Book Review: The Dregs of Empire (The Sun Eater, #5.6) by Christopher Ruocchio

Book Review: The Dregs of Empire (The Sun Eater, #5.6) by Christopher Ruocchio

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Cover art illustrated by John Barry Ballaran

The Dregs of Empire: A Tale of the Sun Eater by Christopher Ruocchio

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Sun Eater (Book #5.6 of 7)

Genre: Science Fantasy, Sci-fi, Space Opera

Pages: 332 pages (Kindle edition)

Published: 14th November 2023 by Christopher Ruocchio (Self-published)

The Dregs of Empire is the finest companion novel in The Sun Eater series so far.

“I am not afraid to die… because I know this is not the end for us. We are all of us trapped in an endless cycle of life and death and rebirth. What matters is what we do within that cycle. Right understanding. Right thought . . . Right speech.”

Finally… Since I started Empire of Silence last September, I’ve finally read everything in The Sun Eater series now. Not only the main novels but also the collection of short stories and companion novellas/novels. Only the penultimate volume of the series, Disquiet Gods, remains. But before that, I can confidently vouch that The Dregs of Empire is my favorite companion novel in the series to date. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, because this companion novel is focused on Lorian Aristedes.

“Vima, the great sage, wrote that among the warriors of the uninitiated there could be found those capable of what their Nipponese brothers called the mushin no shin, the mind without mind. Though Hadrian knew but little of the Arthur-Buddha and less of the Eightfold Path and its knightly virtues, he was so near to revelation.”

I’ve made it clear many times by now. Lorian Aristedes has always been one of my favorite characters in The Sun Eater series since his first appearance in Demon in White. Next to Hadrian Marlowe, he IS my favorite character of the series. And to have an entire short novel dedicated to Lorian is a blessing for me. One vital thing to take note of before we proceed. Ruocchio has mentioned this at the beginning of the book, but if you haven’t read The Sun Eater series up to Ashes of Man, the fifth main novel in the series, I strongly recommend you to do that first before reading The Dregs of Empire. This book takes place after Ashes of Man, and too many events and emotional weight in it relied on the reader knowing the context and events that happened in the main books of The Sun Eater. I cannot imagine anyone enjoying the full potential of the narrative without reading the series up to Ashes of Man first.

“Man was half an animal, and in those men who indulged the beast too much, the animal was all that remained.”

But with these facts in mind, understand that I cannot talk about The Dregs of Empire with too many details for fear of accidentally giving spoilers. One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading this companion novel is to get a deeper introspective insight into Lorian’s mind and feelings. The entire story is told in third-person narration through the sole perspective of Lorian. And yes, we learn more about Lorian’s faith and philosophy. More importantly, Lorian’s loyalty and friendship to Hadrian, and his feelings toward Valka and the Red Company are explored. Sometimes, the critical test of faith is when individuals are separated from one another. The Lord of the Rings displayed a magnificent example of this. And Lorian is truly put through brutal ordeals in The Dregs of Empire to have his faith and survival instincts examined.

“The unconscious mind noticed things that the conscious mind was blind to. The gurram, wrote Dinadan Vima, was to cultivate the whole- mind, the mind entire, and not to rely upon the monocular focus of the conscious mind—all of which was to say that Lorian Aristedes trusted his instincts, because he had learned that those instincts were often the insights of those deeper and more quick- witted mechanisms of his mind.”

In a similar fashion to every book in The Sun Eater, the setting of The Dregs of Empire takes place on a previously unventured planet in the main series so far, but it is one that has been mentioned several times in the main books. I think with the short length of the title, Ruocchio did a great job at exploring the prison planet as effectively as he could. If there’s one downside to The Dregs of Empire, it would be the supporting characters. Except for one or two characters, I didn’t find any of the supporting characters in The Dregs of Empire intriguing or compelling enough to earn my investment. Lorian is, obviously, the main highlight of this book.

“But the war he’d known, the clean, bright game of strategy— had only ever been this. This . . . desperate chaos. It was one thing to lay one’s careful plans, one thing to move pieces on a board. Quite another for the pieces themselves.”

I am still not sure how crucial reading The Dregs of Empire is for the main books in The Sun Eater. I will have to read Disquiet Gods, maybe even the final book in the series, before I can feel confident about my answer. Up until Ashes of Man, I don’t think most of the collection of short stories or companion books are necessary to read to enjoy the main books. The Demons of Arae in Tales of the Sun Eater, Volume 1 is beneficial, and Daughter of Swords in Tales of the Sun Eater, Volume 3 is what I would deem as a must read before reading Disquiet Gods. However, knowing Ruocchio, reading the violent and evil ordeals Lorian goes through in The Dregs of Empire will most likely bestow more rewards on the reader’s experience in the long run. At the end of the day, though. If you are a fan of Lorian Aristedes, I don’t see any good reason why you would want to skip out on reading this. I had a wonderful time reading this, and I look forward to reading Disquiet Gods very soon.

“Dregs. So are we all, he thought, certain that here was the bottom of civilization, the absolute dregs of Empire, fit only to be washed away.”

You can order this book from: Amazon | Blackwells (Free International shipping)

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