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Sword and Citadel (The Book of the New Sun #3-4 )

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  8,519 Ratings  ·  309 Reviews
Recently voted the greatest fantasy of all time, after The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is an extraordinary epic, set a million years in the future, on an Earth transformed in mysterious and wondrous ways, in a time when our present culture is no longer even a memory. Severian, the central character, is a torturer, exiled from his ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published 2000 by Victor Gollancz (first published October 15th 1994)
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Dan Schwent
Feb 14, 2011 Dan Schwent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, fantasy, 2011
Sword of the Lictor: Severian's stay in Thrax is short lived. After helping a woman escape instead of strangling her, Severian flees Thrax to look for the Pelerines. But can he find them before trouble finds him...?

The plot of the Book of the New Sun progresses quite a bit in this volume. I don't want to give too much away but Severian sure doesn't stay in Thrax very long. I'm still not precisely sure what the hell is going on but it's a pretty enjoyable read. Wolfe's prose has to be savored, no
Hmmm, the only reason I'm not giving this a 5, is that the fourth book in the series becomes almost too esoteric, even for me, a lover of esotericism, to digest.

I haven't read the Urth of the New Sun, the 5th book that is supposed to clear everything up, yet. I might revise my opinion once I've done that, but... let's just say my judgment has become a bit clouded by all the commentary I've by now read on the series and the religious flavorings that such extraneous commentary lends to the work.

Nov 13, 2009 Szplug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gene Wolfe, the poetically accented writer of intricate fantasy/science-fiction hybrids like this exquisite tetralogy, was inspired by that other pen-wielding magician Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth : Wolfe's series also takes place on a radically altered Earth in the far, far future when the Sun's fuel is running dangerously low. Amidst the wreckage of past civilizations lies the sprawling, endless city of Wolfe's protagonist torturer-apprentice Severian. Beginning as a gauzy, haunting ...more
When I finished this book, I wrote:
...I think I've got to think about this book for a little bit. I was liking it well enough (Severian was even growing on me!) and then...

Now I'm moving on to something totally different.

But really I was just lying to myself (just like Severian does). I proceeded to reread the first 100 pages of Shadow and Claw and then spent two hours googling various interpretations. Finally, after a good long while of thinking and brow furrowing, I started reading something e
Jun 03, 2013 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Omnibus edition
Sword of the Lictor: 5 stars
Citadel of the Autarch: 4 stars

Easily 5 stars for the series as a whole.
May 31, 2009 Henrik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Henrik by: Christina Stind Rosendahl
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 31, 2017 Crito rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gene Wolfe has a perhaps earned reputation for literary genre fiction. Immediately that puts expectations in certain places; that he's either impossibly dense, obscure, and convoluted, or he's this writer with rich, luscious prose teeming with symbolism and philosophical musings. The first is flat wrong, and the second is misleading for the same reason as the first. Though definitely stylized, Wolfe's writing is fairly straightforward. The narrative has two feet planted squarely in fantasy and i ...more
John Wiswell
Jun 25, 2007 John Wiswell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy readers, sci fi readers, literary fiction readers, fans of world building
This volume picks up and concludes Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun quartet. Most readers will be absolutely lost without reading the first two volumes.

Re-entering Wolfe's vision of the future, the tone is the same. Severian is as preachy and detached as ever, though readers will be relieved to understand how he got this way, as revealed towards the end of the second book. This does not excuse the needlessly somber and coldly overanalytical style of narration for the rest of these books, though,
Sarah Garner
DNF, I struggled with this series so I gave up with the second book, not my thing. I didn't really get a lot of what was going on.
4.5 stars. Part three of one of the best Science Fiction/Fantasy series ever (after The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator). The Book of the New Sun Tetralogy is a superior achievement. Highly Recommended!!

Winner British Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Winner: Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
This concludes one of the of the most fascinating and poetic fantasy series i have read. I enjoyed the third and the fourth books a lot more than the first two. There are a lot of stunning passages and moments. Even though a lot of things do get resolved in the final book I'm not really sure how much of the world that i really understand.

The fairy tale that reminded me of the jungle book and the story of Romulus and Remus and the other stories later told in the Lazaret are some of my favourite p
Sep 06, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Shelves: sciencefiction
Sheesh! I originally wrote a review for Gene Wolfe's "Sword and Citadel". It was brilliant, pulitzer-prize-winning prose. However, the computer I was using while writing it threw a blue screen of death at me right after I finished it. A familiar tale, I'm sure. It's the modern version of "the dog ate my homework". Sometimes, though, the dog really does eat your homework. What do you say then? Tell the truth or make up a more plausible lie?

