Waiting on Wednesday – Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. For this week’s waiting on Wednesday, I check out the upcoming third instalment of one of my favourite current science fiction series, Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio.

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Demon in White is the third book in Ruocchio’s debut series, the Sun Eater series, which started back in 2018 with the author’s first novel, Empire of Silence. The Sun Eater series is set in humanity’s distant future and revolves around the character of Hadrian Marlowe. Hadrian is a legendary figure and a renowned warrior, scholar and adventurer who is destined to one day obtain great infamy by exploding a sun, a feat that not only destroys an entire alien species but also results in the death of the Emperor of humanity. The books in the Sun Eater series follow an autobiographical account of Hadrian’s life that chronicles all of his formative moments and adventures, as well as the events that led to him making the terrible decision to cause so much destruction and harm. Demon in White will apparently follow Hadrian at a point when he has just started to obtain his galaxy-wide fame and acclaim and will continue his exploration into the mysterious forces that seem to be affecting his destiny.

I am a huge fan of the Sun Eater series, having fallen in love with the first book, Empire of Silence, due to its enthralling story, amazing gothic style and intriguing new science fiction universe. Its sequel, 2019’s Howling Dark, was just as impressive, especially as it took its story in some interesting new directions and presented some amazing and captivating sequences. I ended up awarding both of these novels a full five-star rating when I read them, and I consider them to be amongst my favourite books of 2018 and 2019 respectively. As a result, I am very excited that a new addition to the series is coming out soon, especially as it has a very cool-sounding plot synopsis.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The third novel of the galaxy-spanning Sun Eater series merges the best of space opera and epic fantasy, as Hadrian Marlowe continues down a path that can only end in fire.

Hadrian has been serving the Empire in military engagements against the Cielcin, the vicious alien civilization bent on humanity’s destruction. After Hadrian and his Red Company achieve a great victory, a cult-like fervor builds around him. However, pressures within the Imperial government scared of his rise to prominence result in an assassination attempt, luckily thwarted.

With the Empire too dangerous to stay, Hadrian and his crew leave for a massive library on a distant world. There, he finds the next key to unlocking the secrets of the Quiet: a set of coordinates for their origin planet, unnamed and now lifeless. Hadrian’s true purpose in serving in the military was to aid his search of a rumored connection between the first Emperor and the Quiet, the ancient, seemingly long-dead race linked to so many of Hadrian’s extraordinary experiences.

Will this mysterious lost planet have the answers?

Based on the above synopsis, Demon in White (which is a pretty awesome title, by the way) looks like it is going to be another fascinating and enjoyable read. Not only are we going to see a lot more of the internal politics of the Roman-inspired Sollan Empire, but Hadrian and his cohorts are going to explore yet another mysterious alien planet. Some of my favourite parts of Howling Dark were when the protagonists found themselves trapped in several strange locations with all manner of technological monstrosities, and I look forward to exploring more of this fascinating and enjoyable universe. I also have no doubt that we are going to see yet another vital step in the march towards Hadrian’s destructive destiny, and I am excited to learn what events or encounters in this novel will change the protagonist and help push him in this dangerous direction.

Honestly, I have been planning to grab this book since the moment I finished Howling Dark as I am deeply curious to see how this whole series unwinds. The first two entries in the Sun Eater series have been pretty damn spectacular, and I have exceedingly high hopes for this third novel, especially after reading its intriguing plot synopsis. Demon in White is currently set for release in early July 2020, and it is among my most anticipated releases for the second half of the year. I already love the two new amazing covers that have been produced for it (while the copy of Demon in White I’ll receive will have the cover above, I kind of prefer the cover below with the figure in white on the throne, very nice) and I am sure that they will have an awesome story to match. Mark my words, this will be a book to look out for!!

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Waiting on Wednesday – Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.

