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The Sword of the Lictor

(The Book of the New Sun #3)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  7,977 ratings  ·  221 reviews
Beneath the dying sun the disgraced torturer, Severian, at last comes to his place of exile - Thrax, the City of Windowless Rooms. But Severian's journeying is not ended, and high in the Earth's ancient mountains he draws closer to his destiny.
Hardcover, Book Club Edition, 279 pages
Published 1981 by Timescape Books
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This, as well as the first two books and theoretically the last in the series, is rapidly becoming the most difficult work of SF I've ever read. Why? It's not particularly difficult to follow; the Hero's Quest is rather straightforward throughout. Nor is the main character Severian particularly uninteresting or difficult to like.

My main concern, as well as my questionable joy, is in the author's requirement that we take not just an active role in the reconstruction of this tale, but that even a
May 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2016
I can't deal with this anymore. I need books where I can actually care what's going on.

I continue to be drawn into the world of Urth, which is lush and fascinating. I can’t believe the detail that Wolfe indulges in—the many bioclimatic zones that are described, the details of the landscapes, the many ranks and levels of society, the details of cities. I was willing to follow Severian through his journeys just to experience more Urth.

Severian himself continues to be an enigma. He’s an intelligent guy, but so emot
Bill Kerwin
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it

I hate to sound like a broken record, but—as I said at the beginning of my review of The Claw of the Conciliator, the “jury is still out” on The Book of the New Sun for me.

True, Wolfe’s world is meticulously constructed, his lapidary prose (enriched by hard words) prepares a supportive mood for his world, and yet the narrator Severian’s artfully cautious tone—no less cautious in moments of candor—causes us (like a torturer) to put to question every element of this carefully built world. So far
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
_Sword of the Lictor_ has proven to be my favourite volume so far in my re-read of the New Sun series. Some obvious reasons are some really great moments, such as the disturbing scene with the Alzabo in which we discover the true nature of the creature from which a key ingredient of Severian’s ghoulish banquet with Vodalus was derived, and the biblical debate with Typhon on the mountaintop (which has obvious resonance for any readers of the subsequent Long Sun series).

Severian continues to deve
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
Kat  Hooper
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Gene Wolfe’s The Sword of the Lictor essentially contains no plot, but it’s the best plotless book I’ve ever read. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. I loved every moment of it! (I read this on audio; Audible Frontiers' audio version, read by Jonathan Davis, is exceptional.)

This third installment of The Book of the New Sun continues Severian’s journey from apprentice in the torturers’ guild to Autarch. He doesn’t seem to be getting any clos
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Same procedure as with the first two books: 4.5 stars – and I dearly hope Gene Wolfe is taking the piss out of Severian with his take on sexuality …

Either I’ve gotten used to Wolfe’s style or this third book was a lot more approachable than the first two. It was much easier for me to follow and it offered answers for a change. I was quite satisfied with some of the explanations which were hinted at in former books, some revelations came a bit out of the blue for me. This series definitely cries
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
This has got to be the most complex and cryptic book in the series, and although there are some revelations at the end, which Wolfe mercifully gives his reader, but the entire book definitely took a lot of effort and will on my part to complete.

The other stupid thing which I did was, I bought hard copy of the book instead of reading it on my kindle due to which every word which I did not know had to be searched in order to fully comprehend its meaning which made it an tiresome effort for me, be
Juho Pohjalainen
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
The end of this volume brings me to the end of the second act of Book of the New Sun. It's where the whole thing begins to actually take form of a real story, in my head, with a well-structured start and middle and end. Up until the last parts of this book, it was difficult to tell. Severian's adventures in the bizarre and alien world of his were always interesting, but they always felt a little... aimless? Like I did not really know where exactly the whole thing was going?

Well, I'm starting to
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the third book in the series The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. I don’t have too much to say about it, but I enjoyed it at the same level as the previous two.

The previous book had a couple things that drove me nuts, and this book did not. Even Severian’s constant harping about his perfect memory is toned down to a more tolerable level. The story also held my interest pretty consistently all the way through. On the other hand, there really weren’t any secondary characters in this boo
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I loved it even though I didn't fully understand it.
Vit Babenco
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are many fine legends about swords: the legendary sword of King Arthur, sometimes attributed with magical powers – Excalibur, the sword of Damocles as a symbol of doom and imminent peril and the sword that sliced in half the Gordian knot.
“I whirled then with my cloak wind-whipped behind me and my sword, as I had so often held it, lifted for the stroke; and I knew then what I had never troubled to think upon before – why my destiny had sent me wandering half across the continent, facing dan
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
By the beginning of The Sword of the Lictor (1982), the third novel in Gene Wolfe's unique science fiction masterpiece The Urth of the New Sun, Dorcas and Severian have finally reached Thrax, City of Windowless Rooms, where Severian has become the "master of chains," the lictor of the Vincula, the prison shaft bored into the side of the mountain, along both sides of which the shackled prisoners await torture or death. By closing off unnecessary tunnels and diligently attending court sessions, Se ...more
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Possibly more like 4.5 stars -- but I'll round up, since I rounded down for the last book. This book does not have the minor pacing issues that were my only issue with book 2, so it's definitely deserving of that extra half-star.

