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SF Review: Empire of Silence By Christopher Ruocchio

Empire of Silence is a fascinating and flawed work of epic science fiction.

What’s It About?

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio follows Hadrian Marlowe, heir to the Archon of Delos – the absolute ruler of an entire planet. Hadrian isn’t sure he wants to rule a planet though – he’d rather become a scholar and travel the galaxy, exploring strange new worlds and such. 

Sensing his uncertainty, Hadrian’s calculating father favours his second son to become heir. Before the situation can be resolved though, unforeseen events send Hadrian on a trek across the galaxy – but not in the way he’d been hoping for.

Also, he destroyed a sun – or rather, he will destroy a sun. Framed as the life story of an older Hadrian, Empire of Silence begins the Sun Eater series, which follows Hadrian throughout his millennia-long life to answer these simple questions: How did he destroy a sun, and why?

The UK cover is awesome!

What Did I Think?

Sold when Ruocchio was just 22, Empire of Silence is a major achievement – especially in worldbuilding. Its universe is BIG – one of the biggest I’ve read, and he does a fantastic job of conveying that sense of scale to readers. Aside from the plot, I am excited to read the sequels just to see more of what Ruocchio has created. From the variety of alien ‘xenobites’ to the many different intergalactic superpowers, it’s clear that this universe is far from empty.

Though Empire of Silence is basically Ruocchio’s version of Dune for the first chapter or two, change comes very quickly. It is no more derivative than anything else in an established genre and develops some awesome and unique worldbuilding. I also enjoyed the plot structure, with Hadrian’s story told in four or five distinct sections. It allowed for a deeper examination of the world, and from more perspectives, than most first-person point-of-view stories achieve. Conversely, using this structure had a few downsides, such as introducing too many characters and weird pacing. I still liked it though.


On a smaller-scale, Ruocchio has also developed a varied cast of characters – though aside from Hadrian, we don’t see any of them as often as I would have liked. As a protagonist, Hadrian is . . . alright. His inner struggles are layered and interesting, and despite his stereotypical origin story he remains a unique character. In terms of preference though, I just wasn’t that into him. 

He is a bit of a Gary Stu, and too pompous for me to really root for. In fairness, Ruocchio clearly recognizes how pretentious Hadrian is – he’s a far better character in this regard than Red Rising’s Darrow. Despite this, I really wish Ruocchio had toned him down – but a lot of it seems like he just couldn’t help himself. I also think Ruocchio bent the plot around Hadrian a little too much, and not always believably.

After Hadrian’s most pretentious and ponderous moments, Ruocchio regularly had him think something like “oh, my old teacher always told me I was too melodramatic.” I cannot express how annoying this small thing was to me. It’s like Ruocchio wrote the passage, recognized how self-aggrandizing it came off as, and then tacked on that extra thought as if to excuse it. That doesn’t make it better – especially the fourth or fifth time he did it.

Craft Complaints

Most of my other complaints deal with Ruocchio’s writing. Empire of Silence – from mixed metaphors to adjectives that make no sense – has purple prose (in my opinion). If you appreciate authors who are economical about their word choice, you’ll probably struggle here. This is a nitpick, but Ruocchio’s use of “decade” and “quarter” as quantities bugged me (ex. “a decade of legionaries”). In other cases, I appreciate his intentioned word choice, but when there is a simple and more common alternative, use it!

I also wish he’d included somewhat less literary and historical references. Like, yes, it’s impressive how well-read Ruocchio was at 22 – but I wish he could have restrained himself in showing it off. I get that, in context, Hadrian is well-read in English literature, but particularly in such referencing he felt very author-inserty. To be fair, this somewhat bothered me in Hyperion too, though not to the same extent. 

Speaking of Hyperion, there are many references to it and other media in the book, and it’s fun to spot them. For example, I enjoyed the multiple Kingdom of Heaven references, though I wonder if Ruocchio knows he lifted a short scene pretty much directly from the film (he probably does).


Another issue relating to craft is that I’m not a fan of how Ruocchio handled the frame story of old Hadrian recounting his life. For my taste, his thoughts and observations intrude far too frequently on the events we’re reading about – disconnecting me from the immediacy and emotion of them. For example, old Hadrian spoils a character death before it happens. 