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For my latest Waiting on Wednesday I will be looking at one of the science fiction releases of 2019 that I am looking forward to, Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio, set to be released in July.  Ruocchio made a remarkable debut last year with Empire of Silence, the first book in his Sun Eater series, which chronicles the life of the universe’s most infamous hero, Hadrian Marlowe, the man who blew up a sun to stop an alien invasion at the cost four billion human lives.  The Sun Eater series is formatted as a written retrospective, told from the perspective of Hadrian, detailing the events that turned him from a prospective scholar to the biggest mass-murderer in the universe.

I was extremely impressed by Empire of Silence last year, and it even made it onto my Top Ten Books of 2018 list.  I really enjoyed the captivating and epic space opera adventure that featured within this book and I am very curious to find out what events force the mild-mannered protagonist to cause such destruction and how he will justify his actions.  I was also a massive fan of the gigantic and intriguing science fiction universe that Ruocchio crafted in his first book and I am eager to return to it.  I have wanted to feature this book in my Waiting on Wednesday series for a while, but I needed to wait for one of the book’s covers to be released.  This wait was well worth it, as the cover I found is a spectacular and eye-catching piece of art.

I have found two separate plot summaries for Howling Dark so far, including the Goodreads synopsis and a different synopsis found on the Hachette Australia website:

Goodreads:
The second novel of the galaxy-spanning Sun Eater series merges the best of space opera and epic fantasy, as Hadrian Marlowe continues down a path that can only end in fire.

Hadrian Marlowe is lost.

For half a century, he has searched the farther suns for the lost planet of Vorgossos, hoping to find a way to contact the elusive alien Cielcin. He has not succeeded, and for years has wandered among the barbarian Normans as captain of a band of mercenaries.

Determined to make peace and bring an end to nearly four hundred years of war, Hadrian must venture beyond the security of the Sollan Empire and among the Extrasolarians who dwell between the stars. There, he will face not only the aliens he has come to offer peace, but contend with creatures that once were human, with traitors in his midst, and with a meeting that will bring him face to face with no less than the oldest enemy of mankind.

If he succeeds, he will usher in a peace unlike any in recorded history. If he fails…the galaxy will burn.

Hachette Australia:

Hadrian Marlowe may be revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, but there’s only one way to hear his true story: relayed in his own words, in this incredible fusion of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his fight.

But he will still be the one to end it.

The galaxy remembers Hadrian Marlow as a hero, who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. The man remembers how he tried to save them – to negotiate with them, to learn more of them – and how his attempts were frustrated by his own side and creatures stranger still than any Cielcin he’d encountered thus far.

Defying his orders, at the cost of love, position and power, Hadrian Marlowe’s path might have ended in fire . . . but the road to it was winding, and leads through intrigue, and battle, to war . . .

I find the two contrasting plot synopses to be very interesting, as they focus on different aspects of the overall story.  The Goodreads synopsis follows the plot that the end of Empire of Silence sets up, where Hadrian has been recruited by the Sollan Empire on a secret mission to try and communicate with the aliens known as the Cielcin and try and make some sort of peace with them.  The Goodreads synopsis hints a lot of captivating story details as well as indicating that Howling Dark will have a widespread and complex plot.  I am quite excited by this plot synopsis, as it suggests additional antagonists and problems outside finding a way to communicate with the Cielcins.  It also sounds like Ruocchio will be expanding out his universe in a variety of different ways, and I am quite excited to see what it turns into.

The synopsis from Hachette Australia is also interesting, as it provides hints more in touch with the overall series rather than this specific book.  I like the constant secrecy about what drove Hadrian to destroy the Cielcin, which is hinted at in plot snippets like this.  I also like the line about “how his attempts were frustrated by his own side and creatures stranger still than any Cielcin he’d encountered thus far”.  The references to his own side hints at interference from the Chantry, an inquisitorial-type religious organisation controlling the Sollan Empire.  This could be a potentially intriguing inclusion to Howling Dark, as the protagonist came into various conflicts with the Chantry on a number of occasions in the first book, and their strict anti-technology religious control of the Sollan Empire was an extremely interesting part of the universe.  I wonder if the stranger creatures he mentions are a reference to the former humans mentioned in the Goodreads synopsis or “the oldest enemy of mankind”.