The Plot

Severian is a member of the torturer's guild. H
The Book of the New Sun: SFF’s greatest and most challenging epic
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN is considered by many SFF readers as the greatest, most challenging, and most rewarding SF-fantasy epic ever written in the genre. At the same time, its baroque language, ambiguous plot, unreliable narrator, and depth of symbolism are likely to discourage most casual readers. Therefore, new readers need to dedicate themselves to unraveling the many layers of plot, reli
Dec 20, 2013 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic, genre-blending novel, and one which I am most pleased that I have read. If this is what Gene Wolfe's stuff is always like then I think I am going to have to hunt all of his writing down and devour it. If anything, parts 3 and 4 of The Book Of The New Sun series are even more thought-provoking than the first two, and that's saying something.

The Sword Of The Lictor: Having finally reached Thrax, Severian sure doesn't stay there very long. After a strange encounter involving the Claw,
Dec 21, 2007 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Catholic science fiction fans
My three favorite novels in the world are Dune by Frank Herbert, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, and The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. I bet that many of you have read, and many more have heard of, the first two, but I wonder how many have read the last. The Book of the New Sun is less accessible than The Name of the Rose and weirder than Dune. The mind-bending future world, where the sun is so close to dead that you can see the stars in the daytime, is on par with Dune in its richness ...more
Jun 20, 2011 Dergrossest rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These final volumes of The Book of the New Sun continue the travels of our Torturer-hero through the dying planet of Urth, our Earth, thousands of years in the future. Condemned by a rapidly fading Sun, hounded by bizarre beasts, surrounded by mysterious alien power brokers, warring against the mindlessly politically-correct remnants of North America, treating with flesh-eaters who absorb the consciousnesses of the dead, and dodging an ex-lover bent on his destruction with a legion of horrifical ...more
Jun 17, 2009 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second half of Severian's bizarre journeys in Urth, which started with "Shadow and Claw." The latter was a very tough read, but I found Sword and Citadel to be easier, much in part because I got used to Wolfe's elaborate and shifting styles. It was still tough though, for the developments in this book really stretched conventional story telling. I would have to state that this book is masterful in its ideas and blending of the sci-fi and fantasy genres. I don't want to give anything ...more
Ross Lockhart
Jun 26, 2007 Ross Lockhart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Completing Gene Wolfe’s dying earth tetralogy The Book of the New Sun, Sword and Citadel collects books three and four of the series, Sword of the Lictor and Citadel of the Autarch. As with Shadow and Claw, Wolfe’s language is sublime, but his storytelling, particularly when his convincing characters break form to share their own stories with one another, is easily among the best to be had. Here, Severian has begun to ply his trade, working as a lector (or torturer and executioner) in a city far ...more
Jan 12, 2010 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Holy. Crap. I don’t think I’ve ever read a science fiction or fantasy novel that came so close to the complexity of other great works of fiction. It reminds me of Candide, Moby-Dick, many others. I don’t say that type of thing often – I promise I’m not being hyperbolic. This is super-literary bildungsroman stuff, that just happens to occur in the the far, far future on an Earth whose sun is going out.

After finishing this series of books, I immediately thought “Well, I’m going to have to reread t
Mar 09, 2015 Nye rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the encouragement of a good friend of mine who has similar tastes, I just finished the long, difficult, mind-bending slog through George Wolfe's epic four book "New Sun" series.

Warning: this review contains mild spoilers, mostly because it is impossible to discuss the series seriously without them. That said, if you intend to read the books, the spoilers will not actually spoil anything (I think). It is dense enough that even if you know the ENTIRE plot, and have read the denouement several t
Jan 13, 2012 Marcus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What to say. I have conflicted feelings about the four-part Book of the New Sun - not because it's lacking in any way, but because I'd hesitate to recommend it to anyone, at all. There are two reasons: first, I want to keep it all to myself, as my guide to what a story ought to be, and second, because it's next to impossible to read.

Let's get this out of the way. Gene Wolfe is, by some distance, the finest living writer we have. Not in a particular genre or style, not with some disclaimer or qu
Jan 17, 2011 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finished "Sword", almost done with "Citadel"

The third volume, Sword of the Lictor, which I just finished, opens up quite a bit. I love the first two, but this one, I think, is my favorite volume; I'm almost done with the fourth.

