February 29th, 2012


Book Review: The Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe

Severian the journeyman torturer begins his quest across a grimdark landscape.

The Shadow of the Torturer

Pocket Books, 1980, 262 pages

The Shadow of the Torturer is the first volume in the four-volume epic, the tale of a young Severian, an apprentice to the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession - showing mercy towards his victim.

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Verdict: This is a book to show off to people who think pure speculative fiction can't be literary. It's got far more depth and elegance than the doorstoppers filling SF shelves today, and few modern spec fic writers have Gene Wolfe's writing chops. (Catherynne Valente is one of them. China Miéville, maybe. Neil Gaiman, no. Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Brent Weeks? Fuhgeddaboudit.) But, that's not to say The Shadow of the Torturer is a favorite. I liked it, I will read the rest of the series - eventually - but it's a thoughtful read, not a fun read. Pick something else if you want a story that moves at a fast pace or a fantastic adventure. This is a fantasy, and it is an adventure, but it will make you slow down to pay attention, and in the first book, you'll spend so much time appreciating the world that you'll only realize at the end that you haven't gotten very far.

My complete list of book reviews.