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Creator/GeneWolfe's masterpiece set AfterTheEnd in a FeudalFuture which seems to be LowFantasy, but is actually science fiction - though this is only subtext during the first four books, becoming overt in the coda. It tells the story of Severian, an apprentice of the Torturer's Guild who turns out to be a kind of MessianicArchetype.

The tetralogy consists of ''The Shadow of the Torturer'', ''The Claw of the Conciliator'', ''The Sword of the Lictor'' and ''The Citadel of the Autarch'', plus a coda, ''The Urth of the New Sun'', which was written some time later and clears up a number of points from the series proper. It's a work of staggering complexity, with [[ViewersAreGeniuses very little explained outright]]. The WildMassGuessing alone would be longer than most pages on this wiki (and [[http://www.urth.net/urth/ here's]] proof).

Part of the "Briah" Cycle, along with the ''Literature/BookOfTheLongSun'' tetralogy and ''Literature/BookOfTheShortSun'' trilogy.

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!!This series contains examples of:

* AffablyEvil:
** Despite his seemingly generous nature, [[spoiler:Dr. Talos.]]
** Severian, the hero, who is a trained torturer and executioner, and often defends those occupations as necessary parts of society. [[spoiler:Though one of his first acts as Autarch is to lock up the members of his guild in the oubliette for a while to see how they like it, and then to issue an order banning torture and dissolving the guild. "By our mercy we will grant even the foulest a quick death. Not because we pity them, but because it is intolerable that good men should spend a lifetime dispensing pain."]]
* AllThereInTheManual: The rare supplementary books ''Lexicon Urthus'' by Michael Andre-Driussi (which explains some of the more oblique aspects of ''The Book of the New Sun'', as well as the archaic terminology) and ''The Castle of the Otter'' (a collection of essays by Wolfe himself about various aspects of the series).
** Also ''GURPS New Sun,'' the RPG, which includes a lot of background hints.
** "Attending Daedalus: Gene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader" concentrates on the techniques used by Wolfe to guide and misdirect the reader.
* AlienSky: Urth. The Moon is now green thanks to terraforming, the sun is red and dim, and the stars can be seen during the day.
* AndIMustScream: Early in 'The Shadow of the Torturer', Severian meets a man who has developed an obsession with books and reading. This man becomes a librarian. In order to test his loyalty, his guild's master makes him blind. Out of an inalienable sense of loyalty, and in order to stay close to the books he loves, he remains at the library.
* AnimatedArmor: Sidero in ''Urth of the New Sun''. He is not happy when Severian wears him.
* AnAxeToGrind: Averted with Severan. Despite becoming a public executioner, his weapon for the job is the sword ''Terminus Est'' and not a traditional ax.
* ArtificialHuman: [[spoiler:Jonas]]. Also, [[spoiler:Dr. Talos]] turns out to be [[spoiler:Baldanders']] homunculus. [[spoiler:Master Malrubius]] in his post-death appearances is this as well.
* AuthorVocabularyCalendar: There are plenty of obscure or archaic words that is used in the books. However, it's used to describe alien creatures and futuristic technology that have simply have no modern day analogs for.
* BackFromTheDead: [[spoiler:Dorcas]] and several others, including [[spoiler:Severian himself, in all probability]] thanks to the Claw of the Conciliator. Also [[spoiler:Dr. Talos]], if we're to assume, as it's implied, that Severian hit him a little too hard and broke his neck during their previous meeting.
* BananaRepublic: If you believe that the story is set in future-South America, then the massive inequalities of its feudal system is just a futuristic spin on this trope.
** WordOfGod says [[spoiler:Urth is not, in fact, Earth in the distant future, but takes place in another iteration of the universe.]]
* BigLabyrinthineBuilding: The House Absolute. Not only is the House so vast and complex that its extents are unknown, but there is a secret "Second House" coextensive with the first.
* BodyHorror: [[spoiler:Baldanders]] has attained eternal life at the cost of ceaseless growth. The implication is that he's become a humanoid cancer.
* BrainBleach: [[spoiler:In Baldanders castle/laboratory, Severian runs through a room whose central feature is a wide-awake vivisected pregnant woman under glass. Spoilered not because you don't know Baldanders is evil, but because it's so disturbing.]]
** [[spoiler:Also,Severian bumps into a gigantic infant (that is, the size of a full-grown man) chained to Baldanders's bed. Even Severian is sharp enough to think "catamite."]]
