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The Claw of the Conciliator (The Book of the New Sun #2)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  7,783 Ratings  ·  250 Reviews
Simply overwhelming - Algis Budrys, Fantasy & Science Fiction

In the darkling depths of the fantastical future, the torturer Severian continues his journey of exile to the city Thrax. He carries with him the ancient executioner's sword, Terminus Est, and the Claw of the Conciliator, a gem of extraterrestrial power and beauty which no man is meant to possess. In a world
Paperback, 303 pages
Published February 7th 1982 by Arrow Books Limited (first published 1981)
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Apr 01, 2016 Markus rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2016
I have the same feeling about The Claw of the Conciliator as I had about the first part of the Book of the New Sun. This series is meant to be read for the second time.

And to be able to do that, I have to get through the tedious journey to the end...
Kat  Hooper
Sep 02, 2010 Kat Hooper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Claw of the Conciliator is the second book in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun quartet. If you read The Shadow of the Torturer and felt like you were lost (or drunk), and weren’t sure whether things would get clearer in the second book, I have to tell you that no, they don’t. But if you, like me, enjoy that dreamy I’m-not-sure-where-I-am-or-how-I-got-here-or-where-I’m-going-but-everything-sure-feels-fine literary experience, then read on, because S
J.G. Keely
Wolfe has an almost legendary status amongst fellow authors; Gaiman called him 'a ferocious intellect', Swanwick said he's "the greatest writer in the English language alive today", and Disch called this series "a tetralogy of couth, intelligence, and suavity".

You can rarely trust the popular market to single out good authors, but you'd think it might be safe to listen to the opinions of other writers (especially an assemblage of Nebula and Hugo winners in their own right). I will give his fans
Sep 06, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sciencefiction
I finished this book and I'm looking forward to the next one in the series. I will add a more comprehensive review later. It's tough to figure out how I feel about this series. I like it. I might love it.

Words I had to look up online:
indanthrene - a shade of blue.
cacogen - an antisocial person.
hexaemeron - the first six days of creation.
meretrices - plural of meretrix, a prostitute.
baluchither - a now-extinct mammal that was 18 feet tall, 30 feet long, and weighed 20 tonnes. Also called Paracera
There is no magic. There is only knowledge, more or less hidden.

This quote sums up this book for me because the world which Wolfe presents to us has forgotten the use of the technology and using any kind of technology is magic to them. But uncovering this magic is what makes this world so hard to understand for the reader and it is not helped by the fact that it is exclusively told to us from the pov of Severian. Also there are lot of things hidden in the book with regards to symbolism which Wol
Jan 13, 2010 Traveller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy, dark
The Book of The New Sun is one of Wolfe's more contraversial post-modernist experimentations in narrative structure, in which it is hard to judge each volume on its own; -to be fair, I feel one should read the cycle as a whole and judge it as a whole.

...and as to the accusations of misogynism, I don't really see much misogynism in Severian's sexual escapades as much as in his continual judgement of women as being "weak" and his continuous harping on this theme, which does come across as pretty m
Mike (the Paladin)
Well, this one was not as enthralling to me as the first. Here we follow our hero (so to speak) through many, varied and esoteric adventures and...finally, at long last, as the book ends (view spoiler)

I mentioned in my review of the first volume of this series that there is, especially through the internal dialogues a very existential part of this story. That comes more to the forefront here. We also get lots and lots
Jun 27, 2007 Korynn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fifantasy
Well, this volume starts out by abandoning all the characters introduced to spend time with the last character introduced at the very end of the first volume. If this doesn't catch you off guard, you're a Gene Wolfe fan in the making. Again the environment seems as much a character as the protangonist, the stalwart Severian. Half the time while I'm reading I feel I'm way over my head wading through the middle of some allegory of prophetic literature and every sci-fi/fantasy literary allusion tha ...more
Sarah Anne
I really liked the first half of this, but although I still thought the story was cool, I got kind of bored. Still, it was a good story and I'm curious to see where it's going next.
4.5 stars. The second volume in The Book of the New Sun Tetralogy continuing the story began in The Shadow of the Torturer. This is one of the most imaginative science fiction/fantasy epics ever written. Highly Recommended!

