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Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2 )

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  12,175 Ratings  ·  773 Reviews
The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe's most remarkable work, hailed as "a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis" by Publishers Weekly, and "one of the most ambitious works of speculative fiction in the twentieth century" by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Shadow & Claw brin ...more
Paperback, 413 pages
Published October 15th 1994 by Orb Books
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J.G. Keely
Sep 24, 2007 J.G. Keely rated it it was ok
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
Dan Schwent
Feb 06, 2008 Dan Schwent rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, fantasy, 2011
The Shadow of the Torturer: Apprentice torturer Severian shows mercy for an imprisoned woman and helps her commit suicide rather than endure weeks of torture. For his crimes, Severian is sentenced to travel too the village of Thrax and take up the post of carnifex. Will Severian make it to Thrax alive?

The Shadow of the Torturer isn't your grandmother's fantasy. The tale of Severian isn't the hopeful quest story that's been written and re-written umpteen times in the past fifty years. The setting
Apr 17, 2008 Bess rated it liked it
Update 5/26: finally finished. Man, this is an intense book. I was tempted to give up on it at various points because it's so thoroughly dick lit -- I mean, the hero carries around a sword that he unsheathes, oils, and re-sheaths routinely throughout his travels, and he sleeps with nearly every woman he encounters, but usually in the most patronizing way imaginable (there's actually an extremely painful, cringeworthy attempt at some sort of epiphanic look into the male psyche, wherein it is brou ...more
Nov 07, 2010 Rob rated it it was ok
----- update 12/2/2015 -----

On this, my first re-reading, I'm stopping with Shadow of the Torturer in a "for now" kind of moment. There are some other things I'd like to read as 2015 winds down. Not sure if I enjoyed the story more or about the same this time around. Certainly not less.

----- original review -----

My first pass through Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer/Claw of the Conciliator was summed up with a status update I made about two-thirds of the way through:

Flashes of brilliance betw
Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads
MUST read at first available opportunity, b/c Servo is an ode to one of Pierce Brown's favorite characters in literature, Severian the Torturer .
Dec 21, 2007 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing
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
Ross Lockhart
Jun 21, 2007 Ross Lockhart rated it it was amazing
Forming the first half of Gene Wolfe’s dying earth tetralogy The Book of the New Sun, Shadow and Claw collects the series’ first two books, Shadow of the Torturer and Claw of the Conciliator. The conceit of the The Book of the New Sun is fairly unique, presenting itself as Gene Wolfe’s translation (also the case with Wolfe’s Latro in the Mist) of a memoir from the far future, forming a sort of bildungsroman of a torturer’s apprentice named Severian (which sounds so much like Severin from Leopold ...more
Mar 26, 2016 Lindsay rated it liked it
I stopped after The Shadow of the Torturer.

It was ok, and I fully grasp the idea that a reader should be doing a lot of the work when reading a book. But not this much work.
May 28, 2011 Lepton rated it did not like it
Gene Wolfe is not a misgynist??!!

Before all the sensitive types start in on Gene Wolfe's treatment of women in Shadow and Claw, I thought I would head off such criticisms by exploring women's freedom in Wolfe's Urth.

On Urth, women are:

1. Permitted to learn to read. There are actually a number of women in the narrative that not only can read but also can read and understand something akin to Latin. But, don't you dare call it Latin, because it's not. Gene Wolfe said so.

2. Free to wear clothes or
Mar 18, 2012 Apatt rated it really liked it
Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is one of the most revered severed series of all time. Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin, GRRM and goodness knows what other celebs swear by them, not to mention armies of fans among sf readers everywhere. With this kind of adulation writing a review for the books is a risky undertaking. I mean you are fine if you love the books unconditionally and happy to declare yourself a convert, but what if you don't?

