Banished for the sin of mercy, Severian, one of the ancient guild of Torturers, flees from exile. In a mountain wilderness he meets the Alzabo, in whom those eaten seem to live on, adopts a son only to lose him in battle, discharges an old debt of vengeance, encounters fanged aliens who hide behind masks of beauty, and helps the people of the floating islands in their unending battle for freedom.
Now, alone again, Severian wanders in search of his destiny, guided by the glowing power of a hidden, awesome weapon.
"Wonderfully vivid and inventive... the most extraordinary hero in the history of the heroic epic." —Washington Post Book World
"Brilliant... terrific... a fantasy so epic it beggars the mind!" —Philadelphia Inquirer
"The best book I've read all year... images of wonder and weirdness linger long in the memory... a shattering tour-de-force." —Somtow Sucharitkul, in the Fantasy Newsletter
"A major work of twentieth-century American literature... Wolfe's imagination is as compelling and his language as nearly flawless as ever... outstanding." —ALA Booklist
"Finely crafted... unmatched... a classic." —Publishers Weekly
"It's not difficult to call [Wolfe] SF's best genuine novelist... By the time the fourth volume appears, this Nebula-winning author will have become unchallengeable as one of SF's most potent names." —Algis Budrys
"The writer's skills is as fine as ever. There is a scene here that evokes a sense of an ancient Earth as it is rarely done in fiction." —Analog
"Wolfe tells his story with satisfying depth and a singular imagination. I can't wait for Book Four." —Los Angeles Times