“I mistook stars reflected in a pond at night for those in the sky.”
Minor Spoilers May Follow ~
The narrative commences at what seems like a time of contempt indeed. The Kings aren’t conversing with the Mages as they have previously, the Nilfgaardian army is still planning for war, and the Scoia’tael (Squirrels) are attacking humans in forests and villages. Many parties are all still looking for the elusive Lion Cub, the child of Destiny, Cirilla.
After an interesting and quite tragic point of view chapter following a King’s messenger called Aplegatt, where the worrying and uneasy times that the world is currently facing are expressed, we are introduced back to Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer. Geralt is doing typical Witcher work and trying to find out more about the mysterious magician Rience. We are unfamiliar with the mage’s motives or who his employer may be but it’s clearly known he wants Ciri. Yennefer and Ciri are travelling to Thanedd which is where a conclave of mages and enchantresses is set to take place shortly to discuss these times of contempt and how it affects the magic-wielders of the world. Whilst here, it transpires that Ciri may be left with the enchantresses to study at the female magic school of Aretuza.
This is a difficult book to review, not because it is bad but because the book seems to be split into two distinctive styles of telling the story. One of these two styles generally features fan favourites such as Dandelion (although not as much as I would have liked), Geralt, Ciri, Triss, and Yennefer and includes some of the finest and well-crafted scenes that have been created in the series to date. Two of my favourites include a spectacular dual with someone who I’m sure is going to become a huge character in the saga, and also reading into the intrigue, politics, backstabbing, and agendas at the mages ‘meet-and-greet’ buffet prior to the conclave. A war is brewing and through unfamiliar point of view characters or slightly boring chapters where a member of the ensemble talks to another we are relaid complex political happenings that are occurring in all states across this world. These often include many complex and unfamiliar names of people, places, alliances, etc… It was difficult to keep track of who was supporting who. It also wasn’t really obvious that some of the point of views were from the Nilfgaardian perspective until I was halfway through that segment and had to reevaluate what I’d just read. These later sections take up about 25% of the book. Honestly, I just forced myself through them knowing that I wouldn’t follow every exact detail but it wasn’t enough to truly affect my enjoyment when the scenes with less info dumping were reintroduced a few pages later. There are also a lot of names of mages to remember when the magicians’ meeting arrives about forty percent through the story.
Of the scenes that aren’t information dumps, I’d estimated that seventy-five percent follows the Witcher and Ciri although not necessarily following the same storyline, and the rest tracks the action of Yennefer, Dandelion, and others. Geralt and Ciri are my favourite characters so this was fine for me. Please be warned, that as well as typical fantasy violence presented in line with what has been presented previously, there is a potential/ implied rape scene towards the end of Time of Contempt. Although it is not graphic it is not for everyone so I thought I’d make you aware. This happens around the ninety-five percent mark and if you don’t want to read that, it doesn’t actually take that much away from the story to pass it by.
Ciri is still having her visions and nightmares, we meet the Wild Hunt for the first time, Geralt slays a few monsters, Yennefer is still beautiful, charming, powerful and manipulative, Dandelion is still a world-renowned poet. We are also introduced to some very interesting new characters including Vilgefortz and Nilfgaard’s ruler. This book feels more like a progression than a full story in its self. Unlike some fantasy, I’ve found that these books don’t really have gut-wrenchingly tragic or ‘oh-my-god-I-did-not-see-that-twist-coming’ endings. I believe that these should be read as one huge novel that same way that Stephen King thought of his The Dark Tower books. That being said, the ending does set up things nicely for Baptism of Fire and it looks like it might introduce a new dynamic for one of the main players.
So far this isn’t my favourite fantasy series of all time yet, something does seem to click with me. I love the characters and the tales are utterly addictive. Every single one of the four entries I have read so far has only taken me two days apiece to complete. My original aim was to read this series before the Netflix show is released next year and I don’t think I’ll be the only person who has these thoughts. If you weren’t sure whether to dive into the Witcher’s world then I would personally recommend that you take the leap.