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The Citadel of the Autarch (The Book of the New Sun #4)

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  4,002 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Severian the Torturer continues his epic journey across the lands of Urth, a journey as fraught with peril as it is with wonder. Exiled from his guild he is an outcast, but his travels are woven with strange portents. The Claw of the Conciliator, relic of a prophet and promise of a new age, flames to life in his hands. He carries the great sword Terminus Est, the Line of D ...more
Paperback, 317 pages
Published 1991 by Legend (first published 1983)
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The conclusion of the Book of the New Sun—this series was apparently written as one manuscript and divided into four books for publication and they truly feel that way. I think that to properly appreciate it, I would have to go back and read through all four continuously. The second time through, I would know which details to pay attention to and a lot of the small confusions which I have regarding the plot would likely resolve themselves. Unfortunately, life is short and I’m unlikely to be will ...more
I am by no means competent to review this literary masterpiece, but — having read the litany of confusion on the review pages of this volume and its companions — I wish to state the following, simply in order to be helpful.

1. The four volumes of The Book of the New Sun are one long novel, not four separate books. It was originally published in four volumes because it was too expensive and cumbersome to print as one. Don't expect the satisfaction of an ending at the conclusion of every volume. Ex
Gene Wolfe’s deceptively long Book of the New Sun comes to a close with this, the final volume, The Citadel of the Autarch. (Actually, that’s not quite true – he apparently wrote an extra book in 1987 called The Urth of the New Sun, which I may or may not read in the future.)

This was a difficult series to review because it’s really just one long book split into four, and – like many promising stories whose ultimate value hinges on how well they turn out – I couldn’t really judge it until now. So
4.0 stars. Excellent end to a unique and ground-breaking science-fantasy series. I have never read anything like this before. Now that I have completed all four books, I will need to go back and re-read them (or re-listen to them) again as there is so much going on that I believe the second time through may be even more enjoyable than the first. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!

Winner: John W. Campbell Award for Best Novel (1984)
Nominee: Britsh Science Fiction Award for Best Novel (1984)
And so concludes one of the strangest fantasy series I've ever read. At times I felt bowled over by the meandering narrative, beautiful prose and superb story telling but at others I felt a little lost trying to wrestle with the cryptic meanings and grasp just what he author was trying to say.

I particularly loved the first half of this book, while Severian convalesces after a particularly severe fever, he is called upon to adjudicate between several suitors who are trying to win over a woman and
Fantasy Literature
The Citadel of the Autarch is a satisfying conclusion to Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. (A fifth book, The Urth of the New Sun, is a coda to the original four books.) We’ve known all along that Severian the torturer would be the autarch by the end of his story, but his fascinating journey to the throne is what this saga is all about… on the surface, at least.

What it’s really about, for those who want to see it, is the juxtaposition of future and past, the nature of time and space, percept
Gustavo Muñoz (Akito)
I could spend weeks trying to properly organize my thoughts on The Book of the New Sun, but they would still be fundamentally the same; it's the most well written, thought, and executed work of fiction I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It is immense in scope, grandiose in its quality, and in a single word, genius.

I have no way of expressing the inhumane skill that Wolfe has to describe his world. I was completely dumbfounded every time I was able to solve the inner puzzle of some of th
In the first chapter of The Citadel of the Autarch (1983), Severian, no longer a lictor, is walking without career, sword, or companion towards the war. The perpetual conflict between the Ascians and his Commonwealth has been lurking off-stage in the first three of his books, but here we learn with Severian that "War is not a new experience; it is a new world." He watches energy weapons flash violet on the horizon and feels the ground shake beneath him. Hungry, thirsty, weak, and covered with ro ...more
From fragmented miasma to coherent denouement, The Book of the New Sun is a hero's journey from ignorance to enlightenment... the hero being the tenacious reader. Flutter-bys need not apply.
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Citadel of the Autarch is a satisfying conclusion to Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. (A fifth book, The Urth of the New Sun, is a coda to the original four books.) We’ve known all along that Severian the torturer would be the autarch by the end of his story, but his fascinating journey to the throne is what this saga is all about… on the surface, at least.

What it’s really about, for those who want to see it, is the juxtaposition of future and pas
Nick Tramdack
My experience with fantasy trilogies or series has tended to be that the quality drops off in the last one. For instance, Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials definitely fit this pattern of the "weak last book". Who's to say why this happens? All I know is, even the great Gene Wolfe isn't immune.

Of course, the novel's still a four-starrer. It's just that structurally, I can't agree with Wolfe's choices to cram the first half of the book full of basically unrelated materials that seem almost
A good end to the series. I feel like this was the end of the road for this series. I know there is a 5th book, and maybe I just read them too quickly, but I have no interest in reading #5. I think I'll read this series again in the future just to see what I missed the first time around. Often I wondered if I was getting lost or if there was no path to begin with. Either way, like I said before, I enjoyed the journey and this series would be a good one to discuss in a group setting because I thi ...more
Well. I suppose that the ending to this series is apparent from the beginning, if you are some kind of crazy person.

