Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on November 2, 2000
This book is useful but is sometimes puzzling.
Some of the definitions are simply wrong, in fact some are so far off that you will wonder if Andre-Driussi perhaps is referring to a condensed, abridged, and slightly altered version of the series. Some very minor terms and characters mentioned in passing only once in the series are described here in some detail, while some important terms, places, and incidents integral to the storyline (such as the Torturer's Guild/Order of the Seekers for Truth and Penitence, to which Severian belonged) are not listed at all.
Many of the definitions are, well, stretched. This book would be less than half the current size if you threw out all of the example sentences. For instead of just giving the definition, pronunciation and etymology of the listed term, the entry in many cases also gives the full sentence (from the book) in which the word was used. This is not necessary, since the entry also pinpoints the book, chapter, and page in which the term was used in the first place. Takes up a lot of space.
Still, this book will save you from browsing through stacks of dictionaries looking for that obscure term.
The definition will not always identify what language the word is, but the careful reader can soon learn to tell if it's Greek, Latin, French, or Spanish (as most of the "foreign" words here are). Some terms are defined in detail; they contain many examples of the word (and sentences/book excerpts), with real historical anecdotes, mythological references, hypotheses, comments, and squiggly line drawings. Some entries are short and abrupt: "marge: margin. (IV, chapter 13, 86)". Sometimes there is no definition at all; all you get for the entry is the sentence the word is in, and the location of the word. I found that rather odd. In some entries, more emphasis is given to explaining the mythological or historical figure rather than the book character (Wolfe named a lot of his characters after saints and Biblical characters).
Naturally, this book is full of spoilers. If you aren't at least halfway though the New Sun series, be very careful using Lexicon Urthus!
This book has been useful to me, but it's also full of stick-um notes and corrections I had to add myself. It didn't quite do Wolfe's masterpiece justice.