The Shadow of the Torturer

By Gene Wolfe, Don Maitz (illustrator),

Book cover of The Shadow of the Torturer

Book description

In a thoroughly decadent world of the future, Severian the torturer is cast out from the torturer's guild when he falls in love with one of his victims and allows her to die

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2 authors picked The Shadow of the Torturer as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The action in this book begins when Severian, an apprentice in the Torturers’ Guild, gives a convict a weapon to kill herself rather than be tortured.

The reason there’s a Torturers’ Guild is, allegedly, that it beats prison: Better to deliver a punishment and then let the punished person return to their life, the thinking goes, than confine them to a useless existence as a ward of the state. Severian is expelled from the Guild, but not from the profession, and wanders the world plying his trade, at least until the plot can’t spare him.

It’s a constant dissonance, looking…

From Matt's list on fantasy that reimagines society.

A fantasy like no other. Smart and dark. There are four books in the series, but this one establishes the tone of a baroque quest across a world that might have once been our own. Wolfe writes stories that we need to keep up with, stay focused on. There are a lot of inferences to consider, nothing is entirely clear, yet the journey is awesome and provocative. 

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