** [[spoiler:Also, at one point it becomes necessary for Severian to crack a man's head open and eat his forebrain while he's still living. Yeah.]]
* BrotherSisterIncest: Agia and Agilus. [[spoiler:Possibly inter alia, if Severian's missing sister, Severa, is Jolenta or Juturna.]]
* CallASmeerpARabbit: As if inverting the popular fantasy trope is not enough, Wolfe subverts it for good measure by naming most of his alien, genetically-engineered or otherwise exotic creatures after obscure prehistoric beasts. Apparently not one term in the tetralogy was made up by the author.
** That claim has confused quite a few readers due to unfortunate typos such as "onegars", a type of animal no one could identify. Turns out it's a typo for "onagers"; onagers are donkey-like animals. (Wolfe gave the definitions for a lot of the weirder words in his book "The Castle of the Otter", which is well worth reading.)
* ChristianityIsCatholic: Wolfe is Catholic and the religions existing in the world are based upon Catholicism. Justified perhaps by the EpilepticTrees theory that the novels are set in future South America.
* CliffhangerCopout: When the story was first published as four separate books, each of the first three books ended with a cliffhanger. In each case, the next book began some time after the resolution of the cliffhanger with what exactly happened [[NoodleIncident never explained in detail]]. This may have been a protest on Gene Wolfe's part against the novel being DividedForPublication.
* ColdBloodedTorture: Severan attempts to avoid details of his profession in his story. What little do we get is only to note strange events or if its relevant to the plot.
* CoversAlwaysLie: The back cover of the compilation version of The Sword of the Lictor / The Citadel of the Autarch describes the book as containing "Severian's final showdown with the evil Autarch." [[spoiler:Not only does this never happen, but to top it off, the "evil Autarch" is an affable eunuch with a penchant for flamboyant attire. No, not AffablyEvil. Just affable.]]
* ColdBloodedTorture: The Torturer's Guild tortures people as punishment, not interrogation and has no interest in the innocence, guilt, or any attributes of their victims.
* CoolSword - ''Terminus Est''.
** Also qualifies as a {{BFS}} -it's taller than Severian, who is said to be quite tall himself.
** To Wolfe's annoyance, some reviewers insist that it's a [[WrongGenreSavvy ''magic'' sword]]. It is [[WordOfGod nothing of the sort]]. Wolfe gave [[SoldierOfTheMist Latro ]] a magic sword ("It cuts things") as a TakeThat to the reviewers.
* CrapsackWorld: The old sun has dimmed, and the planet that was Earth is cooling. Urth itself is exhausted, and many of its inhabitants live on a medieval tech level. The best place to live is a dictatorship that is constantly under attack externally.
* CrystalDragonJesus: In a very FutureImperfect way, religious orders exist that are remnants of Christianity but have become really odd. The Torturer's Guild seems to be a warped version of the Catholic priesthood, as they still think about Saint Catherine in terms of a patron saint and torture is thought of as a messed up version of Confession. Even their formal name, "The Order for the Seekers of Truth and Penitence" equally describes torturers and Catholic clergy. There are the Pelerines who are like nuns but with some Eastern religion thrown in. Finally, there is the ritual of the Alzabo wherein you can gain someone's memories by eating their body along with this alien creature, which has echoes of the Eucharist.
** It goes even further than this. There is an actual CrystalDragonJesus in the form of the Conciliator. The religious orders are not actually remnants of Christianity but parallel to Christianity; angels, prophets and healing powers are all very much real. [[spoiler:Christianity doesn't exist yet because the New Sun's universe is before our own.]]
** [[spoiler:Sort of. The New Sun's universe is cyclic, so Christianity may have existed, but not in the same form as in our (later) universe.]]
*** [[spoiler:And the Conciliator, though being set up to be a distant memory of Jesus, is really Severian himself, via time-travel.]]
** Chillingly subverted in that the Conciliator myth [[spoiler:is engineered by SufficientlyAdvancedAliens to make it ''appear'' that their plan to destroy/renew Urth has a divine purpose. Arguably the entire plot is about Severian being manipulated into believing he is on a divine mission, so that he will create the Conciliator myth.]]
* CueTheSun: An apparent miracle attributed to Apu-Punchau.
