Book two of the projected tetralogy The Book of the New Sun, following The Shadow of the Torturer (Simon & Schuster, 1980)--and the quest is again an uneven one as Severian, now journeyman Torturer, plies his trade and continues his wanderings accompanied by mysterious sidekick Jonas, now revealed as a robot inadequately repaired with human flesh. Along the way, Severian carries a strange jewel (the Claw)--which saves him when old adversary Agia traps him in a buried city inhabited by vicious ape-men. Later, pressed into the service of warlord Vodalus, Severian absorbs the persona of his dead lady-love Thecla during a repulsive ceremonial; and when accidentally imprisoned in the House Absolute (residence of the Autarch and an assortment of weird creatures), Thecla's memory supplies the location of a hidden door enabling Severian and Jonas to escape. Finally, then, damaged Jonas goes off seeking repair, while Severian, after a reunion with the beautiful Dorcas and enigmatic Dr. Talos, sets off to return the dangerous Claw to its rightful owners. Again, as in Vol. I, Wolfe's elliptical, discursive, weighty style seems ill-suited to the crisp pace and snappy action needed for sword-and-sorcery dazzle; and despite some fine, strong, original passages, all but the most determined readers will get bogged down in heavy-going, virtually incomprehensible stretches. Talented work, then, but gory, gothic, and cumbersome overall.