my mind. I make no excuses, no denials, no apologies for what I have done. I know what I am.
Bloody hell that quote is deep. This, I should mention is the first line of the damn book too. Much of it is like this. OMG the writing. I’m in loooooove. So, of course I read nearly 20% of it in one sitting. At work. And this is not a short book, lol.
I uh… I got all my work done first, though. 😇
Ahem, anyway. This book has been sort of compared to me as The Kingkiller Chronicles but in space. I’ll agree with that on some levels. It is told by the main character, and it is told by him as a story of the events that he is very famously known for, after the fact, many years after the events have happened. He tells his story from pretty much the beginning. His family life when he was young. His rivalry with his brother, and what put him where he was that lead to what happened. I compare this book to other books a lot when I speak about it to other people. It’s not that it’s not unique, it absolutely is! This is one of those books that brings me back to some of my absolute favorite books and video games and other things as it goes, while telling its own story. It reminds me of Red Rising, and of Dune, but also of Mass Effect and Dragon Age at times as well. And now, those things will remind me of it as well, because for me, this is a two-way street, and it is a very well traveled street, and one I like to travel often.
This is the story of Hadrian Marlowe, who is the noble born son of a Duke who is… basically an oil baron, only uranium. Hey, it’s space, guys. Uranium is kind of like space-oil, if you think about it. Lord Alistair Marlowe rules a prefecture of the empire, but also owns basically the only company in the entire sector that has a license to mine uranium, a very valuable substance. So, he’s a space-oil baron. His miners are underpaid, overworked, with old and crappy equipment, and die quite often. It’s like Red Rising but seeing it from the other side, kind of.
The Empire spans a whole huge chunk of the universe, and while not all of humanity live within it, a huge population of humans do. The Empire and its classes and armies and what have you are very Roman-esque, with a good deal of emphasis put on how one of the plebeian class interacts with one of the patrician class and vice versa. Religion is a huge part of the Empire as well, and the Chantry teaches that the universe is humanity’s oyster, basically created for us alone, because Mother Earth says so, so all other sentient lifeforms should be wiped out or suitably subjugated into being our slaves. Anyone who disagrees with this doctrine is a heretic, and heresy is a crime in the Empire. Punishable with anything from exile to torture, to death depending on how heretical you’re being and where in the whole palatine/patrician/plebeian set up you are.
So, that’s the Empire, and in it there’s Hadrian, who is a palatine noble in a place he scorns, with a family that don’t really mesh well together. His father doesn’t really care about anything but the business, his mother is very rarely even there at all, his brother is very like his father, rather the typical sort of palatine noble in their self-centeredness. The only thing that Hadrian finds any true pleasure in is his time with his tutor, Gibson, who teaches him languages, and history, and common sense. Gibson is pretty much the only real friend he has. He instills in Hadrian a desire to explore and learn. Hadrian learns the languages of all sorts of races in the empire, and those outside of it too. Including the Cielcin tongue, the language of the only species that has ever fought back against humanity. The language of the enemy.
I really, really liked Hadrian as a character. I rooted for him right from the very beginning, even despite knowing, at least on some level, what he had done. He caused the death of billions of people (not a spoiler, it’s in the blurb) and basically annihilated an entire race of aliens (also in the blurb)…. but how did he get there? How did those events come to pass? He doesn’t apologize for what he’s done. He doesn’t deny it. Why?
That’s what this story is. Much like Kvothe telling his story to the Chronicler, it begins by giving you the main character as he is as a result of the story, and then tells you how he got there. In his own words. It’s for you to decide how reliable a narrator he is, and how much truth there is in what he is telling you. This is Hadrian the human man telling you how he became the Sun Eater, the Half-Mortal, Starkiller, and any of the host of other names he’s gotten over the years.
Hadrian’s entire story was interesting to me, starting with his flight from his homeworld. Being sent off to the Chantry by his father, but wanting so badly to become a scholiast (very like a mentat, but basically a scholar) like Gibson and how he goes about trying to do one when commanded to do the other. I just wanted Hadrian to make it. You’re reading this book knowing where he ends up, and knowing that whatever happens to him, he obviously doesn’t die, but not really knowing right up front, who he became. So I was on the edge of my seat during this whole thing.
And, well, this book took me for one hell of a ride, that’s for sure. It’s hard to summarize parts of it without spoiling entire chunks so I’ll just say that Hadrian ends up in situations you would never expect him to be in, and situations that you most definitely would. There are ups and downs in his story, and twists and turns, and the occasional barrel roll just for good measure. There were parts that made me emotional, and parts that made me laugh. There was at least one time where it gives you a lead up to an event that would have pretty clear outcomes, and then does something completely different out of absolutely nowhere.
“WAIT, WHAT?” – Me, 1:45am 5/1/18
“Uuuunnnnnggghhhh… seriously?” – Husband, 1:46am 5/1/18
I love books that can surprise me like this. Oh, lovelovelove. This book is quite engrossing. It kept me reading for hours and hours at a time, but I didn’t sit there and read it in two sittings, because I never wanted it to end. I sat and sipped at it for while and then put it down to come back again later. It’s very long, and epic to boot, so it takes a while, but oh my it is worth the time you invest in it. There were characters I loved to love, and characters I loved to hate. The prose is quite wonderful, as I have pointed out by frigging swooning over quotes from this book. HERE’S ANOTHER ONE:
I know what it is they say of me. What they call me in your history books. The Sun Eater. The Halfmortal. Demon-tongued, regicidal, genocidal. I have heard it all. And as I have said, we are none of us one thing. As in the riddle the sphinx asked of poor, doomed Oedipus: we change.
DEEP THOUGHTS WITH HADRIAN MARLOWE.
One more, then I’ll stop, promise. 😀
As the ancient sea was cruel, so too is that blacker sea, vaster by far, that kills the void between the suns like water.
JESUS, GUYS. I MEAN REALLY.
Ok, I’ll stop spewing rainbows and glitter. Wrapping this up, I guess.
This is absolutely my favorite book of the year so far. Now, I know of two others coming out this year with the potential to unseat it from that lofty throne, but they’re going to have to be pretty spec-fucking-tacular to do it (no pressure, guys 😉). This is the sort of book that I’m going to end up with 3 different signed copies of because I can’t help myself and need to greedily collect it and put it in my hoard.
What, you don’t call your book collection a hoard? Pfft. Doing it wrong. >.>
Empire of Silence is highly recommended by me, that blogger that tens of people have heard of. It’s sci-fi that feels as epic as an epic fantasy does. It feels as epic as Dune did. It wounded my feels in the best way like Red Rising did. It engrossed me like Hyperion did…. but it made me LOVE IT all on its own merits. Oh my various gods this book has the potential, with the right narration, to be an incredible audiobook too. Clear my goddamn schedule for that, because I don’t fucking care how long it is, I want to listen to it for daaaays. 6/5 stars.
Thanks again to Orion/Gollancz via NetGalley for this book. 🙂