The Claw of the Conciliator : Book of the New Sun

  • by Gene Wolfe
  • Narrated by Jonathan Davis
  • Series: Book of the New Sun
  • 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Claw of the Conciliator continues the saga of Severian, banished from his home, as he undertakes a mythic quest to discover the awesome power of an ancient relic, and learn the truth about his hidden destiny.


What the Critics Say

Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1982


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Brilliant Enought to Engage a NON Fantasy Reader.

While the plot continues with the story Wolfe started in The Shadow of the Torturer, structurally Wolfe gets a little funkier with his second book. I liked it a lot, even though understanding it is sorta like seeking clarity in a broken mirror floating down in swift-flowing river.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

The strange world deepens

If ever there was a "marmite" series in fantasy, it would be Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. To its admirers, it's one of the most brilliant, literary works in the genre; to its detractors, it's frustrating and overly cryptic.

Either way, Wolfe's creation is like nothing else in fantasy. Set eons in the future, when the planet is covered in the remnants of long-forgotten civilizations and the sun is beginning to go out from some mysterious ailment, the cycle follows the journeys of Severian, the torturer's apprentice cast out of his guild for showing mercy to a captive. Gifted (or cursed) with an exceptional memory, the older Severian recounts his experiences to readers with the assumption that we're from his own time.

The style takes some getting used to. Severian's recollections often have a dreamlike quality, with seemingly insignificant events described in detail, and important occurrences sometimes mentioned only in passing. Between that and the odd, archaic terminology, the reader has to pay close attention to keep up with what's going on. The little background details have a way of becoming important later, and not everyone is what they seem at first -- even the protagonist.

Yet, Wolfe's world-creation rivals Tolkien's in its richness and color. Everything Severian glimpses seems infused with the half-forgotten history of a very old planet, where some technology remains but seems on a level akin to magic. I loved the strange, wondrous background and trying to guess at the significance of semi-familiar legends and encounters with odd beings or characters. In my opinion, too many contemporary fantasy writers hold their readers’ hands and *explain* everything -- Wolfe keeps a lot tantalizingly mysterious, and leaves us to make small connections ourselves. More of that, please.

This is the second book in the series, continuing the picaresque travels of Severian and his companions, including a new one, north from the city of Nessus. While the first volume explored his childhood and turned him loose in a world he didn’t fully understand, this one thrusts him into different dangers and intrigues, including several romantic liaisons. We learn more about the strange Doctor Talos and his ad hoc performance troupe, about the titular gemstone’s powers, about the rebel Vodalus, and about the autarch and his underground citadel. Thecla, from book one, returns in a way that’s quite original. There's even a story-within-a-story, a play that reveals a little about the mythology around the idea of a New Sun (though it’s somewhat confusing). As before, Wolfe's grasp of language is amazing, switching between horror, subtle humor, profound observation, and recognition of small, meaningful moments.

There are clearly multiple layers to this story, so don't expect to have fewer questions when you get to the end than you did after the last book. Which is to say, Wolfe answers some questions, but throws new puzzle pieces onto the table. At this point, I'm definitely hooked on Severian's tale, but I'm not sure if I can properly "review" any of these until I've grasped the entirety of this whole ambitious cycle.

Audiobook narrator Jonathan Davis, whose cool, ironic voice I'm already a big fan of, is very well-suited to Severian's detached written voice. He might even humanize him a little more.
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- Ryan "Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-23-2009
  • Publisher: Audible Studios