Based on both of these synopses, this story sounds like it will be as epic, compelling and inventive as the first book in this series.  I am very excited about Ruocchio’s second book and I am eager to continue the incredible story set out in Empire of Silence.  I am already predicting that Howling Dark will make it onto my Top Ten Reads of 2019 and cannot wait until I get my hands on this book.

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

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Publisher: Gollancz

Publication Date – 3 July 2018

 

First time author Christopher Ruocchio boldly introduces himself with his five-star debut, Empire of Silence, an extraordinary and spellbinding science fiction epic.

In the far future, humanity has left Earth behind and made its home in the stars by colonising thousands of the planets.  However, expansion was halted when the humans encountered the Cielein, the only other race in the galaxy with the ability to travel through space.  For years, the humans and the Cielein fought a brutal and devastating war against each other, until one man changed everything.

That man is Hadrian Marlowe, who, for the best of reasons, destroys a sun and burns every last Cielein from the stars.  This destruction also results in the deaths of four billion humans, including the Emperor of Sollan Empire.  After this infamous act, Hadrian is considered throughout the galaxy as both humanity’s greatest hero and its most terrible villain, known as The Sun-Eater, Starbreaker, Palekiller and Deathless.  But how did one man who was neither a soldier nor a hero seize such a responsibility and commit such atrocities?  The Sun Eater series is the chronicle of Hadrian’s life, of which Empire of Silence is the first part.

Born the eldest son of a noble house, Hadrian fled his family and his overbearing father to escape his future as a member of the Chantry, The Stella Empire’s state religion.  When the ship he chartered is mysteriously abandoned en route to his destination, Hadrian finds himself stranded on the wrong planet with no means of escape and none of his family’s resources available to him.  Forced to fight his way up from the gutters, Hadrian attempts to survive on this strange new world by any means necessary.  Starting out as a beggar and thief, Hadrian eventually embarks on a career as a gladiator in the hope of making enough money to buy a ship.  But when his true identity is revealed, Hadrian must find a way to survive in a foreign court, where powerful enemies lurk around every corner.

However, all of Hadrian’s problems become immaterial when the Cielein arrive above the planet, searching for something.  Drafted into a war he never wanted to be involved in, Hadrian seeks to understand the Cielein, but finds only mysteries and secrets.  Hadrian’s path to becoming The Sun-Eater is set, and his journey begins here.

Empire of Silence is the first volume in Ruocchio’s incredibly ambitious debut series, The Sun Eater.  Featuring fantastic storytelling and a galaxy-wide setting that is breathtaking in its scope and content, this is an outstanding first book and an excellent start to a series with real potential.

Many readers will be interested to know that Empire of Silence is already receiving quite a few comparisons to Patrick Rothfuss’s highly regarded fantasy epic, The Name of the Wind.  It is an easy comparison to make, as there are a large number of similarities between the two books.  Both books contain utterly compelling content designed to capture the reader’s imagination; however, the major similarity is the use of a chronicle format to tell their massive, character-driven epics.  Like The Name of the Wind, Empire of Silence is told solely from the point of view of the protagonist, Hadrian, and takes the form of a written retrospective explaining the terrible act that makes him infamous throughout the galaxy.  The series will completely explore Hadrian’s life, examining every action that leads up to this event.

