I read this book months ago now so I can’t really do a full writeup, but for the sake of having the complete series here I figured I’d jot down the points I did remember.
Anyway, overall, I thought this book was back to form for the series. I really liked it and thought it did all the same things right the previous books were good at.
This book was largely a travelogue, and this really, really worked to Sapkowski’s strengths. It allowed him to write a novel with an overarching plotline — “get to Ciri” — but still basically structure each part as a self-contained story with its own conflicts and major characters. It was basically the best of both worlds.
The characters also shined once again. I really loved the side characters, especially Milva and Regis. Milva got to be brash and make errors in judgement in a way female characters are usually either ridiculed for or barred from altogether, and I found it endearing. She got to make decisions based on what she knew and be wrong without being blamed, but was also really good at things and brave and great to have around. Regis was just a character archetype I really love, the whole person vs self conflict, and that he serves to hold a light to Geralt’s ongoing conflict of duty and morals made his scenes all the more compelling.
Also, not shockingly, I thought the pregnancy/abortion plotline was done so well. My heart just broke for her when Regis said if she’d just asked for the abortion a little earlier she would have been able to continue the journey with them, and then it broke again when she miscarried after finally coming to terms with her decision to continue the pregnancy so she could stay with the party.
I also did like the flashes into Ciri’s going off the deep end, for similar reasons as to why Milva was so great, because female characters don’t get the whole bloodlust conflict very often, and Ciri is so powerful and has so much to be angry about but is so young that’s it was a sensible place to go. Also, I just read Wiki for a plot refresher, and characterizing her romantic relationship with Mistle as “a strong bond” is a hilarious way to conspicuously avoid saying they’re G-A-Y.
It’s also really hard to understate how important it is to have Geralt be a character I enjoy rooting for. I think a lot of times in this type of fantasy story writers get so focused on self-insert power-fantasy setups that they lose the ability to write the protagonist as fallible, and that Sapkowski knows Geralt isn’t perfect, that Geralt can fuck up, can have regrets, can try to do better next time but fail again without all those detours into violence and bravado makes him a great character to follow around, and it also makes it easy to forgive that he can get sueish at times, because he’s just tryin’ his best to be a good dude. Sapkowski really has a knack for creating well-rounded people that I just like that you don’t see a lot in fantasy, which is so caught up in machismo and spends so little time on side characters.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to closing out the series in the next two books, even if I know the ending now and it’s, uh, weird. Even tith the last book having a hard time finding its footing, I still would be shocked if I didn’t come out of Tower of Swallows and Lady in the Lake still feeling like this is all worth reading.
Also, look what I have!
I really want the Yennefer one too but I’ve been bled dry by medical bills so it will have to wait.