Title: The Time of Contempt
Series: The Witcher #2
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Yennefer and Ciri are travelling toward the Wizard’s Council, while Geralt is trying to figure out who are the people still chasing Ciri even after word has spread that the Lion Cub of Cintra has died.
War ravages the country, alliances shift and change, and when a coup threatens the Wizard’s Guild our protagonists are split apart, left for dead… or lost.
A closer look
As The Time of Contempt is the second book in the main series of The Witcher (or the 4th/5th, depending on how many short-story collections you read before it), there will be mild spoilers for the events in the previous books. I’ll try to keep it vague, but consider yourself forewarned.
I also have a review up for the first two short-story collections, but not for the first novel in the series; if you want to have a really quick idea of how I felt about it, you can check out my July 2020 wrap up.
This instalment starts right where the previous one left off. Geralt is searching for the people sent to capture Ciri, while Yennefer and Ciri have left the temple of Melitele and are travelling to the seat of the Wizards’ power. There, Yennefer will take part in one of the most important councils of recent history, an event that could change the face of the world; and Ciri will be sent to Aretuza to receive a formal magical education.
The political situation is extremely confused. Not only there are a lot of names of people and places that we have only heard of in passing, but everyone’s aiming to double-cross everyone else and that just makes the situation even more hard to follow.
Add to it the fact that I’m personally not that good at keeping track of this kind of stuff unless it’s done really, really well, and you have a very confused reader.
I did like the part revolving around the dinner/party before the council, with all the extravagances of wizards and sorceresses. The details about their clothes, the food, and the way they spoke to each other – and behind each other’s back – was really interesting and spoke volumes about the society of this world.
On the other hand, I feel like the characters are not done justice. Half of the time we are with Geralt we are just listening to someone recounting events that took place somewhere else and to perfect strangers; yes, you want to update the reader on the general situation of the war, but we don’t need to read ten different scenes from throwaway pov characters for that. Just give us a recap and let us enjoy the characters we already care for!
The dialogues are a bit stiff at times too, especially in Geralt’s case, which is a pity considering that his lines were some of the funniest bits in the previous volumes. He still has his moments, but sometimes his conversation is so hard to interpret that it just feels disjointed.
There is not even that much interaction between the main characters. Especially if we take Ciri into consideration: despite all the affection that both Yennefer and Geralt feel for her, they barely spend any time in her company and she’s kind of left to herself most of the time.
The last part of the novel, when she finds herself lost and alone, sheds a little light over the magic system and the creatures that live in this world, but one of the last scenes with her really rubbed me the wrong way. Without spoilers, I think it gratuitous, unnecessary, and Ciri’s reaction to what happened was way too unbelievable.
In general I found this volume to be a little underwhelming. The plot doesn’t move forward that much; the only event that takes place is the council, and everything else is just a consequence of that, but I feel like that was too little to justify a whole book.
That said, I will still continue with the series, if only because I really want to know how it ends – and I hold some hope that I will enjoy the next volumes as much as I did the short stories. This one was just okay for me.