Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Lady of the Lake by: Andrzej Sapkowski translated by: David French

The Lady of the Lake is the final book in Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher saga and concludes the story of Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri.  Sure there was one final book published, but that is a midquel so doesn’t really alter what happens in this one.  This final book is the longest and most distinct from the others.  The series itself has used the Polish and Eastern European mythology, from tales of Sapkowski’s youth, to flesh out its world and to tell it story.  The Lady of the Lake is a departure from that, instead taking its title and aspects of its plot from British legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  The story is once again presented through narration from Ciri after the fact, this time in the role of the Lady of the Lake to Sir Galahad of the Round Table, eventually revealing that Ciri has left her home and traveled far to some version of the British Isles.  The story she tells is one that allows her to emotionally process events, and is implied to be at least partially an unreliable narrator.  Some of her final comments to Galahad really hit hard with the last 100 pages of the novel reading as an extended epilogue, concluding the story and wrapping up every loose end Ciri, Geralt, and Yennefer created throughout the series.  This epilogue is particularly impactful for how it ends everything, drawing upon Arthurian themes and leaving the series on a bittersweet, yet satisfying note.  Dandelion also only appears in this epilogue portion of the novel and the wrap up to his story serves as one final comedic plot point before the bittersweet ending really sets in.

The actual climax of the novel is perhaps its most engaging section, as Ciri and Yennefer are captured by Vilgefortz and Geralt’s party are actually making headway to rescue her.  Vilgefortz’s final plan is one to gain as much power as possible using Ciri’s Elder Blood and Sapkowski presents it in a way that makes the reader squirm.  It’s described in such a methodical and plain way that the disgusting nature of the plan is what really gets into the reader’s head, and puts you right on the side of Ciri as she escapes the lab on her own.  It also begins a long and tense buildup to the defeat of Vilgefortz which is non-stop action and character resolution almost resembling a dungeon crawl.  It’s this point in the novel where you really get to see how much Ciri has grown into an adult at this point: she has matured into a women and knows now more than ever how to handle herself.  Her reunion with Geralt and Yennefer is also incredibly satisfying, making up for the several books of buildup to this moment.  This section of the novel also concludes the storylines for Geralt’s party, each getting a final fate befitting of them.  Cahir finishes his redemption arc, fighting to the death while protecting Ciri from Vilgefortz’s clutches.  His is one which does not have as much detail in the sequence, but the way it is done is enough to end his arc.  The same can be said for Milva, who goes out in a blaze of glory for the archer that she is.  Finally, Regis’ ending is perhaps the most subtle, but the one with the best quips.  This is the novel where we finally get to see him embrace his vampiric nature, drinking the blood of his enemies and turning into a bat in what turns out to be a very satisfying sequence. He also gets the best quote of the novel: “There are occasions…where it’s simply impossible not to have a drink” and props must be given to David French for translating the novel so expertly.

Finally, the conflict with Nilfgaard is finally resolved and everything comes onto the table with why Emhyr var Emries actually wants Ciri.  It is for the same reason as Vilgefortz of course, but the plot thickens when it is revealed that the Emperor is in fact Ciri’s own father Duny, who plotted his wife’s death and only just survived.  He has lived since in this new identity and actually comes to marry the false Ciri once Ciri escapes.  The entirety of “A Question of Price” is recontextualized here and Duny is revealed to be utterly ruthless, willing to execute Geralt and Yennefer, claiming it is to rescue Ciri.  It is this which brings the pair to proclaim their undying love for one another, as they become resolute to confirm their love and commit suicide in a hot bath according with a ritual.  The eventual wedding to the false Ciri is also an excellent way of wrapping up everything else with regards to the Nilfgaard conflict.  Overall, The Lady of the Lake is an excellent end to a saga and really making me feel bad that this journey is over.  Yes, Season of Storms exists, but as a midquel I already know how that book will end and that it is leading up to this.  The Witcher is a series I highly recommend especially now that the Netflix adaptation has been released.  9/10.

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