In any case, this series continues to be consistently excellent. Can't wait to start the next one.
Sandra Visser
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first started reading this series I had no expectation of understanding what any of it meant. I simply enjoyed being taken on a surreal, phantasmagoric journey peppered with fantastical, mind-boggling incidents. But as I started preparing to read the third instalment I read up on The Book of the New Sun and was astonished to learn that it did all actually make sense and that details in Book 1 are linked to details in Book 3; for example I never expected (view spoiler) ...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 (1983)
Winner: Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (1983)
Nominee: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (1983)
Nominee: British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel (1983)
Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1983)
Cin Farfán
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As Severian says, "the greatest adventures are those that act most strongly upon our minds" a masterpiece Gene Wolfe has a gift and the new sun books prove it
I liked this one. It starts making more sense, there is an easier to follow story, and a few things are made clear at last. Starting book 4 immediately before I can really review the books, though.
Perry Whitford
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the beginning of this, the third and penultimate part of The Book of the New Sun, journeyman torturer Severian has reached the city of Thrax and assumed his position as lictor, or, 'he who binds.' Once again he is fated to betray his guild when he shows pity for a condemned client.

This frees him up to head north through the mountains towards the war, where he intends to enlist in the Autarch's army, and to search out the Pelerines so that he can return the sacred Claw of the Conciliator to it
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy

There is some seriously funky unreliable narrator shit going on here. Especially in the beginning, lots of details are missing and filled in afterwards in strange ways.

Perhaps more funky: that's one of the more interesting parts of the story. I'm wondering why the fuck he's doing this. Beyond that, I'm really bored. But I'm going to push onward. This may wind up being one of those series I read just I've got that under my belt. Classics and all that.

Many of the descriptions are vivid and wonderf
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Clearer structure, less obfuscation, & spaceships make everything better. I'm on the home stretch! ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The appearance-reality distinction continues. Of course, the series (really one novel in four parts) is science fiction that looks like fantasy. None of the characters are who they first seem to be, and nothing is really as it seems. More fundamentally, the reader constantly feels that the realities underneath the surface of the story are unfathomable -- one might scratch a bit deeper in a second or third reading, but Wolfe demonstrates that there is always more than meets the eye. The abyssal d ...more
May 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Well, shit! I suffered through this book. I'm not saying it's bad. It's not. There are passages of great beauty. There are also great swaths of pages that bored me.

My enthusiasm for Wolfe started with The Fifth Head of Cerberus. I loved the prose style and the mysterious suggestiveness of it all. It was the kind of story that begs to be re-read. I cannot say as much about this book.

This book under review is, in reality, part of a larger work known as The Book of the New Sun (TBotNS). I don't kno
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
funny, I must have read these in order as they were published in paperback, but I find I remember more of the first and second volume than I did of the third. Here Severian looses Dorcas and his job in Thrax and sets off on his travels north again, encounters the alzabo and in a battle against the giant, looses both his sword and the relic called the Claw. What lifts this above any common adventure story is the insight you are given to Severian's thought processes - his speculations about scienc ...more
Fuzzball Baggins
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
These books are really interesting and make me think, and I like all the cool scifi stuff. Severian is a good main character, because he doesn't act out of selfish interests but always does what he thinks is the right thing to do, which means I can always cheer for him.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Technically a re-read, but I'm logging it here so I get credit.
Brian Rogers
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is very much the middle act of the series, with Severian mostly on his own discovering more and more about the world he inhabits, and symbolically losing pieces of his identity along the way. It can feel a little random-encountery until you step back and see the thematic ties between every step of the way.
Matt Ward
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Book 2 of The Book of the New Sun left me feeling shaky and uncertain about finishing the series. I can understand why many people give up there. After languishing for weeks unread, I finally opened those first pages.

I must say, this is hands down the best book of the series so far. It's actually fast paced and forward moving. Once I reached a critical point, I had no problem picking it up and plowing through each day. The ideas are strange and compelling (though one thing that happens right at
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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 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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