* DarkMessiah / MessianicArchetype: Severian, aka [[spoiler:Apu-Punchau]].
** [[spoiler:He's also the Conciliator and the New Sun... i.e., the bringer of the apocalypse.]]
* DeadpanSnarker: Jonas, who often uses deadpan jokes. It is this habit that Severan notes that Jonas must have been a Sailor.
* DeadAllAlong: [[spoiler:Severian]]. For clarification, in the coda, Urth of the New Sun, [[spoiler:Severian]] died early in the book but immediately had all his memories implanted into a new, identical body that [[spoiler:Tzadkiel]] fashioned for him on the spot.
** [[spoiler:Unless he died earlier than that. And there's reason to think he did... there's a skull at the bottom of the river where he "nearly" dies in the first book.]]
* DeadlyEuphemism: The Torturer's Guild refers to its victims as "clients"; also, its technical name is "Guild of The Seekers for Truth and Penitence."
** [[spoiler:Which doubles as a StealthPun, since Severian is CrystalDragonJesus. I see what you did there, Gene Wolfe.]]
* DeconstructorFleet: The series deconstructs many things, but particularly of Joseph Campbell's Heroes Journey. [[spoiler: On the surface, Severian is a torturer and executioner who spares a woman, gets banished for it, and eventually rises to become the ruler of the nation, and the savior of the world, while becoming a better person. However, Severian's entire journey is pre-arranged and destined by SufficientlyAdvancedAliens so that he will bring about a future where humanity evolves into the SufficientlyAdvancedAliens. Severian's is, for the most part, incapable of seeing the strings.]]
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: In general, the culture of the Commonwealth has several different social values. Not surprising considering the setting. Severean himself doesn't have any problem with torture, considering more humane than forced labor or an indiscriminate death penalty. [[spoiler: He changes his mind on the matter later on.]]
* DeusExMachina: in book four when Severian is rescued by aliens in a spaceship (who ''had'' been introduced earlier). His rescuers explicitly state that they are pulling a Deus Ex Machina. However, it is likely that this is a subversion rather than simply lampshading an unsatisfying plot development: [[spoiler: the thoughtful reader is supposed to connect this with the puppet imagery earlier in the narrative, and wonder ''what else'' the 'powers from above the stage' have been doing during the story.]] The fact that Severian relates this Deus Ex Machina conversation but ''still'' doesn't understand how he's being manipulated, is perhaps one of the clearest examples of his status as UnreliableNarrator.
* DiamondsInTheBuff: Jolenta's outfit in Dr. Talos' play. (Severian and Dorcas are completely naked.)
* DramaticallyMissingThePoint: when Severian discovers [[spoiler:a bush covered in Claws]] on a beach in book IV, does he join the dots and recall that aliens just ''told him to his face'' that they were "powers from above stage" orchestrating the story of his life, taking him to the beach so he would have a necessary little adventure? No. He has a religious epiphany instead.
* DudeShesLikeInAComa: Severan undresses Jolenta when she's sleeping.
* {{Dystopia}}: The Ascian nation is an Orwellian dystopia. While the rest of the world isn't well off, the Commonwealth doesn't force people to speak only in authorized quotations.
* EldritchAbomination: Abaia and Erebus are particularly nasty, apparently, though [[TakeOurWordForIt they're never seen in person]] - only their human worshippers/slaves, the Ascians, who are an Orwellian totalitarian nation.
* ExaltedTorturer: Subverted with Severan. He may be the protagonist, and he believes that Torture is a necessary. But the reader is not meant to see him as heroic for being a torturer.
* {{Expy}}: Severian has aspects of the Emperor Claudius as seen in ''Literature/IClaudius''. He refers to people calling him "Severian the Mad" as well as "Severian the Lame" and like Claudius has a less than happy marriage to a woman named Valeria.
** In ''The Urth of the New Sun'' he mentioned that his friends called him "Severian the Lame" and his soldiers called him "Severian the Great." This may be a shout-out to the Asian warlord Timur, who was also known by both titles. (It was apparently a pun in Timur's language.)
** Also, sort of a combination of Expy and ShoutOut is the Librarian Ultan who Severian meets, who is clearly based on the author Borges.
** Which in turn suggests Borge's story ''Funes the Memorious'', about a young man with a voluminous memory, who is so weighed down with details that he is incapable making the generalisations needed to truly understand those facts - which shows us ''how'' Severian is an UnreliableNarrator.
** Abaia is arguably an Expy of Cthulhu.
* FantasyCounterpartCulture: The Commonwealth is based on the Byzantine empire, though set in South America.
* FiveManBand - subverted to hell and back with Dr Talos' players, who Severian crosses paths with and then ''leaves'', several times. Severian even meets Dr Talos and Baldanders [[YouAllMeetInAnInn in an inn]].
* FlowerInHerHair: Dorcas does this.
* ForegoneConclusion / FailureIsTheOnlyOption: Either Urth freezes beneath the dying Sun, or billions die with the coming of the New Sun, as prophesied by the Conciliator. [[spoiler: The fact that Severian himself is the Conciliator proves that the failed to find a Third Option, before the story even began.]]
* FutureImperfect: Several examples. While at the library, Severian sees a picture of the first men on the moon and not only describes it in an InnocentInaccurate way, but also wonders why there's no vegetation on it. Another scene makes reference to the planet Mars being renamed "Present" at some point and one character can't believe a language existed where the words for "gift" and "now" were the same. There's also a scene where Severian hears a story which has a definite similarity to that of Theseus, but has no idea of the connection. [[spoiler: Long lived robot Jonas does understand the connection though.]]
** "The Tale of The Student and His Son" is a mashup between Theseus and the Battle of Hampton Roads: the joke is that after so many centuries, people got the Minotaur confused with the ''Monitor.'' (There's a similar story that is a mashup of ''Literature/TheJungleBook'' and Romulus the founder of Rome - both children raised by wolves.)\\
The further joke being that the unnamed hero is dreamed up by a ''student'' - confusing 'Theseus' with ''a thesis''. And the ship being called ''The Land of the Virgins'' is intended as another pun. It ties in nicely with the sacrifice of maidens to the Minotaur, and that the ship fighting the ''Monitor'' was the ''Virgina''.
* GeneticMemory: Severian, after [[spoiler:ingesting alzabo gland extract and eating part of Thecla]], inherits her memories.
%%* GeniusBruiser: [[spoiler:Baldanders]].
* GenreSavvy: Severian, Jonas, and Dr. Talos all demonstrate clever and wily abilities.
* GentleGiant: Subverted. Baldanders appears to fit the archetype, but is actually [[spoiler:an [[OmnidisciplinaryScientist Omnidisciplinary]] MadScientist who will eventually, it is implied, ascend ''at least'' to [[AGodAmI demi-godhood]]]]. Note that while he's a giant [[spoiler:already, he's not even close to full-grown. He will get big enough to have to live in the water eventually, among the Undines and other giant-types too big to walk on land, which as the comment above states, seem to have eerie abilities - there's a throwaway reference to them swimming between the stars.]]
* GodGuise: Tzadkiel appears to Severian in the form of an angel. [[spoiler: He falls for it.]]
* HandsomeLech: While he does experience CharacterDevelopment, Severian has a really hard time relating women in terms other than their physical attractiveness. While Severian states outright that he himself is not at all attractive, [[UnreliableNarrator he isn't necessarily reliable on that topic]].
** Torturers are forbidden to marry (because their wives would be outcasts the same way torturers are, but without the compensations of belonging to a guild and knowing they are a critical part of the government apparatus.) However, they aren't required to be celibate, and they seem to hire prostitutes whenever they can scrape the money together; also, they're occasionally required to sexually assault the prisoners [[ValuesDissonance as part of a court-ordered punishment.]] Severian's behavior towards women is surprisingly considerate for someone who spent his entire childhood in this environment. (As he says at one point, he's a bad man trying to be a good one.)
* [[HeroStoleMyBike Hero Stole My Destrier]]: Despite him having a ride, when Severan sees a Destrier (a horse-analog that is ''far'' faster than our current day equines) unlike any before, and proceeds to steal it to get to his destination faster. [[spoiler: Funny enough, it turns out the destrier was owned by Voldaus, who latter ponders to Severan who could have stolen it.]]
* {{Homage}}: Many of the shorter stories encountered throughout the main text contain more or less obvious parallels to real-life mythology and literature. One is quite clearly the first chapter of Creator/RudyardKipling's ''Literature/TheJungleBook'', mashed up with the myth of Romulus and Remus and an American Thanksgiving story.
** Compare and contrast the Man-Apes in the mines with the Morlocks from TheTimeMachine (which also features the dying sun).
