“My memory is to the world as a drawing is to the photograph. Imperfect. More perfect. We remember what we must, what we choose to, because it is more beautiful and real than the truth.”
So what’s the book about?
In the face of death, Hadrian Marlowe, condemned as a murderer of a thousand, recalls his life and the beginnings of his story that took him from heir to a galactic noble house to a man to be feared. At first Hadrian has to assert his position as heir to his brother Crispin, who is far more approved of by his father in all his attributes than he is. When, after an éclat, he is to be given into the care of the powerful church to gain power and influence as a priest, Hadrian, thirsty for knowledge, plans his escape and a future career with the Scholastics, the scholars of the Sollan Empire.
This plan, however, costs a heavy toll of blood and, moreover, does not develop at all as Hadrian had wished for himself – suddenly he is faced with almost nothing, on a foreign planet, without help, power or resources, and has to fend for himself in order to somehow stay alive. The only way out seems to be a career as a fighter in Colosso, for the amusement of the bloodthirsty masses…
“The world’s soft the way the ocean is. Ask any sailor what I mean. But even when it is at its most violent, Hadrian . . . focus on the beauty of it. The ugliness of the world will come at you from all sides. There’s no avoiding it. All the schooling in the universe won’t stop that.”
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- Ruocchio now creates a world all of his own that is distantly reminiscent of the Roman Empire, since much of the terminology and structures from Roman antiquity are used here, which at various points also refers to philosophers from that time or quotes them. At the same time, this ancient setting is paired with an eerily vast universe, which not only has to serve the people as its population. Earth has long been destroyed, humanity scattered throughout the galaxy. They still see themselves as the crown of creation and eliminate or enslave the native species of each planet. In the Cielcin, however, they have found an opponent to counter them. The war between humans and this species has been raging for years and there is no end in sight. We learn little about these “demons”, the Cielcin, in the first volume, but there is always suspense about who these beings are and what they want from the humans. Again and again Hadrian shows that it might be possible that they are not monsters at all, but more human than we thought.
- One thinks that in a distant future, everything seems to be very high-tech and that the mystery of the universe is known, but the Empire of Silence shows us that humanity has learned little. For even in the future, religion sets the tone and thus curbs the future. A central role is played by the Chantry, which manipulates everyday life and people’s thoughts with its propaganda and its cult of salvation. It is absolutely hostile to technology, which is why there are very few developments in this direction in this future, and at the same time acts as an inquisition against those who question the chosen role of humans. Therefore, the other alien cultures are also suppressed. The Cielcin, from the Chantry’s point of view, are nothing more than demons who must be exterminated. So despite the possibilities of science, we remain in an ancient setting that is not so dissimilar to times past.
- The development of the once privileged, partly cool and arrogant, nobleman Hadrian also takes us on an emotional journey. It is wonderful to read how years of loneliness melt away with a simple smile and how Hadrian opens up to people in a whole new way. He, the aristocrat, now lives among the plebeians and learns more humanity here than he ever did in his father’s palace. As an old man, he describes grief, loss, joy, love, anger, hatred completely unembellished, so that the story sounds absolutely credible. The author has done this very beautifully, drawing the reader into the narrative by letting Hadrian speak to us. The people Hadrian has to deal with during his various stages of life are also strongly and profoundly characterised. Whether it is his fatherly teacher Gibson, the streetwalker Cat, his power-conscious father Alistair, the headstrong xenologist Valka or the comrades-in-arms from the Colosso, with whom Hadrian initially has to come to terms more than he can make friends, they always remain present in the mind’s eye through their clear portrayal and make it possible to keep an overview despite the many actors.
“It is a mistake to believe we must know a thing to be influenced by it. It is a mistake to believe the thing must even be real.”
So what are my final thoughts about it?
I could write a lot more in my enthusiasm but this review is not meant to be 900 pages long (Just as the book;)). For readers who like fast-paced, action-packed stories, this book is not for you. For readers who can lose themselves in stories and who sympathise with the characters, this is a wonderful, engaging story of a young man who still has dreams and has to experience how they can never stand up to reality. Haven’t we all experienced this in some way? This is only the beginning of what could be a breathtaking story and I can only imagine what is to come in the next volumes.
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