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Sword & Citadel

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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  10,898 ratings  ·  424 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 brings ...more
Paperback, 411 pages
Published October 15th 1994 by Orb Books
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  10,898 ratings  ·  424 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, 2011, sf
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
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, po-mo, alternate-world
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.

Nick Imrie
This review is for the whole thing, The Book of the New Sun Volumes 1 -4, including Shadow & Claw, because, really, it is one big story.

Now I realise that for many people this is not even close to being the most important consideration, but I have to address the question: is it Fantasy or is it Science Fiction?
I'm a sucker for classifying, categorising, and defining, so this is the kind of question I take great pleasure in. If you don't, feel free to skip on down the paragraphs.

I'm nailing my co
Nov 13, 2009 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, hauntin ...more
David M
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every long story, if it be told truly, will be found to contain all the elements that have contributed to the human drama since the first rude ship reached the strand of Lune...

The world consists of one sedimented layer of apocalypse after another. In this situation it is almost as hard to believe in one last definitive end to everything as it is to believe in salvation.

Book of the New Sun is one of the great Catholic novels, but its vision of faith is in fact much more subtle than Brideshead R
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
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-sf, favorites
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
J.M. Hushour
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Crucially awesome, though the climax might leave some feeling winded and literarily violated, for it bends all conventions of science fiction and fantasy in the best way ever.
I'd have to continue my hyperbole from volume one's review and say this is some of the best of any kind of fiction you might ever read, genre-bound or otherwise!
I will say nothing of plot or nuance. My only advice is: pay attention and remember the green man.
John Wiswell
Jun 25, 2007 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,
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.
May 31, 2009 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.
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sff-genre
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
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
Jun 03, 2013 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.
Xantha Page
Reads like the sort of book Borges would've written about in one of his stories. It is replete with Borgesian and Borges-adjacent symbols: mirrors and labyrinths, masks, masques, and embedded narratives of all kinds. Its first-person narrator is not too far off from that of the unwritten novel Borges and Bioy Casares discuss in the second paragraph of "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," (who deceives the reader) or that of the main part of "The Immortal" (who draws from more than one person's memory). ...more
Sep 06, 2011 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.
May 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
The continuation of the classic story of an unremarkable young man who finds himself rising to the leadership of his nation. Sword & Citadel by Gene Wolfe is the omnibus collection of the last two volumes of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy, The Sword of the Lictor and The Citadel of the Autarch, following the travels of exiled torturer Severian.

The Sword of the Lictor finds Severian arrived in Thrax performing his duties until he doesn’t kill someone for the city’s Archon and runs for the hill
The Final Song ❀
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lasers-n-sheet
Awesome in the original meaning of the word, so far i don't think that i have read anything that compares it.
This along with Shadow & Claw really confirms the calibre of Gene Wolfe as a writer, just as i write this i am still processing everything.

I cant really wait to read more of him, really cannot!
Dec 21, 2007 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
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
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 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,
Jun 20, 2011 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 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
Ross Lockhart
Jun 26, 2007 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
Jan 12, 2010 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
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is sometimes said that the novels that make up Gene Wolfe’s 'Book of the New Sun' series work just as well as a bracing story of fantastic adventures as they do as anything else. I am not sure this is entirely true. It could be said of the first couple of instalments, perhaps, because they provide such a wealth of concrete detail that the later novels draw upon for the poetry of reminiscence. But by the time we get to 'The Sword of the Lictor' the author seems to be doing all he can to get aw ...more
Mar 09, 2015 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
Christian Holub
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like Lord of the Rings, Book of the New Sun is one novel split into smaller volumes collecting smaller books. Just as LOTR was one novel comprised of six books collected into three volumes, Wolfe's magnum opus is one novel of four books collected in two volumes. What this means is that even though this feels like a sequel to Shadow & Claw, they're all part of the same story, and several scenes toward the end of this volume reach back to the very beginning of the first volume. Therefore, to fully ...more
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The last half of the Book of the New Sun is, as expected, a really good conclusion to what has been quite a journey. The writing describes the world around Severian in some ways that are vague, but others detailed in a way that's unique from any other book. The only comparable prose that I've read would be Tolkien. But Gene Wolfe writes in a way that's completely unique to him. The hidden meanings behind the text could probably have their own book written about them, but that's beyond me.
The thi
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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 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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