* HaveWeMetYet: Played straight and inverted ''at the same time''. The Hierodules are constantly moving backwards in time, while Severian moves through time normally - hence, his last meeting with them in ''Urth of the New Sun'' is their first meeting with him.
* HighDiveEscape: Baldanders.
* ImprobableWeaponUser: Severian and Agilus, during their duel, use plants whose poisonous leaves are picked and thrown like darts.
* IncestIsRelative: [[spoiler:Dorcas is Severian's grandmother, although neither of them know that at the time. Agia and Agilus are brother/sister lovers and may also be related to Severian, who has a definite thing for Agia.]]
* InformedAttractiveness: As with other aspects of the books' world, standards of beauty appear to undergo a ton of translation loss between actuality and the narration. There's a strong chance that many of the books' most "beautiful" characters would appear downright unsettling to our eyes. Consider the unnatural height and alien-influenced appearance of exultants, whose numbers include Thecla, Vodalus, and Thea. The exact ''degree'' of their distinctive height and features is vague, leaving it uncertain whether they'd strike us as beautiful people or as borderline {{HumanoidAbomination}}s. In addition, Severian's throwaway asides about Jolenta suggest a figure that goes right past CurvesInAllTheRightPlaces to extremes that border on {{Gonk}}.
* InnocentInaccurate: Severian combines this with being a straight UnreliableNarrator. He's more of the former in describing the world he lives in (e.g. his description of a photo of the moon landing), but is more like the latter in describing his own life.
* IstanbulNotConstantinople: As suggested in [[http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=469 the ''GURPS'' game]], the Commonwealth where Severian lives is in South America (Buenos Aires is often suggested as the location of Nessus), the [[PeoplesRepublicOfTyranny Ascians]] are the former United States of America, and the Xanthic peoples are Asian.
* KavorkaMan: Severian is ugly, often misogynistic, and, you know, a ''professional torturer and executioner'' -- but the number of women who don't seem to mind is rather staggering.
* KingIncognito: The Autarch is (at least) several of his own minor officials, a [[spoiler:brothel-keeper]], and a conspirator against the throne.
* LampshadedDoubleEntendre: Only sometimes sexual in this case, but Jonas' catchphrase is making "as the actress said to the bishop" type comments.
* LanguageOfTruth: the very [[Literature/NineteenEightyFour "newspeak"]] like language of the Ascians is intended to be this.
** Subverted by Loyal To The Group Of Seventeen's story.
* LiteraryAgentHypothesis: Each volume ends with a note from Gene Wolfe on the 'translation,' often with mentions of how frustratingly unclear Severian sometimes is.
* LowCultureHighTech: The Commonwealth has access to advanced technology (either through space trade or what's scavenged), but it's limited to the upper classes. The commonality and middle class is largely a medieval level technology and culture. It's unclear if this is due to knowledge being forgotten, or Urth simply no longer has the resources to support a High Tech culture.
%%* MadScientist: [[spoiler:Baldanders]].
%%* MagicFeather: The Claw of the Conciliator.
* MeaningfulName:
** Dr. Talos is named after [[spoiler:a metal man from Myth/ClassicalMythology, and does indeed turn out to be an ArtificialHuman.]]
** Baldanders has the name of a shapeshifting creature in German folklore. [[spoiler:He is not what he seems, and turns out to be subject to unnatural growth.]]
** At first, the name Urth appears to be a corruption of the word "Earth". But Urth is also one of the Norse Norns. The naming of Venus (Skuld) and Mars (Veroandi) follow the pattern.
* MechanicalEvolution: In ''The Urth of the New Sun'', the mechanical humanoid Sidero is revealed to be [[spoiler:a robot evolved out of spacesuits with built-in artificial intelligence.]]
* MedievalStasis: The Commonwealth of Urth of Severan's time. It's unclear how long Urth has been this way.
* MegaCity: Nessus, which takes days just to travel out of the city.
* MindScrew: Is Severian god? Is the whole thing a complicated twisting plot through multiple timelines? Can we believe a quarter of what Severian is telling us? And many many others. Let's put it this way, there's enough Mind Screw in here to make Evangelion look like an episode of Sesame Street. Ironically, Severian writes that the purpose of his book is to ''avoid'' speculation about the events of his life. One can imagine Wolfe having tongue firmly in cheek when he wrote that.
