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The Citadel of the Autarch

(The Book of the New Sun #4)

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  6,721 ratings  ·  229 reviews
Volume Four of the Book of the New Sun.

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
Paperback, 330 pages
Published November 1st 1983 by Timescape Books (first published January 1983)
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Bill Kerwin
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 20th-c-amer

It is more than a month since I finished the tetralogy The Book of the New Sun, but I have not, until now, reviewed its final volume, The Citadel of the Autarch. I am not yet certain I even like these books, let alone how to think about them.

Perhaps this is a sign of Wolfe’s greatness, for writers of genius often require serious reflection and re-reading. (Ursula Le Guin has called Wolfe “our Melville,” and this reminds me that I don’t believe I adequately appreciated Moby Dick until at least m
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
So now that all the big reveals have come through, plus a very nice one to redefine the rest of the series, I can officially say that I *like* this series instead of just sitting around being mystified and weirded out by it while wondering how to justify the traditional action events with the truly odd.

And now I know.

It's pretty awesome, but not quite up to the level of mindfuqery that I was prepared to expect based on all the multiple time-travel and memory-cannibalisms that we've been subjecte
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This 5-star rating is more for the series as a whole than for the single volume itself (it’s definitely very good, but I think I may still like The Sword of the Lictor better). There still remains of course the ‘coda’ volume to the series , The Urth of the New Sun, which truly resolves many of the major issues that are still left open ended for both Severian and the planet Urth itself upon the conclusion of _Citadel_, but I have to admit that I can now more clearly see how volume four is in many ...more
Juho Pohjalainen
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is done.

Not an easy road, as I was warned - but hell of a ride.

This final installment starts off mildly enough, as we spend a considerable amount of time in a field hospital, listening to a bunch of entertaining but seemingly meaningless stories and fables. Then there's the war itself, seemingly building up to the exciting climax as we're finally caught up with the events and see what the whole fuss even was about. And then it gets weird. I find myself doubling back to realize what the hell i
Vit Babenco
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The rusted chains of prison moons are shattered by the sun. I walk a road, horizons change, the tournament's begun. The purple piper plays his tune; the choir softly sings three lullabies in an ancient tongue for the court of the crimson king.” Reading The Citadel of the Autarch I often remembered the Court of the Crimson King song – they both boast the same enthralling atmosphere of luxuriant decadence.
“The dead Autarch, whose face I had seen in scarlet ruin a few moments before, now lived aga
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
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
4.5 stars rounded down. A very satisfying ending to a wild ride. :)

The Book of the New Sun series overall gets 5 stars, and is automatically added to my "reread someday" pile.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a ride! What a work of weird ingenuity!

The rating is for the tetralogy as a whole.

The last book, in fact, was the weakest for me, cause of extensive battle descriptions – which always makes me skim pages. – Yet „weakest“ in case of the „Book of the New Sun“ still is breathtaking.

„The Citadel of the Autarch“ wraps up most (several? … depends on how many plotlines readers found in the first books) of the plot lines that sprinkled Severian’s story. What makes it so satisfying for me is the fa
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-fiction, sff
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
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm not entirely sure I'm any closer to understanding The Book of the New Sun after finishing it, but, on the other hand, maybe I am. Perhaps Wolfe's genius is leaving his readers unsure of what they know.

(See my review of the full series here:

The more purely literary merits (of which there are plenty!) are better discussed by others (for instance: I will say that Wolfe's prose can be beautiful even as it's veering int
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Perry Whitford
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'All the world was a relic.'

In the fourth and final part of the Book of the New Sun a friendless Severian meanders towards the frontline where the Commonwealth is fighting with Ascians, ending up on the battlefield and meeting the Autarch, who he has been destined to replace since the first page of the series.

We finally understand what he meant when he began his narrative by describing how he 'backed into the throne', while at the same time you come to realize how this has not in fact been the
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)
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Easily 5 stars for the series as a whole.

4.5 stars for this 4th installment; the extra half-star is in appreciation of the fact that Wolfe managed to satisfactorily wrap up such a tangled and contorted plot. I've read many books that beg for a second reading, but this is the only one I've read where the narrator literally instructs you to go back and read it again. Who am I to argue with the Autarch, whose plot twists are the delight of his subjects?
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the fourth book in the series The Book of the New Sun. There’s still one more book, but this was the conclusion to the main story arc that our main character, Severian, has been telling us. This review is therefore more of a review of the first four books as a whole than it is of this fourth book in particular.

I’ve enjoyed this series quite a bit. It’s an interesting mix of genres. It was clear from early on that this was really science fiction, and that becomes increasingly apparent as
Kat  Hooper
Sep 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
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
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 12, 2015 rated it liked it
This series as a whole would have been a lot better if it hadn't been written by someone like Gene Wolfe. Great ideas marred by Wolfe's bizarrely reactionary politics, crammed full of misogyny and regressive shit from beginning to end. It's like wading through shit and occasionally finding a 20 dollar bill. Did not feel worth it in the end. Third book was p good though.
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Tobias Langhoff
May 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And so this epic tetralogy closes; actually, this is rather the fourth volume of one long novel, because things didn’t start making a lick of sense before the third book, and even know there are lots of things I don’t understand. I intend to read the coda next, The Urth of the New Sun, which apparently will make things even clearer, although many people say that a second read-through might be required too.

It was a wild ride, and a great one. Looking back, I see I gave the second book four stars
Quite a lot here that I didn't fully comprehend.

Kinda sorry I spent so much time reading The Book of the New Sun, because I'm not likely to read it again, which is what most fans recommend.

Interesting that the narrator, Severian, was trained to be a professional torturer. I can say from personal experience that he is most skilled at his craft. In short, I was a victim of his book!
Daniel Polansky
I picked up the first book of these, Shadow of the Tortuer, from the Edgartown public library when I was twelve or thirteen, because it had cover where the hero held a sword, and that was the only sort of book I read when I was twelve or thirteen. A thousand pages later I was left in awkward awe at the journey; twenty years later, I feel similarly.

Book of the New Sun is, for my money, the only work of high fantasy which can be justly called literature. It functions, first of all, as an enjoyab
Brian Rogers
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Staggeringly good as always. The series is so deep. and so rewards rereading, that it's hard to not dip back into it every few years. This final volume feels like its broken into three clear segments - the lazaret, the war and the autarchy - and each gives new insights into the world and, increasing;ly the underlying philosophical and religious underpinnings of the series.

If you have made it this far alongside Severian, dear reader, you will not be disappointed. But it is no easy road.
Fuzzball Baggins
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cool story, cool ending. I wish the author would stick to science fiction, though, because there is nothing more annoying than a scifi author who thinks he sounds all clever by adding science fact to his book (like trying to explain how the scifi stuff works with real science) but then getting it wrong. Antimatter does not have negative gravity, and a photon cannot travel at a different speed than another photon when both are traveling through the same medium. The story deserves five stars but f ...more
I'm going to review the entire Book of the New Sun series here, rather than split the reviews up between the volumes.

Other people have said that The Book of the New Sun is like nothing they’ve ever read. That’s nearly true, for me, but Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota (for which she cites Gene Wolfe as an inspiration) is remarkably similar in quite a few ways. Both four-volume series feature suspiciously unreliable narrators who know much more about their world than they’re telling us (and can’t seem t
Wilson Green
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After nearly 1,000 pages I finally completed the Book of the New Sun! Wait there's a coda book?
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Gene Wolfe was an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He was 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 was 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 f

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 Urth of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun, #5)

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