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The Claw of the Conciliator

(The Book of the New Sun #2)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  10,583 ratings  ·  436 reviews
Severian is in possession of a gem considered to be "The Claw of the Conciliator", a powerful relic of the Master of Power, a legendary figure of mythic proportions. Armed with his sword, Terminus Est, and the Claw, Severian continues his journey to Thrax, the city of his exile. Bizarre apes, strange cannibalistic rituals, and the foreigner named Jonas all lie in his futur ...more
Paperback, 303 pages
Published February 1st 1982 by Pocket (first published 1981)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Kat  Hooper
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Claw of the Conciliator is the second book in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun quartet. If you read The Shadow of the Torturer and felt like you were lost (or drunk), and weren’t sure whether things would get clearer in the second book, I have to tell you that no, they don’t. But if you, like me, enjoy that dreamy I’m-not-sure-where-I-am-or-how-I-got-here-or-where-I’m-going-but-everything-sure-feels-fine literary experience, then read on, because S
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2016
I have the same feeling about The Claw of the Conciliator as I had about the first part of the Book of the New Sun. This series is meant to be read for the second time.

And to be able to do that, I have to get through the tedious journey to the end...
Bill Kerwin

People tell me that Gene Wolfe’s tetralogy The Book of the New Sun is a fantasy masterpiece, but after completing the first two volumes, the jury—at least this particular one-man jury—is still out.

In my review of the first volume, The Shadow of the Torturer, I praised the superb prose, the vivid descriptions, the realistic evocations of a pseudo-medieval world, and the tantalizing possibility that it may be the culmination of a great civilization (possibly ours) in decline.

All this is equally tr
J.G. Keely
Apr 02, 2010 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
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now that I’ve read my second Gene Wolfe book, I can’t help but notice some striking similarities between both of the first books in his famed The Book of the New Sun series.

First of all, his writing in both books is gorgeous bordering almost impeccable. Seriously. If any fantasy/sci-fi fans are tired of dull and trite writing and want something a little more vintage and colorful, these books are a godsend.

Secondly, I noticed that while reading this book, just like the first book, the first hal
aPriL does feral sometimes
I think the author Gene Wolfe got caught up in showing off his knowledge of world myths and forgot he was writing a novel. If you have studied myths, then maybe you will enjoy 'The Claw of the Conciliator', book two in 'The Book of the New Sun' series.

While 'The Book of the New Sun' series is brilliant, I can't imagine anyone saying at this point, "wow, exciting series, can't wait for the next one!" and actually mean it, unless you are a student of mythology, experimental literature and want to
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sciencefiction
I finished this book and I'm looking forward to the next one in the series. I will add a more comprehensive review later. It's tough to figure out how I feel about this series. I like it. I might love it.

Words I had to look up online:
indanthrene - a shade of blue.
cacogen - an antisocial person.
hexaemeron - the first six days of creation.
meretrices - plural of meretrix, a prostitute.
baluchither - a now-extinct mammal that was 18 feet tall, 30 feet long, and weighed 20 tonnes. Also called Paracera
Mike (the Paladin)
Well, this one was not as enthralling to me as the first. Here we follow our hero (so to speak) through many, varied and esoteric adventures and...finally, at long last, as the book ends (view spoiler)

I mentioned in my review of the first volume of this series that there is, especially through the internal dialogues a very existential part of this story. That comes more to the forefront here. We also get lots and lots
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
A lot of digression that doesn't add to world building or characterization and story again moves at slow pace but everything is so well written that it doesn't take away from quality of this book. I really like that Wolf avoids exposition as much as possible and despite that world building blocks few and far between there is always sense of cohesive picture somewhere in background that only needs more puzzle pieces.

Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
So, we ended the last volume on a cliffhanger and start the next in a completely different place with no idea what happened. Sounds like a Wolfe novel all right, don’t get too comfortable.

We find ourselves in the village of Saltus, some miles north of the gate in the great Wall of Nessus where we last saw our ‘hero’ and his friends. Severian is riding a bit of a high and considers himself something of a celebrity as he is about to 'ply his art' at the behest of the leading magistrate as part of
Feb 21, 2016 rated it liked it
There is no magic. There is only knowledge, more or less hidden.

This quote sums up this book for me because the world which Wolfe presents to us has forgotten the use of the technology and using any kind of technology is magic to them. But uncovering this magic is what makes this world so hard to understand for the reader and it is not helped by the fact that it is exclusively told to us from the pov of Severian. Also there are lot of things hidden in the book with regards to symbolism which Wol
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dark, sf-fantasy
The Book of The New Sun is one of Wolfe's more contraversial post-modernist experimentations in narrative structure, in which it is hard to judge each volume on its own; -to be fair, I feel one should read the cycle as a whole and judge it as a whole.

...and as to the accusations of misogynism, I don't really see much misogynism in Severian's sexual escapades as much as in his continual judgement of women as being "weak" and his continuous harping on this theme, which does come across as pretty m
I really liked the first half of this, but although I still thought the story was cool, I got kind of bored. Still, it was a good story and I'm curious to see where it's going next.
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
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars - cause I'm still (or even more so) grossed out by Severian's take on women. What a horrible character!

There is no magic. There is only knowledge, more or less hidden.