To end on a positive, I love how short the chapters are – these 250,000-word book has close to eighty of them. The ending is contrived, but I understand why Ruocchio did it and I’m excited to start book two! From what I’ve heard, Ruocchio improves significantly as a writer throughout the series, and there’s nothing I disliked in Empire of Silence that can’t be fixed. 

If you’re interested in more sci-fi recommendations, check out my review of Hyperion by Dan Simmons!

★ ★ ★

The post SF Review: Empire of Silence By Christopher Ruocchio first appeared on Reader's Repository.

Classic SF Review: The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Though I enjoyed The Fall of Hyperion, I didn’t like it as much as Hyperion.

I loved Simmons explorations of so many genres in Hyperion, especially how he changed his prose for each one. Here, Simmons shows off some great technical writing – including narratively justifiable first-person present – but I miss the variety of styles he included in the first novel. 

In addition to missing the way they were written, I found myself missing the characters themselves. They’re still there, of course, but most of the page count is devoted to two new point-of-views, neither of whom I liked quite as much. And when we do get the old characters, they’re all in the same situation. I missed the variety.

None of this is to say The Fall of Hyperion is worse than Hyperion, but rather that the elements of the first book that I liked most weren’t there. It makes sense: book one is a collection of stories about individual characters, book two is the story of the space opera that was unfolding behind them. I think I preferred the main plot when it was in the background.

To be sure, many of the new elements are great. My favourite scenes in the book were those with the lyrical and insane AI, Ummon. Simmons did a great job of making character’s lifelong traits and struggles (which we learned about in Hyperion) relevant to their immediate and dire circumstances, and the choices they had to make. 

Having already laid the foundations, Simmons was also able to add depth to his worldbuilding and reflect on this imagined society even more critically. He clearly subscribes to the idea that pain and struggle breed innovation – which makes sense – but I almost feel like he takes this message a bit too far, especially in the ending. The themes were reinforced so heavily that, even from early in the novel, I knew there was only one way the book could end. 

It’s probable that Simmons intended the novel to crawl inexorably to this conclusion, as the characters slowly realized that there were no other options – but I just wasn’t excited by it. The ending in general fell flat for me – some of the twists were a bit too obvious – and, though I won’t spoil how it was done, the final tone and neatness of the ending struck me as a little incongruous with the overall story.

I read this one slowly – took about a month – and overall wasn’t motivated to keep reading. I had fun when I did but was never itching to get back to it. At least right now, I won’t be continuing with Endymion and Rise of Endymion. I’m glad I read the first duology in the Hyperion Cantos, but there’s just so much more out there to read.

★ ★ ★

Review: Taking on the Plastics Crisis by Hannah Testa

In this personal, moving essay, youth activist Hannah Testa shares with readers how she led a grassroots political campaign to successfully pass state legislation limiting single-use plastics and how she influenced global businesses to adopt more sustainable practices. Through her personal journey, readers can learn how they, too, can follow in Hannah’s footsteps and lower their carbon footprint by simply refusing single-use plastics.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

While trees provide us with some oxygen, most of the oxygen we breathe is actually produced from marine life in the ocean. Approximately every other breath we take is generated from the ocean.

I picked up this little pocket book about a month ago from my local library, and I’m so glad I did. While I don’t usually reach for non-fiction, this looked like a quick read to give me further insight on the plastics crisis. I worked at a grocery store and seeing the amount of single-use plastic packaging used made this problem plague my mind. This book was exactly what I was looking for: a quick read but packed with informative detail and insights on steps one can do to make a difference. 

I loved reading the prologue where Testa recounts how she has created change from a young age. She once organized a fundraising event with her friends to help a local farm. A viewer donated $10,000 to the cause after the event raising money for the farm (a viewing of the American Girl movie Saige Paints the Sky) was featured on the news.


A line I hear often is that an individual’s lifestyle changes is not enough to make major changes to the climate crisis. While it is true that large corporations and businesses are the ones that have the most impact, ordinary people are the ones who bring up these issues and demand change. Testa mentions many other young change makers like herself who have contributed to making change on a larger level. While the problem cannot be changed by personal commitment alone, Testa and other activists’ work has reminded me of how one person’s idea can turn into a collective effort. Like how a 12 year old’s wish to create a better space for farm animals ended up with $10,000 towards the cause. 

As Testa mentions, it is up to consumers to speak up and hold big businesses accountable.

