The Sword of the Lictor (The Book of the New Sun #3) - Gene Wolfe7.86

British Fantasy Award 1983, Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel 1983. World Fantasy Award nominee 1983, Hugo Award nominee 1983, Nebula Award nominee 1982.

Ursula K. Le Guin called The Shadow of the Torturer "the first volume of a masterpiece." It has been nominated for all the major fantasy and science fiction awards and has gathered praise far and wide as probably the most important work to appear in the field in the last ten years. The Claw of the Conciliator has been received with matching acclaim and the excitement mounts as more and more people are captured by the magic of a writer working at the peak of his form and creating something "totally original, new, incomparable."

The Book of the New Sun is set a million years in the future of our Earth, on a planet transformed in ways inconceivable to our primitive technologies. What at first seems like magic turns out to be the remains of forgotten colossal technologies; our own civilization is so distant as to be no longer even a memory.

The third volume, The Sword of the Lictor, continues the self-told tale of Severian, the torturer, and leads us both farther afield from the beginning and closer to the solution of the many mysteries posed in the opening volumes.

Severian, exiled for the "sin" of mercy, has arrived at his assigned post as Lictor in Thrax, the City of Windowless Rooms, and seems perpared to settle into the active, though somewhat grisly, life of a government functionary. Unsettling things begin to happen, however. His companion, Dorcas, leaves him and returns to the place where their journey together began, the Lake of Birds, where the dead lie. Severian is pursued by a deadly beast. He has begun to quesiton his role as Torturer and finally rejects his position and responsibility by letting a woman go free and fleeing the city himself.

He heads into the mountains, survives another encounter with Agia, who has been trailing him in her continuing effort to exact vengeance for the death of her brother, and continues his flight with a young boy, his namesake, orphaned in an attack by an alzabo. Deeper into the mountains they go until they are captured by a band of men who wear metal talons on their fingers, only to be saved inadvertently by the monster who destroyed the boy's family. Further on, they enter a vast deserted city and accidentally revive a man whose body is inhabited by the soul of an ancient enemy of the Conciliator. The boy is killed but Severian kills the man, discharging an ancient debt of vengeance to the originator of his hidden weapon, the Claw.

Alone again, he finds an isolated lake where shore-dwellers under the rule of the hidden master of a nearby castle wage a continuing war with a people who spend their lives on floating islands of reeds. Severian joins the floating people and helps them attack the castle, where he once again meets Baldanders and Doctor Talos and learns the secret of their relationship. But in the final battle Severian loses control of his body and wanders, all-unknowing, into his own yet-unguessable future destiny.

With this series Gene Wolfe has come into his own as one of the true masters of science fiction and fantasy by creating a fascinating and absorbing tale that combines the best and most exciting aspects of both kinds of story in a truly unique and original way. Those who have not yet taken the opportunity to enter his world can only imagine the pleasures to be found therein and those who have done so have the privilege of recommending a truly excellent and rewarding reading experience to their friends.

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Release date: 1982
Genres: science fiction, fantasy
Tags: locus award
Average rating: 7.86/10
Total ratings: 38
Updated: August 16, 2021

The Book of the New Sun :: Series

Belongs to the series Solar Cycle
Related series The Book of the New Sun (omnibus editions)

The Castle of the Otter
The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1)7.30
The Claw of the Conciliator (The Book of the New Sun #2)7.42
The Sword of the Lictor (The Book of the New Sun #3)7.86
The Citadel of the Autarch (The Book of the New Sun #4)7.46


10/10 |
October 14, 2007
The two previous books were good and so is this book. In my opinion The Sword of Lictor is among the best science fiction and fantasy books I've ever read. It's original and interesting. I can highly recommend this book to all fans of Gene Wolfe. It's definitely worth reading, if you like Wolfe's books.