Friday, January 3, 2020

The Tower of Swallows by: Andrzej Sapkowski translated by: David French

The Tower of Swallows feels like the oddest book thus far in The Witcher saga by Andrzej Sapkowski.  While the previous books haven’t always placed Geralt front and center in the action, it is this book which feels most like it is sidelining the main hero of the saga, instead focusing squarely on Ciri’s story and several side characters as buildup to the final book in the saga.  Geralt’s only real contribution to this novel is still searching for Ciri and receives information about the prophecy involving Ciri from an elf, while finding druids which know her location.  Dandelion’s published “Half a Century of Poetry” is used almost as a framing device for their party’s segments, telling quite a bit of the story in a mix between flashback and flash forward which makes them interesting to read.  There is also a decent amount of character development given to Geralt’s party of travelers throughout the novel with Dandelion’s opinions on just how odd this band of travelers is interspersed.  Reading this novel after the release of the Netflix adaptation, through these sections in particular the voice of Joey Batey as narrator.  These sections also seem to have a large theme of chaos embedded in them: the war is building and danger shakes at every turn while Geralt is barely managing to avoid the trouble brewing for him.

Of the numerous side plots, Yennefer’s is perhaps one of the more interesting as it builds towards revealing Vilgefortz’s backstory and a search to find the sorcerer.  It’s a plotline which really gives Yennefer a chance to shine on her own and brings quite a bit of her own motivations directly to the reader with her own point of view.  The climax of her plotline is also perhaps one of the most intense: taking Yennefer close to her limits physically and emotionally, and ending with Yennefer in an apparently broken state.  Vilgefortz in this novel shows just how effective of a villain he is in his few scenes with Yennefer: the man has this insanity about him that isn’t stated outright, but slowly revealed as he becomes more and more desperate for power.  This plotline feels like Sapkowski is playing around with espionage tropes in a fantasy setting without altering the tone of his story to fit that type of story which makes for an odd time reading these portions of the book as it doesn’t quite match.  The Nilfgaard plot is also interesting with the Secret Service led by Tawny Owl Stefan Skellen getting quite a large portion of the novel to their search for Ciri whom they find and lose, scarring the Lion Cub in the process.  Sapkowski uses this portion of the book to muse on the benevolent totalitarianism that Nilfgaard imposes, fully aware just how contradictory the empire is.  This is also the point where Emperor Emhyr var Emries decides that it’s time to marry the false Ciri because like the rest of the characters he is also becoming desperate with his position in the war.

Ciri’s plot is what gets the most dedication in the book.  The novel opens with the rescue of Ciri by Vysogota, an elderly learned man who lives in a swamp.  Vysogota nurses Ciri back to health and essentially interviews her for the majority of the novel as her story takes up the most space.  As a character, there is this interesting mix of professional detachment and deep caring for Ciri.  Early on, he is examining Ciri to ascertain just what is wrong with her and how to treat her wounds, and there is never a moment where the character comes across as creepy.  He’s only helping her, and not using her unconscious state to take any advantage of the young witcher.  He grows to care for the girl, persuading her to stay to heal and not go out fighting monsters by herself.  Ciri’s plot in this book in particular is one of growing into maturity as she believes both Geralt and Yennefer to have perished, as well as seeing all her bandit friends die, and eventually coming to reckon with her own powers and place in destiny.  Her defeat of a banshee late into this novel is representative of just how far she has come and how she is nearer to equaling Geralt and Yennefer as characters.  Gone is the little girl of early novels, and in her place is a confident woman.  Overall, The Tower of Swallows or The Tower of the Swallow does some very important things for the series and is enjoyable, but does not reach the heights of the previous novel and some of the short stories.  7/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment