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The book has been a real burden. It's full of talks, politics, grim thoughts and machinations. The amount of description and dialogue that have gone into this work is mind -boggling. But it lost the plot. I can say with a lot of certainty that the series has lost most, if not all of its lustre, thanks to this volume. Why the second star, then, to raise the book above the gloomy and dejected one-star rating that it deserves? For just one chapter — where Geralt attends the dinner hosted by the wizards. That was full of wit and erotic tension that had truly livened up the proceedings. The rest was drivel. You 've been warned.
It is a while since I read the previous two novels and it may be that my memory is lacking but as I remember It I found them hard to put down, whereas with this one I found myself reluctant to pick it back up having finished a reading session. The storyline seemed disjointed and I found myself sometimes wondering if it really was the same author or whether it was a poor translation.
What I like about the Witcher/Sapkowski books - particularly Last Wish - is the moral ambiguity of it all. Geralt hunts monsters but he doesn't do it thoughtlessly and he will admit that the monsters are in fact endangered species that he is helping along the path to extinction. Geralt, the mutant, is the exception, the noble savage giving contrast to the rest of rude humanity who are terrible, ignorant racists toward the elves, dwarves etc, who, in turn, don't help their case by fighting back with terrorism and torture against civilian targets. Every king depicted is a bastard. Every soldier is a rapist and a s***. It's quite Song of Ice and Firey but more brusquely and generically Tolkienesque. And, much like in aSoIaF, sticking to your principles has a terrible cost.
There are huge problems with this book. The biggest problem is that it doesn't seem to have a structure - it's not a story on its own. It's part of a story, sure. It's a bit of Geralt, a bit of Ciri, a bit of Yennifer, a bit of some random soldier who is going to be killed, a bit on some bandits. The POV is haphazard and flip-floppy - forgetting people and introducing you to others even as the final pages approach. It's like an arty film where what you get is glimpses of lives and the effect a few people have on one another - which I suppose is a valid form of storytelling, but it feels horribly hollow. I expect a book, even when it's an episode in a series, to have some closure. This doesn't. It's more like a timeline than a story.
The second big problem is that too many people seem to speak with the same voice. I'm a soldier in a provincial guard who serves a knight - well I must be a s*** who hates the knight and who wants to turn a profit any way I can and bonk little girls then. I'm a centurion of an army ordered to go into an allied country and steal the borderlands while its far reaches are being steamrolled by an enemy empire. Fine - I'll order my men to do their raping quietly so the peasants don't kick up too much fuss when they're annexed. If you're going to flip character to character at least give the reader someone to like. A Song of Ice and Fire is good not simply because a reader isn't sure who will live and who will die, but because it shows different sides to characters - you hate them one minute and the next you understand and sympathise.
Third, I'm pretty sure that a lot of this book is lost in translation. If I see the word contempt again...
The first few books in the series, though mostly poor reimaginings of well known fairy tales, are decent but the series quickly declines. Judging by the writing the author has no life experiences but tries to write as though he has a clue about things like sex with a woman. To make matters worse his narrative style changes throughout the series. Perhaps much is lost in translation.
A dull read. It becomes relatively interesting and engaging when the story focuses on Ciri, Geralt, and Yennefer. But when it turns to Dandelion or some random one-shot nobody, it makes for some dreadfully boring stuff. About 2/3rds in, I had to start skimming all the no-name narratives just to get back to something worth reading.
And what is up with the phrase "Time of Contempt"? I don't get it. It's good for one line and makes for a nice title, but here it shows up about every other chapter. Why? Okay, it's a time of contempt - we get it already! There's no need for the author to keep returning to that catch phrase. After a while it's just annoying.
I also did not particularly care for all the casual mention of rape or attempted rape in this book. Maybe the bad guys are that way, but I would have like to see a little more anger and agency on Ciri's part toward this kind of thing. Although the book tried to paint her otherwise, she's still far too passive for my taste.
I've enjoyed the previous two English incarnations of The Witcher series. Before, they were 'different' - I'm hard pressed to remember a similar plot and story-telling structure, while the use of Easter European fairy tale creatures was unusual. As well, the earlier two books had a very unusual compositional structure. I'm not sure if it was from Sapkowski's original writing, or the translation to English, but sentence structure had a very lyrical quality. 'Time of Contempt', on the other hand, lacks nearly all of this. Very disappointing story, frankly, as it bogs down in personal and kingdom politics - reading it after the other two books was like watching the second (new) Star Wars trilogy after being raised on the original trilogy (I mean, who reads/watches this stuff for trade policy discussion!?). And, the writing (sentence structure) was very bland, even prosaic. In the end, it reads like a different author and a different series.
The Witcher Geralt is only in about 15% of this book. I really enjoyed the previous titles in this series but this one headed in a different direction that I really didn't care for. Also the constant use of the word "contempt" was obnoxious. I get it, you don't need to browbeat the reader with your theme. Was something lost in the translation?