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Howling Dark: The Sun Eater, Book Two


Howling Dark: The Sun Eater, Book Two

Christopher Ruocchio surprised me. Twice. First, he surprised me with his sensational debut, EMPIRE OF SILENCE, and introduced our hero, Hadrian Marlowe, who has been sent forth to negotiate a peace with the alien Cielcin. Secondly, he surprised me by surpassing himself with an even better follow-up, HOWLING DARK, where Hadrian continues to evolve and learn that nothing ever goes as planned, even when undertaken with the best of intentions.

Hadrian is an amazing character, at once remembered as a great hero and savior, and yet also a vicious murderer. His story develops here as he searches for the planet Vorgossos, seeking to locate the Cielcin --- a violent alien race --- and negotiate a peace with them on behalf of mankind. A circle of confidants from the previous book journey with him, and he eventually moves into a darker story that he tries to brighten. As our narrator, though, he hints that things may not end up for the better.

"Ruocchio does a fantastic job unraveling Hadrian's story...and his own honesty as he relays events is refreshing and further compels readers to gravitate toward him."

Political machinations behind the scenes are always a cause for discomfort, and Hadrian seeks to stay out from under the control of Count Mataro. As events unfold, he finds that the commanders questing with him have little faith in his plan for peace with the Cielcin, and he is designated a fugitive as he and his trusted companions make their own way further into the more dangerous regions of space.

Enter Kharn Sagara, who just might have enough information and power that he can get Hadrian in contact with the Cielcin. Sagara's court is a rude awakening for Hadrian, and challenges him and his own moral system. How DO you engage with a society where children are grown as mere replacement parts?

Ruocchio does a fantastic job unraveling Hadrian's story --- told by the older, wiser man himself --- and his own honesty as he relays events is refreshing and further compels readers to gravitate toward him. Each of his side characters contrast with him perfectly. But one area where the author excels is in the weaving together of the two novels.

EMPIRE OF SILENCE explored and hinted at certain events and ideas, and those intertwine beautifully as the narrative switches into HOWLING DARK. What you may have thought was just a small nugget of information in the first book turns out to be expanded and given a bigger role in the sequel, meshing the two together and really making it feel like one dense world and story.

HOWLING DARK is highly recommended, but I absolutely would advise you to secure a copy of EMPIRE OF SILENCE first. You will not be disappointed.

Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on August 9, 2019

Howling Dark: The Sun Eater, Book Two
by Christopher Ruocchio