In "Sword",
Severian continues to be unlucky in love with a girlfriend who is depressed and freaked out, and if anyone has an excuse, she does.
He betrays his guild, which he swore so passionately not to do again, for the second time and for the same reason and for the sa
May 19, 2009 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book... I don't know what to think about this series. Wolfe writes in an extremely roundabout, limited 1st person puzzle-prose where he throws as many words as possible at you despite a conscious design to tell you as little as humanly possible about what's happening. There's almost no exposition at all - everything is told and shown through little more than extremely obtuse hints (oddly enough, he breaks his own trend by explaining certain plot points in facepalmingly-simple breakdowns - b ...more
David M.
Aug 12, 2011 David M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading reviews, of both a critical and reader-response nature, has done little to illuminate the obscurities present in Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun". Earlier this year I had read Joyce's "Ulysses", I must confess I found that book easier to digest than Wolfe's, but this is not an admission of disregard for "BotNS". Rather, its an acknowledgement of the unsettling implications this book raises, not just of and about the text itself, but also the whole process of reading, and of how I read ...more
David Manns
Dec 30, 2011 David Manns rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy

The final two volumes in Wolfe's masterwork where we continue to follow Severian on his travels across the Urth under the baleful glare of the dying sun. Finally reaching the northern city of Thrax, he finds himself uncomfortable in the role of Lictor and once again shows mercy to a prisoner and goes on the run from the authorities, heading ever north towards the distant war zone.

Wolfe's depiction of this strange, ailing planet is one of the great achievements of fantastic fiction. Science and
Jared Millet
Have you ever loved a book entirely, but were reluctant to recommend it to anyone because you were sure they wouldn’t “get it?” That’s how I feel about Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. It looks, smells, and tastes like an epic SFF adventure, it has all the right parts, the right characters, the right kinds of incidents making up the story, and yet when you put it all together it’s something so utterly other from what decades of genre and storytelling conventions have taught us to expect that when my ...more
Jun 17, 2010 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am going to add to this review. The first was written almost out of spite. Now I can approach it with a little more information.

Time. Time is the what this series is about. It is set in the future. At the end of the Earth in fact - something like 2 Billion years, as the Sun cools prior to expanding into a red giant. It seems like humanity has been around on the earth, in one form or another for the entirety of that time. I say seems because the infuriating and great thing is that you can't rea
Jul 14, 2010 Juliette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second half of the Book of the New Sun, Severian ends his quest to return the Claw of the Conciliator, and finds that there is a lot more to do.

A year ago I read the first half of the series (book #1 and 2). When I got towards the end of book 4 I remembered why it took me so long to finish this series. The solitary life of Severian really got to me, and I grew tired of only his thoughts, his confusions, and his descriptions.

Add to that Gene Wolfe's constant barrage of made up words that one
Adam Calhoun
Oct 06, 2010 Adam Calhoun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most of what I have to say about Wolfe's writing and general world are in the review to the previous book. I will just mention a few things about the final two books here.

The final two books reveal a clear, although slow and occasionally subtle, progression of Severian's character. He is seeing the world, escaping the indoctrination of the torturers' guild, and meeting new people. The progression is so subtle in fact, that you'll reach a point where you suddenly realize he is not at all the char
Frank Ryan
Apr 01, 2014 Frank Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I was a little critical of this series after reading Book One, The Shadow of the Torturer, and the Claw of the Conciliator, finding the narrative rather circumambulatory. But this is clarified in this, the second book, as the extraordinary true nature of Severian, the torturer, as narrator and the equally extraordinary true nature of the narrative is revealed. The quality of the writing, as before, is transcendent. Perhaps the most poetic I have come across in epic fantasy. You all too frequentl
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Book (Club) of the New Sun 3 51 Oct 28, 2013 08:51AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please add number of pages to ISBN 9780575116733 2 21 Apr 11, 2012 10:02PM  
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  • Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle
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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 Book of the New Sun #2)
  • 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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“One of the easiest ways to dominate a man is to demand something he cannot supply.” 17 likes
“We choose--or choose not--to be alone when we decide whom we will accept as our fellows, and whom we will reject. Thus an eremite in a mountain is in company, because the birds and coneys, the initiates whose words live in his 'forest books,' and the winds--the messengers of the Increate--are his companions. Another man, living in the midst of millions, may be alone, because there are none but enemies and victims around him.” 14 likes
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