Rating: 4 out of 5
I got this one a fair time ago to look at when the spark hit… I can’t say the spark ever did, but I still picked the book up, and Mr Sapkowski’s dry and witty take at the world took me in once again, just as with the Witcher books. Of course, the reader does (almost) end up banging their head against a (nearby) desk to cry out when Reynevan is doing something stupid once again, but that’s the nature of the story. At least the historical settings of the Hussite period is an interesting time and place for a non-local to learn more about.
I would guess the Hussites are mentioned in most general overviews of history, whether in school or elsewhere. But rarely would such and overview go into the topic in much depth, I would imagine, unless one was specifically in Czechia. Mr Sapkowski has taken this world and made it accessible as it mostly seems to be the purview of dedicated academics (excepting the one or two Ospreys on aspects of Hussite warfare). Yet, the author has done more than simply describe a religious question of six centuries past: the medieval life the characters see when travelling includes the detail that we today need to go back into what life would have looked like then.
Why then the four stars? I’m not convinced—yet, at least—of the need to bring magic into this series. I understand the descriptions the characters and raubritters go into: the edge of the world, endless forest, etc. But could this still have been a better book without the lean into magic? Maybe… And maybe not. Magic has been fairly integral thus far, I am keen to find out how this keeps on working into the next series. As a consolation, the main cast is primarily non-magical with the most important insights thus far provided by Scharley (who knows how the world works). If only Reynevan wasn’t such a “marshal of the asses”…