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

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  8,037 Ratings  ·  292 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. Sword & Citadel br ...more
Paperback, 411 pages
Published October 15th 1994 by Orb Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dan Schwent
Jan 26, 2012 Dan Schwent rated it it was amazing
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.

Feb 23, 2011 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
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 20, 2016 John rated it it was amazing
Omnibus edition
Sword of the Lictor: 5 stars
Citadel of the Autarch: 4 stars

Easily 5 stars for the series as a whole.
Aug 05, 2009 Henrik rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Henrik by: Christina Stind Rosendahl
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Wiswell
Aug 04, 2007 John Wiswell rated it liked it
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,
Oct 17, 2013 kaśyap rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jul 12, 2014 Bryan rated it it was amazing
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,
Jul 01, 2011 Dergrossest rated it it was amazing
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
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
Apr 18, 2008 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
Jul 18, 2007 Ross Lockhart rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 28, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 24, 2013 sj added it
Recommends it for: herself
Recommended to sj by: Kate and Chris
I already have plans to re-read this again in a few months, so I'll put off a proper post until then. I feel like I won't actually be qualified to discuss it until I've read it all at least twice.

And that's really the whole point, innit? Nothing makes any kind of sense until almost the end, and even then you're left wondering what else you missed that maybe seemed unimportant the first, second, fifth time through.

I wasn't entirely impressed with the first two books (well, the second mostly), b
Jan 28, 2010 Nicole rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 21, 2015 Christine rated it liked it
This book was both better and worse than the first one. There were almost no female characters in it, and few of the ones who were in it had any purpose other than to be attractive to, and threatened by, Severian. (If I have to read him waxing lustful over rounded thighs one more time...) He seems to have a few issues interacting with women, and viewing them as autonomous human beings. As an example, at various points in both books one of Severian's companions decides to part ways with Severian, ...more
Oct 24, 2014 Cheri rated it liked it
So, I read this book mostly out of a completionist impulse rather than any strong drive to actually read the thing. Clever, creating a 2-volume omnibus edition.

I guess The Book of the New Sun is a classic. Do I see good things in it? Yes... there are dozens of wonderful ideas in this series. Interesting twists, fascinating mythos.... And the concept of the autarch (and who and what that is...)? Very cool.

Yet this book never grabbed me. While there are riveting concepts here, the writing is so u
Jan 04, 2014 Stuart rated it it was amazing
Certainly one of the most subtle and complex science-fantasy epics in the genre. The surface story is only one aspect of what the author is after; there are far deeper themes lurking below. And the narrator is far from reliable. One of the few series I've read twice, and the second time round I discovered many new things to appreciate about it. Highly recommended.
Mar 31, 2015 Nye rated it really liked it
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
Frank Ryan
Jun 30, 2014 Frank Ryan rated it it was amazing

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
David M.
Aug 16, 2011 David M. rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 19, 2011 Bill rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 12, 2009 Luke rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy/sci-fi lovers
Recommended to Luke by: Mark
This book is the summation of the 'Book of the New Sun' series. While I did enjoy this series very much and was frequently blown-away by the author's imagination, the series didn't have as impactful of an ending as I had hoped.

The series (and this book) should be read for the fact that the author challenges his readers with fantastic use of vocabulary and mind-bending originality. I have read quite a bit of fantasy and sci-fi over the years and Gene Wolfe truly touches on completely original and
David Manns
Jun 02, 2012 David Manns rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Adam Calhoun
Mar 19, 2011 Adam Calhoun rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2011 Juliette rated it really liked it
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
Oct 03, 2012 Marcus rated it it was amazing
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
May 19, 2009 Paul rated it liked it
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
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Book (Club) of the New Sun 3 51 Oct 28, 2013 08:51AM  
  • Tales of the Dying Earth
  • The Second Book of Lankhmar
  • Viriconium
  • The House on the Borderland and Other Novels
  • Mistress of Mistresses
  • The Emperor of Dreams
  • The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (The Conan Chronicles, #1)
  • The History of the Runestaff
  • Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle
  • Time And The Gods
  • Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams
  • The Mark of the Beast and Other Horror Tales (Dover Horror Classics)
  • Engine Summer
  • Voice of Our Shadow
  • The Complete Compleat Enchanter
  • Babel-17/Empire Star
  • Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe
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.” 16 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.” 13 likes
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