This massive novel told in four volumes is set in Earth's far future. The Sun is dying and mankind has reverted to a pre-technological feudal existence. Yet traces of a star faring past still abound.
The main protagonist is a wandering torturer who earns his keep by performing mutilations and executions in the towns he passes through.
This is a weighty story that has been hailed as a masterpiece but I found it hard enough going. The main character is utterly selfish and devoid of compassion and the writing style is very confusing at times. Things improved a lot in the third and fourth volumes when Wolfe finally starts to reveal what's really going on. All the confusing bits from earlier turn out to have a purpose but then the author turns around and wraps everything up with a massive self proclaimed Deus ex machina.
This is a deep and complex novel that could probably benefit from a second reading but I not so sure I Could be bothered.