* MoreDeadlyThanTheMale: There are no longer women torturers, because of how often they exceeded the punishments set out by the courts. In fairness, this decision was made by a ''man'' who may have been extrapolating from one bad example.
* MsFanservice: Jolenta is a deconstruction. Her carefully (and sometimes painfully) maintained figure is a source of inconvenience, and people ''hate'' her for being so attractive even as they lust after her. Jonas is the only one who truly and unconditionally loves her for herself.
%%* OurAngelsAreDifferent: If they're not aliens.
%%* OurMonstersAreDifferent: Just about every possible variety.
* PassingTheTorch: In the Commonwealth, the Autarch is not a hereditary position (in theory at least), but one which is traditionally passed down to a member of the Commonality. [[spoiler:The Autarch does this to Severian]]. It's also the reason why so many Exultants (the hereditary nobility) dislike the Autarch.
* PerfectlyCromulentWord: frequently
--> He (Master Gurloes) mispronounced quite common words: urticate, salpinx, bordereau.
--> (translation: string with nettles, the fallopian or eustachian tube, a memorandum listing documents)
* PublicExecution: Severian is a public executioner and describes some of his jobs when he decides it's relevant to providing a setting for the story.
* RagsToRoyalty: Severian, as promised in chapter one.
* RecursivePrecursors: the Hierogrammates were created by humanity in an earlier cycle of the Universe. They now forge the humanity of Severian's Universe.
--> Your race and ours are, perhaps, no more than each other's reproductive mechanisms.
* RobotBuddy: Severan unknowingly encounters one on his journey. [[spoiler:It's Jonas, who is a robot that was fixed with organic material.]]
* ScavengerWorld: Creator/GeneWolfe once described Urth as "the future where we sit at home and wait for the money to run out" - humanity has exhausted all the resources of the planet and can no longer support any level of technology higher than medieval. Only the ruling class have access to higher levels of tech, which they get by trading for it with extra-terrestrials. In ''The Claw of the Conciliator'' Severian runs into a village of "miners" who basically make a living by ''robbing graves''.
* SealedEvilInACan: Typhon, whom Severian accidentally releases...[[spoiler: [[CrowningMomentOfFunny and then kills within the next few pages]]]].
* ShowWithinAShow: Dr. Talos' play "Eschatology and Genesis," which is an allegory for the overarching plot of the series.
* SpaceIsAnOcean: Not only are sailing metaphors used for space travelers, their crafts are actually made a lot like traditional sail boats. In fact, not only are ordinary sailors sometimes employed on starships, but thanks to the difficulty of travel, other planets may as well be other continents as far as most people are concerned.
* SpeaksInShoutOuts: Soldiers from the Ascian empire. Any citizen of Ascian can only speak by quoting from the "Authorized Texts". Its another example of the dystopia Ascia is.
%%* TheSpock: Severian.
* SpiritualSuccessor: To Creator/JackVance's ''Literature/DyingEarth'' stories - both are set in a far future where science has decayed, and features a dying sun.
* SoBeautifulItsACurse: Subverted by Jolenta -- she herself enjoys being so beautiful that EvenTheGirlsWantHer. [[spoiler:However, the process used by Dr. Talos to ''make'' her beautiful has left her effectively crippled and dependent on various lotions and chemicals only he can provide, without which it breaks down. Horribly.]]
* StarKilling: What's happening to the Old Sun. [[spoiler: Apparently a black hole was sent into the Sun, causing it to enter a dimmer, red state without expanding into a giant.]]
* SolarCPR: What turns out to be the plot of the series. [[spoiler: Severan is successful, but at the cost of causing a cataclysmic flood.]]
%%* SufficientlyAdvancedAliens: The Hierodules.
* TheRevolutionWillNotBeVilified: Subverted with Vodalus. He and his followers claim to be working to return the decaying Urth to its former past glory. [[spoiler: It turns out Vodalus is in league with Abaia, who wants to prevent the New Sun from arriving.]]
* TheStarsAreGoingOut: Inverted. The sun is very dimmed and fading quickly -- meaning that the others stars are now visible during the day.
* ThemeNaming:
** Siblings such as Agilus and Agia are intentionally given similar names, also apparently telling the order of their birth. [[spoiler: Severian's name indicates he has an older sister, somewhere.]]
