Pit Stop: The Sword of the Lictor
The Sword of the Lictor is the third entry in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. Severian has finally arrived in Thrax, and he settles into his new role swiftly.
The Claw of the Conciliator was a difficult read, but I'm glad I've stuck with The Book of the New Sun this far. Sword is chock-full of revelations and callbacks, and even on a first read the pay-off was incredible. Many cryptic characters from the earlier books re-appear, and their motivations and backgrounds are much more fleshed out, if not fully explained. The history of Urth is sketched out in more detail, and it makes the Dying Earth setting even more haunting and compelling.
Sword is also really fun to read as a story in itself. Severian heads out on his own pretty early on and wanders the mountains in the north, where he runs into plenty of danger and intrigue. It feels like a more traditional sword-and-sorcery story featuring a lone wanderer on a personal quest, complete with terrifying foes, mysterious dwellers, and heart-pounding fights. The ending of Sword is as climactic and satisfying as those of Shadow and Claw were frustratingly abrupt. I also adored Wolfe's gorgeous depictions of the mountains; if you hate Tolkien's page-long descriptions of scenery, though, you probably won't like these parts very much.
Unlike with the book-within-a-book chapter in Claw, I really enjoyed the one in Shadow (yes, there's another one of those plucked from Severian's brown book). Perhaps I was just more prepared for it this time.
The larger stakes of the overarching story somehow become clearer and muddier at the same time. Who is the Conciliator? Who is the New Sun? What is the Autarch's deal? What do Abaia and co. really want, and what do the cacogens have to do with all this? Many hints have been dropped since Shadow, and I know there are even more I've missed, but I'm super pumped to see it all come together in The Citadel of the Autarch.
Day 19 of #100DaysToOffload