Book reviews / Fantasy / Science Fiction

Book review: Shadow of the Torturer

I do not have a fucking clue about what that book was about.

Everytime I started reading it I suddenly started to feel very, very sleepy. Maybe this was part of the problem.

Plot is vaguely: Severian is an apprentice torturer. He befriends one of the people his guild has to torture, helps her kill herself, gets exiled from his guild and then wanders the city and gets in a series of misadventures with unlikely characters.

I’m pretty sure more must get explained in the further books (but as has been noted, I’m not a big fan of sacrificing story for further stories) but the swirling about of narrative like some impossibly complex cocktail meant that I was mainly just a bit lost most of the time.

I’m not sure I was a fan of the writing style, the combination of archaic words and very stiff and formal tone meant it took a long time to read. I mean, it felt like it took longer to read than Outlander which is 3 times as long.

It doesn’t pass the test – there are several female characters but they are basically either a concubine, a poor thief and some mysterious waif. There is an awful lot of boobs that pop out (literally, popping out of dresses) and Severian falls in love with anyone at the drop of a hat. To be fair, most of Severian’s actions make little or no sense whatsoever.


I’m not sure I disliked it, I just spent most of the time going “what the fuck is going on” especially when he kept on referring to dead people in the present tense (Severian kept on seeing someone from the past and you can never really tell if they’re actually there…) I think I had to re-read chunks of this book more than all the other books combined. It was just genuinely really confusing.

Also, bits of the plot go nowhere – like the whole thing with this mysterious Vodalus (who seems like a rebel to the Autarch – whoever the fuck he is). He just shows up, kills a guy, gives Severian a coin and then is just vaguely mentioned from time to time. What was with that?

Why does Severian hang out with the actors?

Why do Agia and Agilus want Severian’s sword so much?

Who the fuck is Dorcus and who the fuck names a character Dorcus?

So many questions. So few answers. And if they’re all in the following books – I guess I’ll never know. Maybe 3/5 stars – for it was weird but not terrible (and mercifully for all that – short).

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