The Book of the New Sun is, perhaps, the shaggiest fantasy I have ever read, which fact only made this conclusion the more dazzling. Even if every moment in the saga was not fully worthy of the ending, the prismatic structure of the whole was such that its flaws seemed only to highlight its many facets.

And, in fact, what I loved best about it were its digressions. Gene Wolfe shows
I had a hard time getting into this classic series, and ultimately I think it is just not for me. I think the first novel is a pretty good indicator for whether or not you will enjoy the series as a whole, since it continues in much the same manner. This last installment was less interesting for me, since it largely featured a war I never managed to care about, and since I was underwhelmed by the conclusion of Severian’s personal story. I have never been especially engaged by the characters or t ...more
Perry Whitford
- 'All the world was a relic.'

This is the least successful book of the series with regards pacing, where the early stages of Severian's extended illness and the story-telling competition - though fascinating in itself - perhaps stretch over a little too long before the wider narrative kicks back in.
But the I have always felt that properly 'The Book of the New Sun' is single work, the piece-meal release of four volumes being nothing but a publishing concession. Read as part of a whole the becalme
The Book of the New Sun is an experience bordering Gnosis. Truths and plot are hidden behind the telling and symbols, awaiting the curious and avid reader to crack their locks and peer into their deep abysses. Thus it works primarily as a sort of lonesome art, rather than an inviting entertainment, reflecting the loneliness of Severian himself. A gleam of entertainment can be seen in the first three books: there are a vast array of creatures and characters "fleshed from dreams" hurrying us along ...more
I've read this series about three times. I used to be an avid reader of fantasy literature, but after experiencing the intellectual and emotional heights Wolfe is capable of reaching, other fantasy novels looked like kids stuff. I had to give up the genre for years after reading this.

I guess Tolkein was the Alpha, and Wolfe was the Omega of fantasy lit for me.
Nov 16, 2010 furious rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves science fiction or fantasy, or words, or having their minds blown
Recommended to furious by: Kerry
Shelves: fantasy, mines, mmpb, sci-fi
wow. The Book of the New Sun is psychedelic. like some kind of inverted nesting doll, whenever you are able to crack it open, you discover that what's inside is actually *bigger* than that in which it rested.

this series has redefined science fiction/fantasy for me in a way that i thought impossible since i first completed the Dune series.
It's not really reasonable to rate the four books of The Book of the New Sun separately; they are not individual novels. The Citadel of the Autarch is #4 of 4, and I read the previous three recently.

This particular volume consists of two main stories. In his attempt to return the Claw to the Pelerines, Severian is injured traveling closer to the war with the northern Ascians. In a hospital camp tended by the Pelerines, he engages the occupants of the cots neighboring his, who each tell fascinat
This is my review of the "Book of the New Sun" as a whole.

I first picked up the New Sun books (in the form of the "Shadow and Claw" omnibus edition) somewhere around 1998 at a Borders bookstore in my hometown. I'd been reading lots of Moorecock and Leiber, and had somehow got turned to Wolfe. Since then, I've read the first book three times, the second book twice, but had never managed to plow my way through the series. However, now that I finally finished (!), I think the acclaim these books g
I don't rate many books at five stars, and while the others were good, they varied between 3.5 (The Sword of the Lictor) and 4.0 (Shadow of the Torturer and Claw of the Conciliator). This one, though, is amazing. I've known since the beginning that I would have to read this a second (or fourth) time, but I will say this for Gene Wolfe: he answers enough questions to be satisfying but leaves many many more things open. Plus, the extent of Severian's unreliability (and a few probable reasons) real ...more
The series ended and I thought, "Huh. I guess that's it." I expected the main themes to come to some massively revealing ending, but considering that the entire book was kinda like a cone without ice cream, I can definitely see why it didn't.

Wolfe writes great detail. There are parts of his book that are so vivid I feel like I have been there. And some of his ideas are unique and real and amazing. But the plot desires a lot. It's like Dune with better eye for (some might argue, meaningless) det
Chris Hawks
This is an odd review for me to write. I've read this book three times now. It's the final volume in a four-book cycle. And I haven't reviewed any of the previous books, but I have reviewed the series as a whole. However, I'm trying to review every book I read this year (wish me luck!) so here goes:

The Citadel of the Autarch is the final volume of Gene Wolfe's career-defining masterpiece, The Book of the New Sun, which I've read every December (sometimes carrying over into January) for the past
This is the last part of the Book of the New Sun tetralogy, which is acclaimed as one of the most intelligent, imaginative, beautifully-written works in fantasy. And, certainly, it is. Wolfe's richly rendered distant future setting of Urth is like nothing else out there and the novels thrum with wonder, gorgeous imagery, and philosophical contemplation. There are interesting characters, strange beings, and fantastic places. There are moments of terror, humor, awe, and sadness. There are multiple ...more
I waited until I finished the last book before I was able to rate or review any of them. It says something that it has taken me about 1200 pages to decide that I didn't like this monolithic tetralogy, but this series never fulfilled its promise. There are a staggering number of literary conventions utilized throughout these books and a literary theorist would probably like this tome a lot. One of the problems with an unreliable first person narrative is the difficulty in characterization of anyo ...more
People really seem to love these books. I haven't let myself read any of the reviews yet (I don't read content reviews until after I've read a book....), but I can see all the 4-5 stars.

And I don't get it.

Maybe it's because it kind of feels like a literary fiction version of fantasy/sci-fi and people like that?

Things were definitely dressed up and intentionally vague - however, at the core, it's still your a pretty basic womanizing-guy-with-a-big-sword-and-big-heart-somehow-becomes-rules-of-eve
Bart Everson
So now I have read the New Sun cycle more times than I can count (but at least a dozen), forward and backward and every which way. I just read it aloud to my wife for the second time. Yes, the whole thing. Well almost — we skipped the "play" chapter in the second volume. The first time I read it to her, I was careful never to explain the many mysteries unfolded within, in hopes she would enjoy the experience of discovery herself. This time I took the opposite approach, explaining every little th ...more
Sep 09, 2007 Tracey rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fantasy readers looking for a relatively worthwhile challenge
Shelves: no-longer-owned
I read The Citadel of the Autarch as much for the enjoyment of the language as to see how Gene Wolfe was going to wrap up the series.

The main character, Severian, starts the book by becoming involved in the Northern War against the Ascians -- IMHO a rather crude parody of Maoist Chinese. He is asked to judge three stories, fights in the battles and recovers from his wounds in a Pelerine hospital. Severian encounters Vodalus again, as well as a certain eunuch from the House Azure. Prophecies come
I feel I should read the series again, as I think I haven't gained a complete understanding of the work as a whole, yet I also feel that it's not entirely worth it - it's long winded, the prose is often trying too hard, and I feel that there are far better works dealing with the same themes present here.
All in all, despite the flaws, much charm remains in Severian the torturer and his world of Urth.
Following the insanely high quality of the previous 3 books, Citadel of the Autarch keeps it awesome. Stuff starts to come together in this one and this was originally the offical endpoint of the New Sun series. Urth of the New Sun came out a few years afterwards- I'll be reading that next.
Still somewhat difficult to get through due to the language/word use/general high demand the author puts on the reader, but in a really awesome challenging way. This whole series has been immensely rewarding.
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Gene Wolfe is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is noted for his dense, allusive prose as well as the strong influence of his Catholic faith, to which he converted after marrying a Catholic. He is a prolific short story writer and a novelist, and has won many awards in the field.

The Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award is given by SFWA for ‘lifetime achievement in science fict
More about Gene Wolfe...

Other Books in the Series

The Book of the New Sun (5 books)
  • The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1)
  • The Claw of the Conciliator
  • The Sword of the Lictor
  • The Urth of the New Sun
The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1) Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2) Sword & Citadel (The Book of the New Sun, #3-4) The Claw of the Conciliator The Sword of the Lictor

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“And what of the dead? I own that I thought of myself, at times, almost as dead. Are they not locked below ground in chambers smaller than mine was, in their millions of millions? There is no category of human activity in which the dead do not outnumber the living many times over. Most beautiful children are dead. Most soldiers, most cowards. The fairest women and the most learned men – all are dead. Their bodies repose in caskets, in sarcophagi, beneath arches of rude stone, everywhere under the earth. Their spirits haunt our minds, ears pressed to the bones of our foreheads. Who can say how intently they listen as we speak, or for what word? ” 23 likes
“What struck me on the beach–and it struck me indeed, so that I staggered as at a blow–was that if the Eternal Principle had rested in that curved thorn I had carried about my neck across so many leagues, and if it now rested in the new thorn (perhaps the same thorn) I had only now put there, then it might rest in everything, in every thorn in every bush, in every drop of water in the sea. The thorn was a sacred Claw because all thorns were sacred Claws; the sand in my boots was sacred sand because it came from a beach of sacred sand. The cenobites treasured up the relics of the sannyasins because the sannyasins had approached the Pancreator. But everything had approached and even touched the Pancreator, because everything had dropped from his hand. Everything was a relic. All the world was a relic. I drew off my boots, that had traveled with me so far, and threw them into the waves that I might not walk shod on holy ground.” 22 likes
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