Winner: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1983)
Winner: Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (1983)
Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1983)
Nominee: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Best Novel (1983)
Nominee: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (1983)
Oct 25, 2012 Jefferson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
If Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) is Severian's bildingsroman, depicting his growth from a boy apprentice to a young journeyman of the guild of torturers and his exile into the world outside it, The Claw of the Conciliator (1981), the second novel in Wolfe's four-book science fiction classic The Urth of the New Sun, is his romance, relating his experiences--many involving women he loves--outside Nessus, the City Imperishable, as he attempts to travel north to become the lictor of ...more
Eric Kibler
Jul 24, 2011 Eric Kibler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second volume in Wolfe's tetralogy "Book of the New Sun". In the first volume, lead character Severian starts out as an apprentice torturer and it's not a spoiler to say he ends up as the ruler of a continent (the Autarch) in the final volume. These books are his memoirs, written from the seat of power.

The setting is our world of perhaps thousands of years hence. Space travel had once been common, as had contact with extraterrestrial races. Now there is no more space travel, and we'r
May 27, 2013 Bryce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a reread. Second of the four volumes of the Book of the New Sun. Last time I attempted the book I only made it 2.5 volumes in. Hoping I'll do better this time.

Dialogue contrived (some of the characters are far too eloquent, and the lower-class ones are indicated primarily by dropped g's). Severian is a cold fish emotionally, and while that fits with his character (he tortures and kills people for a living), it can keep stakes low.

But this a trip into the deep future, a pleasure to read
Mar 02, 2016 Kurt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, fantasy, read-2016
I found this one much more confusing than the first book. Going to try the third one anyways.
Alan Chen
May 16, 2016 Alan Chen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Volume 2 of the series is more confusing than the first but the main arc is still compelling and entertaining. At the end of the first volume Severian is at the gate of Nessus about to exit the town when he gets separated from his traveling companions including his paramour, Dorcas. Agia attempts to lure Severian to his death by providing him with a false letter from the already dead Thecla but he's able to fight off the man-apes in the cave and her henchman with the help of the mysterious Claw. ...more
Rachel (Kalanadi)
2.5 stars? Better written and more action than the first book. The worldbuilding became clearer, and a few things (like the antechamber) really caught my attention.

Still didn't really like it though, with all the stomach churning torturer stuff and vaguely misogynistic parts about women's physical weakness and luscious half-clothed bodies. (view spoiler)
aPriL does feral sometimes
I think the author got caught up in showing off and forgot he was writing a novel. While brilliant, I can't imagine anyone saying at this point, "wow, exciting series, can't wait for the next one!" And mean it, unless you are a student of mythology, experimental literature and want to do some showing off yourself in reading almost incomprehensible books. Probably readers who have completed Infinite Jest and Ulysses are bragging about having 'enjoyed this brilliant literary tour-de-force!' Which ...more
Jun 22, 2009 Palmyrah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
If ever there was a "marmite" series in fantasy, it would be Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. To its admirers, it's one of the most brilliant, literary works in the genre; to its detractors, it's frustrating and overly cryptic.

Either way, Wolfe's creation is like nothing else in fantasy. Set eons in the future, when the planet is covered in the remnants of long-forgotten civilizations and the sun is beginning to go out from some mysterious ailment, the cycle follows the journeys of Severian, th
Mar 26, 2013 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Welcome to Conan the Librarian set in the far, far distant future as he lops off heads, resurrects the dead, watches creation-epic plays, and misunderstands the meaning of the universe.