“Businesses rely on consumers to buy their products, so if customers decide to no longer buy their products until they ditch their single-use plastics and eliminate their plastic packaging, businesses will shift to match the needs of their customers” 

This is something I’ve seen in action with the popularity of reusable bags, fees on plastic bags, and paper or reusable straws replacing plastic straws. I think this is a sign that it is possible and that we are moving in the right direction, though this is really just the beginning. Hannah also gives readers solutions on how they can live a life free of single-use plastics, including: using reusable bags and food containers, shopping second hand, seeking out products with little to none plastic packaging, and more. 

Plastic is Toxic

This was a very insightful and sobering read as well. While I, like many others, are aware of the ongoing climate crisis, we often think of the garbage that pollutes our waters and has devastating consequences on wildlife. But, still, I wasn’t quite as aware of the extent that plastic affects our health negatively. Plastic in our water means plastic in our food, which negatively affects many coastal communities that rely on the water for their livelihoods. Along with that:

“Plastic also releases toxins into the food and drinks it comes in contact with. So, yes, your plastic coffee cup is leaching toxins into your coffee. It’s no surprise that plastic is considered a potentially human carcinogenic material.” 

The 5 Rs?

While working at a grocery store, I experienced first-hand how although recycling is an option, a lot of plastic doesn’t even get recycled. There is a lot of confusion about what can get recycled or what could get a bag of recycling thrown in the trash. Testa addresses this recycling confusion, as policies change over time and also depend on your local jurisdiction. 

What is there to do about the plastic crisis? Testa introduces readers to a concept that goes beyond the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) taught in school. (With recycling being a last resort- did you know only that in Canada, only about 9% of plastic is actually recycled? ) The two Rs she includes are to Refuse and Raise Awareness.

Final Thoughts: Read this book!

While I did already know some of these things before reading, I was able to learn even more about the crisis. Now, I am more aware of the problem and what I can do to limit my use of single-use plastics, as well as inspire others to do the same. I highly recommend picking up this book if you are wanting to become more environmentally conscious. (Which really should be everyone because plastic affects our health, wildlife, and planet!) Testa’s words give a great understanding of this problem and show the power that everyone carries to make change. 

Check out Hannah’s website here! She is currently raising money to donate copies of her book to schools in marginalized communities.

(Cover image photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash)

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Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva…

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“When there is only you, you do not get to choose which jobs you want, you do not get to decide you are incapable of anything. There is no room for distaste or weakness. You must do it all.” (147)

Hi Everyone!

Today, I have a review on a book I recently blazed through, Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Similarly to TJR’s other books, Malibu Rising is filled with drama and secrets from the past as the story transitions between the 50s and 80s. If you’ve read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, you will already be familiar with one of the main characters, Mick Riva. The chapters of the Riva siblings kept me hooked as I was eager to find out what would happen to them. Without getting into spoilers, I’ll say this book was a really enjoyable, mysterious, quick summer read!

yellow outline of 2 surfboards one with flowers the other with waves standing in the water

What I liked/didn’t like

While I was invested in the Riva siblings’ story, there are a lot of anecdotes on minor characters which I didn’t really care for. I found they added drama to the story but not much else. My favourite part of the book was how it explores what it means to be a family and how we all have the power to become our own person. I have more to discuss on this, but I’m trying to keep this review spoiler free, so you’ll have to read and see for yourself!

“She had to choose what, of the things she inherited from the people who came before her, she wanted to bring forward. And what of the past, she wanted to leave behind.” (357)


While there is some romance in this book, the main love story is really between the family. My favourite characters to read about were Nina and Kit. I loved their relationship of the youngest and oldest child. Nina realizes she has babied Kit while trying to protect her, and Kit encourages Nina to start doing things for herself by the end of the book.

“Despite having long ago learned some people don’t keep their promises, all three of the younger Rivas knew they could believe her.” (141)


Even though the chapters aren’t split between different character’s POVs, TJR still moves seamlessly between different POVs in a chapter. This way you still learn a lot of what each character is thinking in the moment. I think this is really cool and fun to read, especially when their thoughts contrast each other. I loved reading this with the siblings as they all have such different personalities:

“Hud found it hard to be mad at someone who was suddenly being so transparent. Jay found it refreshing, the idea that it was OK to admit you suspected yourself of being a dickhead, deep inside. Nina had to stop herself from rolling her eyes.” (325)

yellow outline of 2 surfboards one with flowers the other with waves standing in the water

Final Thoughts

I read this book as part of a book club with a few friends, so I’m looking forward to discussing it further with them! This book didn’t have as many twists as I expected. It’s almost as if I knew what was going to happen, but not in a bad way. It was set up so you could inevitably see what was going to occur, but when it eventually happened I was still shocked.