The chronicle format is a superb choice for the Empire of Silence’s epic story.  Not only does it allow the author to produce a complex and extremely detailed epic storyline but it also allows him to add to the story’s gravitas by having the narrator comment on and reflect on his actions in hindsight.  This great format also allows the author to show off his protagonist in a range of different circumstances.  Because of various science fiction elements, Hadrian is destined to have an extremely long life span and a great many opportunities for adventure.  Within Empire of Silence alone, Ruocchio portrays Hadrian performing a range of different roles, including the presumed heir to a planet, a scholar, a fugitive, a beggar, a thief, a gladiator, a companion and tutor to noble children, an amateur archaeologist, a translator, a torturer, a negotiator and an irregular member of the military.  Each of the different roles that Hadrian plays influences his mindset and viewpoint, which allows the reader to see him evolve in front of their eyes.  It is also interesting to note that Ruocchio has not pre-emptively indicated how many books will be in his series, a mistake some other authors using a chronicle format have made before.  This will allow him to tell the whole story he envisioned without compromising on pacing, world-building or character development in order to reach a hasty conclusion, and will no doubt result in a much more complete and enjoyable series.

The overall plot of Empire of Silence contains various storytelling elements that are masterfully combined throughout the book.  It contains everything from science fiction elements and action sequences to long discussions of the history of the galaxy in which the series is set.  There is also a series of significantly dramatic storylines, such as Hadrian dealing with the difficulties of having a self-interested and manipulative father and an uncaring family.  There are some great coming-of-age moments within the storyline as Hadrian first seeks independence from his family and their history and then tries to find his own way on a new world where he has none of his power and influence.  The reader gets to witness several powerful scenes in which Hadrian’s life changes dramatically and he desperately attempts to claim some sense of normality or sanity in this new world.  Of particular note are some very emotional scenes during Hadrian’s first encounters with the Cielcin.  In these scenes, Hadrian is forced to contend with his own curiosity, conscience and morality while stuck between his own species, represented by the cruel and domineering Empire, and the aliens that somehow appear to bear much more humanity.  This results in some truly spectacular scenes that make this book impossible to put down.

One of the most impressive and enjoyable aspects of Empire of Silence is the vast and imaginative universe in which the story is set.  Ruocchio has an extremely interesting vision of the future that readers will find quite intriguing.  The entirety of the first book is set within the Sollan Empire, which represents the largest faction of humans in the future galaxy.  This civilisation, whilst retaining some advanced technology, such as spaceships, has reverted socially and culturally following a catastrophic event many years before.  There is a rigid class system, with the nobles wielding considerable power and disregard for the ordinary people.  A religious organisation holds sway over much of the empire, using inquisitor-like tactics to control the population and prevent what they consider heresy, which includes an aversion to advanced technology.  An interesting twist to this is the large number of cameras and drones that they and the nobles use to continually survey and intimidate the populace.  The Empire’s culture appears to be strongly inspired by the ancient Roman and Greek civilisations, and their various influences can be seen throughout the book.  This is an excellent setting for such an expansive story, and the reader gets to experience a unique and compelling combination of science fiction advancements and old school ideals.

Aside from the main setting of the Sollan Empire, Ruocchio has also stacked his universe with a range of characters, aliens, mysteries and side storylines that prove to be massively intriguing for the reader.  Several of these of mysteries and side stories are explored to an extent throughout the book; however, many are left open and will carry through to later books in the series.  The protagonist interacts with a massive of number of characters, which plays into the overall concept of him having a busy life.  In order to assist the reader in keeping track of the cast of thousands, who sometimes have limited scenes within the story, Ruocchio has provided extensive indexes.  Not only do these indexes contain details of all the characters the protagonist encounters but they also contain a huge amount of history, definitions and other useful information to help the audience absorb this massive new universe.

In one of the most impressive and elaborate science fiction novels of the year, first-time author Christopher Ruocchio has shown himself to be one of the brightest new stars in the science fiction genres.  Empire of Silence contains an absolutely amazing story that makes full use of its original and immense overarching setting, and is guaranteed to capture the reader’s imagination.  This is epic science fiction at its very best, and I cannot wait for the second book in Ruocchio’s The Sun Eater series.

My Rating:

Five Stars