Top critical review
A Mishmash of Good, Bad, and Frustating
Reviewed in the United States on February 27, 2019
The classic story of a young man journey from the only home he’s known and finding himself interacting with the strange wider world. Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe is the omnibus collection of the first two volumes of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy, The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator, following the life of the guild of torturer journeyman Severian.
The Shadow of the Torturer follows the last year of Severian’s life in The Citadel of Nessus and his few days after leaving into exile after breaking the greatest rule of the guild of torturers. Severian finds himself challenged to a duel and explores greater Nessus in preparation while coming into contacting with numerous interesting characters. The Claw of the Conciliator picks up a bit after the previous book with Severian performing his duties in a small mining town before going on a series of journeys going to the seat of government the House Absolute and leaving, all the while trying to figure out everything he’s involved in while trying not to dishonor his guild once again.
The first volume of the book, Shadow, was very intriguing and while somethings were clear—as might have been the plan—there was enough there to make me look forward to continuing on Severian’s journey. However the second volume, Claw, was all over the place with quality, interest, and frustration as one the main problems from the first volume, namely the first-person narration by Severian was all over the place. Add in an entire chapter that described a line-by-line recreation of a nonsensical play just to setup an attack by one of the characters on the audience in the next, much short chapter just added to my dislike of this particular volume.
I had high hopes for Shadow & Claw given that it was the first half of what is considered a classic tetralogy by Gene Wolfe. While I did like the first volume of the omnibus, the second one has made me wonder why this is considered a fantasy-science fiction classic by many.
The Shadow of the Torturer (3.5/5)
The Claw of the Conciliator (2/5)