Fortunately for me I like the book (part 1 & 2) well en
I started into this series with trepidation—I wasn’t sure exactly how I would feel about a torturer as a main character. But Severian (get it, severe, sever) turns out to be charming in his own way—he is intelligent, empathetic, and friendly. Most of all, torture is just a job. He does it because it is he is a member of the guild, not because he has some psychopathic joy in the process. He does what needs to be done, follows the rules of his guild (except that one time that gets him into trouble ...more
Christopher Paolini
Mar 21, 2016 Christopher Paolini rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
I just finished reading Shadow & Claw, the first half of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. It is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive sci-fi/fantasy books I’ve ever read. The prose is gorgeous: a unique and wonderful mixture of language that employs all sorts of ancient and otherwise unused words to evoke a far different time and place. I’m not done with the series yet, so I’m not sure how it’s going to end, but so far, I’ve found the story dark and mysterious and enthralling. T ...more
Jan 17, 2015 Erik rated it it was amazing
The book’s cover offers a blurb from Neil Gaiman: "The best SF novel of the last century."

Yeah, okay Neil, I thought to myself. I bet you say that to all the pretty books.

Then I read the book. And he was right. At least, right if you define "best" as "none better" rather than "better than all." Book of the New Sun belongs in a class of its own. If there's anything to compare it with, I haven't read it.

With this quartet, Gene Wolfe did for speculative literature what Raymond Chandler did to detec
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Brilliant but also crazy difficult to unpack, and truly tedious for me for long stretches.

*sigh* Maybe I'll give it another shot one of these times, now that I'm (definitely) older and (hopefully) wiser.
Nov 13, 2009 Szplug rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 06, 2017 BlackOxford rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Fantastic Conjunctivitis

Wolfe is most often compared to Tolkien and Lewis. However this is regurgitation of marketing hype. There is little in terms of style or symbology to link Wolfe with either. Aside from the genre of fantasy and a clear talent for creative world-building, Wolfe dwells in a very different universe, a universe not all that dissimilar from Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy.

The physical environment of Wolfe's city of Nessus could easily fit into Peake's Gormenghast Castle and
Jun 10, 2008 Grace rated it did not like it
I must say that when I picked up the book I was not expecting this. Assasin's guild sounds interesting, but it was the worst book I have ever read.
The world Gene Wolf created is great, but the characters...Bleck. Severian is just this random kid who falls in love with every single woman he sees; I though it was so stupid that I continued on with the story. Now, I don't know why I wasted my time.
What was with the greenhouse that took up most of the book? And the flower to fight people with, what
Oct 15, 2007 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Gene Wolfe's four-volume Book of the New Sun must rank among the finest works of literature of the past quarter-century. SHADOW AND CLAW is an omnibus consisting of the first half, the volumes THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER and THE CLAW OF THE CONCILIATOR.

The Book of the New Sun is shelved among science-fiction, but it is much more. Wolfe draws on Christianity, the works of J.L. Borges, medieval morality plays, and a thousand elements of "Spritus Mundi." It is essentially a Christian allegory, as "S
Nick (Book-Absorbed Reviews)
Mar 10, 2017 Nick (Book-Absorbed Reviews) rated it it was amazing
There are certain books that can be considered life-changing experiences. Gene Wolfe is an author who has written one of those for me. The Shadow of the Torturer may very well be my favorite fantasy book of all-time if you pinned me down and forced me to give you an answer. I first read it in my early twenties, and recently picked it up again because I wanted to visit the world of Urth again. In many ways, The Shadow of the Torturer has everything that I look for in a great read: awesome world-b ...more

I've been reading bits and pieces of this book for month and it was only in the last couple of days that I gathered the energy to finish it all. Let me state the positives of this book succinctly: it starts off excellently, the language is just hard enough but not too hard and the worldbuilding is fascinating. However, considering this is rated just below The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as one of the greatest fantasy-sci/fi works of all, I cannot quite see why. I believe that, perhaps, the
John Wiswell
Jun 25, 2007 John Wiswell rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Fantasy readers, sci fi readers, readers who love heavy symbolism, fans of world building
This is a handy volume, with the first two books of the series together. That's especially useful to someone new to Gene Wolfe since the first book (Shadow of the Torturer) does very little to establish a plotline and ends extremely abruptly. Your curiousity for what happened after the end is sated by flipping over to the second book (Claw of the Conciliator), which does more with plotlines, though it is still a wildly tangential book. This is not a plot-hound's series. It's not even a particula ...more
Feb 11, 2008 Tt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that I saved the five stars for. Because I have never read anything that compares to this (except the sequels), and probably never will.

