Sword of the Lictor:
Severian's stay in Thrax is short lived. After helping a woman escape instead of strangling her, Severian flees Thrax to look for the Pelerines. But can he find them before trouble finds him...?
The plot of the Book of the New Sun progresses quite a bit in this volume. I don't want to give too much away but Severian sure doesn't stay in Thrax very long. I'm still not precisely sure what the hell is going on but it's a pretty enjoyable read. Wolfe's prose has to be savored, not scarfed. I've read before that Gene Wolfe's biggest influence is G.K. Chesterton. The deeper into the Book of the New Sun I get, the more I get flashes of Chesterton. Parts of The Book of the New Sun definitely have a The Man Who Was Thursday quality to them.
My favorite part was the relationship between Big Severian and Little Severian. The retelling of the story of Romulus and Remus and the return of some characters were nice touches. Dorcas' origin was finally revealed and was as I suspected when she first entered the tale.
Severian's grown as a character since the first book and I eagerly await his rise to Autarch in the final volume.Citadel of the Autarch:
Severian finally reaches the camp of the Pelerines, goes to war, and finally meets his destiny.
A lot happened in The Citadel of the Autarch. Severian has a variety of adventures and meets up with most of the rest of the cast for a final time, and becomes the Autarch, as he said he would early on in the first book. It felt more like a Dying Earth story than the earlier ones and was probably the easiest to read of the four. Questions were answered, but not all of them. Extra points were scored when Arioch was mentioned on the first page.
The writing in Citadel of the Autarch was much the same as in the other volumes but I detected echoes of Michael Moorcock in addition to the usual Jack Vance and G.K. Chesterton. And like Chesterton, I like that Wolfe left some aspects open to interpretation. Much like the reveals of which of the characters are policemen rather anarchists in The Man Who Was Thursday, I eventually was thinking "How many characters were actually the Autarch or working for him?"
While it's not a quick read, I found my mind returning to the Book of the New Sun again and again. I'm sure I'll be re-reading it again in the future.2012 Note:
I went ahead and bumped this up to a 5. I'm not sure if it deserves it but I still catch myself thinking about this book almost a year after I finished it.