This sentence from the last chapter summarizes my take on the novels pretty well. Meanwhile I'm convinced that I'm not reading a Fantasy novel, but a cleverly staged SF novel. So while reading I try to put together all the bits and pieces of weird information in context of aliens, bioengineering, time travel machines and
Oct 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
If Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) is Severian's bildingsroman, depicting his growth from a boy apprentice to a young journeyman of the guild of torturers and his exile into the world outside it, The Claw of the Conciliator (1981), the second novel in Wolfe's four-book science fiction classic The Urth of the New Sun, is his romance, relating his experiences--many involving women he loves--outside Nessus, the City Imperishable, as he attempts to travel north to become the lictor of ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Welcome to Conan the Librarian set in the far, far distant future as he lops off heads, resurrects the dead, watches creation-epic plays, and misunderstands the meaning of the universe.

Sound interesting? I've got a claw here I'd like to sell you. It comes with about three tomes of myth references couched deeply in imagery, an insistence on making us think that we must, actually, be living in a disjointed dream, and admittedly damn awesome world-building taking Clarke's maxim to the max but letti
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the second volume in Wolfe's tetralogy "Book of the New Sun". In the first volume, lead character Severian starts out as an apprentice torturer and it's not a spoiler to say he ends up as the ruler of a continent (the Autarch) in the final volume. These books are his memoirs, written from the seat of power.

The setting is our world of perhaps thousands of years hence. Space travel had once been common, as had contact with extraterrestrial races. Now there is no more space travel, and we'r
Vit Babenco
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“And the colours of the sea bind your eyes with trembling mermaids, and you touch the distant beaches with tales of brave Ulysses, how his naked ears were tortured by the sirens sweetly singing, for the sparkling waves are calling you to kiss their white laced lips.” CreamTales of Brave Ulysses.
Yes, Severian is a kind of Ulysses astray somewhere in the ocean of the future and the sirens are singing to him their sweet deadly songs calling him to the great unknown.
And Severian possesses now a p
Kevin Kelsey
Massively boring wheel-turning middle novel in a series that somehow won a Nebula in 1982. The last lines of this novel are:

“Here I pause. If you wish to walk no farther with me, reader, I do not blame you. It is no easy road.”

And I am very tempted to take you up on that offer of abandonment Gene, because your second novel in The Book of the New Sun was such a huge pain in the ass to get through, even at its scant 275 pages. I will say this though, there are enough cool little tidbits in here th
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fifantasy
Well, this volume starts out by abandoning all the characters introduced to spend time with the last character introduced at the very end of the first volume. If this doesn't catch you off guard, you're a Gene Wolfe fan in the making. Again the environment seems as much a character as the protangonist, the stalwart Severian. Half the time while I'm reading I feel I'm way over my head wading through the middle of some allegory of prophetic literature and every sci-fi/fantasy literary allusion tha ...more
4.5 stars. The second volume in The Book of the New Sun Tetralogy continuing the story began in The Shadow of the Torturer. This is one of the most imaginative science fiction/fantasy epics ever written. Highly Recommended!

Winner: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1983)
Winner: Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (1983)
Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1983)
Nominee: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Best Novel (1983)
Nominee: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (1983)
Megan Baxter
May 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I finished this book over a week ago, before I was away and busy and stressed for a week. I left myself just one note in the draft file for the book review, and it reads: "oh my god, having characters that do not care about anything is not interesting!"

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
While the plot continues with the story Wolfe started in The Shadow of the Torturer, structurally Wolfe gets a little funkier with his second book. I liked it a lot, even though understanding it is sorta like seeking clarity in a broken mirror floating down in swift-flowing river. ...more
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the second book in the series The Book of the New Sun. I liked it at about the same level as I liked the first. I was particularly wrapped up in the story for the first half or so, but my interest started to fade a little toward the end.

One of the sections near the end that I really had trouble getting through was the play. There’s a fairly large chapter in which we’re given the script for a play that is performed. I’ve never been crazy about reading things in that format to begin with,
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars? Better written and more action than the first book. The worldbuilding became clearer, and a few things (like the antechamber) really caught my attention.

Still didn't really like it though, with all the stomach churning torturer stuff and vaguely misogynistic parts about women's physical weakness and luscious half-clothed bodies. (view spoiler)
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Again excellent - a better Dune, a much better Narnia, a peer to Ulysses. Throws you off balance right from page one - there's about 50 pages of plot missing between the first and second volumes, never really recounted. Since the Book is a chronicle written much later by Severian, this is maybe to show how old the book is when the in-universe reader finds it.

One of the great things about Severian is that he's various - he has many conflicting goals, none of which is really the master quest. He
What the hell is this book even about? All I can say is "fever dream." And maybe "LSD trip."

I think I kind of like fever dream writing though? If it is done well? I realized part of the way through that I was reminded of one of my favorite authors, Tanith Lee. It's like you are always just on the cusp of understanding something essential and beautiful about the universe but you never quite get there.

Much like the first volume, it feels wrong to review this book until I have read the whole series
If ever there was a "marmite" series in fantasy, it would be Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. To its admirers, it's one of the most brilliant, literary works in the genre; to its detractors, it's frustrating and overly cryptic.

Either way, Wolfe's creation is like nothing else in fantasy. Set eons in the future, when the planet is covered in the remnants of long-forgotten civilizations and the sun is beginning to go out from some mysterious ailment, the cycle follows the journeys of Severian, th
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a reread. Second of the four volumes of the Book of the New Sun. Last time I attempted the book I only made it 2.5 volumes in. Hoping I'll do better this time.

Dialogue contrived (some of the characters are far too eloquent, and the lower-class ones are indicated primarily by dropped g's). Severian is a cold fish emotionally, and while that fits with his character (he tortures and kills people for a living), it can keep stakes low.

But this a trip into the deep future, a pleasure to read
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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 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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