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Bryan

Bry's Bountiful Book Blog

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Sword and Citadel - Gene Wolfe

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, our "hero" narrowly escapes a weird salamander-type monster, splits with Dorcas after learning (some of) her true nature, rebels against his position as Lictor of Thrax by releasing a woman he is supposed to defenestrate and then flees into the wilderness. Actually, the majority of Sword comprises Severian's adventures out in the hinterlands, which makes for what is, in my opinion, the high point of the series. What I like about this book so much is that even though it's by far the most action-heavy part of the New Sun it still is thoughtful and laden with meaning. From Agia to the Alzabo, the strange beast-men to the sorcerers, there's definitely no shortage of action and adventure in Sword, and yet there are some truly touching scenes and themes - I'm thinking mainly of Severian's relationship with little Severian (even though he later shrugs off his death like a sociopath). Also, is little Severian actually another version of Severian himself!?! Hard to say. Regardless, Sword is possessed of some terrific scenes; namely, the confrontation with the megalomaniacal Typhon and also the final reveal and showdown with Baldanders (although in some ways it's tough to say exactly what was revealed at the end there).

 

The Citadel Of The Autarch: By far the weirdest and most cerebral of the four New Sun novels, Citadel requires a lot of attention on the part of the reader, and even then you'll probably miss some stuff and have to go back and re-read certain passages in order for the whole to make any kind of sense (such was the case for me, at any rate). I'm not sure I should really bother with any sort of recap, as the events of this book involve a fair amount of confusing time-travel and also wouldn't really have any sort of meaning to someone unfamiliar with the series anyways. High points of Citadel: I really liked the complex language of the Ascians, and also the story-telling contest which Severian (sort of) judges in the camp of the Pelerines. Severian finally becomes the Autarch after consuming the flesh of the previous Autarch in another Alzabo ritual, gaining several hundred memories/personalities (which explains his detached nature as a narrator). The house-out-of-time, the return of the green man, the truth about Dorcas - all of these are pretty strange and only become stranger the more you think about them. All in all, I definitely wouldn't call Citadel a satisfying end to the series, as I was left wanting more, but I actually consider that a mark in its favour.

 

I should note at this point that I haven't yet read The Urth Of The New Sun, the so-called coda to this excellent series. I'm looking forward to it, to say the least.