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▶  More from Fiction Book Reviews Before the Rising Sun
‘The Extinguished Ones’
Impressions of Chapter 7 of Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer


Reading from pages 49-56 of Shadow & Claw

The Traitress

The Chatelaine Thecla, a towering, white, gracile beauty of the exultant class, one of perhaps 20 of the Autarch’s concubines, is served her meal by Severian as she awaits her torture in one of the Guild’s gray cells. A wily and willful woman, she reaches out towards him directly and through the hierarchy within which he occupies a bottom rung, securing his company as a service companion. The author’s lack of exposition, rather than a matter of spare style, permits him space to expose the characters of Urth and the texture of their world, as the doomed Thecla and the man charged with her processing by an inhuman system of injustice, Master Gurloes, are both compassionately treated as dancers compelled by unseen forces onto a thankless stage:

“She sighed, and all of the gladness went out of her face, as the sunlight leaves the stone where a beggar seeks to warm himself.”

“He sighed, the kind of wheezing noise a leather pillow sometimes makes when one sits on it. ‘But with the passage of time I have come to understand that the Increate, in choosing for me a career in our guild, was acting for my benefit. Doubtless I had acquired merit in a previous life, as I hope I have in this one.’”

Interestingly, the ultimate and longer suffering victim of the system are not its intended victims so much as its most burdened functionaries. Severian discusses Master Gurloes as being in the past, a living example of suffering as a cautionary tale before his time has passed. Though Thecla and the nameless others being dispassionately processed beneath society see in Master Gurloes the well-mannered, masked instrument of their cruel extinction, Severian—who had become the master of them all by the time of his memoir of revelations—finds a special empathy for the complex man forced to play the simple instrument of faceless policy upon humanity, a doubly dammed soul, wandering the halls of a ship designed to travel to the stars, which has been repurposed as a neo-gothic prison, hopelessly seeking to bar the shattered doors of his soul closed with alcohol even as he drunkenly cries for the dying sun in the depths of night.

Diction of Note

-Exarch, an official

-Starost Egino, an official

-Fulgurator, a specialized torturer

-Quadrille, a game

-Khaibits, shadow women, common women who have sex with the Autarch so that his aristocratic concubines might not be sullied

-Pursuivant, a functionary

-Refulgent

-urticate, common word

-salpinx, common word

-bordereau

God's Picture Maker: Dark Eyed Girl Edition

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