Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Time of Contempt by: Andrzej Sapkowski translated by: David French

The Time of Contempt is the shortest of the Witcher Saga for what seems to be the simple reason is the author Andrzej Sapkowski used this installment to build up where the series is going to eventually conclude.  The book ends with characters in various places around the world searching for one another and putting into place the politics of war as battles break out between forces.  Much like Blood of Elves, The Time of Contempt is most definitely the story of Ciri instead of Geralt, who doesn’t appear in the final third of the book and is sent into exile with a group of dryads about halfway through.  The same can be said of Yennefer who disappears once the council of sorcerers is attacked at the midpoint of the novel.  This isn’t an issue with the novel, as the rest of the characters make up for the main characters’ absence.  The most interesting portion of the book is when Geralt is in exile and Dandelion has to fill him, and by extension the audience, into the goings on of the wider world.  This segment of the novel reads incredibly like a scene in a stage play where Dandelion narrates while the flashbacks start to show what exactly happens.  Dandelion also serves as a nice source of comic relief as the entire book deals with the emerging war between Nilfgaard and the rest of the world, which somehow feels just as dangerous even though Sapkowski leaves much of the bloody battles in this book off-screen.

This is also the novel where Rience’s master, Vilgefortz, a sorcerer at the council, is revealed to be a major player in this war and working behind the scenes for his own benefit.  The entire sequence of the novel at the Council is where we get most of Geralt’s appearances in the book occur, and several other characters attempt to get Geralt on their side.  One point of Geralt’s core philosophy is that he only works for himself, despite the attitude he gives to others that Yennefer has him around her finger, and attempting to buy him and his allegiance is interesting to say the least.  These other characters try to get Geralt on their side and somehow he is unable to read between the lines to see that everything is going to come crumbling down.  This is extended to the audience as we are only privy to Geralt’s mind throughout these scenes and we cannot see it coming, which allows the slow disintegration of stability to hit incredibly hard.  Geralt also begins to patch up his relationship with Yennefer through these segments, as Ciri runs away from Yennefer to Geralt which brings them together.  The two characters have to face each other to see just what they wish to do with Ciri, which of course evolves into the beginning of rekindling sparks in the relationship.  Sapkowski also avoids writing an unnecessary love triangle, at least in this book, as the character of Triss Merigold appears and has shown an attraction to the Witcher in the past.  She’s oddly more of a background character here, only serving as a messenger to explain why Dandelion can find Geralt later in the book.

Sapkowski also gives Emperor of Nilfgaard Emyr van Emries as the breaking up of the council is his doing, and this is what starts the entire war.  Emries is also one of those interesting characters who is intent on marrying Ciri due to the fact that she is the Child of the Elder Blood, and Sapkowski allows this to give us some depth into just what the prophecy states.  The idea is that Ciri’s son will destroy this age and usher in a new age, something that everyone fears.  Emries wishes to marry Ciri just to confirm his place as Emperor, and goes so far as to finding an imposter to use as a bride.  Sapkowski makes the character utterly despicable throughout the book in his few segments.  The last third of the novel focuses exclusively on Ciri’s attempts to survive in desert and mountains where she comes upon a unicorn.  This section of the book shows just how much the character has grown into her own, finding a way to use magic to survive and falling into a group of bandits known as the Rats which work as a place of safety and give her a new name, Falka, which coincidentally refers to one of her ancestors also of the Elder Blood.  The biggest issue of the novel is here, however, as the book really doesn’t conclude, instead it just stops where it is.  Clearly, Sapkowski intended each installment in the saga to be just one part, but unlike Blood of Elves which ended on a definite note, The Time of Contempt leaves the reader with many dangling threads which works as a double-edged sword.  It entices the reader to return, but just leaves with slight notes of confusion.  8/10.

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