The Shadow of the Torturer
World Fantasy Award 1981, British Science Fiction Association Award 1982. Nebula Award nominee 1980, Tähtivaeltaja award nominee 2013, Tähtifantasia award nominee 2013.
In a stunning blend of the lyric extravagance of fantasy and the keen edge of science fiction, meeting in a future so distant that it seems like the ancient past, Gene Wolfe begins his chronicle of Severian the Torturer, in this the first volume of The Book of the New Sun.
One is not born into the torturers' guild, one is adopted there from
the children of its victims. In the great Citadel built of unsmeltable
gray metal, young Severian and his fellow apprentices study to achieve
the rank of Master Torturer, learning the ancient mysteries of the
guild, sworn to torture whom the Autarch says to torture, and to kill
whom he says to kill.
But with the coming of Thecla, a beautiful and intelligent woman whose indiscretions have lost her her place in the inner circle of concubines of the House Absolute, life changes for Severian, as he disobeyes the rules he has been raised to follow. The young torturer expects to be killed for his crime; instead he is exiled from the city to serve as a simple executioner in distant Thrax, the City of Windowless Rooms. As he leaves, his master gifts him with the ancient executioner's sword, Terminus Est, the Line of Division.
So armed, he sets forth into the vast City, heading for the distant gate. On his way he encounters the twins Agia and Agilus, who drive him to an arcane duel on the Sanguinary Field; the acting troupe of Dr. Talos, a charlatan, Baldanders, a monstrous giant, and the lovely Jolenta; and Dorcas, a mysterious girl who appears on the shore of the Lake of Birds, where the dead lie.
Into Severian's hands falls also the miraculous gem, the Claw of the Conciliator, whose powers promise to lead him to the very throne of the House Absolute. But first he must journey north, to the land of the mountains, and it is at the great gate of the City Imperishable, the largest in the world, that the first volume of The Book of the New Sun closes, with Severian standing in the portal of his destiny.
Gene Rodman Wolfe (1931-2019) 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. He was a prolific short-story writer and novelist and won many science fiction and fantasy literary awards.
Wolfe is best known for his Book of the New Sun series (four volumes, 1980–83), the first part of his "Solar Cycle". In 1998, Locus magazine ranked it the third-best fantasy novel published before 1990 based on a poll of subscribers that considered it and several other series as single entries.
The Book of the New Sun consists of four primary works, and includes one additional book that complement the series but is not considered mandatory reads. The current recommended reading order for the series is provided below.
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Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer is the first book of The Book of the New Sun. I enjoyed this book very much and I can highly recommend it to everybody, who wants to read a book, which has been written for adults. This book is a masterpiece and it's one of the best fantasy and science fiction books ever. If you haven't read The Shadow of the Torturer, you should read it. I'm sure that you'll enjoy it.