Have you read Malibu Rising or are planning to read it? Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Cover photo is by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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Review: The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“There have been too many stories in between, miracles and martyrdoms, too much blood spilt, too much ink. There was a war. There were a thousand wars. I knew a killer. I knew a hero. They might have been the same man.’’ 

The Lives of Saints, Leigh Bardugo

Hi everyone! Today I will be talking about The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo which is a companion book to her other books in the Grishaverse. Also if you are a Grishaverse fan, you might be interested to know that there’s an art fundraiser going on right now until April 23. Artists have teamed up and designed beautiful Grisha-themed works for sale on RedBubble with all proceeds going to support BLM and Stop Asian Hate. Check it out here!

How stunning is this book?

The Lives of Saints tells the stories of the various saints in the Grishaverse, and the physical copy is actually designed to look like a copy of the Istorii Sankt’ya that Alina would have in Shadow and Bone! I love this idea because it’s like you have something out of the universe for yourself. When it first was released, there was a lot of criticism on how the half dust jacket looked with the book, but the reason it’s there is so information is not printed on the physical book and it looks as close to a replica as it can be. The dust jacket can easily be taken off too!

close up of gold detailing on the red cover of "The Lives of Saints", background is the sky and branches of a tree

I would recommend getting a physical copy of the book if you can, as it is so pretty! The book is very sturdy and the texture makes it feel like a real religious text, especially with the beautiful gold foil decorating it. This attention to detail continues on inside with beautiful illustrations for each saint’s story. I initially wasn’t sure if I would buy it for myself since it is on the pricer side, but I was lucky enough to receive a copy as a gift from my friend, Karli! I’m really grateful that she got it for me because it is the perfect addition to my collection! 

Thoughts on the Stories

I first heard the story of Sankt Nikolai, because Leigh Bardugo read it on her IGTV just before the release date and I loved it so much. (I think this would be great to read in audiobook form as well! I also just saw that Ben Barnes narrates it so, YES) The stories are just a few pages long so it is very fast to move through, but I also think you could take your time and come back to this book since they all are individual stories! The Lives of Saints displays Leigh Bardugo’s work as an incredibly enchanting storyteller with the twists and turns she packs in these short stories. Some people might prefer The Language of Thorns for the longer stories, but I personally enjoyed The Lives of Saints more!

Some stories are based only on the saint’s life, while others tell the story of someone who prays to that certain saint. I think my favourites were probably Sankt Nikolai and Sankt Egmond (which gives the story of how the Ice Court came to be, which Six of Crows fans will love). There are of course other references to the Grisha Trilogy with “Sankta Alina of the Fold” and “The Starless Saint” at the end of the book which were also very cool to read. The stories can get quite dark (a lot are martyr stories) and I think I had a nightmare from reading this before bed the other night, so I’d recommend maybe not reading before bed if you’re like me…

Let me know your thoughts, feelings, and/ or questions on The Lives of Saints! Have you read it, or are you planning to?

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Book Review: They Both Die at the End

I thought the title of this book would prepare me for the ending. I was wrong. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera takes place in a world where Death Cast calls you on the day you will die. There is nothing you can do to change this, just decide how you want to live your last day. Both Mateo and Rufus got the call, and they both unfortunately will have to spend their last days alone, without their friends and family. They come together to try and live an adventure on the last day of their lives.

I thought the writing and the plot of this story was great, and I started to care so deeply for the main characters, Mateo and Rufus. It’s hard to get attached to characters when you know they’re gonna die, but they were very well written. The book was written so well I felt that I could visualize everywhere they went, imagining what every setting looked like.

Even though the title of this book is a spoiler in itself, the real plot of the book is the journey along the way. It’s not focused on death, but instead on how they live. With that said, this book hit me hard, and I finished it at 2:00 am and had to have a good cry. It made me think about my life, my loved ones, and how I would spend my last day. I would still warn everyone to have tissues on hand during the reading of this book.

If you’re up for it, I would highly recommend this book. It’s such a great story, and such a great piece to make you think. What would you do on your last day? Would you tell your friends or sneak away to live one last day?