** Vodalus and all characters from the city of Nessus, including Severian himself, are named after saints (though many of them little-known).
* ThoseTwoBadGuys: [[spoiler:Dr. Talos and Baldanders.]]
%%* TorchesAndPitchforks: Baldanders' castle. Lampshaded by Dr Talos.
* TortureTechnician: The Torturer's Guild in which Severian is raised and apprenticed. As there are, by decree, no female torturers, the guild raises such male infants as fall into their hands.
* TrackingDevice: It's explicit that powers are guiding Severian's journey, so they'll need a way to keep tabs on him. Maybe through something that he will always keep with him, such as [[spoiler:the Claw of the Conciliator?]]
* UnreliableNarrator: Severian is one of the big ones, and it is sometimes [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]]. He claims on several occasions to have an eidetic memory - but it's quite clear that he sometimes lies outright. He also omits details that he apparently considers unimportant (or has difficulty understanding) - this extends to major events that change the course of the story.
** Further, Severian's verbose (and usually (significantly) inconclusive) philosophical ramblings tend to disguise the fact that he isn't smart enough to work out what's really going on. It is an alleged trait of some real-life mnemonists - shared by Severian - that they are passive acceptors, and combine a wealth of thought with surprisingly little intellect.
** Wolfe's ShoutOut to the author Borges (the library/Ultan the Librarian) is likely a pointer to Borge's 'Funes the Memorious' as a indicator of why Severian is unreliable; Funes is a young man who's head is so full of facts that he 'can't think any more', and is incapable of making the generalisations that Severian needs to join the dots.
** [[http://www.urth.net/urth/archives/v0307/3619.txt.shtml One reader]] went carefully through the novels and noticed that ''every single time'' Severian mentions his "eidetic" memory he goes on to recall something that's already happened in the novel... and gets some detail wrong. Either he's lying constantly or his memory is nothing like as good as he thinks it is. (Formatting on the link is pretty ugly; scroll down a page or so to get the content.)
* VestigialEmpire: The Commonwealth of Urth. It's the successor of an interstellar empire. Now it barely holds onto one measly continent.
* ViewersAreGeniuses: The books are peppered with a large amount of very obscure terms that will look like Latin altered to fit English grammatical rules to the casual reader. As noted in the afterword of the first book, none of the words are made up, and have seen real-world usage -- their obscurity is intended to reinforce the fact that they are approximations of untranslatable concepts, nothing else. Someone with an exceptionally large vocabulary will have a much easier time understanding the books, as a result.
* VoiceChangeling: The alzabo can perfectly imitate the voice of anyone that it has eaten. It naturally uses this to lure its victims family members out of hiding.
* WarfareRegression: Played with - frontline soldiers of the Commonwealth are armed with slings, crossbows, and lances. Traditional cavalry has returned. However, the slings and crosswbows have pyrotechnic ammo, said lances fire energy beams, and the cavalry ride creatures that can go 100 Miles per hour.
* WeirdTradeUnion:
** Besides the Torturers, there are several other guilds such as Librarians and Animal trainers, as well as one of Witches, although rather than being magical, they appear more akin to a spy network.
** Severian claims that the Animal Trainers are literally ''married'' to their animals. It is likely he is confused by the term "animal husbandry".
* WhamEpisode: Lake Diaturna.
* WhamLine: Wolfe manages to finish chapter ''one'' with a wham line.
--> It was in this fashion that I began the long journey by which I have [[RagsToRoyalty backed into the throne]].
* WhatMeasureIsANonHuman: One of the central themes. [[spoiler:In particular, contrast Jolenta with Jonas.]]
* WouldHitAGirl: Severian, and not just professionally:
--> There were two women there who had been lovers as we had been, and they stared at us and laughed; but when they saw I would not spare them because they were women, they fled shrieking.
* WhyYouShouldDestroyThePlanetEarth
* YeOldeNuclearSilo: The Citadel, which was probably a Spaceport at one time. Numerous guilds, including the torturers, are housed in decrepit spaceships in the complex.
* YoungerThanTheyLook: throughout his journey, people consistently treat Severian as a mature adult, and granted his post-industrial world requires children to grow up quickly. Nevertheless it should be remembered that the journey takes place immediately after his elevation to Journeyman - he's around eighteen. It's easy for the reader to ascribe to Severian an intellectual maturity which he does not possess, which brings us back to UnreliableNarrator.

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