Imagine me holding the book upside down, cocking my head to the side and squinting while gritting my teeth. That's the depiction of my bafflement.
I do not know what I've done wrong with this book; I have seen Gene Wolfe showered with praises left, right and from Neil Gaiman's lips, and cornered with ferocious attacks front, back and center. To my eyes, it was a downhill read from a quite "Mhmm" of interest to an abyss of lethargic silence.
I was interested in the guild of torturers, but nothing of much interest was revealed. I was interested in the details of the torturers' work, but that is apparently for others to know. I wanted some argute psychological insight into the mind of a person raised to be a torturer, but Severian's mind is void of any insight (despite Thecla's "You're so intellectual, you will be the most cerebral torturer in history" – now THAT would have been a story worth the reading).
But no, I have found nothing that would justify the reading of the second book. Some details here and there (the chaps that eat corpses, the guild of the librarians, some thoughts on clemency and so on) gave me some vain hope that something interesting would happen in the next page , but the plot was so flat it would have needed surgery to draw the eye. The characters were so bland and insipid they resembled actors more than people – not one breath of psychological undertone in their existence. The female characters, this should be said, were especially atrocious: if Severian's inclination to fall in what he called love suddenly and for no apparent reason was hard to believe, every woman's continued effort to present herself in various states of semi undress when in front of him was probably the greatest fictional ingredient of the whole sorry story. The ending was so abrupt one would think someone has chopped the last chapters off out of frustration and they have been reprinting the book like that ever since.
Except tht it's not a book that compels frustration, just a very quiet, very disappointed sigh.