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Book Review: 11/22/63

This book is much different than the other books I have been reviewing on this site, but this is my favourite book I have ever read. 11/22/63 is by Stephen King, but don’t let that fool you. I can’t handle horror at all, I would instead categorize this book as a historical, science-fiction, thriller love story. I was interested in this book in the first place because I had heard such great things about King’s writing, but I could never handle any of his most popular books like It, The Shining, or Pet Semetary.

The story focuses on Jake Epping, a high school English teacher. One day his friend Al who owns a diner tells him a secret, his storage room is a portal to 1958. Jake goes on a mission to stop the Kennedy assassination. He goes undercover as George Amberson, and jumps right into the late 1950s and early 1960s. While there he meets a librarian named Sadie, who may be the love of his life. What follows is his adventures trying to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK, and dealing with the affects of changing anything in the past and what it will do to his future.

This book is not a light summer read by any means, the hardcover copy is almost 850 pages. But don’t let that scare you off. I truly think this is a terrific book, and I recommend it to all of my friends (even though none of them have taken me up on it yet). If you have the time to settle into a longer book, I highly recommend this. The plot of the book is well worth the long page count.

If this hasn’t convinced you, there is also a TV miniseries that was created starring James Franco. I have yet to see it, but it looks great and I will one day watch it.

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The Diamond Girls Book Review & Nov. 26 Reading Update

I wanted to update you all on my reading progress, and also post a book review for a book I just finished last week, so I thought I would combine them both into one post again. I’ll talk about the book review first, and if you continue reading, the update will be underneath it!

Book: The Diamond Girls by Jacqueline Wilson

Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade Fiction, Contemporary

Thoughts/Review: I loved reading Jacqueline Wilson’s books when I was young. She was one of my favourite authors, and I had a TBR (to be read) list with all of her books on it. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to read them all, but I loved all of the books I read by her! I was extremely excited when I found a book club that featured her books, so I joined right away, and The Diamond Girls was this month’s read.

This book is from the perspective of a little girl, named Dixie. She has 3 sisters, and they all live with their mom, who is once again pregnant with a baby boy. Their mom is very excited to welcome a boy into the family, and they move into a new house, which isn’t exactly what they had expected it to be. The Diamond girls have to find ways to adjust to their new living arrangements, and very quickly their mom is off to the hospital to have her baby. While their mom goes through having her new baby, one of Dixie’s sisters gets into fights, another is hiding a secret, and the last is beginning to date. Dixie also meets a new friend. When her mom returns, Dixie is the only one who notices that something is wrong, and must navigate how to deal with all of the difficult problems she encounters.

I really liked this book! It was a fun, easy read, and I really missed Jacqueline Wilson’s writing. I’m so glad I was able to read this book by her this month! There were so many things going on in this story, and I found myself being frustrated by so many of the characters, specifically Dixie’s sisters and mom. It was difficult at times to read about how each of them was trying hard to hide what they were going through, and not talking to each other about it. I loved the subplot of Dixie’s friend, and the ending was really nice and sweet. Bruce is also a very fun character, that is introduced originally just to help the Diamond girls move into their new house, but ends up becoming family very quickly. He becomes Dixie’s Uncle Bruce, which was super sweet to read.

This book discusses some important topics, but from the perspective of a 10 year old girl. I won’t go into details because this is a no-spoiler blog, but within this story readers see discussion of pregnancy, mental health/illness, abuse, and dating at a young age. These are all important topics that I was surprised to see within this book, but it reminded me that this is one of the things I love about Jacqueline Wilson’s books. That she writes children’s/middle grade fiction that addresses important topics, and speaks about the perspectives of young people who are struggling or facing new challenges. I would definitely recommend this book, if you’re looking for an easy and sweet read! Reading this was a really was a nice way to end long, busy days because it was a light read before sleeping.

Rating: 9/10 Stars

Reading Update:

I just started reading Gulliver’s Travels, for a class, and also The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, for another book club. Gulliver’s Travels is an interesting read so far, and I’m curious to see what happens next. I’m absolutely loving The Invisible Life of Addie Larue! It is so well written! It’s the first book by VE Schwab that I’m reading, and I definitely understand now why her books are as popular as they are. It caught my attention as soon as I read the first page. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue reading that this week, but it’s starting to get busy with classes again, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it before December. Even so, it’s amazing, and I can’t wait to continue it!

That’s all from me today, but thank you for reading this, and I hope you’re having a lovely day!