Review: The Time of Contempt, Andrzej Sapkowski

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’m in two minds about this episode in the Witcher’s story. The reader knows much more than the people in the book, and this means that some surprises to other characters in the previous volume turned out to be not that surprising in the end. Nevertheless, there are some serious plot turns in this book which, simply put, astounded me.

One of my main complaints that I levelled against Geralt in the past had to do with his ignorance of the world. In many ways, I would have hoped that the short story that begins all of this in Blaviken would have cured him of it. Yet, the discussion of evil—greater and lesser—had only a temporary effect. Therefore, in ‘Blood of Elves’ Geralt stands to the side, in theory if not in action, more than he should. This carries through to ‘The Time of Contempt’ and a lot of the trouble in this book could have been avoided if Geralt would make his mind up quicker.

Yennefer, who is so great to follow in the other books, barely features here, while the reader is left with plenty of space to consider her motives. This seems a bit hostile an action by the author towards one of the protagonists, and the few moments where we see Yennefer reveal her thoughts are therefore more worthwhile. Yet, this book ends with a shadow on Yennefer, and—without knowing more—this sounds unfair.

The reader, however, is introduced to a number of other sorcerers, including Sabrina, Tissaia, and Vilgefortz. The names may be familiar from earlier books, but it is in this one where the author’s emphasis makes these characters live. All-in-all, the author managed to maintain suspense for all of these characters without spoiling their intentions so I am not going to do that either.

The author’s style varied again. At one point—and this may only be down to my inattentiveness—I noticed that the author was writing in the present tense. This surprised me greatly, but made for very interesting comparisons to the mentions of future and past. Dialogue was emphasised as in the previous book which I consider a good device. One of the most interesting options that the author chose to use, however, were indirect descriptions where other characters related the course of events and also mentioning that some of the characters would be alive some time into the future. These both read as options that the author had considered in depth, and I think it is interesting to see such great variance in a book.

Overall, I am not happy with the present course of events on the Continent, but it remains to be seen how things turn out.

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