The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator, collected here as Shadow & Claw, begin the chronicles of Severian, of the Seekers for Truth and Penitence, a guild of torturers. Gene Wolfe is an incredible writer. The world and setting are vibrant and original, the plot exciting and engaging, science and philosophy are masked by magic, and the characters- well, that's complicated. Severian, as he claims, is possessed of an eidetic memory, and as such implies that as a narrator he is undeniably sound in his recollections. Yet the more you read, the more it seems like Severian is quite naive, and nowhere does this show more than in his assumptions of the people he encounters. Shadow & Claw really gets interesting when you start questioning Severian's perceptions and especially his interpretations of events. Wolfe has woven a breathtakingly complex and intricate experience into reading this story, and while you can certainly enjoy the book without diving into its philosophical depths, plumbing them proves quite rewarding.
The Book of the New Sun is unanimously acclaimed as Gene Wolfe's most remarkable work, hailed as "a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis" by Publishers Weekly, and "one of the most ambitious works of speculative fiction in the twentieth century" by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Shadow & Claw brings together the first two books of the tetralogy in one volume:The Shadow of the Torturer is the tale of young Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession -- showing mercy toward his victim.Ursula K. Le Guin said, "Magic stuff . . . a masterpiece . . . the best science fiction I've read in years!"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."Arguably the finest piece of literature American science fiction has yet produced [is] the four-volume Book of the New Sun."--Chicago Sun-Times"The Book of the New Sun establishes his preeminence, pure and simple. . . . The Book of the New Sun contains elements of Spenserian allegory, Swiftian satire, Dickensian social consciousness and Wagnerian mythology. Wolfe creates a truly alien social order that the reader comes to experience from within . . . once into it, there is no stopping."--The New York Times Book Review