The Shadow of the Torturer

Gene Wolfe
The Shadow of the Torturer Cover

The Shadow of the Torturer


It took me forever to read this book. It is the first of four in The Book of the New Sun. I expected it to end in an expectation of the next book in the series, but it didn't. It just stopped. So then I started the next book, The Claw of the Conciliator, expecting it to pick up where Shadow left off, but it doesn't. It's the same main character, but in a different situation.

Severian, the torturer, is the protagonist of the book. When I began it I expected the torturer to be the main character of the first book and the conciliator to be featured in the second, but actually, the Claw of the Conciliator is the name of a sacred gem that has fallen into Severian's possession.

The writing is elegant, almost Victorian, but without the Victorian formal stodginess. Much of the vocabulary is medieval. I'm reading an ebook which makes it easy to look up the definition of unknown words. Many of the word, though, seem to have been coined by the author. Usually, the meaning of a word can be understood from the context.

The Shadow of the Torturer is a swords and sorcery type of fantasy, although there hasn't been any sorcery yet. It falls into the science fiction genre because there are references to interstellar travel and to vehicles known as fliers. The story takes place on the posthistoric world of Urth.