Wolfe is in a class of his own. The writing, the imagination, the world, the events, the characters, everything is beyond anything I have ever encountered in literature. So many times was I left with total amazement at the vistas Wolfe reveals, or the events he portrays. Reading this is full of the purest sense of wonder, the joy of discovering
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
Nov 03, 2013 Bryan rated it it was amazing
It has been suggested that The Book Of The New Sun series is too complex a work to evaluate on one reading. First of all, I don't necessarily believe that and secondly, I have a two kids, a full-time job and a band, and I'm also not the quickest reader. As it seems that I'll probably never get to read all the books I'd like to in my lifetime, one read-through is going to have to suffice, at least for now. I'd love to re-read it someday, though, and if any series deserves a re-read, it's this one ...more
Jun 04, 2009 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult book to review, partly due to the fact that the story is far from concluded at the end of this volume, but mainly because this is one of the most unusual fantasy books I have ever read.

This volume contains the first two parts of a quartet. At the end of each part, the author pauses, reminding the reader that they may wish to stop reading on at this point and that it is no easy road. Wolfe is right, it is no easy road but somehow I feel it is worth reading on.

The prose is poet
Jul 25, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
If Peake's Titus Alone(after being rewritten by Lovecraft and Borges) was narrated by the crazy guy from Nabokov's Pale Fire it would only hint at the joys of this book...
Sep 30, 2007 Carl rated it it was amazing
Have now finished this first volume (two novels) in the New Sun series of Wolfe's-- great stuff! Well, you have to be someone who doesn't need to be catered to. I notice that with a lot of Wolfes' books those who don't like them complain about them being hard to get into, dragging, not going anywhere, that sort of thing-- but I think we can attribute this to different kinds of reading, the sort of which CS Lewis talks about in his Experiment in Criticism, if I remember correctly-- I believe it c ...more
Apr 05, 2009 Henrik rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone curious to read original science fantasy
Recommended to Henrik by: Christina Stind Rosendahl
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 17, 2010 Brittany rated it really liked it
Shelves: sciencefiction
I can understand why people rave about this book, and I can see why people hate it, too. I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, though there were a few factors that churned my stomach a bit.

First the positive: This was a dense, intense, vividly written and imagined universe. It's Earth, a long time in the future, as we're approaching the death of the sun. A mythology has grown up around the dying sun, in fact, complete with prophecies of a New Sun that will herald the dawn of a newer and brighter era,
Mar 20, 2014 Pinkyivan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a review of all 4 novels in the series Book of the New Sun by Gene Wofle.
When talking about this book I often don't know where to start. Do I want to say first and foremost that it has an amazing setting? Do I want to say that Severian, the protagonist, is an immensly complex character whose perspective adds layers upon layers to the book? Do I want to praise the prose which perfectly recreates in its reader what Wolfe had imagined? I cannot stress enough how great this book is. But let
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Goodreads Librari...: Please correct page count - 9781429966276 3 14 Jun 16, 2016 10:37AM  
  • Tales of the Dying Earth
  • Viriconium
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams
  • Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle
  • Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
  • The History of the Runestaff
  • Time And The Gods
  • The Iron Dragon's Daughter
  • Engine Summer
  • Mistress of Mistresses
  • Stories of Your Life and Others
  • Aye, and Gomorrah: And Other Stories
  • Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honour of Jack Vance
  • The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (The Conan Chronicles, #1)
  • Shriek: An Afterword (Ambergris, #2)
  • Ill Met in Lankhmar (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #1-2)
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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“People don't want other people to be people.” 96 likes
“We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges. When soldiers take their oath they are given a coin, an asimi stamped with the profile of the Autarch. Their acceptance of that coin is their acceptance of the special duties and burdens of military life—they are soldiers from that moment, though they may know nothing of the management of arms. I did not know that then, but it is a profound mistake to believe that we must know of such things to be influenced by them, and in fact to believe so is to believe in the most debased and superstitious kind of magic. The would-be sorcerer alone has faith in the efficacy of pure knowledge; rational people know that things act of themselves or not at all.” 67 likes
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