The Citadel of the Autarch


  • First publication Timescape hardcover, 1983; jacket painting by Don Maitz


  • 1984 Campbell Award


Complete plot summary -- SPOILERS
The Citadel of the Autarch is the fourth and final volume of the Book of the New Sun, which is itself the first part of the twelve-volume "Solar" or "Briah" cycle.

  • Sources of quotes
  • Meanings of names
  • References to other works
  • Etc.


Unanswered Questions


  • Timescape hardcover:
    • Jacket flaps:
      "Here I pause, having carried you, reader, from fortress to fortress -- from the walled city of Thrax, dominating th eupper Acis, to the castel of the giant, dominating the northern shore of remote Lake Diuturna. Thrax was for me the gateway to the wild mountains. So, too, this lonely tower was to prove a gateway -- the very threshold of the war....

      "Here I pause. If you have no desire to plunge into the struggle beside me, reader, I do not condemn you. It is no easy one."
    So ends The Sword of the Lictor, the third volume of "The Book of the New Sun." Now in this fourth and climactic volume, Severian the Torturer continues his epic journey across the lands of urth, a journey as fraught with peril as it is with wonder. Exiled from his guild, he is an outcast wanderer in the world. But his travels are woven about with strange portents. The Claw of the Conciliator, relic of a prophet and promise of a new age, flames to life in his hands. He carries the great sword Terminus Est, the Line of Division. The dwellers in the deep waters, beautiful and deadly, offer him a kingdom under the seas. And he is hunted and driven north by terrors from beyond Urth: notules, flying slivers of night forever hungering for the warmth of life, and salamanders, creatures of colorless light and dreadful, alien heat.

    Now all his travels move him inexorably toward a grander fate, a destiny that he dare not refuse. For a devouring blackness gnaws at the heart of the Old Sun, and the fate of Urth rests in the return of the Conciliator, the New Sun long foretold.

    Not since "The Lord of the Rings" has there been a work of such magnitude, straddling literary genres to create a new epic for our time and beyond. With the completion of "The Book of the New Sun," a new world has been opened and history made. While the underground audience has grown, authors and reviewers alike have hailed Gene Wolfe's masterpiece:

    "'The Book of the New Sun' is one of the true classics of modern science fantasy -- deft, deep and delicious... the best work since Tolkien. Throughout, it both promises and delivers."

-- Gregory Benford, author of Timescape

"A splendid offering...filled with menace and yet invested with a dreamlike beauty...magnificent."

-- San Francisco Chronicle

"Gene Wolfe has produced a work of art that can satisfy adult appetites and in which even the most fantastical elements register as poetry rather than as penny-whistle whimsy."

-- Thomas M. Disch,

author of Camp Concentration

  • Back cover:

"The Book of the New Sun"
Is Complete


"The concluding chapter in Gene Wolf's epic tale of the journey of Severian the Torturer...rings a triumphant close to one of the great science-fantasy epics of all time. The books are chests full of wonders, full of images like jewels, of words a reader can get drunk on, of people and incidents that will linger long in memory. For years and years to come, I think, we'll see inferior imitation of Wolfe's masterpiece decked out with the phrase 'In the tradition of Wolfe,' for that is the tribute all great originals are inevitably paid."

--George R. R. Martin, author of Fevre Dream


"This is the third book...and all are carefully composed movements of a single quartet, heroic, enigmatic, and philosophical. Anyone who wants to learn how good SF can be should read this series."

--Washington Post Book World


"Permeated with the compelling narrative power of great writing....I feel a little bit like a musical contemporary attempting to tell people what's good about Beethoven."

--Chicago Sun-Times


"The first volume of a masterpiece. Gene Wolfe is a wizard, a torturer, frightening, delightful. Beware! This is magic stuff!...Totally original, new, incomparable: the beginning of something great, the first exploration of a new world."

--Ursula K. Le Guin