Sound interesting? I've got a claw here I'd like to sell you. It comes with about three tomes of myth references couched deeply in imagery, an insistence on making us think that we must, actually, be living in a disjointed dream, and admittedly damn awesome world-building taking Clarke's maxim to the max but letti
Roddy Williams
Gene Wolfe’s baroque masterpiece continues with Severian still on his rambling journey across a far future Earth. Although this was recently republished under the Gollancz Fantasy masterworks imprint it does have to be noted that this is not Fantasy. It slips all too easily into the Science Fantasy label. The hero appears to inhabit a pseudo medieval world in some dark ages of the future and carries a sword called Terminus Est. At heart however it is solid Science Fiction. It’s disguised up to i ...more
Jeff James
Jul 24, 2009 Jeff James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This volume of the Book of the New Sun was a bit slow-going for me. It's a relatively short book - 250 pages - but the storyline is complex, the cast of characters is large and confusing, and the narrator is possibly unreliable even though he claims to remember everything that happens to him. This part of the story definitely amped up the surrealism, too, which didn't help as far as keeping things straight. I'm really enjoying this series so far, however, and I look forward to eventually reading ...more
Kevin Kelsey
Massively boring wheel-turning middle novel in a series that somehow won a Nebula in 1982. The last lines of this novel are:

“Here I pause. If you wish to walk no farther with me, reader, I do not blame you. It is no easy road.”

And I am very tempted to take you up on that offer of abandonment Gene, because your second novel in The Book of the New Sun was such a huge pain in the ass to get through, even at its scant 275 pages. I will say this though, there are enough cool little tidbits in here th
Sean Chick
Mar 25, 2013 Sean Chick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like the first book this is one is a meandering and frustrating trip through a dying world. It is more a collection of scenes and observations than a coherent plot. Much of this can be laid at Severian's feet. He is not so much unreliable as he is unable to understand some of what goes on around him. So often things just happen and we only understand it later on or sometimes not at all. Overall, I am surprised I am still reading and enjoying this series. I think that is because of Wolfe's contem ...more
Apr 06, 2010 Sandra rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can see now that I started with book two of the series, but from the reviews of book one, I doubt that reading the first one would lay my complaints to rest. I doubt I would have made it through #1 any more than I'm going to torture myself by reading through this one. I'm not finishing this. I can't tell what's happening but worse than that, I'm revolted by what little I can tell. The main character is an executioner in a revolting and backward society who commits savage actions on others and ...more
Todd Johnson
Nov 08, 2012 Todd Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Here's my only problem with Gene Wolfe novels: he's like the Umberto Eco of fantasy, in that you spend maybe 7% of the time reading one of his books wondering how much you're missing. But just getting the first level or two of the story is plenty to really enjoy it, and Wolfe's prose is so much fun to read.

This book has a really great fable-within-a-book, and a too-allusive-for-me play-within-a-book.
Feb 06, 2011 Alotor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the first book a lot... but this second book it's a lot stranger than the first. I know Gene Wolf it's a tough reading, but in my opinion the story of the first book was better. Anyway there are 2 more books to finish the series so I hope everything fits into its place when it's all wrapped up.
Kate Sherrod
For an in-depth assessment, check out my blog series SUNS, SUNS, SUNS at
Jul 19, 2016 Hellread rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a mess! The book is weird for the sake of being weird. The characters are underdeveloped. The story is all over the place and introduces way too many concepts it doesn't bother explaining. It has too much faffing about and even some out of place elements. I wanted to like it, especially for the world-building, but it's not delivering.

(view spoiler)
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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 Sword of the Lictor (The Book of the New Sun #3)
  • The Citadel of the Autarch (The Book of the New Sun #4)
  • The Urth of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun, #5)

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“That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin.” 37 likes
“Time itself is a thing, so it seems to me, that stands solidly like a fence of iron palings with its endless row of years; and we flow past like Gyoll, on our way to a sea from which we shall return only as rain.” 7 likes
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